I was recently reminded of my first meeting with a ‘superstar’ of organic chemistry, Professor Barry M. Trost.
In the October of 2010 I arrived with trepidation to the infamous town of Ascot, south-west England, as I had been invited to present my research at the Lily postgraduate lecture prize along with a number of other PhD students. Excitingly this not only required spending a night in a high-end hotel with beautiful views of a roundabout and petrol station forecourt, but also dinner with Professor Trost himself. I arrived at the hotel early and rapidly began consuming the free biscuits and tea before giddily heading to the leisure suite to enjoy the hot tub, pool and sauna: nice hotels are not a stalwart of the postgraduate lifestyle. After a very relaxing afternoon I put on my carefully pressed suit and calmly headed down to the restaurant for dinner, but in my induced sedentary frame of mind had somewhere lost track of the fact that Professor Trost would be attending. On arrival at the dinner hall I shook hands with two gentlemen, one of whom was the Lily representative, before proceeding to introduce myself to the other students. It was at this stage my brain started to regain its composure after such a joyous afternoon, and became more alert to the magnitude of such an evening – though some information was still only floating around the edges of my consciousness – and I realised that I had not caught the name of the first gentleman. Not wanting to seem rude at a later time, I thought it pertinent to confidently return to the gentleman, and apologise as I had not caught his name initially. As the words boldly projected from my mouth, a slow silence pervaded the room, only broken within the confines of my own head as my brain found the missing gear. After a very personal eternity, the gentleman in question graciously introduced himself as Barry Trost; and as the stunned silence of the others withdrew, the evening continued without further call for despair.
Pleasingly, Professor Trost bore me no ill will but this moment has remained with me since, and as such, hitherto is born the crudely titled Mega Chemist Challenge. To aid myself and others in avoiding situations as discussed above, I will present weekly an image of a chemist (generally, though not always from the field of organic chemistry) either living or dead for you to identify. Clues will be given over the weekend so if you don’t want any help remember to check in before Friday each week.
Leave your suggestions in the comments box.
Week 1 – A classic to start