I joined the Sharpless¡¦s group at MIT in the winter of 1980 right after I finished my Ph.D. from UCLA. Barry had just published his ground - breaking findings on Asymmetric Epoxidation and moved his group back to MIT from Stanford where he spent a three-year leave. The group was not too big at that time and we had to set up the benches from scratch. I was assigned to projects on the application of the new epoxidation reaction to the asymmetric synthesis of natural products. We completed the synthesis of the all eight possible stereoisomers of the L-hexoses started from a single achiral common precursor, trans-2-butene-1-4-diol (Science Vol. 220, 949-951, 1983). Asymmetric Epoxidation was used to control the absolute stereochemistry of each chiral center of the sugar molecules.
Working with Barry was very rewarding as well as inspiring. His exploratory spirit and enthusiasm in chemistry influenced everyone in the labs. From him, I learnt the difference between good and excellent science, and how the combination of hard work, persistence and careful observation can produce excellent results. People sometimes say that luck plays a crucial role in scientific discovery. What I observed instead was that luck goes only to those with prepared minds.
Barry with Albert Lee, MIT, summer, 1982
After receiving his post-doctoral training from Prof. Barry Sharpless, Prof. Lee joined the Department in 1982. He also served as the Head of the Department from 1989 to 1998.
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