The Sceptical Chymist | Reactions: Paul Clarke

Published in Chemistry

Paul Clarke is in the Department of Chemistry at The University of York, and works on the total synthesis of natural products and the prebiotic genesis of carbohydrates.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

Chemistry was always my favourite subject at school. I was lucky to have an enthusiastic teacher who first opened my eyes to the fact that chemistry was the only subject where you could create new molecules that had never before existed, and that excited me.

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

My second favourite subject at school was drama, and for a time I quite fancied being an actor. I imagine acting on stage is similar feeling to giving a lecture, so maybe I actually do both jobs these days.

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

We’re working on a couple of things but I think the most exciting is our investigations into the prebiotic genesis of carbohydrates and the other molecules of Life. I hope that this will lead to a better understanding of the processes which led to the formation and Life and in the future maybe the synthesis of artificial Life.

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

Dinner with Alexander the Great would be very interesting. I’d like to know what drove him to conquer the known world and achieve all he did in such a short life.

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

The last research experiment I did was in 2001. It was a desymmetrisation of a 1,4-diol using our lanthanide salt catalysed mono-acylation reaction.

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

I love books and reading so to take only one would be tough, but the book I’ve loved since a child is The Hobbit, so I’d take that. As for a music album it would be Kylie Aphrodite as every song is a feel good song.

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

Albert Eschenmoser he’s done so much and has very interesting thoughts on the origins of ife.

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