Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Liam McLean, reports from Florence, Italy

04 September 2018

Liam McLean was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the 28th International Conference on Organometallic Chemistry, Florence, Italy. Here he tells us about his research and how the conference gave him the opportunity to network and present his research to a variety of people which gave him more confidence in his presenting skills.

‘I am a final year PhD student at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. My PhD research has focused on the total synthesis of (–)-mucosin, an eicosanoid which has recently had its stereochemical assignment come under scrutiny. My work has comprised synthesising the proposed structure using multiple organometallic mediated transformations developed within our lab including a magnesium amide-mediated asymmetric deprotonation which is the key- step in my synthesis. Indeed, other organometallic mediated transformations, developed within our own lab, such as a sp2-sp3 Kumada cross-coupling and a kinetically selective enol phosphate formation using carbon-centred magnesium bases have allowed for a short and efficient route towards the originally proposed structure of (–)-mucosin. I have additionally, used computational modelling to guide synthetic work towards the correct diastereomer of (–)-mucosin. I was fortunate to have obtained the opportunity to share and present a poster on this work during the International Conference of Organometallic Chemistry 2018 (ICOMC 2018).

‘The generous award from the SCI Messel Travel Bursary allowed me to travel to the very prestigious biyearly International Conference of Organometallic Chemistry 2018 in Florence, Italy. Over 700 researchers attended the International Conference of Organometallic Chemistry, including 300+ speakers and approximately 450 poster presentations. The speakers consisting of ten plenary lectures, with a sixty-minute time slot to discuss their research, and 34 keynote lectures, allowing selected academics to present their findings with ample time for questions allowing for very interesting discussions. Further talks were given in the form of oral communication slots which were smaller 20-minute briefs on new chemical research within the field. The final type of talk on offer was the six-minute flash presentations the presenters used to advertise their science prior to the poster sessions.

‘Throughout the duration of the conference, there were many notable lectures. I was particularly fortunate to listen to Professor Ben Feringa discuss his recent synthetic work involving the use of organometallic reagents in the asymmetric synthesis of organic molecules. I also enjoyed lectures from Dr Adrian Chaplin on his unique use of supramolecular architecture in catalyst design and Roxan Calvo, a PhD student working with Professor Antonio Togni, discussing her use of hypervalent iodine reagents in effecting asymmetric trifluoromethylation. Professor Paul Dyson delivered an interesting lecture regarding his research into the use of ruthenium (II) complexes. Upon employing ruthenium (II) complexes, in conjunction with cisplatin, he was effectively able to exhibit increased control over tumour malignancy. Having not considered the use of organometallics in treating cancer, apart from cisplatin, the lecture from Professor Dyson showed me that attending conferences can open your eyes to areas of research you may not have, previously, given much thought into.

‘The conference organisers had split the poster presentations into two separate two-hour sessions, which was plenty of time to discuss chemistry related to my work and to view the work of others within the community. Throughout the poster session, I had the opportunity to discuss a variety of selective hydrogenation strategies I could implement in my research which will be beneficial, going forward. Furthermore, it was gratifying to have several people engage with me, regarding my research. The poster presentation has given me an additional external platform in which to practice my scientific communication skills, a necessary skill for any researcher.

‘In addition to, the conference banquet was an excellent opportunity to network with other researchers which allowed for discussion of my own chemistry and that of other researchers, allowing me to broaden my knowledge of current research. This occasion coupled with the multitude of other discussions, throughout this conference, has allowed me to gain confidence in discussing chemistry in an international setting.

‘After the conference, I was able to spend a few days engaging with the abundant culture that Florence has to offer. With such sights as the Duomo, Michelangelo’s David housed within the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, and the Museo Galileo it was a unique experience to see a city with such deep roots in religion, art and science.

‘I would like to extend thanks to my PhD supervisor, Professor William J. Kerr, for his support throughout my PhD studies. I would also like to thank the University of Strathclyde/ GlaxoSmithKline collaborative PhD programme for funding throughout my PhD research. Additionally, I would like to express my gratitude towards the SCI for their generous contribution. My attendance at the International Conference of Organometallic Chemistry 2018 has allowed me to network and present my research to a variety of people within the organometallic community. This opportunity has not only aided in my current research but has given me an intimate insight into the current research being carried out. Finally, being able to attend such a distinguished international conference has allowed me to gain further confidence in presenting, which I will put to great use in future work and presentations.’

Liam McLean
PhD Student
University of Strathclyde

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