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


Week 11 Mega Chemist Challenge Solution

This weeks Mega Chemist is the owner of what is probably the most infamous group photo, and definitely the most fiery. Here is Professor M. Christina White (does anybody know what the M stands for?) in all that flaming glory….

You can visit her group page for some brilliant pictures, but I think even better are these posters.

Professor White, as mentioned in the clues, completed her PhD in the group of Professor Gary Posner, initiating the hybrid Vitamin D3 analog program in his group. Following her time with Jacobson working on catalytic epoxidations, she began her independent career at Harvard before moving to the University of Illinois in 2005, where she now holds the position of professor. She has a whole host of awards as you would expect for someone with such a phenomenal background, most recently she was awarded the Roche Excellence in Chemistry Award (2009) and the Cope Scholar Award (2009). A short CV includes all of her  awards.

Professor White hit the ground running after the completion of her PhD. Her paper  “A synthetically useful, self-assembling MMO mimic system for catalytic alkene epoxidation with aqueous H2O2” (DOI 10.1021/ja015884g) published with Jacobson now has 227 citations. Following this her seminal independent publication “A sulfoxide-promoted, catalytic method for the regioselective synthesis of allylic acetates from mono-substituted olefins via C-H oxidation” (DOI 10.1021/ja039107n) was in JACS, and introduced us to the now eponymous White Catalyst.

White’s interest in C-H oxidation resulted in a string of papers in top journals, but new highs were reached with her first Science publication in 2007. This paper demonstrates the selective oxidation of unactivated sp3 C-H bonds in complex molecule synthesis, using only the steric environment and subtle electronic differences in C-H bonds to predictably control the outcome (DOI 10.1126/science.1148597).

Here is a recent perspective on C-H oxidation in synthesis by White.

Today’s paper is not from Science, but a brilliant application of a derivative of the White catalyst (DOI 10.1021/ja2059704) in dehydrogenative Diels-Alder reactions.

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