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Roque to Join Princeton Chemistry Faculty

Uncategorized- - By Wendy Plump

The Department of Chemistry is pleased to welcome Jose Roque as assistant professor.

With an anticipated start date of July 1, 2023, Roque will join Princeton Chemistry from his position as a University Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in the Chirik Lab under the advisement of Paul Chirik.

Roque will open his lab in the Department’s renowned catalysis/synthesis subfield with a focus on the development of new and sustainable methods for synthesis and catalysis.

Full-color image of Jose Roque in Taylor Aud.

Jose Roque presenting at Frick Laboratory earlier this year.

Photo by Wendy Plump

“I was evaluating the choices between different universities in terms of the best place to launch a research program,” said Roque. “Ultimately, I felt Princeton had treated me very well as a postdoc. There’s a great sense of community. The resources are fantastic. And they really are at the forefront of catalysis research. All of that played a huge role in terms of where I wanted to start my career.

“And of course, there are the students,” Roque added. “I’ve been really impressed during my time here by the passion and the sense of community, and how knowledgeable everyone is. The students are the ones carrying out the day-to-day research, so they’re the most important component of any new research lab.”

As models for his own mentorship, Roque said he will lean on the “incredibly fortunate” examples of former advisors, including Chirik, the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry; and Richmond Sarpong, a Princeton Chemistry Ph.D. alumnus and now professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Richmond really taught me about effective mentoring,” said Roque. “He told me that in order to treat everyone fairly you need to treat everyone differently, because people have different needs. And then Paul: he’s very committed to his research group. It’s inspiring to see a leader who’s so passionate about the group’s success and deeply committed to a sustainable future through catalysis.”

“I’ve been really impressed during my time here by the passion and the sense of community, and how knowledgeable everyone is."

In Catalysis/Synthesis, Roque joins a research group comprised of Chirik; Professor of Chemistry Andrew Bocarsly; John Groves, who holds the Hugh Stott Taylor Chair of Chemistry; Professor of Chemistry Robert Knowles; James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor David MacMillan; Professor of Chemistry Martin Semmelhack; and Arthur Allan Patchett Professor in Organic Chemistry Erik Sorensen.

Roque did his undergraduate work at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, where he studied reactions with singlet oxygen under advisor Kevin O’Shea.

“Originally, I thought I wanted to do medicine,” he said. “However, the sight of blood makes me very squeamish, so I decided to try pharmacy out. It wasn’t until I got into the lab late in my bachelor’s when I really found the love for chemistry. Working day-to-day at the limits of the unknown, running reactions, trying to tease out what the products were and deciding the next steps after evaluating the experimental findings … to me that was just very exciting. I never looked back.”

Roque earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Berkeley under Sarpong, where he was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow Honorable Mention and a Reaxys Ph.D. Prize finalist. He also earned a Bristol Myers Squibb Graduate Fellowship in synthetic organic chemistry. In 2020, he took up his postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton Chemistry.

Under Princeton Chemistry’s Junior Faculty Mentoring Program, Roque will be mentored by Knowles. “I am really excited to have somebody like Rob, who has basically navigated the same journey I’m about to take,” said Roque. “Rob has made remarkable contributions to synthetic organic chemistry, and having the opportunity to be in the same department as him is a tremendous privilege.”

Born in Cuba, Roque moved to the United States with his father, a mechanic, and his mother, a doctor in Cuba, when he was six years old. He noted with pride that while his mother was unable to practice medicine in Florida because of financial constraints and federal examination requirements, she recently completed her nursing degree.

Roque enjoys running, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, spending time with his partner, and playing with his pug, Ollie.

Roque has signed a formal offer of appointment extended by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty and the Department of Chemistry. The appointment is contingent upon the approval of Princeton University’s Board of Trustees.