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24th Graduate Symposia on Novel Organic Chemistry

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9 Aug 2013

For the 24th time this April, the SCI Fine Chemicals Group hosted the popular Graduate Symposia on Novel Organic Chemistry which gives final year PhD students the excellent opportunity to present their research in form of a presentation in front of an audience while competing for the prizes awarded for the two best talks. This year, the three regional symposia were held at the University of Leeds, the University of Dundee and Imperial College London.

The first graduate symposium of the series was held in Leeds on April 3rd. Eleven speakers presented their research in front of an enthusiastic audience.

The first prize was awarded to Darren Wilcox (Prof Simon Woodward's group, University of Nottingham) for his talk about the use of stabilised dichloroalane for the zirconium-catalysed hydroalumination of terminal alkynes. The exceptional chemo-, regio- and steroselectivity of these reagents present a step forward in replacing commonly used pyrophoric chemicals and the resulting vinyl alanes can easily undergo cross coupling reactions catalysed by palladium with a wide range of substrates.

The runner-up prize was awarded to Valeria Azzarito (Prof Andrew Wilson's group, University of Leeds) who presented her research on the design and synthesis of oligobenzamide α-helix mimetics for non-covalent molecular recognition as it is found in α-helix-mediated protein-protein interactions common in biological systems.

The Scotland Section of the symposia series was held on 16th of April at the University of Dundee. Presentations of excellent standard from eleven speakers encompassing many areas of organic chemistry made the decision difficult, but finally the prize for the best presentation was awarded to Louis Morrill (Prof Andrew Smith's group, University of St Andrews) for his talk on 'Organocatalytic asymmetric functionalization of carboxylic acids'. His methodology research on isothiourea catalysts that can convert simple carboxylic acids via Michael addition and lactonisation into valuable heterocyclic products was backed by in-depth mechanistic and computational studies to determine the cause for the significant steroselectivity of the reaction.

The second prize was awarded to Ross Wilkie (Prof Nicholas J. Westwood's group, University of St Andrews) for presenting his studies on unexpected cascade and dearomatisation reactions of intermediates found en route to the synthesis of natural products.

The last symposium of the series was held at Imperial College in London on the 25th of April. Out of the twelve speakers presenting their latest research from universities from across London and the South East, Andrew Emmet (Prof Michael C. Willis' group, University of Oxford) was awarded the first prize for his presentation on palladium-catalysed synthesis of sulfonamides and sulfones. These compounds, which are of particular interest to the pharmaceutical industry, were made using an easy-to-handle, solid SO2 surrogate to replace the toxic sulphur dioxide gas usually used in their synthesis.
The runner-up prize was awarded to Rebecca Maksymowicz (Dr Stephen P. Fletcher's group, University of Oxford) for her talk on 'Catalytic asymmetric carbon-carbon bond formation using alkenes as alkylmetal equivalents'.

As in previous years, the excellent quality of the talks and research presented as well as the possibility to compete for prizes brought together PhD students and researchers from all over the country. Each session received generous sponsorship from Takeda (book tokens for the winning speakers) and Vapourtec (refreshment break) and was concluded by a speaker's dinner in a local restaurant.

Katrina Kramer
Queen Mary University London

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