Melanie S. Sanford is currently the Modes Gomberg Collegiate Professor of Chemistry and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She was born in New Bedford, Mass., in 1975 and attended Classical High School in Providence, R.I. (class of 1992). She received her BS and MS degrees at Yale University in 1996 where she carried out undergraduate research in the laboratory of Professor Robert Crabtree. She pursued graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology working with Nobel Laureate Professor Robert Grubbs. Following postdoctoral work at Princeton University with Professor John Groves, she joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in the summer of 2003 as an assistant professor of chemistry. She was promoted to associate professor in 2007, to full professor in 2010, to Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry in 2011, and to Moses Gomberg Collegiate professor of chemistry in 2012.
Sanford has been recognized with a number of awards, including a Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, a Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar Award, and a Presidential Early Career Award in Sciences and Engineering, and has also been named an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow. In 2008 she received an Arthur Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society, in 2009 she was the recipient of the BASF catalysis award. In 2011 she received the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry and was also named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
Research in the Sanford group aims to develop new chemical reactions that enable the production of pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and fuels in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. More specifically, her research focuses on converting simple and readily available starting materials (for example carbon dioxide, carbon-hydrogen bonds) into much more complex products through the use of transition metal catalysis.