Messel Bursary Recipient Owen Davis - Report on Attending the 250th ACS National Meeting

16 Oct 2015

Owen Davis was awarded an SCI Messel Travel Bursary in 2015.
Here he explains how his attendance at the 250th ACS National Meeting, which took place in Boston between 16 - 20 August 2015, gave him the opportunity to present both a talk and a poster to an international audience.

‘I am a final year PhD student at Imperial College London, and have focussed on the synthesis and functionalisation of novel oxetane-containing compounds for potential use as molecular scaffolds for drug discovery. My research has developed a novel 2-step strategy for oxetane synthesis involving a rapid and efficient O-H insertion and C-C bond forming cyclisation.

‘With assistance from an SCI Messel Travel Bursary, I was able to present two pieces of work that I have undertaken during my PhD at the ACS National Meeting in Boston. This is arguably the largest annual gathering of chemists in the world, hosting a vast range of sessions in a multitude of scientific divisions, from business development and management to polymeric materials. The sheer scale of the meeting, as well as the consistently high quality of the speakers, made deciding which talks to attend both exciting and extremely difficult.

‘During the course of the meeting, I presented both a talk and a poster. My talk, entitled ‘Synthesis and Functionalisation of Highly Substituted Oxetanes: Molecular Scaffolds for Drug Discovery ’, was well received, with a good audience, despite the early timeslot of 8am on the last day of the meeting. The poster I presented, based on work of another PhD student in our research group who I collaborated with, was entitled ‘Regio- and Stereospecific Synthesis of C-3 Functionalised Proline Derivatives by Palladium-Catalysed Directed C(sp3)-H Arylation ’. During the course of the meeting, I was fortunate to present this poster twice; in the Sci-Mix session, designed to be a large meeting-wide poster event with posters contributed by each participating division, as well as in the Heterocycles and Aromatics: New Reactions and Methodology session a few days later. The poster was extremely well received, gaining a lot of attention and interest from a mixture of academic and industrial scientists with whom I engaged in numerous discussions. Due to this constant interest, I was not able to look around at the other posters as much as I would have liked but, from what I did see, the work was well presented and I was able to talk with other presenters in a more informal manner. Through these poster sessions I started to make contacts with a variety of industrial and academic chemists and, over a couple of beers in the evenings, started to develop my networking skills.

‘Throughout the conference I focussed mainly on listening to talks from the organic chemistry division, which had many sessions that were relevant to my research, as well as my general interests. I attended a session entitled ‘On the Importance of Synthetic Organic Chemistry in Drug Discovery’ with talks presented by numerous industrial chemists, and it was extremely interesting to gain insight into how industry, in particular pharmaceuticals, will use synthetic organic chemistry to tackle the problems faced during development of drug candidates. I also had the opportunity to see lectures from world leading organic chemists; from Baran, Jamison and MacMillian, whose work gave glimpses of the direction that the future of organic synthetic chemistry is moving in, to Barry Trost giving a lecture on the history and progress of his group’s pioneering work, with interesting accompanying talks from his old students who are now world leading chemists in their own right. The numerous talks regarding the use of photoredox catalysis to allow for unusual but also complementary reactivity for a variety of substrates were particularly interesting.

‘Boston was hosting the conference and, while I was there, I was able to take some time to explore the different areas of the city, including visiting Cambridge and Harvard Universities, as well as sampling the excellent food and drink that the city had to offer. In particular, there was a fantastic little Italian restaurant near my hotel which locals described as the best Italian restaurant in Boston.

‘Attendance at this ACS meeting has allowed me to not only present my work to an international audience but also network with many industrial scientists. I believe that this conference has helped me improve my confidence as well as my career prospects for the future, which I would like to be in an industrial, pharmaceutical setting. I hope that this conference has been a stepping stone for my future career.

‘I am extremely grateful to SCI for awarding me the generous Messel Travel Bursary, as well as to my other funders for providing me with financial support, without which I would not have been able to attend this fantastic meeting. I am also grateful to my supervisor Dr James Bull for supporting my attendance. The whole experience of attending and presenting at an ACS National Meeting was a fantastic experience and I would absolutely recommend it to my fellow postgraduate students.’

Owen Davis
PhD student, Imperial College London

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