Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Maryne Dubois, reports from California

18 September 2019

Maryne Dubois was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the 258th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, California. Here she tells us about the opportunity to present different aspects of her research, how the talks brought her up-to-date with the latest developments in her research field and the networking opportunities that the meeting gave her.

‘I am currently a final year PhD student at Imperial College London, under the supervision of Dr James Bull and in collaboration with Pfizer. My research focuses on the development of new synthetic methods to access novel 3,3-disubstituted oxetane and azetidine motifs as well as evaluating their potential as isosteres and building blocks for drug discovery programmes.

‘I was awarded the Messel Travel Bursary this year by the SCI which allowed me to attend the 258th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, California, USA, from 25th to 29th August 2019. With the generous support provided by the SCI, I was able to present different aspects of my ongoing PhD research in the form of two posters and one oral presentation across different sessions. I would like to thank the SCI and the selection committee for giving me this invaluable opportunity.

‘The ACS national meetings are one of the world’s largest conferences, gathering chemists at different stages of their careers including world-renowned academics and industrial chemists on a range of topics. The conference offers a wide range of sessions, and it was often difficult to decide which session to attend because of the variety of high-level talks going on at any one time, however, I was able to attend sessions related to my field of study. A particular highlight was the session on the development of new strategies for the synthesis and functionalisation of strained rings for applications as bioisosteres in biologically active compounds. Working on the development of new isosteres for drug discovery, this session helped me to understand the current need and interests in drug discovery programmes. The sessions on CH activation and photoredox chemistry brought me up to date with recent developments in these fast-moving fields less related to my research, which was very inspiring and from which I learnt a lot. Sessions on “new reactions and methodologies” as well as “heterocycles and aromatics” gave me insight into the developments of alternative methods to access molecules of interest in a variety of areas in chemistry. It also allowed me to learn about the cutting-edge research currently being carried out. I attended inspiring talks from world-renowned academics including John F. Hartwig, Daniel J. Weix, Phil Baran, Jin-Quan Yu and Sarah Reisman. The conference has also multiple poster sessions spread during the five days, on a range of areas. These allowed me to meet and talk to fellow scientists about their work, learn more about different areas of chemistry and new developments in the field.

‘I had the opportunity to give different presentations on my PhD research. I first presented two posters entitled “3,3-Diaryloxetanes : new opportunities for drug discovery” and 3-Aryloxetane-3-carboxylic acids : a two steps process towards novel versatile building blocks for drug discovery programmes at three different sessions: Sci-mix (a more informal poster session comprising of a selection of posters from across the meeting), heterocycles and aromatics, and new reactions and methodologies. I was also given the opportunity to give an oral presentation, entitled “Synthesis of novel 3,3-disubstituted azetidines for medicinal chemistry: divergent catalytic functionalisation of 3-aryl-3-azetidinols”. This was the first time I was presenting my work at an international conference, which helped me increase my confidence in presenting my work to a broader and more diverse audience. It was a good opportunity to publicise my, and the Bull group’s work on an international stage. Fruitful conversations and suggestions from my peers were very encouraging and gave me a useful external view on my work, giving me new ideas and provoking interesting questions. The questions asked will help prepare me for my PhD viva in the near future.

‘The ACS national meeting was also a great opportunity for networking. I was able to meet my industrial supervisor and his colleagues. I could also meet and engage with various fellow chemists both from academia and industry at different stage of their careers. I had the opportunity to chat with many of them on their experiences, career history, and their current positions. Many of them gave me useful advice on possible career choices and potential postdoctoral positions, and how to proceed.

‘Overall, the ACS national meeting was a great experience where I learnt an incredible amount of chemistry gaining knowledge in the field that I was not familiar with and gaining insight into the cutting-edge research carried out. Being exposed to such a wide range of chemistry was very stimulating and exciting. It was extremely valuable and insightful to meet, engage and network with fellow chemists. This was of tremendous importance at this stage of my PhD, as I will soon be looking for a postdoctoral position.

‘I am extremely grateful to SCI for awarding the Messel Travel Bursary to me. I would also like to thank my supervisor Dr James Bull for encouraging my attendance at this conference. I would strongly encourage my fellow postgraduate students to attend this conference.’

Maryne Dubois
PhD student
Imperial College London

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