9 Jun 2014
Alistair Farley was born in Geneva, Switzerland and grew up on the Franco-Swiss border where he attended the International School of Geneva. He received a bilingual education in English and French and followed the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum with a focus on the sciences, studying Maths, Physics and Chemistry at Higher Level. He won school prizes for 'best science student' and for his IB Extended Essay in Chemistry. His long held fascination and interest with science led to internships in CERN (the European Centre for Nuclear Research in Geneva) and in medical laboratories in the USA. He credits an inspiring teacher for his curiosity and enthusiasm for chemistry as a fundamental and collaborative science.
In 2007, he started his undergraduate studies at Wadham College, Oxford where he graduated in 2011 with first class honours. He undertook his Part II project under the supervision of Prof Darren Dixon with a project entitled 'The Total Synthesis and Labelling of the Manzamine Alkaloids'. He presented his work, and won a prize, at the SCI Young Chemists' Panel Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2011.
Following a summer internship in the Process Chemistry department at Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, he returned to Oxford and the Dixon group to begin his DPhil studies supported through an industrial CASE award in collaboration with AstraZeneca. His work focuses on the development and application of a new class of highly reactive and tunable bifunctional organocatalysts for which a patent has been filed (Farley, A J M, Núñez, M G, Dixon, D J; Bifunctional Organic Catalysts; 2012, UK priority patent 1219300.9)*.
The new class of catalysts, utilising a new type of organic superbase, developed during the initial part of his DPhil have shown unprecedented reactivity in reactions where other organocatalysts are impotent. It is hoped that the new catalysts with their increased reactivity, rate increases up to over a thousand-fold (reaction times reduced from two weeks to 15 minutes) and catalyst loadings as low as 0.05%, will find widespread applications in academia and industry as a green alternative to metal catalysts. Upon the completion of his first year of DPhil study he was awarded the Lilly Prize for Excellence in Organic Chemistry Research 2011-2012 for his work on the development of the catalysts.
He has been involved in tutoring undergraduate students in organic chemistry, an experience he found both rewarding and extremely valuable in learning how to communicate complex ideas in a clear and concise manner. He supervised a Masters student on a project related to his own, providing training in laboratory work and guidance during the course of the year. This was an opportunity he thoroughly enjoyed, and the results of the work will be published in a high-impact international journal.
His interests outside his studies include playing football, tennis and cricket. He was Captain of the Wadham Freebooters Cricket Team for the year 2012-13. He also enjoys skiing and windsurfing and is a keen scuba diver.
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*Alistair's work on organocatalysts has now been published (J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2013, 135, 16348) and patented (Dixon, D. J., Farley, A. J. M., Núñez, M. G.; Bifunctional Organic Catalysts; WO2014064466).
SCI would like to offer Alistair our congratulations.