musings on music and life

June 27, 2018

Another year, another paper

Filed under: Chemistry — sankirnam @ 10:33 pm

Earlier this year, another one of my papers was published. This was based on research I did during my PhD, and this was the first major independent scientific research project I worked on. This project introduced me to the fascinating topic of superelectrophilic activation, which I talked about in detail in a previous post. The journal, Topics in Catalysis, isn’t really considered very hot (impact factor 2.4), but my paper was part of a special issue dedicated to Prof. George Olah, who passed away last year.

This now brings my total publication count to seven, which is respectable for a PhD in organic chemistry these days. I’m now thinking of how I can continue to build on that; however, now that I’m no longer in a lab, the only way I can think of to get published is by writing review articles (e.g. in Chemical Reviews or other journals). Unfortunately, without access to SciFinder, searching the literature is difficult.


September 7, 2017

Should chemists learn to code?

Filed under: Chemistry, Chemistry Jobs, Coding, education — sankirnam @ 9:25 am

I recently posted this comment on a post in Chemjobber earlier this week, so here it is. This is in response to the question in the title.

My two cents:

It’s not just that “chemistry majors should learn to code”; I feel that all college graduates today should learn to code. Programming is becoming a fundamental type of literacy these days. Just like how all college graduates should be fully literate in English and have some exposure to mathematics (e.g. calculus), all graduates should also have some experience with coding or programming.

As to how to incorporate programming into a typical undergraduate chemistry curriculum – I’m not entirely sure. Like a lot of people here, I took a required course as an undergrad on Matlab programming, after which I promptly forgot everything, since we never used it again. My PhD work in synthetic organic chemistry also involved zero programming, and other organic chemists here will probably also have similar experiences. In organic chemistry, programming is one of those things that is nice to know, but not at all necessary for success, and may even be viewed as somewhat of a distraction – is knowing how to program in Java going to get you better separations in your columns? Not really.

Everything I know about programming came AFTER I finished my PhD – I self-taught programming with online courses, starting with Codecademy, and after I felt I had reached a decent level of competency, I enrolled in a “Data Science” bootcamp last year. Everything I learned was completely orthogonal to chemistry; there’s little overlap between training and running a machine learning model using Python/scikit-learn and being able to do asymmetric oxidations at -78 C. 

If you’re doing computational chemistry, then sure, knowing fundamental programming and CS is incredibly important. In experimental synthetic chemistry…I’m not so sure. My academic experiences have proved that programming has limited utility in chemistry. I think it’s time for this part of chemistry to catch up to the modern age as well. Like Anon 3:15 PM says, if you can type print(‘Hello World!’) into a Python interpreter, then congratulations – you know more programming than 99% of organic chemists. But you also know less programming than 100% of professional developers.

May 22, 2017

#chemjobs realtalk

Filed under: Chemistry, Chemistry Jobs, Uncomfortable truths — sankirnam @ 10:48 am

Courtesy of u/OldLabRat on Reddit:

“[…] suppose you take your fresh PhD in chemistry/bio/whatever to Cambridge or the Research Triangle or some other center of industry and start knocking on doors. “Do you need any chemistry done?” you may ask “maybe somebody’s out sick? I’ll totally help out cheap, just throw me some lunch money.” They might be tempted, until they ask your qualifications. “We don’t have any PhD level openings”, they will sneer. And I think every Chemistry department has the legend of the guy who left his PhD off his resume, got a bottle-washing job at Big Industry Company, and then was a preferred internal candidate for their next PhD opening so he got it – the corollary of that legend is that the position really had been wired for someone else, and Big Industry Company made a new rule that anyone who was found to have a concealed PhD would be fired. So that sort of pavement-pounding approach won’t work, they’ve seen it already and enacted countermeasures – such is the meaning of this popular tale. Chemistry is a field which has deliberately put up barriers, has institutionalized methods to avoid hiring qualified applicants who really want the job and would do it very well, in favor of seeking members of an elite ‘network’ who possess that elusive quality of ‘fit’.

It’s often posted here that the key to chemistry employment is networking – which seems to mean being popular and charismatic. This really is a sign that becoming a chemist is more like becoming a fine artist, or a philosopher of postmodernism, or a rock star, than it is like becoming a schoolteacher or a car mechanic or a pastry chef. You do not simply offer enthusiasm and hard work, let alone skill, it’s about projecting an image of your awesomeness.

