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Robert G. Iafe, Ph.D.

Robert G. Iafe, Ph.D. profile picture
Associate Professor and Chair Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, CSTEM
(760) 750-8283 Science Hall 1 108
Office Hours: please email for appt.

⌬ Summary

Dr. Iafe graduated cum laude with Honors from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he carried out research with Dr. James Roe and Dr. James Landry. He completed his masters work in Computational Chemistry with Dr. Kendall N. Houk and earned a PhD in Chemistry with Dr. Craig Merlic at UCLA. Following his graduate work, he completed a three-year appointment as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the W.M. Keck Science Department at the Claremont Colleges and postdoctoral work with Prof. Anna Wenzel. In 2014, Dr. Iafe joined the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at CSUSM, and received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in 2020. Dr. Iafe is currently serving as Chair of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Dr. Iafe’s research interest include method development and small molecule synthesis in organic chemistry, and at CSUSM he teaches classes in organic chemistry (CHEM 200, CHEM 201, Chem 201L, Chem 202, Chem 202L, Chem 502).

  • Chair, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
  • CB-TLC Program Director – NSF Award No. 2029167
  • Faculty Champion for Teacher Recruitment (FaCTR) Fellow
  • Committees: FDC, CUGR, Reinstatement
  • Campus Representative: Goldwater

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⌬ Education

  • Teaching/Postdoctoral Scholar, 2011–2014, W.M. Keck Science Department, Claremont Colleges, Claremont, CA
  • Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, 2011, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
  • M.S., Computational Chemistry, 2008, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
  • B.S., Chemistry, 2004, Cum Laude, Honors, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA

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⌬ Publications & Grants

Publications (* denotes undergraduate student)

  1. *King, B. H.; *Wang, M. L.; *Jesse, K. A.; *Kaur, G.; *Tran, B.; *Walser-Kuntz, R.; Iafe, R. G.; Wenzel, A. G. "Silver-Catalyzed, N-Formylation of Amines Using Glycol Ethers." J. Org. Chem. 2020, 85, 13256–13263.
  2. *Oakley, J. V.; *Stanley, T. J.; *Jesse, K. A.; *Melanese, A. K; *Alvarez, A. A.; Prince, A. L.; Cain, S. E.; Wenzel, A. G.; Iafe, R. G. "Gold-Catalyzed Friedel–Crafts-like Reaction of Benzylic Alcohols to Afford 1,1-Diarylalkanes." Euro. J. Org. Chem. 2019, 42, 7063–7066.
  3. Karabiyikoglu, S.; Iafe, R. G.; Merlic, C. A. "Ring-Closing Metathesis with Vicinal Dibromoalkenes as Protected Alkynes: A Synthetic Approach to Macrocyclic Enynes." Org. Lett. 2015, 17, 5248–5251.
  4. *Vinson, A. R. S.; *Davis, V. K.; *Arunasalam, A.; *Jesse, K. A.; *Hamilton, R. E.; *Shattuck, M. A.; *Hu, A. C.; Iafe, R. G.; Wenzel, A. G. "Gold-Catalyzed, SN1-Type Reaction of Alcohols to Ethers and Cbz-Protected Amines." Synlett 2015, 26, 765–770.
  5. Iafe, R. G.; *Kuo, J. L.; Hochstatter, D. G.; *Saga, T.; *Turner, J. W.; Merlic, C. A. "Increasing the Efficiency of the Transannular Diels-Alder Strategy via Palladium(II)-Catalyzed Macrocyclizations." Org. Lett. 2013, 15, 582–585.
  6. Iafe, R. G.; Chan, D. G.; *Kuo, J. L.; Boon, B. A.; *Faizi, D. J.; Saga, T.; *Turner, J. W.; Merlic, C. A. "Cyclization Strategies to Polyenes Using Pd(II)-Catalyzed Couplings of Pinacol Vinylboronates." Org. Lett. 2012, 14, 4282–4285.
  7. Gutierrez, O.; Iafe, R. G.; Houk, K. N. "Origin of Stereoselectivity in the Imidazolidinone-Catalyzed Reductions of Cyclic α,β-Unsaturated Ketones." Org. Lett. 2009, 11, 4298–4301.
  8. Ess, D. H.; Wheeler, S. E.; Iafe, R. G.; Xu, L.; Celebi-Olcum, N.; Houk, K. N. "Bifurcations on Potential Energy Surfaces of Organic Reactions." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, 47, 7592–7601.
  9. Iafe, R. G.; Houk, K. N. "Intramolecular Hetero-Diels-Alder Reactions of Imine and Iminium Dienophiles: Quantum Mechanical Exploration of Mechanisms and Stereoselectivities." J. Org. Chem. 2008, 73, 2679–2686.
  10. Iafe, R. G.; Houk, K. N. "Stereoselectivity Control by Torsional Steering in an Intramolecular Diels-Alder Reaction of Vinyl Oxocarbenium Ions." Org. Lett. 2006, 8, 3469–3472.


