Archive for the ‘ChemComm Milestone’ Category

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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ChemComm Milestones – Samuel Jones

We are excited to share the success of Samuel Jones’s first-time independent research article in ChemComm;  Deoxyribonucleic acid polymer nanoparticle hydrogels – Chemical Communications (RSC Publishing)’ included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with Samuel

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

Research in my lab focuses on material/virus interactions with a specific focus on developing biocompatible virucidal materials and viral detection systems. I completed my undergraduate degree and PhD in Chemistry, so it is often a surprise to others that my research is now so closely linked to virology. However, the main focus of my PhD was the supramolecular assembly of nanoparticles and viruses are the ultimate self-assembled nanomaterial. Viruses can be thought of as non-living, making them merely an nanoscale assembly of genetic material, proteins and (in some cases) lipid envelopes. The self-assembly of these complex structures inside cells in fascinating but by treating virions as supramolecular assemblies it has been possible to design novel, destroy on contact, antivirals.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Hydrogels are used in a wide array of research fields from contact lenses through to drug delivery systems. Physically cross-linked, and notably polymer-nanoparticle (PNP), hydrogels have been used for a wide range of application due to their dynamic nature and ease of manufacture. A gel like the one we published on here, made of abundant and cheap constituents that self heals, releases cargo and degrades upon addition of DNase has a broad scope of applications, including in drug delivery and tissue engineering.

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

Current work in my lab is focussing on developing the next generation of broad-spectrum biocompatible virucides and showing that they have significant potential for the real-world treatment of viral infections. We are hoping to publish on this and the development of new viral detection and sensing systems within the next year. This year will also see the first PhD student graduate from my group, which will be a very exciting time.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

As part of my undergraduate degree (MChem with professional Experience) at the University of Warwick, I spent 3 months in the research labs of Dr. Adrian Blackman at the University of Tasmania, Australia. It wasn’t until this period that I had even considered going into research, yet after my first real taste of scientific research, I loved it. I returned to Warwick to complete my degree, undertaking further research in the lab of Prof. Stefan Bon and my love of research grew. This was also where I saw first hand how to successfully run a research group.

From there, I joined the University of Cambridge in the group of Prof. Oren A. Scherman. The 4 years of my PhD were some of the best in my research career to date. I made life long friends, worked on interdisciplinary research with groups from across Europe and was fortunate to travel to many countries for research meetings and conferences. I was afforded a great deal of independence during this time and relished the opportunity to work collaboratively on new projects and ideas. I was also actively involved in the supervision of students from lab demonstrating in 1st year natural science labs through to supervision of masters students projects. I found that I really enjoyed the teaching and mentoring opportunities these roles afforded me.

Marrying the summer before my thesis submission and defending not long after returning from honeymoon, I was ready for my next research challenge. My new wife and I made the move across Europe to Switzerland. I joined the group of Prof. Francesco Stellacci to work on chemotactic nanomaterials, initially for a one year period. We both loved our time in Switzerland, and the Stellacci group, so much that we ended up staying for three years, had our first child and embraced the Swiss lifestyle as much as possible. During this time, my research focus shifted to the development and testing of virucidal materials, as I became fascinated with these non-living biological nanoparticles. I worked alongside some great scientists who were always open and willing to share knowledge and experience, ultimately allowing us to work together to produce novel antivirals.

When I was offered an independent fellowship at the University of Manchester, I was delighted and looked forward to bringing all my knowledge and experience together to produce my own independent research and train the next generation of scientists. Although the process of establishing an independent research group has its ups and downs, I would not change it. My research group currently consists of 8 PhD students and one PDRA and working with each of them to develop their own research is a joy.

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

Maybe not direct advice but over the course of my research career, I’ve learned the importance of a healthy work-life balance. At times during my career, the balance was not always the healthiest and over longer time periods this can have a negative impact. Ensuring that I take time to see friends, be with family and exercise are just as important as any work I may have to do. This is something that I now promote with my own students and I hope they are better off for it.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

I have been a long time reader of ChemComm for the excellent and diverse range of manuscripts it publishes. My first ever research article was published in ChemComm, as part of an Emerging Investigator issue and we were fortunate to be able to provide the cover image there also, just like this paper. The broad-audience and communication format made it a good fit for this research and I hope to be able to publish with the journal again in the future.

