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Professor Michael Willis

Professor Michael Willis

  • GlaxoSmithKline Fellow and Tutor in Chemistry


I studied Chemistry at Imperial College, University of London, before moving to the University of Cambridge for my PhD, working with Professor Steve Ley on a total synthesis project. I then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Chemistry department at Harvard University, working with Professor David Evans. In 1997 I returned to the UK and he was appointed to a Lectureship in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath. I moved to Oxford in January 2007, and was promoted to Full Professor in 2013. I have been a Fellow at Lincoln since 2007.

College teaching

I teach all aspects of organic chemistry in the chemistry syllabus to Lincoln undergraduates. My departmental teaching includes the second-year lectures on 'Heteroatoms in Synthesis' and a third-year option course on 'Contemporary Catalysis'.


I am a synthetic organic chemist with interests in the development and application of new synthetic methods. I am particularly interested in transition metal catalysis, and in developing reactions to meet the demands modern science places on synthetic chemistry. These can involve being able to produce specific molecules more quickly, in fewer chemical steps and with the production of less waste materials than ever before. The ability to prepare molecules never before synthesised, or to deliver many related structures with only minor adjustments to the synthetic method are also common goals.

Select publications

'Modular sulfondiimine synthesis using a stable sulfinylamine reagent', Ze-Xin Zhang, Thomas Q. Davies, and Michael C. Willis, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 13022−13027. doi: 10.1021/jacs.9b06831

'Heterocyclic allylsulfones as latent heteroaryl nucleophiles in palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions', Tim Markovic, Philip R. D. Murray, Benjamin N. Rocke, Andre Shavnya, David C. Blakemore, and Michael C. Willis, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2018, 15916–15923. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b09595

'The direct copper-catalyzed three-component synthesis of sulfonamides', Yiding Chen, Philip R. D. Murray, Alyn T. Davies and and Michael C. Willis, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 8781−8787. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b04532

'One-pot, three-component sulfonimidamide synthesis exploiting the sulfinylamine reagent N-sulfinyltritylamine, TrNSO', Thomas Q. Davies, Adrian Hall, and Michael C. Willis, Angew. Chemie. Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 14937–14941. doi: 10.1002/anie.20170859

'Exploiting carbonyl groups to control intermolecular rhodium-catalyzed alkene and alkyne hydroacylation', Thomas J. Coxon, Maitane Fernández, James Barwick-Silk, Alasdair I. McKay, Louisa E. Britton, Andrew S. Weller and Michael C. Willis, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 10142–10149. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b05713