  1. 2023: Green Chemistry Education Challenge Award $10,000
  2. 2023: CALM $4,000
  3. 2023: CSUPERB CD $15,000  
  4. 2023: Pfizer AIR Diversity (Llamas) $20,000
  5. 2020: NSF S-STEM $999,875
  6. 2020: CSUPERB PCS (Stockton) $8,000
  7. 2019: Hamilton $1,000
  8. 2019: CSUPERB PCS (Shoemaker) $8,000
  9. 2019: ACS DOC SURF (Melanese) $5,000
  10. 2018: FC PD Grant $800
  11. 2018: OGSR GPSM $1,732
  12. 2018: NCHEA *NSPIRE Graduate Student Lecture Series $3,000
  13. 2018: Jean Dreyfus Lectureship for Undergraduate Institutions $18,500
  14. 2018: OGSR GPSM $3,000
  15. 2017: CALM $1,000
  16. 2017: CSUPERB PCS (Apolinar) $8,000
  17. 2015. OGSR GPSM $3,000
  18. 2015. CSUPERB NI $15,000

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⌬ Courses

  • CHEM 200: Bridge to Organic Chemistry
  • CHEM 201: Organic Chemistry I
  • CHEM 201L: Organic Chemistry I Lab
  • CHEM 202: Organic Chemsitry II
  • CHEM 202L: Organic Chemistry II Lab
  • Chem 399: Special Problems in Chemistry - Laboratory
  • CHEM 499: Senior Laboratory Thesis and Seminar
  • CHEM 502: Advanced Organic Synthesis
  • CHEM 691: Graduate Student Colloquium in Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • CHEM 697: Directed Studies
  • CHEM 698: Thesis Research

*To enroll in CHEM 399/CHEM 499, you must go through the Department's application process. CHEM 697/CHEM 698 is restricted to Chemistry MS students. Prospective undergraduate and M.S. researchers are encouraged to contact Prof. Iafe at riafe(at) Prospective M.S. students should apply to the graduate program at CSUSM. Individuals seeking to join the Iafe lab should expect to undergo a rigorous selection process that includes submission of relevant application materials and an in-person interview.

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⌬ Vitae

Professional History:

  • Associate Professor, 2020–Present, Chemistry & Biochemistry Department, California State University San Marcos
  • Assistant Professor, 2014–2020, Chemistry & Biochemistry Department, California State University San Marcos
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, 2011–2014, W.M. Keck Science Department at the Claremont Colleges
  • Lecturer, 2011, UCLA Extension

University Service:

  • Faculty Development Committee (CSTEM), 2023–present
  • Chemistry MS Graduate Coordinator, 2019–present
  • Undergraduate Research Faculty Fellow (CUGR Chair) 2019–2021
  • STEM Tutoring and SI Faculty Liaison. 2018–2019
  • Faculty Champion for Teacher Recruitment (FaCTR) Fellow, 2017–present
  • California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB) Faculty Consensus Group (FCG) Member, 2016–present
  • Academic Reinstatement Committee (CSTEM), 2015–present
  • Committee for Undergraduate Research (CUGR), 2015–present

Professional Societies:

