Pints and Science in Manchester

I just received word of a pretty unusual science focussed drinking event in the glorious bars of Manchester. Or maybe that is supposed to be a drinking focussed science event…..I’m not sure. 12 fascinating talks by scientists have been organised by a great team of folks and will be taking place in your favourite beer serving establishments.

Check out Pint of Science 2014 for times, topics and venues.

And remember, consume your beer with a critical mind and your science in moderation……….erm………….


Part-time job

As doing a post-doc only fills my days and not my nights, I thought I might replace sleeping, my spare time, with a part-time job. I tried the local supermarket, but it seems Germany does not partake in 24h consumerism in quite the same way as the UK, so my hopes of serving baked-beans  microwavable bratwurst at 3 am to eccentric shoppers and drunks were dashed. I had pretty much given up hope of filling those wee hours in the night with anything but sleep, before a new opportunity arose for me to share (unsolicited of course) with people some of the thoughts that pass through my brain. Fortunately for all concerned, these are no longer unfiltered ravings of someone who spends more time than they should inside, but patiently edited musings of a serious scientist.

Much to the dismay of anybody with an interest in making molecules, Paul Docherty’s five-year tenure at Chemistry World, guiding readers through the perils and ecstasy of total synthesis has prematurely ‘Gone to Completion’. Paul’s Totally Synthetic column was a delight to read, and not only helped point me in the right direction when it came to choosing a research field (synthesis), but also introduced me to the world of blogging. I really wish him all the best for the future.

Paul’s ‘retirement’ left a gap over at Chemistry World, one that couldn’t readily be filled by any single individual. Instead, a bold step was taken and three chemists were invited to write in rotation about various aspects of synthetic chemistry – the official announcement is here. The author of the brilliant B.R.S.M. has entertained us with beautifully written analyses of total synthesis over the past couple of years, and deservedly will be now taking this into print. He will also be joined by a long-standing member of the online chemistry community, the excellent ChemJobber, whom since 2008 has been helping chemists track down those elusive things know as ‘jobs’. ChemJobber will be bringing process chemistry to the table for your enjoyment. And finally, yes, my dreams of a part-time job were answered. Presumably not due to my idealistic(?) opinions about synthetic methodology, or how easy I was to work with (it turns out I found being edited a little disconcerting to begin with), I was greatly honoured with the opportunity to write alongside B.R.S.M and ChemJobber. Every three months I will be lucky enough to express my take on some of the most exciting synthetic chemistry methodology published. The first one will soon be on its way to your letter box, or, if you can’t wait, you can get a not so sneaky peek here, with a bonus online only figure. First up is a delightful piece of work from M. Christina White (which also made it into our Paper of Year seminar here in Muenster)  – I hope you enjoy it.

This is a great opportunity, and I’d like to say thanks to Phil and Phillip, the guys that made this happen. Paul Docherty’s column will surely be missed, but hopefully we can at least begin to fill the gap left behind with some exciting work. I have read the blogs of B.R.S.M. and ChemJobber for a long time, so I can at least go as far as to say you will not be disappointed by their articles.

Happy New Year

Best Chemistry Joke Ever?

When the day is tough, and your chips are down……

……Think Lion King

……what a wonderful phrase!

Picture from

Paper of the Year (Part 2)

As I previously mentioned, the Glorius group has an annual paper of the year seminar (or two). As the first seminar is nearly upon us, and the wonderful @JessTheChemist over at The Organic Solution also yesterday called for nominations for paper of the year, I though time was ripe for posting our first nine.

It is worth bearing in mind that the Glorius groups’ primary research field is catalysis (transition metal and organocatalysis), and this is reflected in papers presented at our seminars.

So, in no particular order:

1) Selective C-H Fluorination of Pyridines and Diazines Inspired by a Classic Amination Reaction  (John F. Hartwig). This paper is just out, and as I knew it would be presented imminently I have not read it in detail, but a much sought after, safe, efficient, and broadly applicable fluorination of N-containing heterocycles seems to be the order of the day.

2) Amine(imine)diphosphine Iron Catalysts for Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation of Ketones and Imines (Robert H. Morris). Another paper just out that I mentioned in passing last week. The role of hydrogenation in the preparation of organic molecules is unquestionable, and moving away from the typical heavy, expensive and toxic transitional metals is essential. Asymmetric iron catalysed hydrogenations are consequently one of the holy grails of this field.

3) Aerobic Dehydrogenation of Cyclohexanone to Phenol Catalyzed by Pd(TFA)2/2-Dimethylaminopyridine: Evidence for the Role of Pd Nanoparticles (Shannon S. Stahl). My paper of the year is this beautiful mechanistic study that demonstrates a two stage reaction, in which the first step is catalysed by a homogeneous Pd(II) species, and the second stage is catalysed by Pd nanoparticles generated from the Pd (II) precursor. A really magnificent study.

4) Water-Stabilized Three- and Four-Atom Palladium Clusters as Highly Active Catalytic Species in Ligand-Free C[BOND]C Cross-Coupling Reactions (Avelino Corma). A truly remarkable study delving into the black box of active catalytic species in Pd catalysis. It turns out 3-4 atom clusters of Pd are the business for traditional cross coupling reactions.

5) Enantio- and Diastereodivergent Dual Catalysis: α-Allylation of Branched Aldehydes (Erick M. Carreira). An elegant combination of metal and amine catalysis enables “fully stereo-divergent” access to all for stereoisomers of incredibly useful highly substituted  gamma,delta-unsatuarated aldehyde building blocks.

6) Organotextile Catalysis (Benjamin List). Our first metal free catalysis paper here! Here organocatalysts are supported for the first time on one of the most ubiquitous materials of our times, Nylon. Yes, you got it, essentially we have clothes that can do chemistry!

7) Enantioselective Photoredox Catalysis Enabled by Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer: Development of an Asymmetric Aza-Pinacol Cyclization (Robert R. Knowles) This is one I missed; the paper couples photoredox catalysis and chiral phosphoric acid catalysis.

8) Photoredox Activation for the Direct β-Arylation of Ketones and Aldehydes (David W. C. MacMillan) From the most prolific British chemist abroad? A step on from alpha-functionalisation using photoredox catalysis, and a product of design rather than serendipity as far as I know.

9) Complex N-Heterocycle Synthesis via Iron-Catalyzed, Direct C–H Bond Amination (Theodore A. Betley) Iron catalysed synthesis of saturated N-containing heterocycles. A really inspirational paper, and a tour de force in organometallic chemistry. I just wonder if an organic chemist could have got away without isolating any products?