Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Wenyi Chen, reports from Japan

23 October 2018

Wenyi Chen was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the ICCC 2018 (International Conference on Coordination Chemistry), in Sendai, Japan. Here she tells us how some of the talks she attended will inspire and broaden her future research and how the conference provided an opportunity to build her network with world-leading chemists and possible future employers.

‘I am a final year PhD student at Imperial College London, supervised by Dr Mark Crimmin. I have been working on catalytic transformation of C–F bonds into C–Al bonds in the first 2 years of my PhD. I have published my first paper a year ago (Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 12687). Since then I have been developing the project further and trying to expand the scope of this new chemical transformation. At the same time, I am also trying to react the C–Al bonds with other small to form desired products, including pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals currently on the market. By doing this, we are able to provide an alternative and efficient way to synthesize these fluorinated products. This project relies on both organic and inorganic chemistry and the detailed study of the processes occurring at the molecular level.

‘The generous contribution from the SCI and the Messel Bursary allowed me to attend the 43rd International Conference on Coordination Chemistry held in Sendai, Japan from 30th July to 4th August 2018. The ICCC conference is a world-leading conference that has a broad scope of chemistry including small molecule activation and catalysis. There were morning and afternoon plenary lectures everyday followed by invited lectures and oral presentations. There were more than 60 different sessions held in 5 days which allowed participants to attend the sessions most related to their research fields and also to attend other sessions to gain a broader view of coordination chemistry. The main sessions I attended include ‘Small molecule activation’, ‘organometallic complexes for organic synthesis and polymerization’ and ‘phosphorus (III) based ligands’. All talks I attended were excellent, although the time allowed for oral presentations was short, speakers communicated their research findings very clearly and the slides with clear literature citations allowed the audience to find the papers they’re interested in. The plenary talks including the special lecture by Prof. Jean-Pierre Sauvage were delivered from a base level background introduction, which makes them understandable and maximises audience learning.

‘Attending the ICCC conference allowed me to see the latest research results in the coordination and organometallic chemistry. In particular, the talk delivered by invited guest speaker Professor Nakao Yoshiaki was very interesting to me. His research group currently focuses on using ‘cooperative metal catalysts’ to do novel transformation. The bimetallic complexes involving Al–Rh bonds he mentioned during his talk are aligned closely with my own current project, with no doubt his talk will inspire my future research. In addition, other talks I attended were very fascinating as well, for example, invited speaker Professor Kyoto Nozaki talked about Pd-catalysed polymerisation reactions and she explained clearly how they adjusted the catalyst structures based on their proposed mechanism to eliminate the side products. These talks gave me a broader view of the coordination chemistry and inspired me to expand my current research to different chemistry. Furthermore, the network of world leading inorganic and organic chemists that I met at this conference is important both in terms of my current project and also my future career in science, as among the delegates there is a number of possible future employers or collaborators, including contacts in Asia.

‘I presented my research results in oral format, which mainly focused on a new C–F to C–Al bond transformation. People showed their interest and asked questions after my talk and one of them also mentioned possible future collaboration with our group. Due to the time limitation, I did not talk much about the functionalization of C–Al bond; however, I will incorporate the new research ideas obtained during the conference to my research. I will enjoy the remaining time of my PhD trying different functionalization reactions and exploiting the mechanism behind my chemistry. Unfortunately, as I am finishing my lab work in several months, I will have some ideas that I may not have enough time to try and will leave this work to other people in our research group.

‘During the conference there were several activities to let attendees know more about Japanese culture, including ‘Chopsticks workshop’ which allowed us to make our own chopsticks from wood sticks. They were very innovative and helped the audience to relax and enjoy breaks in between talks. Special snacks and drinks were also provided all days to not only refresh the audience but also to introduce Sendai well.

‘Overall the ICCC conference held in Sendai is a high-quality conference and worth attending. Excellent talks delivered by people from amazing research institutes and top universities deepened my understanding of coordination chemistry and inspired me to try different reactions in the near future. It also provided me an opportunity to build my network with other world-leading chemist, which is beneficial to my future career. This is a costly conference, but it is a quality one. I really appreciate the funding provided by SCI, which is essential in subsidizing the cost of attendance and travel expenses; this financial support and the efforts people made allowed me to have this amazing experience.’

Wenyi Chen
PhD student
Imperial College London

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