  • American Chemical Society, member
  • Royal Society of Chemistry, member
  • Sigma Xi, full member
  • Council on Undergraduate Research, member
  • Alpha Sigma Nu, member


  • 2024, CSTEM Faculty Outreach Award, College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, CSUSM
  • 2024, Cougars Affordable Learning Materials (CALM) Program, Spring 2014 Award (w/ EG, JJ, & RC), CSUSM, CA
  • 2023, CSTEM Award for Outstanding Faculty Student Collaboration (w/ Gabrielle Martinez, UCI), Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, CSUSM
  • 2021, CSTEM Award for Outstanding Faculty Student Collaboration (w/ Amanda Melanese, Colorado State University), Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, CSUSM
  • 2020, Cougar Career Champion, Faculty Center, CSUSM
  • 2019, Safety, Health & Sustainability Safety Champion, Safety, Health, & Sustainability Office, CSUSM
  • 2019, Cougar Career Champion, Faculty Center, CSUSM
  • 2019, CSM Award for Outstanding Faculty Student Collaboration (w/ Omar Apolinar, Scripps Research Institute/University of Oxford), Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, CSUSM
  • 2019, Advisor of the Year Tukwut Leadership Award, ASI, CSUSM
  • 2019, President's Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching Innovation & Excellence, CSUSM, CA.
  • 2018, Kerri Mowen Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award, OGSR, CSUSM, CA
  • 2017, Cougars Affordable Learning Materials (CALM) Program, Spring 2017 Award (w/ JT & EG), CSUSM, CA
  • 2016, CSM Award for Outstanding Faculty Student Collaboration (w/ Gloria Diaz, Ph.D.), Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, CSUSM, CA
  • 2011, Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCLA, CA

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⌬ ACS Club


  • 2021-2022 ACS Outstanding Student Club Award
  • 2020-2021 ACS Commendable and Green Chemistry Student Club Award
  • 2019-2020 ACS Outstanding Student Club Award
  • 2019 Student Organization of the Year Tukwut Leadership Award
  • 2018-2019 ACS Commendable Student Club Award
  • 2017-2018 ACS Honorable Mention Student Club Award

LinksInstagramTwitterTukwut Trax

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⌬ Group News

  • January 13, 2024. Karissa Grier, Diana Llamas, and Adam Lovato presented posters at the 36th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium in Santa Clara, CA.
  • November 18, 2023. Adam Lovato gave an oral presentation at the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research (SCCUR) at CSUF, CA.
  • November 18, 2023. Diana Llamas gave an oral presentation at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoriteized Scientists (ABRCMS) at Phoenix, AZ.
  • October 21, 2023. Diana Llamas gave an oral presentation at the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium (GCURS) at Rice University, Texas.
  • August 11, 2023. Karissa Grier, Diana Llamas, and Adam Lovato presented posters at the 2023 Summer Scholars Poster Showcase at CSUSM.
  • August 9, 2023. Diana Llamas visited Pfizer La Jolla campus to meet with Pfizer AIR Diversity Research Fellowship reps, tour the facilities, and present her research.
  • August 4, 2023. Sebastian Aguero presented his summer research project at a Lightning Talk at the 2023 *NSPIRE Symposium at the Innovation Hub, CSUSM.
  • June 11–13, 2023. Karissa Grier, Diana Llamas, and Adam Lovato attended the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA.
  • March 29, 2023. Congratulations to Kaylee Shoemaker for receiving NSF GRFP Doctoral Fellowship Honorable Mention.
  • February 28, 2023. Congratulations to Diana Llamas for receiving the 2023 Pfizer La Jolla Academic Industrial Relations (AIR) Diversity Research Fellowship in Chemistry. News article.
  • January 20, 2023. Congratulations Dr. Gloria Diaz (CSUSM '16) for defending and submitting your PhD thesis! We are so proud of you!
  • August 4, 2022. Madison Wagner presented her research poster at the Beckman Regional Symposium at CalTech, CA.
  • August 2022. Gabby Martinez presented her poster at the Summer Research Poster Symposium at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA.

