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Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Fabian Talbot, reports from Germany

Fabien Talbot, SCI Scholar

2 Jan 2020

Fabien Talbot was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the 20th IUPAC International Symposium on Organometallic Chemistry Directed Towards Organic Synthesis in Heidelberg, Germany. Here he tells us about his poster presentation, how he was able to discover new research groups and the importance of networking for future career opportunities.

‘The Organometallic Chemistry towards Organic Synthesis symposium (OMCOS) is a world-renowned series of conferences taking place every two years. The 2019 20th OMCOS was held in the magnificent Congress Hall of the historical city of Heidelberg, in Germany. The symposium featured 47 speakers including 8 plenary lectures, 15 invited lectures, and 24 short talks, from both academia and industry. More than 300 posters of doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers, and independent principal investigators from a wide range of universities worldwide were presented over two poster sessions. The whole programme was held in a single venue which allowed the participants to attend everything. Thanks to the award of the SCI Messel travel bursary, I was able to join this important moment of Science and participate with the presentation of a research poster.

‘The work of the scheduled speakers for the 20th OMCOS undeniably represents the state-of-the-art in organometallic chemistry for organic synthesis. Professor Lutz Ackermann published more than 330 research articles, addressing modern challenges of organic chemistry such as the activation of carbon-hydrogen bonds. Professor David Milstein, recipient of the 2019 Blaise Pascal Medal from the European Academy of Sciences, achieved acclaim for the development of pincer ligands that play an active role in catalytic cycles. Professor Sarah Reisman received the 2019 OMCOS award for her work on nickel catalysis. Professor Kyoto Nozaki, who had received it in 2003, was also present. Finally, the application of catalysis in total synthesis was beautifully illustrated by the remarkable work of Professor Richmond Sarpong, a recipient of more than 20 awards.

‘I am currently in the second year of my PhD at the University of Manchester in the research group of Professor David Procter, working on copper-catalysed multicomponent couplings for the synthesis of high-value amines. The aim of my PhD research project is to develop new catalytic approaches to medicinally relevant molecules using readily available feedstocks and inexpensive metal sources. I therefore particularly enjoyed the talk of Professor Laurel Schafer who uses early transition metals to achieve aminoalkylations. Professor Masaya Sawamura presented his work on enantioselective borylation which appeared to be highly relevant to the borylative couplings that I am developing. Drs Koji Hirano presented the state-of-the-art carbon-hydrogen bond activation mediated by copper; the element central to my chemistry. I was delighted to see how the cutting-edge chemistry presented at the OMCOS 20 displayed the importance of using abundant metals such as copper or nickel, to overcome the increasing scarcity of late transition metals. The symposium was also an opportunity for me to discover new research groups. For example, I was really interested by the presentation of Professor Mu-Hyun “Mookie” Baik at the frontier between organic synthesis and computational chemistry.

‘International symposiums are unique gatherings of scientists of all levels, connected by their common interest in a subject, where one can discuss with graduate students, postgraduate researchers, and professors alike. The 20th OMCOS committee had organised many networking breaks throughout the week, as well as a conference dinner. These moments provided many opportunities to meet like-minded people and build fruitful collaborations. I could share my experience with fellow doctoral students from around the world. I listened to many stories, challenges, successes, and sometimes failures, that made me realise how varied the experience of undertaking a PhD can be. I also had the opportunity to discuss with more senior people, whose valuable long term experience in the field helped me refine my career plans. The networking moments were opportunities to ask my questions directly to the person of interest without having the pressure of a formal meeting, which improved my confidence.

‘My poster entitled ‘Copper-Catalysed Borylative Multicomponent Synthesis of Quaternary α-Amino Esters’ was well received by the conference attendees. I benefitted from the diversity of the attendees’ point of views which led to many productive discussions and ideas. Having fresh insights upon my work allowed me to take a valuable step back, brought me inspiration, and helped me understand the bigger picture of my research area. I enjoyed reading the other research posters too, asking questions, discovering projects very distant from mine and realising how vast chemical research is. Overall, taking part in such a prestigious event improved my communication skills.

I would strongly recommend the OMCOS symposium to any graduate student having an interest in organometallic chemistry. This experience indisputably broadened the horizons of my chemical knowledge. I discovered areas of research that I was until then unfamiliar with, I better understood the current trends and challenges of chemical research, I met rising talents that will undoubtedly shape the chemistry of tomorrow. This symposium is also a formidable opportunity to develop one’s career prospects, for industry and academia alike. Many potential employers are present, and the setting is favourable to first contacts.

‘I would like to thank SCI for their generous support, I would not have been able to participate in this career-influencing event without the Messel Travel Bursary. Thanks to SCI and the OMCOS symposium, my research has also gained visibility. I was proud to promote SCI throughout my stay at Heidelberg. Finally, I would like to thank my supervisor Professor David Procter for his support and guidance.’

Fabien Talbot
PhD Student
University of Manchester

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