Author Archive

ChemComm Milestones – Yuanting Su

We are excited to share the success of Yuanting Su’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; ‘Crystalline radical cations of bis-BN-based analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon‘ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Yuanting below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

The main interests of our group are focused on the isolation, characterizations, and reactivity of novel main group species, including geometrically constrained compounds and di(poly)radicals. Recently, most of the stoichiometric and catalytic small molecule activations involve transition metal complexes. Additionally, organic radicals have potential applications in functional materials. We believe that main group species with suitable electronic and steric effects could also solve these problems and have their advantages.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Thiele’s hydrocarbon, the first isolable organic diradicaloid reported by Thiele in 1904, has been widely used as a calculated model to investigate the interaction between two unpaired electrons. However, itself and its radical cation are highly reactive, preventing further investigation and practical application. Despite various analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon have been isolated, structurally characterized radical species derived from them are still limited and radical cations of bis-BN-based analogues have not been reported. In this paper, we demonstrate that air-stable bis-BN-based analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon have been facilely synthesized by one-pot reaction of bromoborane (HCDippN)2BBr with KC8 in the presence of half an equivalent of pyrazine or quinoxaline in toluene. Moreover, one-electron oxidation with AgSbF6 leads to their radical cations, which could be isolated as crystalline solids. The unpaired electron is greatly delocalized over the central linkers. Therefore, reduction of the halogenated borane in the presence of pyrazine and derivatives is a straightforward way to achieve BN-based analogues of Thiele’s hydrocarbon with multiple stable redox states. This strategy may allow access to novel open-shell diradicaloids or polyradicals.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

Make progress in the construction of novel main group species for small molecule activation and functional materials.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

When I was an undergraduate, my research experience with Prof. Suna Wang at Liaocheng University inspired me to pursue an academic research career. After graduation from the group of Prof. Xiao-Juan Yang and Prof. Biao Wu at Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, where I learned a lot of knowledge and techniques on organometallics chemistry and characterizations, I joined the group of Prof. Xinping Wang at Nanjing University and studied the isolation of main group element radicals. Then, I was offered a Research Fellow position in Prof. Rei Kinjo’s group at Nanyang Technological University, where I expanded my research area into the small molecule activations by novel main group element species. I was fortunate to meet such kind and professional chemists, whose strong support helped me to become an independent researcher.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

You can neither rewrite your past nor predict your future. The best thing you can do is holding the present.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm combines the traits of wide readership, rapid publishing, and high quality.

  Yuanting Su received his BSc Degree from Liaocheng University in 2009. Then, he moved to Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, CAS and obtained his MSc Degree in 2012 under the guidance of Prof. Xiao-Juan Yang and Prof. Biao Wu. He earned his PhD in 2015 from Nanjing University under the supervision of Prof. Xinping Wang, studying the isolation of main group element radical species. He stayed as a Research Fellow at Prof. Rei Kinjo’s group at Nanyang Technological University (Sep. 2015 to Sep. 2019), Singapore, focusing on small molecule activation by main group element compounds. In Nov. 2019, he joined the College of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Soochow University as an Associate Professor. His current research interests are new main group species and their applications in small molecule activation and functional materials.

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ChemComm Milestones – Bin Wang

We are excited to share the success of Bin Wang’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; ‘tert-Butyl nitrite triggered radical cascade reaction for synthesizing isoxazoles by a one-pot multicomponent strategy‘ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Bin below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Our laboratory currently focuses on the glycosylation reaction of nitrogen-containing heterocycles to acquire drug-like molecules. Many bioactive components in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) contain glycosyl groups, which increase the water solubility of these molecules. According to the decoction method used in TCM, these compounds are more likely to be the active components of TCM. Additionally, in the development of synthetic drugs, glycosyl groups are often introduced into poorly soluble lead compounds to increase their hydrophilicity, improve the bioavailability of the target drugs, and finally increase the potential druggability.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

As early as 1888, the synthesis of isoxazole derivatives was first documented through the condensation/cyclization reaction of 1,3-dicarbonyl compounds with hydroxylamine by Claisen. Subsequently, two typical strategies for the synthesis of isoxazoles involve 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition of nitrile oxides; and alkynes and cyclo-isomerization of alkynyl ketoxime compounds.

