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Malkanthi K. Karunananda, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor


Postdoctoral Fellow, The Scripps Research Institute, CA, 2017-2022.
Ph.D. Chemistry, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL, 2017.
B.Sc. in Chemistry, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, 2006-2010.

Research Interests

  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organometallic Chemistry
  • Computational Chemistry
  • Catalysis

Labs and Facilities

Research in the Karunananda Lab strategically leverages a combination of synthetic inorganic, organometallic, and computational chemistry techniques to solve pressing challenges in catalysis. The overall research theme is built on employing multiple metals and/or multiple ligands to synergistically bring about novel reactivity and selectivity. A special focus is placed on interrogating reaction mechanisms through experimental and computational techniques to predict and design novel catalysts.

Current projects in the lab include photosensitizer development using earth-abundant metals with target applications in organic synthesis & photodynamic therapies, and organometallic catalyst development for polymer upcycling. The experimental work in the lab focuses on organometallic complex synthesis, characterization and catalytic reaction development. Computational work in the lab focuses on photoreactivity and catalyst optimization with DFT calculations, statistical analysis, and machine learning approaches.

For more information, please visit: Karunananda Lab Website

Publications and Media Placements

Selected Publications:

  • Karunananda, M. K.; Vazquez, F. X.; Alp, E. E.; Bi, W.; Chattopadhyay, S.; Shibata, T.; Mankad, N. P. “Experimental Determination of Redox Cooperativity and Electronic Structure in Catalytically Active Cu-Fe and Zn-Fe Heterobimetallic Complexes.” Dalton Trans. 2014, 43, 13361–13371;
  • Karunananda, M. K.; Mankad, N. P. “E-Selective Semi-Hydrogenation of Alkynes by Heterobimetallic Catalysis.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 14598–14601;
  • Karunananda, M. K.; Mankad, N. P. “Cooperative Strategies for Catalytic Hydrogenation of Unsaturated Hydrocarbons.” ACS Catal. 2017, 7, 6110–6119;
  • Nimmagadda, S. K.† ; Liu, M.† ; Karunananda, M. K.† ; Gao, D.-W.; Apolinar, O.; Chen, J. S.; Liu, P.; Engle, K. M. “Catalytic, Enantioselective α-Alkylation of Azlactones with Non-Conjugated Alkenes via Directed Nucleopalladation.” Angew. Chem. 2019, 131, 3963–3967; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2019, 58, 3923–3927 (†Authors contributed equally);
  • Matsuura, R.; Karunananda, M. K.; Liu, M.; Nguyen, N.; Blackmond, D. G.; Engle, K. M. “Mechanistic Studies of Pd(II)- catalyzed E/Z Isomerization of Unactivated Alkenes: Evidence of a Mononuclear Nucleopalladation Pathway.” ACS Catal. 2021, 11, 4239–4246;
Complete list: Google Scholar

Honors and Awards

  • Cottrell Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2021.
  • Benjamin B. Freud Graduate Research Fellowship, 2016.