Frank Leibfarth

Frank Leibfarth

Assistant Professor

   Caudill Laboratories 239
  Group Website
  Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Polymer science, organic synthesis, and continuous flow chemistry

Research Synopsis

Our research seeks to develop new methods for the synthesis of functional polymers with the goal of discovering and studying their emergent macromolecular behavior. The approach is rooted in the belief that the convergence of organic, continuous-flow, and polymer chemistries holds the key to making materials smarter, more functional, and more sustainable.

The group is currently focused on developing methods to control stereochemistry in ionic polymerizations, uncovering enhanced function in commodity polymers through selective C–H functionalization, and creating automated approaches for the synthesis of unique polymer architectures with novel functions.

Professional Background

2016 – present Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2013 – 2016 NSF Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor Timothy F. Jamison, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2013 Ph.D. University of California Santa Barbara, Professor Craig J. Hawker
2008 B.A. in Chemistry and Physics, University of South Dakota

Research Group

Our research program spans each stage from molecular design to material function and will provide students with a diverse and competitive skill set bridging organic and polymer synthesis, small molecule and macromolecule characterization, and applied studies in material science and biotechnology.

The goals of the research are inherently interdisciplinary and students will routinely work collaboratively both within and outside of the group to accomplish their scientific and professional goals. We envision our research efforts providing new and potentially useful solutions to challenges in sustainability and human health.

News & Publications

The kinetics of grafting-through polymerization of PDMS11MA macromonomers was studied to establish correlations between reversible first-order kinetic trends and network mechanical properties. By varying the reaction conditions, including the initial monomer concentration, targeted degree of polymerization, and solvent, the syntheses of macroinitiators and chain extensions were optimized with improved chain-end fidelity while maintaining a high yield and provided elastomers with consistent desired mechanical properties.


This Viewpoint provides an overview of recent developments in stereocontrolled polymerization, with an emphasis on propagation mechanism, and highlights successes, limitations, and future challenges for continued innovation.