Interview with Len MacGillivray

Len MacGillivray tells CrystEngCommunity about his secret to running a good research group and has some good advice for young scientists

05 March 2010

Len MacGillivray is an associate professor at the University of Iowa, USA and his research is focussed on template-controlled solid-state synthesis and supramolecular chemistry. Len is also a member of the CrystEngComm editorial board.

Why did you become a scientist?

Ever since I can remember, I have always been excited to read something new as it relates to science – whether chemistry, biology, or engineering related. Growing up, my parents had keen interests in nature and biology. I was also surrounded by music. Together, I think one develops a sense of wanting to explore.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

We are currently working on the crystal engineering of solid-state reactivity, organic semiconductors, and pharmaceutical materials.

What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in your field?

An understanding of how supramolecular chemistry and solid-state chemistry contribute to the origins of life.

How do you think crystal engineering will develop in the next five years?

My sense is that an important development will be an acceleration of new knowledge that results from combining the speed with which data can now be obtained from X-ray experiments with results from computational analyses. In as much that CCD X-ray diffractometers have changed the rate at which we process X-ray data, combining the speed of X-ray data acquisition with the rate at which crystal structure prediction is growing should lead to significant advancements.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

Developing an idea that is able to sit on its own – whether achieved through finishing a paragraph in a manuscript or listening to a student convey his or her research for the first time.

What is the secret to a successful research group?

Trying to understand where everything fits and trying to suggest the right things at the right time.

What advice would you give to a young scientist?

Read the literature and start early. There are many opportunities to develop new ideas and learn how to convey your ideas.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Each student that graduates from my research group – and having each student be able to freely move on to the next stage of their life.

What would you do if you weren’t a scientist?

It is difficult for me to not imagine doing what I do.  It would certainly be exciting and rewarding to be a professional musician.

What is your favourite place to be?

In the company of family and friends.

Related Links

Len MacGillivray’s homepage at the University of Iowa in the US

Reactions in molecular solids and host-guest systems themed issue dedicated to Fumio Toda

Isostructural coordination polymers: epitaxis vs. solid solution
Matteo Lusi, Jerry L. Atwood, Leonard R. MacGillivray and Leonard J. Barbour
CrystEngComm, 2011, 13, 4311-4313

General application of mechanochemistry to templated solid-state reactivity: rapid and solvent-free access to crystalline supermolecules
Manza B. J. Atkinson, Dejan-Kreimir Buar, Anatoliy N. Sokolov, Tomislav Frii, Chanceity N. Robinson, Mahmood Y. Bilal, Naif G. Sinada, Asher Chevannes and Leonard R. MacGillivray, Chem. Commun., 2008, 5713

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