If people really need work done and want to hire somebody to do it, they don’t mess around in quite the same way. I don’t know of any schoolteachers who got their job by following the ‘networking’ methodology. Nobody runs up their credit cards attending teacher networking meetings and conference, where they listen eagerly to presentations from already-employed teachers before politely introducing themselves and passing out their aspiring-teacher business cards, afterwards going to the bar and buying drinks for successful already-employed teachers while asking them to share their wisdom and experiences and oh by the way here’s my card. Teachers don’t have time to sit at a bar and have drinks bought for them by aspiring applicants. They’ve got assessments to grade, activities to develop, chemicals to buy, lesson plans to write, professional development to attend to: work, in other words!

So I’d say chemistry is a ‘luxury’ profession right now, or at least society is treating it like one. Becoming a chemist is less like becoming a master electrician and more like becoming an opera singer.

Of course we’re more dependent upon the products of the chemical industry than ever. But honestly it doesn’t take a chemist to follow a procedure. It takes a chemist to write one, but after that it doesn’t. And even if you did want a chemist, there are plenty in China and India who will work for a slightly lower salary and are able to just dump their waste jugs down the sewer drain, which is ever so much more efficient and globally competitive!”

This. This is what I faced for two years while desperately trying to get a job in chemical research – it’s not enough to be competent, knowledgeable about the field and have domain expertise, but you also have to possess that elusive quality of “fit”, which could be anything, depending on the hiring manager’s mood that day. The “elite network” mentioned above is very real – it used to be solely an academic thing (i.e. 99% of new professors at most universities these days are from Harvard/Stanford/MIT/Caltech/Berkeley), but now, thanks the insane saturation in the chemistry job market at the PhD level, it has percolated into industry. The two biggest questions I would get while trying to convince people to at least give me some kind of opportunity at their companies would be:

  1. “If you’re as competent as you claim, why hasn’t someone hired you yet?”
  2. “If you’re as good as you claim to be, why isn’t your degree from Harvard/Stanford/MIT/Caltech/Berkeley?”

The tech industry, in contrast, is refreshingly egalitarian. It doesn’t have the saturation and craziness present in science hiring, and hiring decisions are not really swayed by academic pedigree or awesome networks but rather by a track record of tangible projects and results that you have brought to the table.

As I have said before, the first thing that needs to be done to fix this situation is to stop oversaturating the market with scientistsUniversities need to stop recruiting graduate students by the droves and invest more into ensuring the career success of existing students and postdocs. Of course, most professors will balk at this since their supply of dirt-cheap labor will be threatened – the incentive to change can only come from the top, from funding agencies such as the NSF and NIH.

March 8, 2017

Rest in Peace, Prof. Olah

Filed under: Chemistry — sankirnam @ 11:54 pm

I just heard the news today that Prof. George A. Olah had passed away.

This affects me personally, as I did my PhD in his laboratories, and was the last student to actually do research in superacid chemistry and carbocations, which is what Prof. Olah received the Nobel Prize for.

Prof. Olah was truly a giant not just in Physical Organic Chemistry, or Organic Chemistry, but Chemistry in general. I don’t need to rehash what has already been inscribed in the annals of scientific history – Prof. Olah has written several autobiographical accounts of his life and his research career, and these do a much better job at explaining things than I ever could.

What I can say is that Prof. Olah’s approach to science was extremely rigorous, thanks to the education he received in Hungary prior to the Communist revolution. This rigor was carried into everything he studied in Organic Chemistry. Prof. Olah was also extremely fearless when it came to exploring new ideas in chemistry, and this quality stuck with him the rest of his life. He started his career off in a makeshift laboratory (which was pieced together in a balcony) in the Technical Institute in Budapest, where, much to the disapproval of his PhD advisor, he did work in fluorine chemistry, Friedel-Crafts chemistry, and superacid chemistry, the subjects that would be a recurring theme in his life.

Lately, there’s been a trend in popular media, whether it’s books, blogs, or news media, to pit foxes and hedgehogs against each other. Foxes are people who have a very shallow understanding of lots of topics, whereas hedgehogs are said to be people who have a deep understanding of one topic. All of these sources tout the superiority of foxes, claiming that they make better predictions due to the fact that they don’t get caught up on one idea. Ever since I first read about this in Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise, I was unconvinced, because I knew scientists who worked on one (or a few) big ideas for their entire careers. Prof. Olah was one such individual, and he truly made the case for the superiority of hedgehogs!

