RSC Oxford Synthesis 2009



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The curtain has now gone down on this year’s Oxford Synthesis meeting, but this morning’s presentations maintained the standard we had become used to over the previous two days.

Erick Carreira gave a stunning lecture, depite having flown in from Singapore for the final day of the meeting and having to reconstitute his slides from various back-ups after a catastrophic computer crash. He gave an eloquent account of his group’s synthesis and evaluation of amphotericin B and some intriguing work on chlorosulfolipids (which recently featured in CW’s Totally Synthetic column).

To cap off the session, Dirk Trauner followed on from Gerry Pattenden’s lecture last night with some really elegant biomimetic terpene synthesis exploiting pericyclic reactions, and Dieter Enders gave a comprehensive round-up of his group’s work on organocatalysis using proline-derived molecules and N-heterocyclic carbenes to promote a variety of different reaction cascades.

It’s been a great meeting and I’ve met a lot of interesting people, so it’s a shame to have to leave. However, after a week of cloudy days, the sun is finally shining so I think I might go for a wander around Oxford before the long journey home.

Phillip Broadwith

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Last night we were treated to something very special – after the delicious conference banquet, we all trooped (some more directly than others as the wine took its toll) over to the lecture hall for the second evening lecture.

Gerry Pattenden took the stage and held the entire audience captivated with a mixture of wit, humour and inspirational chemistry – truly a master at work. He used the occasion to bring together some themes running through his group’s recent research into terpene- and steroid-based natural product synthesis, but also illustrated the power of considering possible biosynthetic routes to inspire chemical synthesis, and taking the time to look for connections and relationships between molecules which, at first glance, seem quite different.

Last night was the fifth time Pattenden has spoken in this series of meetings over its 40 year history, and his performance yesterday makes me wish I’d been around to see the other four!

Right, time for breakfast to set me up for the final day.

Phillip Broadwith

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Well, I said yesterday that I thought we were in for a treat chemistry-wise here in Oxford, and today certainly hasn’t disappointed! Richard Taylor kicked off with a beautifully presented talk about some ‘tales of the unexpected’ – the habit that chemistry research has of throwing out strange but interesting distractions from even the best-made plans.

That was followed up by a rapid-fire talk from Christina White, who covered an amazing array of C-H activation chemistry, taking inspiration from natural non-haem based iron catalysts to perform some really nice selective functionalisations (You can see the basic idea in this feature article from the February 2009 issue of CW). (more…)

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Well, I’ve left behind the rolling fens and made the journey over to the dreaming spires of what is affectionately known by Cambridge students as ‘the other place’ for the RSC’s International Symposium on Organic Synthesis in Oxford.

This is the 21st in the series of biennial conferences, alternating between the UK’s two oldest universities, and a glance at the programme shows that we’re in for a treat with some seriously big hitters lined up to give talks.

The action kicks off properly tomorrow, but right now I’ve got to get ready for dinner and a drinks reception this evening – oh, it’s a hard life!

Phillip Broadwith

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