Alex Shafir was born in Kharkov (Ukraine) in 1974. He received his B.A. in Chemistry from Hunter College (New York City) and earned his PhD from the UC Berkeley (2003) with John Arnold. His research at Berkeley was centered on the synthesis of Group IV transition metals complexes supported by 1,1´-diaminoferrocenes. During this time, he also developed an interest in ethylene oligomerization, particularly as it pertains to the on-target α-olefins production.
After a postdoctoral stay with Stephen L. Buchwald at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked on copper-catalyzed coupling reactions, he earned a Ramón y Cajal research fellowship at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB, groups of Roser Peixats and Adelina Vallribera). His research there involved catalytic applications of metal nanoparticles, and, later, dehydrogenative C-C coupling using hypervalent iodine reagents.
In 2012, he was appointed a group leader at ICIQ withing the ICIQ Starting Career Program (ICIQ-SCP), where he formed a new research group. The group’s efforts was directed towards the use of transition metal catalysts for the selective conversion of ethylene into short olefins of a given size (e.g. 1-octene). Such process was believed to proceed through a mechanism different from that of the classical polymerization and, unlike the latter, giva a single olefin size. The design of new catalysts was reinforced through the detailed mechanistic study of the catalytic cycle.