Leverhulme Travel Bursary Recipient, Angela Gonzalez de Castro, talks Chemical Sciences and Shanghai

10 Sep 2014

The International Symposia on Advancing the Chemical Sciences (ISACS) is a biennial event organised by the Royal Society of Chemical (RSC) which aims to bring together world leading experts in the arena of Organic Chemistry. Thanks to the support of a Leverhulme travel bursary from SCI, I had the opportunity to attend the ISACS14 Current Challenges in Organic Chemistry Symposia held in the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry from the 7 - 10 August 2014 in China.

The symposium offered an exquisite programme which included 25 oral presentations divided in four major sections representing the most vibrant areas of research in organic chemistry: metal-catalysed asymmetric reactions; metal-catalysed new reactions; total synthesis and organocatalysis. Including a total of 15 plenary lectures from well-established researchers and 10 additional contributions from junior researches based in America, Europe or Asia, the symposium illustrated the most exciting and future trends in Organic Chemistry, showing a particular emphasis in catalytic reactions. Professor Dean Toste's presentation about catalytic reactions with cations and anions was particularly inspirational and a good reminder that ground-breaking chemistry is constructed from hypothesis and creative thinking. Professor Cristina Nevado's talk was also truly remarkable, showing how in-depth understanding of metal properties can serve as the starting point for the development of novel catalytic transformations. As a PhD student in the area of homogeneous metal catalysis, attending a symposium covering such a vast selection of catalytic transformations presented by world leading researchers was an invaluable experience. Moreover, having the chance to listen to Professor Christina White's presentation about selective site CH oxidation was a very enjoyable experience. As my PhD covers the design of iron catalysts and their application for selective aerobic oxidations, I cannot highlight enough how her pioneering work in selective oxidation has influenced my research.

In addition to the oral presentations, the symposia offered an extensive poster session in which PhD, post-doctoral and industry-based researchers could present their own work. I was able to present a poster entitled 'Iron-catalysed aerobic oxidation and cleavage of organic substrates'. The poster covered the design of a new iron based-catalyst and its application to new oxidation reactions which involve quite unusual reaction mechanisms. The presentation was a very exciting experience as both students and established researchers were very keen on commenting and giving insight into the chemistry I presented. As part of my work is to be published soon, the impressions of more seasoned researchers which were unfamiliar to my work were very valuable and gave me a new perspective which will undoubtedly help me to improve the manuscripts. In general, the atmosphere was splendid and very participative.

I was very impressed by the enthusiasm shown by both students and academics in exchanging comments and ideas in different areas of research. The conference has been a great opportunity to make new contacts and friends which will undoubtedly benefit my future career, and it definitely contributed to making the whole experience very enjoyable. Hearing about the experiences and early career advices from other students and young academics has been an additional source of inspiration for developing a scientific career.

In addition, attending the ISACS14 conference gave me the opportunity to explore Shanghai, a colourful and lively city in which west and east cultures blend in. I found Shanghai to be a very exotic destination in which sites remaining from the traditional Chinese culture such as the beautiful Yuyuan Gardens and the City God's temple live together with the flashy skyscrapers in the Bund and Pudong area, the more modern part of Shanghai. For Chinese food lovers, I would recommend trying Shanghai's dumplings with a cold Tsingtao beer or the famous dry fried green beans. Some very exotic dishes such as the soft shell turtle soup can be also found in Shanghai's daily menus for those who are daring enough to try something more adventurous. Shanghai's nightlife is also worldwide famous and it was easy to find nice terraces near the Institute for networking and socialising after the poster sessions.

I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to SCI for awarding me a generous travel bursary to attend the ISACS14 conference. Without this funding support, I would not have been able to attend an international conference of such magnitude. I cannot highlight enough how valuable this experience has been for propelling my career forward.

Angela Gonzalez de Castro,
Leverhulme Bursary recipient

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