Pengfei Wang

Chemistry Building 278
(205) 996-5625

Research and Teaching Interests: Organic Chemistry, Photochemistry, Carbohydrate Chemistry, Synthetic Methodology, Photoresponsive Materials, Synthetic Vaccines and Vaccine Adjuvants

Office Hours: By appointment


  • BS, Tsinghua University, Chemistry
  • MS, University of Illinois at Chicago, Physical Chemistry
  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Organic Chemistry
  • Postdoctoral, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Physical Organic Chemistry
  • Postdoctoral, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carbohydrate Synthesis

Research Opportunity

A postdoctoral position for synthetic organic chemistry is available. If you are interested, please email Dr. Wang.

Dr. Wang is originally from China, and received his undergraduate education at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China (BS and B.Eng.) and graduate education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (MS) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD). At UW-Madison, Dr. Wang focused on studying kinetic protonation of enols, a classical physical organic chemistry topic, under the supervision of Professor Howard E. Zimmerman. He then joined Professor David Y. Gin at the University of Illinois-Urbana as a postdoctoral associate, working on natural product synthesis.

In 2005, Dr. Wang started his independent academic career at UAB, focusing on discovery of novel organic reactions and development of new methodologies for application in organic synthesis, biochemical and biophysical research, medicinal chemistry, and materials science.

Our ongoing research projects include (1) development of photolabile protecting groups (PPGs), (2) application of PPGs in synthesis, light-responsive smart materials, controlled release of biologically important compounds, and light-activated anticancer prodrugs, (3) application of new photochemical bond formation reactions in crosslinking macromolecules, labelling proteins, and tissue engineering, (4) development of new facile glycosylation methods, (5) synthesis of carbohydrate antigens for the development of carbohydrate-based vaccines, and (6) development of clinically relevant saponin-based vaccine adjuvants.

Protecting groups are indispensable tools in organic chemistry. Among various protecting groups, photolabile protecting groups (PPGs) have very valuable and unique features: (1) they can be removed under mild conditions by light without using any chemical reagents; and (2) they are capable of releasing substrates in a spatially and temporally controlled manner. These advantages are attractive to both basic and applied sciences. We have developed a series of structurally simple and mechanistically novel PPGs for protection of various functional groups. These PPGs feature (1) ready access from inexpensive materials, (2) highly efficient, flexible, and diverse PPG installation approaches, (3) high deprotection efficiency (even with sunlight irradiation), (4) simple deprotection reaction conditions (compatible with air and water), (5) remarkable dark stability, (6) tunable photochemical property, and (7) flexible structural adjustment. 

Illustrations of photolabile carbonyl protection groups and photolabile hydroxyl protection groups.
We have also been pursuing step economy-oriented carbohydrate synthesis in solution phase for rapid access to oligosaccharides of biochemical and biomedical significance. We developed a new glycosylation method using only allyl glycosides as building blocks. Thus, in a one-pot fashion, an allyl glycoside is isomerized to the corresponding prop-1-enyl glycoside donor and its subsequent activation with NIS/TfOH in the presence of an allyl glycosyl acceptor leads to the formation of a new allyl glycoside. The new protocol could markedly simplify carbohydrate synthesis and improve overall synthetic efficiency in that it avoids laborious anomeric manipulations and intermediate purifications often encountered in conventional methods. This approach paves the way to rapid access to structurally well-defined natural/unnatural homogeneous oligo- and poly-saccharides for glycobiology research and development of carbohydrate-based drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tools. 

Illustration of methodology development, mechanistic study, and synthetic application.
  • CH 235: Organic Chemistry I 
  • CH: 237: Organic Chemistry II 
  • CH 701: Foundation of Organic and Inorganic Chemistry (team-taught)
  • CH 731: Advanced Organic Chemistry I: Physical Organic Chemistry
  • CH 739: Electron Pushing and Total Synthesis
  • Ding, X.; Wang, P. Photochemical cleavage of benzylic C−O bond facilitated by an ortho or meta amino group. J. Org. Chem. 2017, 82, 7309-7316.
  • Wang, P. Developing photolabile protecting groups based on the excited state meta effect. J. Photochem. Photobiol A: Chem. 2017, 335, 300-310 (invited feature article, cover).
  • Wang, P.; Devalankar, D.; Dai, Q.; Zhang, P.; Michalek, S. Synthesis and Evaluation of QS-21-Based Immunoadjuvants with a Terminal-Functionalized Side Chain Incorporated in the West Wing Trisaccharide. J. Org. Chem. 2016, 81, 9560-9566.
  • Ding, X.; Devalankar, D.; Wang, P. Structurally Simple Benzylidene-Type Photolabile Diol Protecting Groups. Org. Lett. 2016, 18, 5396-5399.
  • Wang, P.; Devalankar, D.; Lu, W. Photochemical cleavage of benzylic C-N bond to release amines. J. Org. Chem. 2016, 81, 6195-6200 (invited review).
  • Wang, P.; Lu, W.; Devalankar, D.; Ding, Z. Structurally simple benzyl-type photolabile protecting groups for direct release of alcohols and carboxylic acids. JOrg. Lett. 2015, 17, 2114-2117.
  • Wang, P.; Lu, W.; Devalankar, D.; Ding, Z. Photochemical formation and cleavage of C−N bond. Org. Lett. 2015, 17, 170-172.
  • Wang, P.; Dai, Q.; Thogaripally, P.; Zhang, P.; Michalek, S. M. Synthesis of QS-21-Based Immunoadjuvants. J. Org. Chem. 2013, 78, 11525-11534.
  • Lu, W.; Tian, C.; Thogaripally, P.; Hu, J.; Wang, P. Application of new photolabile protecting groups as photocleavable joints of block copolymers. Chem. Commun. 2013, 49, 9636-9638.

Download a full list of publications (pdf)