Alex Zhukhovitskiy

Alex Zhukhovitskiy

Assistant Professor

   Murray Hall 2202J
  Group Website

Research Interests

Polymer chemistry and soft materials: organic synthesis, inorganic/organometallic/nano- catalysis, and supramolecular self-assembly.

Research Synopsis

In our Plastics Age, technological progress is limited by available polymeric materials. The intricate structure of polymers presents a formidable challenge—but also an exciting opportunity—to develop tactics and strategies that grant synthetic precision in such a complex setting. In the Zhukhovitskiy laboratory, the desired precision is engendered through the development of controlled/living polymerization methodology and original implementations of self-assembly concepts in soft materials.

Precision affords the practitioner exquisite control over materials’ properties and function, as well as the ability to test and refine our understanding of underlying structure-property relationships. Ultimately, we aim to unravel the links among polymer structure at different size scales, topology, and emergent physics, as well as to advance the application of soft materials in biomedical engineering, energy capture and conversion, surface patterning, and sustainability initiatives. Examples of target material classes include 1) entangled polymer networks, 2) conjugated block copolymers, and 3) heteroatom-rich polymers.

Research Program

Research in the Zhukhovitskiy group draws upon organic synthesis, organometallic and inorganic catalysis, nanoscience, supramolecular self-assembly, and polymer science, and consequently, group members receive a highly interdisciplinary training: from design, to synthesis, and ultimately characterization and property evaluation—both in the context of small molecules and polymers. Collaboration, often critical to the success of interdisciplinary projects, is encouraged in our group.

Undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs with a passion for any flavor of synthesis and/or an interest in macromolecules are welcome to apply!

Representative Publications before UNC
1. Zhukhovitskiy, A. V.;# Kobylianskii, I. J.;# Wu, C.-Y.; Toste, F. D. Migratory Insertion of Carbenes into Au(III)–C Bonds. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 466–474.
2. Zhukhovitskiy, A. V.; Mavros, M. G.; Queeney, K. T.; Wu, T.; Van Voorhis, T.; Johnson, J. A. Reactions of Persistent Carbenes with Hydrogen-Terminated Silicon Surfaces. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2016, 138, 8639–8652.
3. Zhukhovitskiy A. V.; Zhong, M.; Keeler, E. G.; Michaelis, V. K.; Sun, J. E. P.; Hore, M. J. A.; Pochan, D. J.; Griffin, R. G.; Willard, A. P.; Johnson, J. A. Highly Branched and Loop-rich Gels via Formation of Metal-organic Cages Linked by Polymers. Nat. Chem. 2016, 8, 33–41.

# contributed equally

Professional Background

2016–2019: LSRF Merck Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor F. Dean Toste, University of California, Berkeley, 2011–2016: Ph.D. with Professor Jeremiah A. Johnson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
2007–2011: BA/MS in Chemistry, BA in Mathematics and Integrated Science Program, Northwestern University

News & Publications

Chemist Alex Zhukhovitskiy has won an Early Career Award from the U.S. Department of Energy. The funding is part of DOE’s commitment to supporting the next generation of STEM leaders. Click image to learn more...


This work demonstrates that poly(silyl ether)s can be derived from poly(acyl silane)s through Brook rearrangements and Brook/benzoin sequences. Such skeletal editing is a powerful strategy to install functionality and modify properties of polymeric materials.