Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Fahima Idiris, reports from Boston, USA

05 November 2018

Fahima Idiris was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the 256th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Boston, USA. Here she tells us about her research, the interesting talks she attended, how she increased her network of contacts and improved her oral presentation skills as well as the opportunity to talk to recruiters about potential future career paths.

‘I am currently a final year PhD student at Queen Mary University of London, supervised by Dr Christopher Jones. My research focuses on using arynes, a class of reactive intermediates as agents for transition metal-free C-H bond functionalisation. By harnessing the reactivity of these transient species, we hope to develop methodology that enables a reduction in the reliance upon heavily functionalised starting materials allowing access to compounds of interest in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery.

‘I was awarded the Messel Travel Bursary this year by the SCI which allowed me to attend the 256th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition in Boston, Massachusetts from 19-23rd August 2018. Due to the generous support provided by the SCI, I was able to present my PhD research in the form of an oral presentation. This was an invaluable experience and I thank the SCI for providing me with this opportunity.

‘The ACS holds two national meetings every year attracting chemists from all over the globe, presenting on a broad range of topics. During the five-day conference, I was able to attend talks by my peers as well as world-renowned academics and industrial chemists on a range of areas in organic chemistry. Talks on C-H activation brought me up to date with recent developments in my field and gave me an appreciation for complimentary methods of C-H functionalisation. Additionally, attending talks on novel reactions and methodology gave me an insight into the development of sustainable, alternative methodologies to access molecules of interest to various industries. The innovative approaches taken by chemists in the development of new reactions has motivated me and stimulated my curiosity. Attending poster sessions and talking to fellow scientists about their work allowed me to learn about the cutting-edge research currently being carried out by different groups all over the world, giving me an insight into several different topics in organic chemistry.

‘I had the opportunity to give a talk on my research which was well received to an international group of academics, industrialists and fellow students. It was a good opportunity to publicise my work and the work of the Jones group on an international stage and network with esteemed members of the chemical community. This was my first time presenting at an international conference and the experience has helped to increase my confidence in talking about my work to a large, diverse audience. Fruitful conversations followed with interesting suggestions from audience members about the application of arynes to C-H functionalisation and future directions of research.

‘One of the highlights of the conference was listening to Prof Steve Ley speak. He was recently awarded the 2018 Arthur C. Cope Award for his achievements in organic chemistry. He spoke about the development of flow chemistry and how it’s impacted organic synthesis as well as its application to the synthesis of natural products. As a synthetic organic chemist who uses standard batch protocols for synthesis, his talk was particularly inspiring as industry has embraced flow technology in the last decade addressing many issues commonly encountered in batch synthesis. Other notable speakers included Frank Glorius, Robert R. Knowles and Corinna S. Schlindler.

‘The ACS also ran a Careers Fair and Expo alongside the conference which featured several exhibitors including multinational companies such as L’Oréal. I was able to attend talks by careers advisors on CV writing and interview preparations which were particularly useful as I’m currently in the final stages of my PhD. Talking to recruiters gave me an insight into potential future career paths that I can take with my research experience as well as international opportunities that I was unaware of.

‘Overall, attending the ACS national meeting was a great experience which allowed me to gain an invaluable insight into the cutting-edge research being carried out and develop a network of contacts. I learnt an immense amount of chemistry during the five days and would like to take this opportunity to thank the SCI for generously supporting my attendance and presentation at the meeting. I would also like to thank QMUL for co-sponsoring my attendance and my supervisor, Dr Chris Jones for his encouragement in presenting my work at this conference. ’

Fahima Idiris
PhD student
Queen Mary University

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