Sam completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge working with Prof. Oren A. Scherman, where he explored the supramolecular assembly of nanomaterials using cucurbit[n]uril. He then moved to the EPFL, Switzerland to the group of Prof. Francesco Stellacci where his research focused on chemotactic nanomaterials and broad-spectrum virucidal materials. In 2017, he was awarded a Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Fellowship at the University of Manchester, which allowed him to establish his independent research programme. Now a lecturer in the Department of Materials at the University of Manchester, and resident member in the Henry Royce Institute, his research focuses on virus/material interactions with a specific interest in the development of novel virucidal materials and viral detection systems. Find Samuel on Twitter; @Scientist_Sam

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ChemComm Milestones – Brian Lindley

Brian Lindley has reached an exciting ChemComm Milestone when he published his first independent research article in our journal. You can read Brian’s #ChemComm1st article here: ‘Unlocking metal coordination of diborylamides through ring constraints‘ Find out more about Brian in our interview with him below.

 

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

The central aim of my research group is to explore the cooperative action of boronic ligands and 1st-row transition metals within the context of catalysis. In this research, I draw on the demonstrated versatility of metal-ligand cooperativity as a design element for enabling a broad range of stoichiometric and catalytic transformations. Inspired by the work of others who have successfully integrated the benefits of transition metal and main group chemistry, I set out to expand the chemical diversity of boron-containing ligand architectures for applications ranging from organic synthesis to energy conversion.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

Metal-ligand cooperativity is a compelling strategy for lowering barriers to chemical reactions, e.g. by having both the metal and ligand play active roles in bond-making and bond-breaking processes. This reduces the burden on the transition metal center, often providing distinct advantages over traditional inorganic reaction mechanisms. We are interested in further exploring this principle by synthesizing ligands featuring boron functionalities proximate to the transition metal binding site. We aim to exploit this strategic placement of Lewis acidic boranes for metal-boron cooperative reactivity. In this article, we synthesize a cyclic diborylamide ligand and explore its coordination chemistry with lithium and iron. This new ligand features two boron substituents adjacent the nitrogen donor atom, thus potentially serving as useful classes of ligands for future metal-ligand cooperative applications.

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

In 2022, we aim to probe the effect of boron substitution on the bonding and reactivity of these new cyclic diborylamide compounds. Beyond the diborylamide project, we also hope to disclose our first findings in two distinct research projects that also center on the coordination chemistry of boron-containing ligands with transition metals.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

Though I admittedly teetered between chemistry and chemical engineering as an undergraduate, my research experience with Prof. Rich Eisenberg at the University of Rochester inspired me to pursue a career in inorganic chemistry. Rich also provided invaluable guidance on the graduate school application process, which ultimately led me to join Prof. Pete Wolczanski’s group at Cornell. The environment provided by Pete and his talented group of graduate students allowed me to think creatively about synthetic inorganic chemistry, thus laying the foundation for my independent career. I was fortunate to be offered a postdoctoral researcher position in Prof. Alex Miller’s group at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I matured as a scientist and expanded my skillset to include electrochemical methods. Motivated by these experiences, which also fostered my passion for teaching and mentoring students, I decided to pursue my own independent career to explore new frontiers in transition metal and main group chemistry.

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

The best advice I’ve received is probably to believe in my ideas. Though often easier said than done, this guidance is comforting, particularly when research is progressing slowly.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm covers a broad range of research topics including fundamental advancements in main group and transition metal chemistry, thus making the journal a perfect fit for the present research article.

 

 

Brian M. Lindley received his BS in Chemistry in 2010 from the University of Rochester, where his research in Prof. Rich Eisenberg’s lab centered on the synthesis of organic chromophores for light-driven, cobalt-catalyzed hydrogen evolution. Brian went on to receive his PhD in Chemistry in 2016 from Cornell University, where he studied metal-templated carbon-carbon bond forming reactions and Fe(IV) alkylidenes under the tutelage of Prof. Pete Wolczanski. Brian spent the next 3.5 years as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Alex Miller’s group at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studied the fundamental steps in a proposed electrochemical dinitrogen reduction scheme. In 2019, Brian joined the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Baylor University as an assistant professor. Research in the Lindley Lab is centered on the development of fundamentally new classes of ligands for applications in 1st-row transition metal catalysis.

 

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Imogen Riddell

We recently caught up with Imogen Riddell (University of Manchester) – our latest ChemComm Milestones author. We wanted to find out about Imogen’s research and experiences as a first-time author in the interview below. You can now read Imogen’s first independent research paper ‘Self-assembly of a trigonal bipyramidal architecture with stabilisation of iron in three spin states‘ in our growing ChemComm1st collection.

