The Sceptical Chymist | Reactions – Tomislav Friscic

Published in Chemistry

Tomislav Friscic is in the exciting transition state between a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK and an Assistant Professor at McGill University, Canada, and works on new ways of conducting chemical reactions.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

The beauty of chemical experiments. I suspect that love towards chemistry was inspired early on by my grandmother, a professor of organic chemistry who produced some very important textbooks and translations when such teaching materials were rare in former Yugoslavia. However, I got really hooked for life when I saw the beautiful violet fumes of iodine during my first chemistry lecture in elementary school!

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

I suspect I would be quite happy being a programmer – I occasionally fall into the counterproductive mood of trying to write small utility programs on my PC. A cook would definitely be an excellent alternative. It is as close as you can get to synthetic chemistry!

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

I am very much interested in how chemical transformations work and how they can be improved. We are now working on developing new and clean ways to convert hard materials, similar to those making up the mineral resources in Earth’s crust, into useful materials. The principal goal is to do it under mild conditions, using as little energy as possible and the most inexpensive starting materials.

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

It’s a tough call, but I believe I would settle on Benjamin Franklin. A dinner with someone of so many talents and interests, ranging from science to politics and diplomacy, would surely turn out to be interesting! In the worst case, we would have a good game of chess. However, a quiet dinner focusing on the discovery of new elements with Marie Curie would also be attractive!

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

Last week – I was double-checking a new preparative method we’ve developed for the synthesis of bismuth salicylate, a known pharmaceutical component.

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

Probably “Alice in Wonderland”, although “Gulliver’s Travels” would probably be more appropriate for that particular occasion. The album would probably be “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull. However, I would also try sneaking in with me “Look at yourself” by Uriah Heep.

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

Pance Naumov from Osaka. He is a young solid-state researcher who is producing some quite fascinating work on the mechanisms of solid-state reactions. His recent paper on atom-hopping in realgar was fascinating!

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