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Faculty and Staff

Li Cai, Ph.D.

Title: Professor of Chemistry
Department: Chemistry
USC Lancaster
Phone: 803-313-7026
Office: Bradley 213
Office Hours: Due to the need to maintain social-distancing protocols, no in-person office hours will be held this semester. Virtual office hours will be held virtually (by appointment)
Resources: My LinkedIn Profile
Personal Website
Li Cai, Associate Professor of Chemistry


Ph.D. (2011): Organic Chemistry, The Ohio State University

M.S. (2007): Medicinal Chemistry, Peking University

B.S. (2005): Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University


Dr. Li Cai is an organic chemist and glyco-scientist whose research focuses on carbohydrate chemistry, enzymatic synthesis of carbohydrates, and chemical glycobiology. Dr. Cai is also devoted to enhancing the teaching and learning of chemistry, which includes advising undergraduate researches. He joined USC Salkehatchie in 2011 as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2016. He then joined the faculty at USC Lancaster in summer 2017 and was promoted to Full Professor in fall 2020.

Dr. Cai was born in Chengdu, China in 1982. He received his B.S. degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and M.S. degree in Medicinal Chemistry (with Prof. Zhenjun Yang) from Peking University. He then attended the Ohio State University, where he earned his Ph.D. (with Prof. Peng George Wang) in Organic Chemistry. He has published more than 29 peer-reviewed papers in chemical research and education (among more than 50 publications total) since joining the UofSC faculty, with the h-index value of 19 (Google Scholar). He is an Associate Editor for Chemistry Africa and an editorial board member for 2 journals. He has also reviewed more than 100 manuscripts for 41 journals. Some of his awards include: the 2020 USC Distinguished Research Service Award; the 2017 USC Breakthrough Star Award; the 2016 USC Salkehatchie Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship; the 2010 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad; the Ohio State University Fellowship.


Selected Recent Publications (Complete List of Publications)

1. Li, Z.; Li, F.; Cai, L.; Chen, Z.; Qin, L.; Gao, X. One-pot multi-enzyme synthesis of rare ketoses from glycerol. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2020, 5, 1347-1353

2. Zheng, Z.; Han, Z.; Cai, L.; Zhou, D.; Chavis, B. R.; Li, C.; Sui, Q.; Jiang, K.; Gao, Q. Highly regioselective dehexanoylation in fully hexanoylated flavonoids. Tetrahedron Letters 2018, 59, 4442-4447.

3. McManus, C. L.; Emmanuel, K. A.; Cai, L. Investigating caffeine content in major Chinese tea types. Chemical Educator 2018, 23, 198-202. 

4. Han, Z.; Zheng, Z.; Cai, L.; Zhou, D.; Li, C.; Sui, Q.; Liu, S.; Gao, Q. Synthesis of flavonoid 2-deoxyglucosides via the Mitsunobu reaction. Tetrahedron Letters 2018, 59, 3773-3776.

5. Zhao, Y.; Cai, L.; Sui, Q.; Lin, F.; Jiang, W.; Chen, J.; Lu, W.; Gao, Q. Facile synthesis of acacetin and its derivatives. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2016, 26, 3577-3580.

6. Li, Z.; Gao, X.; Cai, L. Synthesis of rare pentoses using microbial and enzymatic reactions. Current Organic Chemistry 2016, 20, 1456-1464.

7. Li, X.; Rao, X.; Cai, L.; Liu, X.; Wang, H.; Wu, W.; Zhu, C.; Chen, M.; Wang, P. G.; Yi, W. Targeting tumor cells by natural anti-carbohydrate antibodies using rhamnose-functionalized liposomes. ACS Chemical Biology 2016, 11, 1205-1209.

8. Li, Z.; He, B.; Gao, Y.; Cai, L. Synthesis of D-sorbose and D-psicose by recombinant Escherichia coli. Journal of Carbohydrate Chemistry 2015, 34, 349-357. 

9. Cai, L. Thin layer chromatography. Current Protocols Essential Laboratory Techniques 2014, 6.3.1-6.3.18.