The Sceptical Chymist | No room at the inn

Published in Chemistry

I don’t seem to be having much luck at conferences recently. At the ACS meeting in Chicago earlier this year, I was given a hotel room without a bed. Yesterday, I turned up for an RSC symposium on organic synthesis and there wasn’t even a room for me. At this rate, I’m assuming that when I arrive in Boston for the autumn ACS meeting I’ll discover that my hotel doesn’t exist.

Anyway, once the small issue of my accommodation was sorted out, I had a fun evening catching up with some familiar faces until very late in the night. I’m now experiencing that familiar conference feeling of being very tired but totally wired on coffee.

The lectures this morning kicked off in fine style with Steve Davies. You could hear the scratching of pens on paper coming from all around as he described lots of useful synthetic organic chemistry reactions (including an amazingly stereoselective variant of the Horner-Wadsworth-Emmons reaction – I’ll post the details of the paper once it gets published). Incidentally, I’ve commented before that chemists often seem to have splendid hair, but Steve’s must surely win all the prizes…

Another highlight was Ben List’s talk on new strategies in organocatalysis, including some very neat ideas on chiral Bronsted acid cataysis using phosphoric acid derivatives – see this paper for an example. Contributing to the truly international flavour of the symposium, Goverdhan Mehta from the Indian Institute of Science presented some of his total syntheses of biologically active natural products. Worryingly, he began by defending total synthesis, which he thinks is being marginalized – does anyone agree with him?

OK, that’s plenty for now, but I’ll update you on other interesting stuff tomorrow.


Andrew Mitchinson (Associate Editor, Nature)

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