The Institute of Chemistry (IQ), from the university “Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México” (UNAM), was inaugurated on April 5th, 1941. In those days, the faculty was located on a small area inside the School of Chemical Sciences; at the Tacuba quarter in Mexico City.


The IQ holds as principal aim, the organization of the chemical scientific research in Mexico in order to institutionalize it. With this purpose, in 1954 the IQ created the appointment of “Full-Time Scholar in chemistry”, in recognition of the outstanding academic performance of Alberto Sandoval and Fernando Orozco, the first two faculty members to obtain this designation. In 1947, Alberto Sandoval was the first student to obtain a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry conferred by the UNAM.


In the IQ, many and diverse contributions to the development of Chemistry have been made. The IQ was founded shortly after the Mexican government had the oil expropriated (1938), subsequently, academicians carried out the synthesis of the industrial tetra-ethyl lead, a product added to fuel in order to prevent the engine from knocking, as well as to allow the commercialization of gasoline in Mexico leaving without effect the international boycott to the country.


Studies on the alkalinity of the Texcoco Lake led to the establishment of Sosa Texcoco Corporation, which enjoyed a spectacular economic success during the 70’s. Luis Miramontes, who was an undergraduate student at IQ and associated to Syntex industrial projects, conducted a research that led to the synthesis of the first oral contraceptive; this development meant a radical transformation for social norms throughout the world, achievement worthy of the Nobel Prize. Several studies were made with the purpose to synthesize steroids with pharmaceutical importance (such as cortisone starting from diosgenin or hecogenin), attaining worldwide recognition for Dr. Jesús Romo Armeria.


At IQ the first sesterterpenes, terpenoid compounds with 25 carbon atoms were isolated from an insect found at the University Campus. Dr. Tirso Rios made this discovery together with his students at that time: Drs. Leovigildo Quijano, José Calderón, Fernando Colunga and Federico Gómez Garibay. This development allowed the completion of the terpenes biogenesis scheme.


The study of reaction mechanisms having the dienone-phenol reaction as a substrate, and the isolation and characterization of the structural biodiversity, led to a great development in this field, owing to this, the Institute of Chemistry became widely recognized as the “sesquiterpene lactones cathedral”. A notable work was also carried out on diterpenoids, particularly on Salvias. A pioneer study on the terminal biogenesis of terpenoids was also made by Dr. Alfredo Ortega, who was able to simulate several steps in the study of the biogenesis of germacrane type. A noteworthy work was also made on the diterpenoids field with the use of a one-pot reaction.


Until 2009, the Natural Products Department published 891 scientific articles, and has isolated and characterized more than 4000 substances from natural sources. From the 304 botanic families growing in Mexico, plants belonging to 42 of these families have been studied.

The IQ is at the forefront of technological development in the structural determination of chemical compounds. Nowadays, the IQ is the site of the Structure of Macromolecules National Laboratory, and is equipped with the best state of the art technology, following a tradition, which began with the acquisition of the first Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer and the first X-ray diffractometer in the country. Academics of the Biomacromolecules Department elucidated the hevein structure, which was the first solid-state structure of a protein obtained in Latin America.


Dr. Mario Molina, an undergraduate student at the Institute of Chemistry in 1974, working under Dr. Armando Manjarrez guidance, obtained the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, as a result of his development as an independent scientific researcher. Additionally, several academics have obtained relevant awards at national level, but the fundamental features for the development of the Chemistry departments and postgraduate programs all over the country have been the most relevant.


The Institute of Chemistry inspired by this outstanding background, faces a series of challenges to be addressed on the basis of a well-established scientific leadership.


At this time, the IQ is composed of five departments, alongside the original Natural Products and Organic Synthesis Departments; these are the Inorganic Chemistry Department, with an eminent organic profile, the Biomacromolecules and Physical Chemistry Departments, with prevalence of experts in Chemistry, and to a lesser extent, experts in other scientific disciplines, collaborating in chemical research.


The Institute of Chemistry fulfills its responsibility towards the development of higher education participating as an academic entity with the Chemical and Biomedical Sciences graduate programs. The IQ also collaborates with the Materials Sciences, Biochemistry and Biology graduate programs. Additionally, research work is carried out by students to obtain BSc, MSc. and Ph.D. degrees, therefore producing an impact in the formation of qualified personnel, an agent of social change for Mexican society. The Institute of Chemistry is associated with the Research Group Center in Sustainable Chemistry, (Toluca, Mexico).






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