18th Bristol Synthesis Meeting hosted by the School of Chemistry
18 April 2018
The 18th Bristol Synthesis Meeting took place on Tuesday 10th April 2018 and brought together over 550 chemistry researchers from institutions around the UK, Ireland and further afield to listen to five renowned speakers representing diverse areas of organic chemistry. The vast majority of the delegates were postgraduate students and the enthusiasm this brought to the conference was palpable.
Professor Sarah Reisman from the California Institute of Technology opened the conference with her lecture entitled ‘Necessity is the mother of invention: Natural Products and the chemistry they inspire’ describing her group’s strategy-driven reaction discovery, such as a copper-catalysed tryptophan arylation which enabled the total synthesis of (+)-naseseazines A and B, and elegant modular fragment coupling approaches to construct bridging polycyclic systems in natural products such as (+)-ryanodine and (+)-ryanodol, and most recently (+)-pleuromutilin, a potent antibiotic.
Professor Jörn Piel’s lecture, ‘Chemical Acrobatics from hidden microbes’ from ETH Zürich, gave a remarkably contrasting insight into the origin and bacterial synthesis of natural products. The use of bacterial genomics to identify producers in microbial ‘dark matter’ from sponges was discussed along with some fascinating post-translational chemical modifications found to occur in nature.
The afternoon session started with Professor Frank Glorius’ lecture from the University of Münster ‘On discovery in catalysis’. New methods of discovering and exploring, then comparing and contrasting catalytic processes were presented, such as mechanism-based screening and a robustness screen, along with the unique chemistry using N-heterocyclic carbenes developed by his research group.
This was followed by the lecture on ‘Functional Supramolecular Chemistry’ by Professor Stefan Matile from the University of Geneva, a broad exploration into ‘unorthodox’ non-covalent interactions in organic molecules and applications in areas such as catalysis, chemosensing and membrane transport.
The final lecture was delivered by Professor George M. Whitesides from Harvard University. This thought-provoking discussion from such a distinguished chemist covering the motives behind studying science and choosing research areas, and his views on the future direction of organic synthesis was particularly captivating for postgraduate students at the start of their scientific careers. The challenge to step back from just thinking about individual research projects and instead consider the broader context of synthetic chemistry proved a fitting conclusion to a day of inspirational lectures.
Sheenagh Aiken and Charlotte Gregson