A trip to Switzerland anybody? Well, not anybody.


So I know it has been a while, but you will be pleased to know I have used the time  absent from here wisely. I have managed to finish a couple of papers, ; I have improved my German exponentially (I now know 32 words rather than 1); and I got a knight costume for carnival.  All in all, a good few months.

Personal advancement aside, I was also invited to sit on the organising committee for this years inaugural Reaxys Inspiring Chemistry Conference.  The conference is centered around the Reaxys PhD prize which is now in its fourth year.  The prize is the only international chemistry PhD competition (as far as I know), and is awarded across all fields of chemistry, with the winners selected by peer review of submitted papers.  Peer review is undertaken by a large international panel of scientists headed up by Prof. Barry Trost (Stanford), Prof. Martin Jansen (Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research), Prof. Gerard Parkin, (Columbia University) Prof. Henry Wong (Chinese University of Hong-Kong), Prof. Eiichi Nakamura, (University of Tokyo) and Prof. Anthony Barrett (Imperial College, London), with the lucky winners awarded $2000.

Traditionally the Reaxys Prize has tagged on to a major international conference, but this year they have taken a bold step to hold a conference of their own in Grindelwald, Switzerland.  The conference will be a small and exclusive event for world leading young scientists that have undertaken groundbreaking research in their fields. Invitation is primarily restricted to this years finalists and winners, previous finalists and winners, associated supervisors, the high-profile conference committee, and the excellent speakers.

Keeping the conference relatively small will allow us to really maintain a really high calibre of attendees, and to maximise the interaction between speakers, finalists and other participants.

This years speakers have not officially been announced as far as I am aware, so consider this a world exclusive. The keynotes will be: Prof Dr Erick M Carreira (ETH) and Dr Peter Denifl (Borealis), and the plenaries: Dr Matthew Gaunt (Cambridge), and (my young academic of choice) Dr Sarah Reisman (Caltech).  This is really a great opportunity to interact with the worlds leading scientists, from PhD students and post-docs, early career academics, to those that sit at the very top of their fields.  This is not an event where the big players disappear after their lecture.  The whole basis of the event is interaction, and everybody will be available for the whole conference.

Oh, and one last thing.  The deadline is one week today, so get your application in here.

#whoiveseenlive in Brazil

For those who tweet in the UK you may know that trending this week was #whoiveseenlive .  I follow none of the twitterati elite, so maybe there were some interesting tweets, but from what I saw My Chemical Romance and Harry Potter seem to top the list of those who tweet about their lives.  This didn’t really change my life so I thought I would join in with who I saw this week at the ESPCA conference in Campinias, Sao Paulo. There were no wizard outfits or melodramatic emos, but I was lucky enough to hear from four nobel laureates in chemistry who really have changed the world:

Ei-ichi Negishi (center), Richard R Schrock (left), Ada E Yonath (right)

Ei-ichi Negishi awarded the nobel prize in chemistry 2010 (alongside Akira Suzuki and Richard F. Heck).  Their development (not theirs alone) of palladium cross coupling chemistry has revolutionised  chemical synthesis in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in academic laboratories.

Ada E. Yonath  awarded the nobel prize in chemistry 2009 (alongside Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz)  for studies on the “structure and function of the ribosome”, natures protein making machine.

Robert R. Schrock awarded the nobel prize in chemistry 2005 (alongside Yves Chauvin and Robert H. Grubbs) for their studies and development of olefin metathesis, which has given chemists the power to manipulate and synthesise one of the most ubiquitous functionalities in organic chemistry, the alkene.

Kurt Wüthrich awarded the nobel prize in chemistry 2002 (alongside John B. Fenn, Koichi Tanaka) for “developing nuclear magnetic resonance for the determination of 3-D structures of biological molecules in solution”. Previously these structures (primarily proteins) were determined using x-rays of crystals, in an environment very unlike that of biological systems.