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⌬ Iafe Lab

Follow the Team — LinkedIn — Twitter 

Graduate Students

K. Faile
Kasumi Faile
Summer Scholars Graduate Student Mentor
Chemistry MS Option
Karissa Grier
Fenstermaker Summer Scholar
Chemistry MS Option
In my free time I enjoy competitive powerlifting and spending time with my family.

Undergraduate Students

 Sebastian Aguero
Goldwater Scholar, CBTLC Scholar
Major: Chemistry
Plans after graduation: complete a Ph.D. program in chemistry. 
Sean Blythe
Sean Blythe
CBTLC Scholar
Major: Chemistry
I plan to pursue a PhD in Organic Chemistry after graduation. I enjoy traveling, console gaming, and swimming.
Diana Llamas
Pfizer AIR Diversity Research Fellow
Major: Biochemistry
After graduation I plan on getting a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, once I earn my Ph.D. I will then pursue a career as a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry. Some of my hobbies include drawing and hanging out with my bird named Pablo.

Arianna Serrano
Bridges Scholar
Major: Chemistry 
I am a Palomar and MiraCosta college student. After undergraduate school, I plan to go to graduate school to get a Ph.D. In chemistry to work in the field of pharmaceutical research. My hobbies include hiking, photography, and traveling.

Group Photos:

Iafe Lab Summer 2022Summer 2020


Thank you to the following for providing financial assistance to our lab: CSUSM, NSF, Beckman Foundation, Dreyfus Foundation, Goldwater, Pfizer, Hologic, ACS Division of Organic Chemistry, Genentech, McNair, CTREE, U-Rise, NCHEA, CSUSM OGSR, Hamilton, San Diego Foundation, and CSUPERB.

