Department of Chemistry

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Faculty and Research

Bruce M. Novak

Organic and Materials Chemistry

Dean, School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics
Distinguished Chair in Natural Sciences & Mathematics
  [email protected]


BS  1983,  California State University, Northridge
MS 1985, California State University, Northridge
PhD 1989 California Institute of Technology

Research Description

Work in the Novak Group has focused on the synthesis and properties of a unique family of helical macromolecules, the polycarbodiimides. Inspired by the helices of nature, these polymers display unusual properties including antimicrobial activities, liquid crystallinity, and act as chemical sensors, tunable polarizers, and optical switches. Polycarbodiimides are prepared through a metal catalyzed polymerization of carbodiimides. When chiral catalysts are used, helical polymers with a single screw-sense are produced that display unusual chiro-optic properties including reversible optical switching. Examples are shown below: both the anthracene and naphthalene derivatives show unprecedented, reversible changes in optical rotation due to reorientations of the aromatic rings relative to the helix director.

a chiral catalyst

molecule C18H37

Beauty and function. Come play with us.    

  • “Resolving the Regioregularity of Poly(N-n-hexyl-N’-phenylcarbodiimide) via Nitrogen-15 Labeling”, DeSousa, J. D.; Novak, B. M. Macro Lett. 2012, 1, 672-675.
  • “Synthesis of Guanidinium Functionalized Polycarbodiimides and Their Antibacterial Activities”, Budhathoki-Uprety, J; Peng. L. L.; Melander, C.; Novak, B. M. Macro Lett. 2012, 1, 370-374.
  • “Advances in Polycarbodiimide Chemistry”, Kennemur, J. G.; Novak, B. M. Polymer 2011, 52, 1693-1710. (REVIEW of Polycarbodiimides)
  • "Synthesis of Alkyne Functionalized Helical Polycarbodiimides and their Ligation to Small Molecules using ‘Click’ and Sonogashira Reactions”, Budhathoki-Uprety, J; Novak, B. M. Macromolecules 2011, 44, 5947-5954.
  • “A New, More Versatile, Optical Switching Helical Polycarbodiimide Capable of Thermally Tuning Polarizations ± 359” Kennemur, J. G.; Clark, J. B.; Tian, G.; Novak, B. M. Macromolecules 2010, 43, 1867-1873.
  • Updated: March 29, 2018
[an error occurred while processing this directive]