In this article, we describe a novel and efficient multicomponent cascade reaction that involves sequential acylation/oximation/annulation processes in the presence of alkenes, aldehydes, TBN, and H2O, providing access to diversely disubstituted isoxazoles in one-pot. This strategy features H2O as a rare oxygen source of the isoxazole ring, commercially available substrates, and the construction of diverse new bonds in a single pot, which is distinct from already reported studies. These characteristics meet exactly the needs of environmental protection.

Additionally, we applied the established method to provide 32 isoxazole derivatives, and antioxidant experiments showed that these compounds have positive radical scavenging capacity, especially isoxazole 4al reaching 60% scavenging power at a concentration of 2 μmol/mL, suggesting that these molecules could be utilized as lead compounds for anti-aging drugs.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

In the next year, we will focus on carbohydrate chemistry, especially around the glycosylation reaction to achieve the synthesis of antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory substances.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

After completing my master’s degree in physical chemistry (Hunan University, China), I pursued a Ph.D. in organic chemistry for synthesis methodology to explore the functionalization of alkenes or alkynes in the aqueous phase. (University of Science and Technology of China, China), followed by an Associate Professor position focused on the synthesis of nitrogen-containing heterocycles to acquire drug-like molecules (Anhui University of Chinese Medicine, China). Subsequently, I accepted a visiting scholar position from the Georg-August-University of Goettingen, working on glycosylation reactions. Currently, my research group consists of 1 Ph.D. student, 7 masters, and 9 undergraduates. Inspired by the experiences described above and with an interest in exploring TCMs, I begin my independent career to navigate new fields between nitrogen-containing heterocycles and carbohydrate chemistry.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

“Do important and useful chemistry”. Innovation and practicality could go hand in hand. The application of chemical synthesis to solve problems in social life is more in agreement with the needs of human development, for instance, the total synthesis of natural products, synthesizing drug molecules, etc. Therefore, in the course of my academic research, this word has been guiding and inspiring me.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is a highly readable journal. The novelty of the published paper and the rapid publication process attracted me deeply to publish my first research article.

Dr. Bin Wang completed his Ph.D. at the University of Science and Technology of China working with Prof. Zhiyong Wang, where he explored the functionalization of alkenes or alkynes in the aqueous phase. In 2021, he accepted a visiting scholar position in the group of Prof. Dr. Lutz Ackermann at the Georg-August University of Goettingen, working on synthetic methodology. Currently, he holds the position of Associate Professor position at the Key Laboratory of Xin’an Medicine of the Ministry of Education of the Anhui University of Chinese Medicine. His research is focused on the application of glycosylation to acquire drug-like molecules.

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ChemComm Milestones – Philip Norcott

We are excited to share the success of Philip Norcott’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; ‘Current electrochemical approaches to selective deuteration‘ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Philip

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

I am interested in finding simple ways to synthesise new molecules that are designed for particular purposes or show unusual chemical properties. One of these synthetic methods is electrochemistry – using electrical potential to drive oxidation or reduction reactions instead of chemical reagents. An outcome of synthesis where I’m focused is in field of NMR hyperpolarisation, which is a technique to increase signal levels and detect trace intermediates or other compounds. In NMR studies, deuteration can be very important, but making deceptively simple deuterated molecules comes with its own synthetic challenges. 