Prof. Olah’s modus operandi was to throw all his effort in one area until he was satisfied that he had learned as much as he could there. He would then collect all his manuscripts and write a large review either as an independent review article or as a book, and then move on to the next topic. In this fashion, he covered a large swath of chemistry, from synthetic methodologies, to carbocation chemistry, Friedel-Crafts chemistry, onium ions, nitration, and methanol. If you want to learn more about these topics, I wrote about them briefly here.

Prof. Olah was extremely organized and methodical in his approach to science, and this is revealed in his publications, the majority of which are in various series. He has a series of 300+ papers on “Stable carbocations”, 60+ papers on “Friedel-Crafts chemistry”, 200+ papers on “Synthetic methods and reactions”, and so on. Each of these papers is a gem. Prof. Olah’s command over English is impeccable, and the papers are all carefully written to make the science not just understandable but accessible. Prof. Olah also had the good fortune to get married to a fellow chemist, Judith Olah, and they published several papers in Friedel-Crafts chemistry together.

Prof. Olah was one of the few chemists to get a reagent named after himself – Olah’s reagent is a mixture of HF and pyridine that is much easier to handle than pure HF itself, since it is a liquid at room temperature. Prof. Olah also came up with the use of SO2ClF as a cosolvent for superacids, as well as discovering that the mixture of HSO3F and SbF5 could form an extremely powerful liquid superacid system convenient for studying carbocations. The oft-repeated story of how that mixture came to be called “Magic Acid” is something that doesn’t need to be told again here.

There are a few things that set Prof. Olah apart from other chemists, not just from his generation, but also the current generation. The first is that he was able to do Nobel-Prize winning work while not being at a top university (e.g. Harvard/Stanford/Caltech/MIT/Berkeley etc.)! This was always a matter of pride for him, and really does go to show the quality of his ideas and his thinking. The second was his concern to do research that was truly practical and addressed the problems facing humanity today, such as climate change and energy storage. It was due to this concern that he spent the last 2 decades focused solely on a pet idea – The “Methanol Economy”. He also developed the process of methanol “bi-reforming”, which is based on existing Fischer-Tropsch chemistry, in order to make it practical.

Of course, success always breeds contempt, and unfortunately Prof. Olah did have enemies in his lifetime. Plenty of older chemists will remember the scientific rivalry (bordering on animosity) between Prof. H. C. Brown and Prof. Saul Winstein, and after Prof. Winstein suddenly passed away in 1969, Prof. Olah took his place. Another injustice is that Prof. Olah was never invited to give a lecture at Caltech or Harvard University. This is unconscionable, given his scientific accomplishments in chemistry!

I am proud to belong to the scientific family of Prof. Olah (which extends back to Emil Fischer), and grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and practice organic chemistry in his laboratories at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, USC.


My copy of Superacid Chemistry…


…signed by all the authors, including Prof. Olah!

EDIT (3/9/2017): USC has issued a press release in memory of Prof. Olah, which is well-written and very detailed.

2nd EDIT (3/14/2017): C&EN has written an article in memory of Prof. Olah, and some of his former students and colleagues have commented online.

October 13, 2016

NMR data in papers

Filed under: Chemistry — sankirnam @ 1:42 pm

As someone who has written several papers in organic chemistry, and is currently in the process of writing another one, I just had this thought:

Why can’t journals require authors to include the .fid files of NMR spectra in the supplemental information, as opposed to spectral data lists or printouts of the spectra?

Including printouts is a holdover from a bygone era; thanks to the internet, everything is now digital, and storage space is no longer an issue for most people (or companies). Journals should make authors include the .fid files of any NMR spectra required to accompany a publication! At best, they get up to 50-70 MB (for 2-D NMR spectra), which in this day and age is not that big.

Making authors include .fid files has several benefits:

  1. Writing papers becomes a lot less tedious. Yea, its not fun to sit at your computer and adjust the magnification, aesthetics, and other aspects of a spectrum when all you’re really interested in is the data. Yes, I know you want to make it look like a piece of art, but really, if you have pride in your skills as a scientist, and if you have any ethical integrity at all, you should be willing to stand behind the raw .fid files of any NMR spectra of your compounds.
  2. It’s actually easier for other people. Let’s face it – a lot of the times, the integral values and peak numbers are not very visible on a printout. Also, if you have a very complex spectrum (such as from a natural product), then including multiple zoomed-in regions or going into detail on every single multiplet is a hassle. Also, if someone is trying to reproduce your procedure, doing a .fid-to-.fid comparison is a lot easier than looking at printouts.
  3. It reduces the risk for fraud. The Bengü Sezen case could have been partly avoided if she had been forced to submit .fid files for the NMR data of her products, as opposed to doctored NMR spectra. It’s much, much harder to manipulate a raw .fid file than photoshop an NMR printout.

