The Sceptical Chymist | Reactions: Clemens Richert

Published in Chemistry
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Clemens Richert is in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart, and works on functional nucleic acids. His group’s homepage can be found at http://chip.chemie.uni-stuttgart.de.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

The desire to get an education in a fundamental field of science that fascinates me. I was more drawn to chemistry than physics, probably because I liked synthesis better than mathematical approaches.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I like to build things, both on a molecular level and on a macroscopic level. I enjoy working with my group and do not actively think about other options, but I can well imagine being an entrepreneur in the (bio)tech area, making novel devices. For example, we are thinking about using the organic waste that a household produces and harvest enough energy-rich compounds from it to make the household independent of fossil fuels. If I was more patient, I would also like to teach autogenic training as a technique to overcome stress-related diseases.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

My lab focuses on synthesis and molecular recognition. We have projects on enzyme-free replication, high fidelity diagnostics, and nanostructured materials. I hope we will find new ways to induce energy-rich organic compounds to drive spontaneous molecular evolution, and to develop devices that are based on molecular recognition and that include molecular machines. I also would like to be able to find highly specific ligands for biomacromolecules within days rather than years.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

Linus Pauling or Richard Feynman. I have so many questions I would like to ask either of them.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

I like to be in the lab and perform experiments. There is immense satisfaction in being able to synthesize a new compound with the desired properties in high yield. I go to the lab daily, but the last time I did a serious study with my own two hands was seven years ago. I measured the reactivity of active esters, using a mass spec-based approach (Synlett 2005, 411-416).

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

The book would be Ernest Hemingway: The old man and the sea. The album would be Dire Straits: Making Movies. I would prefer to take my guitar, though.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

Peter Gölitz, editor of Angewandte Chemie. I wonder how he manages to deal with thousands of manuscripts per year and still remain an approachable human being.

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