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Electrosynthesis is becoming far more accessible as a synthetic technique, even for self-described ‘non-experts.’ Part of the attraction of this method is the potential to produce valuable molecules in a more efficient, safer, milder, and controllable way. In the context of deuteration, instead of using deuterium gas under forcing conditions or very expensive analogues of deuterated synthetic reagents, electrochemistry opens up access to a wide range of reactive intermediates which can readily acquire deuterium from simple, cheap sources. Often, and ideally, this can simply be D2O. This article identifies the current strategies and substrates able to undergo selective deuteration in this way, and suggests areas where the burgeoning interest in electrochemistry currently in the synthetic community can play a part to develop further labelling processes.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

I hope to be able to demonstrate reactions which display interesting chemoselectivity enabled by electrochemistry, and a new process for hyperpolarising organic compounds.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

I did my PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Sydney, Australia, then went on to do two postdocs at the University of York, United Kingdom, then the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Working on very different projects in each provided me with an opportunity to try out some new areas of chemistry, and these topics ended up laying the groundwork for my current research interests. I was awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (ARC DECRA) in 2021 to begin my independent research career.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

When reading articles or attending conference presentations and seminars, try to identify at least one part you don’t understand: a reaction, chemical reagent, word or concept that’s new to you, and take it as a chance to broaden your knowledge.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is renowned for quality and timely research in all of chemistry, and so appeals to a wide audience in terms of readers’ fields, backgrounds and interests; by submitting to ChemComm I hoped to engage as broad an audience as possible with my article topic.

  Philip L. Norcott completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, Australia, in 2016 with a focus on organic synthesis using catalysis in aqueous emulsions. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of York, United Kingdom, at the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance, with an emphasis on the synthesis of isotopically labelled materials for NMR applications. Following this he returned to Australia as a postdoctoral researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, investigating the application of electrochemistry and electrostatic effects on organic chemical reactivity. He was awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (ARC DECRA) in 2021 to launch a research program which is focused on synthetic methods to improve NMR hyperpolarisation through activation of para-hydrogen, and the synthesis of isotopically labelled molecules enabled by electrochemistry.

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ChemComm Milestones – Simon Sieber

We are excited to share the success of Simon Sieber’s first-time independent research article in ChemComm; ‘Catch-enrich-release approach for amine-containing natural productsincluded in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Simon

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

The variety and complexity of natural product structures and their potential to treat diseases fascinate me. The research in my group focuses on the discovery of natural products and the development of new strategies to isolate them. The recent progression of current bacterial, viral, and fungi infections is the main driving force of our research.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Natural products in drug discovery suffer from the high isolation costs and the re-discovery of known compounds. Several approaches have been developed to mitigate those issues by identifying active compounds at an early stage. One of those strategies consists of chemoselective methods that can be applied to a minimum amount of sample to extract compounds of interest. In this study, we are focusing on targeting amine, since this functional group has been present in many bioactive natural products. The development of our novel chemoselective approach led to the catch, enrichment, and release of amine-containing natural products. This represents the first chemoselective approach yielding underivatized amine-containing compounds.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

In the future, we will apply our advanced technology to identify bioactive natural products. Our protocol improves the identification of known compounds at an early stage and uses a minimal amount of biological resources. We are aiming to find novel antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal compounds.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

The idea of becoming a researcher started through my fascination for natural products during my master’s thesis with Professor Deniz Tasdemir. This passion was emphasized during my Ph.D. with Professor Karl Gademann, where natural product isolation and structure elucidation were used as tools to understand communication between organisms. The decision to continue in academic research was further cemented by conducting challenging projects during my postdoctoral position with Professor Shana Sturla and for my following career as a senior scientist. Recently, I started a new chapter in my career becoming an independent researcher with the trust of the Swiss National Science Foundation with the Spark grant award, which led to the development of this study.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

The best advice I have ever received is to follow my passion and interest. This advice has always been central in all my decisions throughout my studies and career.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm was our first choice journal due to its high impact, its broad audience and the compact format that makes it ideal for short communication.

Simon Sieber completed his undergraduate studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. His Ph.D. work, under the guidance of Professor Karl Gademann at the University of Basel, Switzerland, was on natural product isolation and synthesis. Simon then moved to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), Switzerland as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the group of Professor Shana Sturla. Since 2017, Simon is a Senior Scientist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, focusing his research on the discovery of novel natural products and the development of novel analytic strategies.

