Robert Bergman

The Gerald E. K. Branch Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

Professor of the Graduate School
office: 691 Tan
office phone: (510)642-2156
fax: (510) 642-7714
lab: 674, 675, 679, 680, 683, 684 Tan Hall
lab phone: (510) 642-1548
student/post doc office: 675, 679, 684 Tan Hall

The Bergman Research Group
Recent Publications

Research Interests

Organic and Inorganic Chemistry: Synthesis and Reaction Mechanisms — New organic, inorganic and organotransition metal compounds are being synthesized. These materials are used to develop and study new chemical reactions and the reactive intermediates involved in these transformations, and to explore applications in homogeneous catalysis, supramolecular chemistry, organic synthesis and green chemistry.

Professor Bergman and his coworkers utilize a range of chemical techniques to discover new chemical reactions, determine how those reactions work, and apply that understanding to their application in catalysis and organic synthesis. In catalytic reactions very small amounts of soluble organometallic complexes are used to transform much larger quantities of organic compounds--such as those found in living organisms, or in natural feedstock sources such as petroleum--into more complicated substances that might ultimately be useful in the synthesis of important chemical compounds. Professor Bergman's group has generated reactive organometallic intermediates capable of undergoing intermolecular oxidative addition with the normally inert C-H bonds in alkanes and other organic molecules. This process holds potential for converting alkanes into functionalized organic molecules such as alkenes and alcohols. Solution mechanistic studies, as well as flash kinetic experiments carried out in collaboration with the Moore and Harris groups, have identified alkane-metal complexes as intermediates in many of these reactions. In recent collaborations with the with the J. A. Ellman group at Yale University, C-H activating reactions have been used to develop new catalytic intra- and intermolecular carbon-carbon bond-forming reactions, some of which are enantioselective. Another area of investigation involves the study of organometallic complexes having metal-oxygen, -and metal-nitrogen bonds to obtain information about the mechanisms of metal-mediated oxidation and amination processes. Some of the compounds prepared in these projects have been utilized in highly enantioselective asymmetric induction reactions, and others act as homogeneous catalysts for new carbon-hydrogen and carbon-heteroatom bond-forming processes such as hydroamination of alkynes, alkenes and allenes. A collaborative project with the Raymond group has identified highly selective organic and organometallic transformations that can be carried out in the sterically confined cavities of self-assembled nanovessels, in some cases with levels of rate acceleration that allow the encapsulated reactions to be performed catalytically. Finally, the group has initiated new studies aimed at converting highly functionalized compounds such as polyols into useful chemical feedstocks.


Born 1942; B.A. Carleton College (1963); Ph.D. Chemistry, University of Wisconsin (1966); NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University (1967); Faculty of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology (1967-77); Sloan Foundation Fellow (1970); Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award (1970); Professor, University of California, Berkeley, and Faculty Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1977-present); Miller Professor, UC Berkeley (1982, 1993, 2003); Fairchild Distinguished Scholar, Caltech (1984); Member, National Academy of Sciences (1984); Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984); American Chemical Society Awards: Organometallic Chemistry Award (1986); Cope Scholar Award (1987); U. S. Dept. of Energy E.O. Lawrence Award in Chemistry (1994); Arthur C. Cope Award (1996); Edward Leete Award, ACS Organic Division (2001); UC Berkeley Dept. of Chemistry Teaching Award (2002); James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry (2003); Sigma Xi Monie Ferst Award (2003); LBNL Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer (2004); NAS Award in Chemical Sciences (2007); T.W. Richards Medal, Northeastern Section of the American Chemical (2008); Society Royal Society of Chemistry Sir Edward Frankland Prize Lectureship (2008); Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, University of California, Berkeley (2008-09; 2011-12); Willard Gibbs Award, ACS the Chicago Section (2011).