The Sceptical Chymist | Reactions: Stephane Roche

Published in Chemistry

Stephane Roche is in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida Atlantic University, and works on chemical synthesis, peptide assembly and total synthesis of bioactive natural products.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

The discovery of an ancient chemistry ‘child’ box on top of a cupboard at my grand mother’ house sparked my interest into chemistry at a young age. The treasure box somehow reappeared during my summer vacation, and Although having very few ideas about chemistry, I quickly realized that the possibilities were unlimited…until the stinky artisanal bomb I created greatly annoyed my grandmother.

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

I would be a photographer. I love black and white photography as it is not very different from scientific research – observing people in their environment and beautiful places until the perfect instant appears with the excitation of taking the shot instantaneously. Also, I like being in the dark room to play with chemicals and revealing the secrets captured by the silver particles on the photographic film to transpose it onto the paper.

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

We are working on different methods for late stage functionalization and assembly of elaborated peptides without protecting groups to facilitate large scale synthesis of peptides in solution. I hope we will find a way to couple amino acids without protecting group in an iterative and controlled manner as it already exists for other types of polymers.

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

Napoleon, to share his view on the creation of the republic with rights for every citizen and expansion towards all Europe and discuss the real excitements in advances of technologies and thinking at that time of enlightenment, not only about science, but also about French constitution law and the heritage he left us.

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

Two weeks ago, and it was a disaster!! Being assistant professor gives you a lot of responsibilities, which does not facilitate your mind to be free and focused. Professor Aitken told me once ‘Read, think and act, better be in that order’; if you do not have the time to do these three things before setting up a scientific experiment you certainly increase your chance of failure by 90%.

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

A book from Edgar Allan Poe to escape my custody and my favourite album from Dj Shadow ‘Endtroducing’

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

Professor Porco Jr. because he is an amazing scientist very creative and crazy at the same time; he has his research laboratory in Boston, a city I consider to be one of the most active epicenters for chemistry and science in our contemporary world.

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