You can reach out to Simon on Twitter (@Simon__Sieber), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/simon-sieber-11624a1a) and ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Simon-Sieber)

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ChemComm Milestones – Claudia Contini

We are excited to share the success of Claudia Contini’s first article as an independent researcher in ChemComm; ‘ Manufacturing polymeric porous capsules included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Claudia below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Our research harnesses the power of bottom-up synthetic biology to engineer motile artificial cells that can move, squeeze, climb and synergistically organise each other in collective behaviours.
We use a bottom-up approach to create minimal cell-like model systems from scratch that can help us to investigate biological properties and re-create biological functions. Our model systems are 100% controllable, made of different molecular tools and used as models to gain insights into biological processes.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

We use a bottom-up approach to create minimal cell-like model systems from scratch that can help us to investigate biological properties and re-create biological functions. Our model systems are 100% controllable and made of different molecular tools, in the case of this article, they are fully polymeric.
This review article illustrates how different methods can be employed to generate polymeric porous capsules. Thanks to a controlled permeability, micro or nano capsules have applications in the fields of drug delivery, biosensing and bottom-up synthetic biology, for the engineering of a more sensitive through-shell communication, applied for gene expression, protein exchange and artificial quorum sensing.
Polymeric capsules represent a versatile alternative to more conventional lipid-based structures, which are the basis of biological membranes and many therapeutic delivery systems. Controlling their permeability through the introduction of pores is a powerful strategy that allows enhanced control of their molecular exchange capabilities with the surrounding environment. Indeed, low permeability is a common shortcoming of existing lipid and polymeric self-assembled capsules, which often impedes their applicability in biotechnological and therapeutic areas. Porous structures have the potential to alleviate this limitation.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

By using molecular building blocks, my research group will create compartmentalised structures that resemble the compartmentalisation observable in biology at the nano and microscale level and impart to them life-like behaviours such as motility. Engineering well-defined bespoke synthetic protocells from scratch that exhibit autonomous and directional motion in response to their environment will pave the way for applications of artificial motile protocells in clinical and industrial settings. For example, synthetic motile systems will allow an intelligent and active delivery of therapeutics directly to a specific target site or the swimming to specific sites that require bioremediation or also the generation of artificial tissues and dynamic materials, adaptive to their environment.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

After completing an MRes in pharmaceutical chemistry sciences (University of Padua, Italy and the University of Sheffield, UK), I pursued a PhD in physical chemistry applied in devices for drug delivery (UCL, UK), followed by a postdoctoral position focused on investigating the interaction of nanomaterials with model membranes at the bio-nano interface (ICL, UK). This has been followed by an ISSF Fellowship on understanding cellular processes through the use of innovative protocells (ICL, UK) and a second postdoctoral position focused on fusing natural and artificial cells to design hybrid systems. This has been followed by the award of two prestigious fellowships: the L’Oréal-UNESCO UK Engineering Fellowship and a 3-years BBSRC Fellowship. Particularly the latter marks the beginning of my career as independent researcher.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

“Concentrate in what you can control”. A career in academia can be very competitive and comparing yourself to other extremely successful academics is sometimes demoralising. A career in academia is also full of ups and downs and uncertain for an early career researcher. Everyone should focus instead in focusing in what they can control and be motivated on achieving personal and career goals.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is one of the most respected journals that offer a rapid publication process of short communications. It has also the open access option which helps in sharing novel findings that will benefit the entire research community.

Dr Claudia Contini is a BBSRC Fellow at Imperial College London, working in bottom-up synthetic biology. Her multidisciplinary training comprises a Master’s degree in medical chemistry at the University of Padua, Italy and a PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University College London, UK. This has been followed by a postdoctoral position focused on investigating the interactions at the bio-nano interface at Imperial College London (ICL). She then obtained an ISSF Fellowship (ICL, UK) to create innovative protocells. This has been followed by the award of a L’Oréal-UNESCO UK Engineering Fellowship and a 3-years BBSRC Fellowship. Multiple awards have recognised her research, including the ‘Italy Made Me’ award from the Italian Ambassador in London to recognise her innovative research carried out in the UK.