If only journals accepted .fid files – I could just put them all in a folder, upload it, and be on my way! But unfortunately, most journals do not. JOC (Journal of Organic Chemistry) still requires a list of spectral data for synthesized compounds in the experimental section of the manuscript as well as printouts of the spectra in the Supplemental Information. I guess manually entered spectral data is still required because NMR processing software is still not very good at identifying multiplets and picking peaks (it’s especially bad when they overlap). A trained eye will know what to look for, but a computer will not.

These are some of the challenges that lie in bringing organic chemistry to the 21st century!

September 8, 2016

Latest publication

Filed under: Chemistry — Tags: — sankirnam @ 11:06 am

I just saw yesterday that another paper has been published based on work I did in my PhD. I was aware of this because the student wrapping this project up was in touch with me, writing up the paper from one of my thesis chapters and requesting copies of the characterization data (NMR, GC-MS, and HRMS) for all the compounds I had synthesized. This paper is the continuation of the Organic Letters paper that was published several months ago, and I’m relieved that I finally have a first-author paper, even if it is only in Journal of Fluorine Chemistry (which has an impact factor of 2.2), and coming a bit too late (over a year and a half after getting my PhD!) to be useful. But hey – it’s another line under the “publications” section in my CV, and at this point, anything helps.

EDIT (4/13/2017): Personal link to paper, valid until June 1, 2017.

May 11, 2016

Review of DavidsonX D001x

Filed under: Chemistry, education — sankirnam @ 11:49 am

I recently completed the above course on EdX; the full title is:

DavidsonX: D001x Medicinal Chemistry: The Molecular Basis of Drug Discovery

I have taken biochemistry and medicinal chemistry/drug discovery courses several times in the past during my undergrad and graduate studies, but the quality and coverage of the topics in this course was far, far better than anything I had taken to date. Major kudos to Prof. Erland Stevens (the instructor) for doing a fantastic job. I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in medicinal chemistry or drug discovery (even if you’re not interested in doing it for a career).

The course starts from the basics and assumes a basic knowledge of organic chemistry and algebra/arithmetic. The organic background is required just so you know the basic rules of structural organic chemistry; there are no complex synthetic schemes or mechanisms in this course. As far as reactions are concerned, the only reactions really touched upon were those involved in oxidations by the liver.

The math required is tedious but not terribly overcomplicated; the majority of the questions involved calculations with Michaelis-Menten and Lineweaver-Burke plots, or using IC50 values and the Cheng-Prusoff equation. These can all be done with Excel or Google spreadsheets, and Prof. Stevens demonstrates clearly how to do it, but that still doesn’t reduce the tedium of going through the calculations. The main thing to watch out for when doing calculations is that the EdX system only gives you 1 or 2 opportunities to input the answer before closing it off, so you have to make doubly sure to check your math and make sure the answer is correct!

This was my first proper exposure to the concepts of ADME (Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, Excretion), which is central to pharmaceutical science. Each of these concepts was covered in detail; for absorption, the main methods of delivery that were covered were the IV bolus and oral ingestion, although one should keep in mind that these are only 2 out of the many ways of getting a compound into the body (others include suppositories, inhalation, transdermal diffusion, etc.). Distribution covered the basic “one-compartment” and “two-compartment” models, different ways of thinking about how a compound gets around the body. In this case, the bloodstream can be thought of as a “compartment”, and the fatty tissues as another compartment, both with different volumes, and so the concentration of the compound in each will be different. The blood-brain barrier was not touched upon in this course; this is a topic of personal interest to me, and it can be thought of as a barrier that divides one of the compartments.