Our interview with Imogen

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
I believe that research can be placed on a spectrum which spans fundamental research to application science, and I have been fortunate enough to get experience of both ends. My PhD research was focused on the fundamental science of self-assembling metal-organic systems, whereas my postdoctoral work at MIT focused on the application of metal complexes in cancer treatment. Now I run my own group, I aim to take the best of each approach and have focused on developing novel self-assembling metal-organic systems with targeted applications in catalysis, bio-imaging and molecular stabilisation.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
Nature has a knack for successfully exploiting metals for both structural and catalytic purposes, however the scientific community has yet to develop the same level of mastery. Recently, the supramolecular community has become skilled at using metals as structure-directing agents, but unfortunately, current strategies have left the metal unavailable for further reactivity; effectively inhibiting the potential for catalytic activity.

A first step to overcoming this is to understand how to control the spin states of metal ions in complex architectures. In our paper, we demonstrate the incorporation of iron ions in three different spin states within a single molecule, illustrating how relatively simple starting materials can generate highly sophisticated molecules with potentially interesting properties.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Currently work in my lab is looking at systematically understanding how we can exploit asymmetry within ligands to generate supramolecular cages with complex, yet controllable, three-dimensional structures. We are hoping to build on the understanding we have gained from the work described in this paper to demonstrate applications for these structures ranging from stabilisation of catalytically active metal sites to isolation and stabilisation of biomolecules. The highlight of this year, however, will undoubtedly be the graduation of my first PhD student, Lauren, who is also the first author on this paper!

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
Following an undergraduate degree at the University of Strathclyde, I was thrilled to accept a PhD position at Cambridge University, but I had no idea of what academia entailed, and certainly no concept that I would ultimately accept a job within the system.

The first year of my PhD was tough, very little worked, but with the publication of my first paper and a change of topic everything changed. Ultimately, I loved the chemistry I worked on in my PhD and assigning complex NMR spectra and problem solving mass spectral fragments became a fun hobby, and one I was paid to do! As my PhD came towards its end I rather boldly decided to move countries and research topics, a decision which has ultimately benefited me but was challenging in the short term.

My postdoc at MIT, was a very different experience from my PhD research. Rather than unraveling supramolecular mysteries we were attempting to develop better anticancer agents. The objective here was clear, but the magnitude of the problem you were attempting to address was very apparent. The postdoc did however provide extensive opportunities to diversify my background and acquire new skills.

When I was ultimately offered an independent fellowship at the University of Manchester I was able to use the skills I learned in these different settings to navigate the turmoil of moving once again to a new institution and learning new processes. Now I have a research group consisting of four students and a postdoc, and sitting on the other side of the fence I occasionally recognise I may have given my previous supervisors a bit of hard time!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The piece of advice I reflect most often on is ‘consider your audience’. In essence who will read your text or watch your presentation, and what do they want to take from it. As scientists we become experts in particularly narrow subjects and can fixate on minor nuances which don’t impact the bigger picture. Understanding how much of the detail is of interest to your audience is a skill which, when mastered, allows the general public, our friends, family and fellow scientists to better appreciate the work we do.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
ChemComm is a very readable journal, the communication format and the broad readership made it well suited to this work which contains aspects of both supramolecular chemistry and magnetism. Additionally, as ChemComm published my very first research paper I am particularly fond of the journal and over the past decade have been able to see how well cited ChemComms can be!

Imogen completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge working for Prof Jonathan Nitschke where she explored new strategies for self-assembly of metal-organic container molecules. She then undertook her postdoctoral training with Prof Steve Lippard at MIT where her research was directed at understanding the mechanisms of non-classical inorganic anticancer complexes. In 2017 she was awarded a University of Manchester Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Research Fellowship, followed by a Royal Society URF in 2018 which enabled her to start her own research program looking at the design and discovery of metal-organic materials for novel applications.
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ChemComm Milestones – Amit Kumar

Amit Kumar joins our growing community of authors who have chosen to publish their first-time independent research article in ChemComm. Read Amit’s ChemComm1st article ‘Direct synthesis of polyureas from the dehydrogenative coupling of diamines and methanol‘ in the full milestones collection.  In this post, you can find out more about Amit and his exciting research.https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2021/cc/d1cc01121