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⌬ Iafe Lab Alumni

  • Sam Acosta [Summer Scholar], 2018. Linkedin Development Chemist – PolyPeptide Group
  • Natalie Adamson, 2018. Lina Ahlberg Linkedin Quality Control Chemist – Versum Materials
  • Lina Ahlberg, 2017. Lina Ahlberg Linkedin Quality Engineer – Illumina
  • Araceli Alvarez, 2020. Amanda Melanese View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn PhD Student – Boston University
  • Omar Apolinar [Presidents' Commission Scholar], 2019. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn PhD Student – Scripps Research Institute
    • NSF Predoctoral Fellow, 2019
  • Emily Aguilar, 2019. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn Research Associate – Gilead Sciences
  • Brysa Alvarado [Jean Dreyfus Scholar], 2020. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn PhD Student – George Washington University
  • Marcella Belardes [Summer Scholar], 2023.
  • Amanda Bookout, 2018. Lina Ahlberg Linkedin PharmD 2022 – UCSD. PGY1 Ambulatory Care Resident – UCSD
  • Donald Buckley, 2016. Lina Ahlberg Linkedin HS Science Teacher – Irvine Unified
  • Stephanie Cain, 2017. Amanda Melanese Medical School – University of Missouri
  • Monica Cisneros [Summer Scholar], 2023.
  • Maribel Clerk, 2020. PhD Student – UCSD
    • NSF Doctoral Fellow, 2022
  • Melisa Dean [Summer Scholar], 2016. Linkedin Technical Transfer Manager – LumiraDx
  • Gloria Diaz [Summer Scholar], 2016. Linkedin PhD 2023 – University of Michigan. Scientist – PacBio
  • Tamara El-Hayek Ewing [Chem MS], 2021. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedInScientific Associate (Lab Manager) – Scripps Research
  • Mikhail Elerdashvili [Summer Scholar], 2022. Linkedin Scientist I – Becton Dickinson
  • Karen Fernandez
  • Victor Franco Bolanos, 2019. Equipment Technician – CSUSM
  • Elie Ghasb, 2016. Linkedin Medical school – UCR
  • Brittney Klasic [Summer Scholar], 2016. Linkedin Pharmacy Technician – Scripps Health
  • Roberto Leon Baxin, 2021. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn PhD student – University of Rochester
  • Iliana Levesque [Summer Scholar], 2017. Linkedin PhD student – University of Michigan Ann Arbor
  • Adam Lovato [Summer Scholar], 2023. Applying to graduate school.
  • Emily Lyon [Summer Scholar], 2021. Scientist I – MicroVention-Terumo
  • Gabrielle Martinez, 2023. Linkedin Research Assistant – Calibr at Scripps Research
  • Jessica Maynard [Summer Scholar], 2016. Linkedin MS UCSD 2019. Supervisor, Bioanalytical Chemistry – MicroConstants 
  • Dominic McGrosso, 2017. PhD 2022 – UCSD
  • Amanda Melanese [ACS DOC SURF], 2021. Amanda MelaneseView Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn PhD student – Colorado State University
  • Sharai Mendez, 2018. Linkedin MS Student – SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program
  • Mercedes Nguyen [Summer Scholar], 2019. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedInAssociate Manufacturing Scientist – MilliporeSigma
  • James Oakley [Summer Scholar], 2018. Amanda Melanese View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn PhD Student – Princeton University
    • NSF Predoctoral Fellow, 2018
  • Diego Orea [McNair], 2021. PhD student – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • NSF Predoctoral Fellow, Honorable Mention, 2021
  • Jaida Osman, 2022. PhD student – University of Irvine
  • Jacqueline Perez, 2018. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedInResearch Associate I – Wildcat Discovery Technologies
  • Jacqueline Robinos, 2016. Senior Lead Bioprocess Technician – Genentech
  • Shiraz Rokach [Summer Scholar], 2023. 
  • Daniel Ruiz, 2020. Bioanalytical Scientist I – MicroConstants
  • Jessica Scott, 2019. Process Engineer II – Illumina
  • Helen Sedrak, 2018. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedInPharmD 2022. PGY1 Pharmacy Resident – Palomar Health
  • Mariana Shabo [Summer Scholar], 2018. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn Medical School – St. George's University
  • Kaylee Shoemaker [Presidents' Commission Scholar], 2021. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn PhD student – UCI
  • Amanda Smolin [Chem MS], 2021. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedIn Senior Research Associate – Oligonucleotide Chemistry
  • Tyler Stanley, 2018. Amanda Melanese View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedInLaboratory Technician – Wildcat Discovery Technologies
  • Leeluleilani Stockton [Presidents' Commission Scholar], 2023. View Robert Iafe's profile on LinkedInResearch Associate – ONI (Oxford Nanoimaging)
  • Jasimine Terrell, 2017. Linkedin Senior Research Associate – Gilead
  • Andrew Thomas. 2016. Linkedin Sr Engineer - Process Development – Illumina
  • Cris Thompson [Summer Scholar], 2017. Linkedin Scientist II Antibody Conjugation – Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Kory Ulle, 2016. Linkedin Substitute Teacher – EUHSD
  • Sidney Vargas [Summer Scholar], 2022. 
  • Jenny Veyna, 2018. Linkedin PT Aide - All Star Physical Therapy Sports Medicine
  • Madison Wagner [Beckman Scholar], 2022. Linkedin PhD student – Scripps Research Institute
    • Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Honorable Mention, 2022
  • Visiting Scholars
    • Paul Cativiela, University of California Berkeley
    • Chantel Hennings, Palomar College
    • Giselle Lara, Palomar College – CAICE SURP
    • Fernando Ramirez. University of California Berkeley
    • Lily Recillas, MiraCosta College (ACS Scholars Program)
  • Visiting Postbaccaluareate Scholars
    • Aloha Prince. Amanda Melanese Medical School – University of Missouri
    • Julianne Rizzo. LinkedinMedical School – UC Davis.
  • High School Visiting Scholars
    • Tory Dennison, Del Lago Academy (2020)
    • Maxwell Lee, Del Lago Academy (2018)
    • Parker Loux, Del Lago Academy (2017)
    • Bryan Montoya, Del Lago Academy (2020)
    • Anthony Rivera, Del Lago Academy (2019)
    • Serina Truong, Del Lago Academy (2019)

Iafe Lab SCCUR


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