In the context of drug discovery, Prof. Stevens gave an overview of the major approaches used in the industry today, such as combinatorial chemistry, HTS, peptidomimetics, fragment-based and phenotype-based screening, and natural products. Functional group replacements and isosteres were also discussed, common ones being replacement of a -CH3 group by a -Cl and tetrazole for a carboxylic acid. As an organofluorine chemist, I know that it is common to use -F substitution in this regard, but this was not really touched upon. The lecture on SOSA (Selective Optimization of Side Activities) was a little confusing; Prof. Stevens used the classic example of the discovery of Viagra’s ability to treat erectile dysfunction to illustrate this, but I remember being misled by the associated questions. This could be improved in future iterations of the course.

The cool thing about the course was the Virtual Lab component, and this really brings to life the concepts taught in the course, allowing the students to see the challenges that medicinal chemists face. Using the “bioactivity predictor” feature of Molinspiration, one can input the structures of small organic compounds and conduct a rudimentary screen against some receptors, and further details can be interrogated with the admetSAR website. The challenge in these labs was to design molecules with an affinity for a certain receptor (as predicted by Molinspiration), but still having good ADME properties. This is really fun to play with, as it gives a sense to the interplay between organic structure and function (which is what structure-activity relationships (SARs) are all about).

This course is a great introduction to medicinal chemistry, and I highly recommend taking it in the future, if it is offered again. After this, one can dive into the medicinal chemistry literature (e.g. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry or BMCL) and gain a deeper understanding of the topics covered in the course and how they are actually being used right now.

March 31, 2016

PhD in chemistry = ?

Filed under: Chemistry, Chemistry Jobs — sankirnam @ 11:29 pm

Derek Lowe had an interesting post earlier about outsourcing and the effect that free trade agreements have had on chemical employment in the US.

This raised a question in my mind: what does a PhD in chemistry enable you to do? If you get a degree in organic chemistry, that usually implies you have some kind of expertise in organic synthesis, but as we’re seeing lately, more and more synthesis is being farmed out to CROs internationally. These CROs may have PhDs in their labs carrying out the synthesis for their clients, but that’s besides the issue; I am concerned with holders of PhDs in chemistry in the US. Generally speaking, fresh PhD graduates will usually enter industry positions working on early-stage projects, if they are doing synthesis. If the early-stage synthesis is being shipped out to other countries, then how can fresh graduates get their foot in the door? Derek Lowe states that companies are generally wary about outsourcing late-stage API synthesis to other countries due to IP security issues, but “for early-stage material, it generally works pretty well.”

Now here’s the kicker: Derek Lowe concludes by saying, “there probably be shouldn’t be that many basic-level organic chemistry services in the US. There are times when it makes sense, and the further up the value chain the more sense it makes, but “grunt work”, however you define it, is (other things being equal) going to migrate to lower-wage situations”. If fresh PhDs are generally expected to work on basic synthesis when they are first hired by industry, does that mean that a PhD simply certifies you to do “grunt work”? And does that mean there is no longer a market for fresh PhD’s in the US to do synthetic work? This would go a long way to explaining why postdoctoral experience has become a requirement for industry positions in chemistry, to ensure that fresh entrants are more experienced and can begin at a more advanced stage.

I had the opportunity to have an in-depth chat with the current ACS president Donna Nelson and the ACS president-elect Peter Dorhout at the ACS convention in San Diego earlier this month about the issue of underemployment and unemployment of chemists today. Interestingly enough, they pointed out that there has been a 100% increase in the number of BA/BS degrees awarded in chemistry over the last 15 years, but the unemployment gap has also grown to about 14% today (the link is from 2013, but that is the latest figure I could find). Another thing to keep in mind is that students can dodge unemployment/underemployment by going back to school for another degree, so this statistic can be difficult to measure. This is key at both the BS and the PhD levels, and PhD’s have the additional option of doing a postdoc, which is becoming increasingly common – and as Chemjobber says, “postdoctoral positions are quite often the scientific equivalent of an inferior good, that is a position that one would not take, if one had a better option”. There is also not enough effort being done by universities to track the career paths of their graduates; at the bachelor’s level, that may be prohibitive due to the volume of data (but of course, that should not be an issue for a “data scientist” skilled with “big data”), but at the PhD level, it is more feasible, and should be done. There should be a database where students and postdocs should be able to look up PI’s and track the careers of their graduates; a PI who has too many students going to get additional degrees after their PhD would raise a red flag. There should also be some way to tie federal grant funding for PIs with student career success – but the issue there is what metric would you use? My idea is to track the number of students gainfully employed in their field of training and with a salary of at least $100,000 within 3 years of graduation (I think that’s reasonable, but feel free to tell me I’m crazy). The exception would be those on the academic track, either as an assistant professor or a postdoc.