Our interview with Amit

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
The discovery of new organometallic catalysts to enable a circular economy is the main theme of research in my lab. Starting my independent academic career with the COVID pandemic has made me realize the onus on scientists and academics to prepare our planet to prevent any future catastrophes. The adverse effects of climate change on the environment have become visible in many forms and is a serious cause of concern in current times. These events have motivated me to utilize my expertise to contribute to mitigating the rising threat of climate change. I have therefore decided to dedicate my academic career in pursuit of sustainable technologies to enable circular economy (that advocates for using waste as a resource) e.g. CO2 capture, and utilization, and production of renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable plastics.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
The article reveals a new proof of concept method for the synthesis of polyureas using the approach of catalytic dehydrogenative coupling of diamines and methanol. Polyureas are commonly used plastics (used for coatings, and adhesives in construction industries) with an annual global market of 885 USD. Polyureas are industrially produced from the reaction of diamines, and diisocyanates. However, diisocyanates and their precursor – phosgene gas are highly toxic. The method disclosed in this article circumvents the use of toxic diisocyanates with methanol, which is not only less toxic and cheaper, but also renewable and can be made from the hydrogenation of CO2. Thus, the developed method is safer than the current state-of-the-art technology and allows the production of renewable polyureas. Moreover, the use of 13C-labelled methanol also allows the cost-effective production of 13C-labelled polyureas that could find applications in medical technologies such as drug delivery, and tissue engineering when coupled with 13C-MRI.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
In the coming year(s), we hope to develop more efficient (cheaper, higher TON, and reusable) catalysts of earth-abundant metals for the production and degradation of polyureas to demonstrate its closed-loop production cycle. Moreover, we also aim to expand this concept to demonstrate new closed-loop production pathways for polycarbonates, and polyurethanes using the approach of catalytic (de)hydrogenation.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
October 4th, 2010. Sitting on the first bench of my undergraduate lecture course (taught by Prof. K. R. Justin Thomas, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee), I studied the fascinating mechanisms of palladium-catalysed cross-coupling reactions. Oct 6th, 2010; Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Heck, Negishi, and Suzuki for the development of palladium-catalysed cross-couplings in organic synthesis. I was thrilled with the news! Partly, because this was the first time, I already knew about the topic that won the Nobel Prize. My interest to delve deeper into this area made me write a review article on this topic in the final year of my undergraduate studies and led me to pursue this area for future research expeditions. I carried my DPhil research with Prof. Andrew Weller at the University of Oxford in the area of organometallic chemistry and then moved to the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel to work with Prof. David Milstein on topics of green homogeneous catalysis. The work culture of the Milstein lab allowed me to pursue my independent ideas, lead the required collaborations, and work independently on various aspects of publications. These experiences made me confident to lead a research group in academia.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I was once told about the 3Ds of leadership/management that I have found very helpful in my career.
Delegate: You cannot do everything by yourself. Effective delegation and collaboration can mean accomplishing the project goal in a limited timeframe and maximizing the utilization of individual team member’s strength.
Defer: Prioritise and defer tasks that can wait.
Delete: Time is precious. It is important to say No to certain tasks that don’t fit with your goals and vision.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
ChemComm is a highly prestigious journal and has a large readership from several fields of chemistry. Several breakthroughs (including synthesis of fullerenes, and rules for ring closures) have been published in this journal in the past. All of these factors in addition to the rapid peer-review process made me choose to publish in ChemComm.

Amit Kumar completed his Integrated M.Sc. Chemistry degree (2007-2012) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee where he received several research fellowships and awards (Indian Academy of Science, DAAD -Germany, IIT-ParisTech, KVPY & INSPIRE from the Govt of India) along with the Institute Silver Medal. He then won the Rhodes Scholarship and pursued his DPhil (2012-2016) under the supervision of Prof. Andrew Weller at the University of Oxford, UK. Upon completion of his DPhil, Amit received the PBC fellowship (Planning & Budgeting Committee, Israel) to carry his postdoctoral research with Prof. David Milstein at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel where he was promoted to be a Senior Postdoctoral Fellow in 2019. Amit was awarded the FGS (Feinberg Graduate School) Prize for the outstanding achievements in postdoctoral research 2018 by the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. In Jan 2020, Amit started his independent academic career as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Researcher at the School of Chemistry, University of St. Andrews. His research interests are organometallic catalysis, energy storage, and circular chemistry.

 

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