Associate Professor of Chemistry
Organic Materials Chemistry

Olin-Rice Science Center, 319


Dennis Cao is an organic chemist with an interest in developing new materials that rely on fundamentally interesting molecular designs. He started at Macalester in Fall 2015 and teaches courses in organic chemistry. His two current research focuses, which rely heavily on collaborations with eager Macalester undergraduates, seek to 1) leverage alkyne metathesis to produce porous 2D and 3D alkyne-expanded hydrocarbon compounds that are valuable for gas adsorption and molecular encapsulation applications and 2) synthesize novel electron deficient compounds that have a predicted tendency to stabilize radical electrons, thus making them attractive targets for molecular electronics.
Dennis was born in Germany, grew up in San Diego, and his academic path took him from perfect weather to colder and colder climates. As part of his big move to Minnesota in 2015, Dennis married fellow chemist Leah Witus. Together, they enjoy traveling the world, hiking, and being in the company of others. When there is spare time outside all those activities, Dennis works on his homemade 3D printer, takes photos, and cheers for the Houston Rockets.
BS: University of California, Berkeley, 2006-2009
Advisor: Dr. Yi Liu
PhD: Northwestern University, 2010-2014
Advisor: Prof. J. Fraser Stoddart
Postdoc: Northwestern University, 2014-2015
Advisor: Prof. Samuel I. Stupp