Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Raymond Chung, reports from California

24 December 2019

24 Dec 2019

Raymond Chung was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the 258th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, California. Here he tells us about the oral presentation that he gave and how the experience boosted his confidence, the various talks that he attended which gave him a broader perspective on other areas of organic chemistry and how he enjoyed the experience of travelling.

‘I am a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Strathclyde where my research is focused in natural product synthesis, and my project is titled: ‘Towards the Synthesis of Agariblazeispirol C’. During my PhD so far, I have managed to optimise a key asymmetric Heck transformation and prepare advanced intermediates towards this natural product, and I was excited to present my work to the scientific community.

‘The Messel Travel Bursary 2019 award gave me the opportunity to attend and present at the ACS National Meeting 2019 in San Diego between 25th – 29th August, my first international conference. This award of £610 contributed to my accommodation and travel in San Diego during the conference period.
‘The ACS National Meeting 2019 is a large conference dedicated in covering all aspects of chemistry, including my field of interest, organic chemistry. At this conference, I was accepted to present an oral presentation in the organic chemistry division under ‘Synthesis of Complex Molecules’, and the travel bursary greatly aided my financial contribution to attend and present at this national meeting. At this conference, I was able to present my own PhD research to a large body of organic chemists, who all had experience in my area of chemistry. Therefore, this opportunity gave me invaluable experience to present to a vast community of organic chemists from different parts of the world, boosting my overall confidence in oral presentation skills to highly skilled organic chemists. These transferable skills gained are extremely important for any career path I decide to pursue in my future in chemistry. During my oral presentation, questions and suggestions asked gave me ideas on how to further my PhD research project, and also giving me practice for my PhD viva. Overall, this oral presentation experience greatly enhanced my presenting and confidence skills, and most importantly, gave me the opportunity to present my own PhD research to an unfamiliar scientific community.

‘During the ACS National Meeting, I was able to attend various talks given by various academics and industrial investigators. In this five-day conference, many high-profile academics presented their work, giving me the opportunity to attend excellent talks with areas I’m familiar with because of my literature reading. These talks ranged from natural product synthesis by Prof. Sarah Reisman, to the Tetrahedron prize winner Prof. Stephen Buchwald around catalysis. At this conference, I was also able to attend talks given by other PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, but also academics who were not as familiar. I particularly enjoyed talks given by Prof. Alexander Grenning and Prof. Thomas Maimone, both who spoke about their research in synthetic organic chemistry. Being able to attend these talks gave me a broader perspective to other areas of organic chemistry, which could influence my decision into pursuing a career in academia as a postdoctoral researcher. Additionally, talks given by industrial investigators (such as AstraZeneca and AbbVie) and how their chemistry not only impacts synthetic organic chemists, but how it greatly influences chemistry in industry, was an interesting aspect and could also influence my decision to move into working in industry as either an investigator, or explore the possibility of an industrial postdoctoral position.

‘Many PhD researchers also presented at this conference, and the ACS organised these talks according to the field of research. Therefore, I was able to experience a vast array of different talks, ranging from my own section in ‘Total Synthesis of Complex Molecules’ to ‘C-H activation’ topics, which boosted my overall understanding in organic chemistry. Outside of my area of interest, I was able to attend various sections such as ‘Physical Organic chemistry’ to ‘Inorganic Chemistry for Sustainable Energy and Environment’, areas which I am not too familiar with. Poster sessions also took place during the ACS National Meeting, giving more opportunity to learn about the work of other PhD students and improving my networking skills as I was able to chat to people about their work. Overall, the organisation into sections by the ACS gave me the opportunity to learn a large breadth of general chemistry.

‘The ACS also hosted a section dedicated to equality, ‘Remarkable Women in Organic Chemistry’, highlighting key researchers who are currently making a significant impact in our chemistry community, and could inspire my and future generations of organic chemists for equality and diversity, something which is important to me.

‘Finally, this opportunity allowed me to explore one of my other great interests, which is travelling! During my time at the conference, I was able to visit San Diego and revel in the culture of California for the first time. From their incredible nightlife to their exquisite diversity of food, San Diego was an amazing destination to visit. The views at the Marina and the city were incredible, and Balboa Park was fun to explore. I also managed to go to a baseball game, cheering on the San Diego Padres at Petco Park!

‘I’d like to finish by thanking my PhD supervisor, Prof. William J. Kerr, for his continued support during my PhD studies, and the University of Strathclyde for supporting my project. I’d also like to thank the EPSRC and GSK for their additional financial support to my project, and the SCI for their kind contribution for the attendance of this conference. The ACS National Meeting has given me the opportunity to present my own research to a wider chemistry community, giving me more confidence in presenting to a large audience, and I was able to learn a lot of other areas of chemistry. This experience will also help guide my chemistry career in either academia or in industry.’

Raymond W M Chung
Phd Student
University of Strathclyde

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