Armen Zakarian grew up in Moscow, where his scientific interests in chemistry were seeded by a rare opportunity to participate in a research group at the Zelinski Institute of Organic Chemistry during high school and later as an undergraduate student at Moscow State University. The research activities in the Kochetkov laboratories at the Zelinski Institute involved carbohydrate chemistry, and early mentorship was provided by Dr. Vladimir Borodkin.
In 1996, he moved to Florida to pursue graduate studies in the Holton group. His research projects probed cascade biomimetic cyclizations of epoxy-alcohols as a platform for the total synthesis of brevetoxins and other ladder toxins [JACS 2003]. One of the key observations was that the desired endo-regioselectivity of the reactions could be favored by polar solvents, which allowed for completion of the total synthesis of hemibrevetoxin B that employed the proposed biosynthetic approach for the first time.
In 2002, he carried out postdoctoral studies as an MDS Postdoctoral Fellow in the group of Professor Overman at the University of California, Irvine, where his research included exploration of synthetic strategies toward the total synthesis of ouabain and guanacastepenes [JACS 2006].
After first four years at Florida State University, Zakarian group joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Barbara, in June 2008. He has been a recipient of Eli Lilly Grantee Award, Amgen Young Investigator Award, and the NSF CAREER Award. Since 2015, he is an Associate Editor for RSC Advances.