The other thing that crossed my mind is that the ACS should put out an advisory to all students interested in chemistry about the poor job market, similar to what was done by Texas A&M University for its incoming Petroleum Engineering students in 2013! If the ACS were to really be looking out for its members, it should do what the AMA does, and start restricting the supply of chemistry graduates. In any case, it is amusing (and heartening) now to see the word percolating out. If the Chemistry subreddit is any indication, the level of realtalk nowadays is increasing, which is a good sign.

The modern scientific-academic complex as it exists today in the US is the legacy of Vannevar Bush. In a document called Science, the Endless Frontier, he advised the president at the time (Truman) to continue funding fundamental science in a big way, setting up the huge expansion of the university system in the US, and the eventual founding of the NSF in order to publicly fund science. This rapid expansion of the US university system in the latter half of the 20th century made it relatively easy for PhDs and postdocs at the time to find academic positions. Unfortunately, the market has long since saturated, resulting in the situation below, summarized by Jorge Cham in a tongue-in-cheek manner:phd030909s

I know people are tired of reading this over and over again, but I wanted to get these thoughts down, as they’ve been in my mind for a while. I’ll do my best to refrain from this topic in the near future, since people have told me that they do find this depressing.

January 28, 2016

Kudos for methanol!

Filed under: Chemistry — Tags: , , — sankirnam @ 8:53 am

I was rather pleased to see that my PhD advisor’s work had made the front page of Reddit this morning. Reddit is one of the most viewed sites on the internet, and the presence (or absence) of topics on this website serves as a heuristic for what is in the mind of the public. The quality of the discussion in the Reddit thread is also very good; it was heartening to see that everyone (at least, nerds with internet access) has their facts correct.

I have talked in some depth about the Methanol Economy before; I strongly believe that this will be a viable energy solution for the future. Of course, this isn’t the only solution, as it has to be used in tandem with a mix of energy sources, including solar, wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear, depending on location. Methanol serves as a very convenient energy carrier and energy storage medium due to it’s convenient physical and chemical properties.

Unfortunately, I do not have journal access right now, so I cannot comment on the article. I do remember that this project has been going on for a long time; it was started back when I was still there, around 2014 or so. This seems to be a continuation of work done earlier, in which it was observed that polyamines (specifically ethyleneimine) adsorbed on silica could reversibly adsorb CO2. This CO2 adsorption process was then combined with CO2 to methanol reduction in the same flask. Since I don’t have journal access right now, I don’t know how good the yield, selectivity, or catalyst TON (Turn Over Number) is. These numbers are critical to evaluating if this process is really a big breakthrough or just another incremental improvement.

January 1, 2016

Latest paper

Filed under: Chemistry — Tags: — sankirnam @ 7:31 pm

So this actually came out over a month ago, but I couldn’t get around to posting about it until now. Link for those interested. The sad part is that I currently cannot access this, even though it is my own work!

The research in this paper was developed as part of my thesis work on superelectrophilic activation, in order to develop new electrophiles for Friedel-Crafts reactions.

This is the only place where I can mention the contributions of an undergraduate student who worked with me on this project – Mr. Billy Stevens. I don’t know why his name was omitted from the list of authors on this paper, even though I had reminded my advisor to include his name multiple times.

This paper originated from work we had previously carried out on the superelectrophilic activation of acrylic acids; we found that they could undergo one-pot alkylation and cyclic acylation with arenes. Thus, we extended this work to include thiophenols, as sulfur can serve as an interesting nucleophile under these conditions. I optimized the conditions and prepared a variety of thiochroman-4-ones using crotonic acid; I was also able to extend this to the use of 4,4,4,-trifluorocrotonic acid for the synthesis of trifluoromethylated thiochroman-4-ones, which unfortunately is not included in the Org. Lett. paper.

I’m rather pleased to have a publication in Organic Letters. This is one of the premier journals in the field of organic chemistry, specializing in short communication-style reports, rather than full-length articles or reviews. Even though the journal started very recently (1999), it is very successful, has a high impact factor, and routinely publishes very interesting, highly-cited papers. At the NOS last year, I got a free Organic Letters shirt, among other things. I suppose wearing this shirt has probably resulted in me getting a paper in this journal, in some karmic fashion.

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