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ChemComm Milestones – Nazar Rad

We are excited to share the success of Nazar Rad’s first-time independent research article in ChemComm; ‘Effect of Na+ and K+ on the cucurbituril-mediated hydrolysis of a phenyl acetate included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Nazar

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Currently, our focus is in application of catalytically active macrocycles that mimic the behaviour of natural enzymes. Like natural enzymes, the macrocycles confine the substrate and accelerate its conversion. The great advantage of macrocycles over enzymes is their simple structure. Thus, examination of macrocycles allows us to elucidate enzyme behaviour and construct new functional systems.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

We demonstrate that abundant sodium and potassium cations can affect the catalytic activity of enzymes by directly binding to the active site. Therefore, when enzyme activity is studied in vitro using a buffer solution, the cation effect should be considered along with the ionic strength effect. Otherwise, the cation binding to the active site can reduce the concentration of the active form of the enzyme. I believe that taking the cation effect into account will solve many misunderstandings related to enzyme behaviour.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

Generally, uncompetitive inhibitors are more effective drugs than a more generic competitive ones. Meanwhile, their mechanism of action is not clear. Thus, we plan to study and elucidate the nature of uncompetitive inhibition using the macrocycle as a model system for enzyme behaviour.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

My decision to become a scientist germinated when I started my second year at the university. After classes, I spent more time in the chemistry lab working as Undergraduate Research Assistant getting acquainted with organic synthesis. And when I joined a graduate school as a PhD candidate, I started planning majority of my research, performing experiments, and analysing the obtained results. I was deciding the research directions on my own. My supervisor helped me to develop my understanding of the field and senior colleagues in the lab always supported me with advice and encouragement throughout my doctorate career path. The experience gained while participating in internships in Poland and Germany has broadened my vision of science and deepened my understanding in the field. After a two-year industrial experience, I continued my academic career in Poland working as a post-doc. Shortly, I secured a funding for my first project and currently holding an Assistant Professor position at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Poland.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been give?

The best advice that always encourages me is: “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” I have often heard this statement from my senior colleagues. These words helped me throughout my scientific career to keep working towards the set targets and learn from gained experience be it positive or negative. I believe, this is the one of the best advice for an early career scientist.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

The article shows how the sodium and potassium cations, which are common in every laboratory, can affect reaction rates. Therefore, I believe that the results should be of interest to the broad community of chemists. Furthermore, ChemComm is one of the most widely read interdisciplinary journals. I also appreciate ChemComm’s venue for rapid publication.

  Nazar Rad is originally from Ukraine, born in Lviv, 1985. After earning a MSc degree in Chemical Science from the Lviv National University after Ivan Franko in 2008, he continued graduate education as a PhD candidate at the same university in the group of Prof. M. Obushak. His PhD thesis was focused on the transformation of the nitro group during the nucleophile attack on nitroethenes and nitrothiophenes. Further, he studied the formation of aryltriflouroborate complexes with diazonium salts at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (Poland, 2010–2011) as a Fellow of the Visegrad Fund. In 2011–2012, N. Rad joined the group of Prof. A. Schmidt at the Clausthal University of Technology (Germany) as a DAAD Fellow developing organocatalysts of the Hayashi-Miyaura reaction. Then, he gained experience in industry working as an analytical chemist at the Enzyme Company (Ukraine, 2015-2016). After PhD defense in 2016, he joined Prof. M. Mąkosza’s group at the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 2017, he accepted a post-doc position in the group of Prof. V. Sashuk at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, working on light-controlled supramolecular switches. Currently, Dr. Rad holds the position of Assistant Professor at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Poland. His research is focused on the application of macrocycles as enzyme mimics.

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