Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Reactions – David Lindsay

David Lindsay is in the School of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, UK, and works on the synthesis, structure and reactivity of N-heterocyclic carbene-main group complexes, with a particular interest in developing main group-NHC complexes for new applications in organic synthesis.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

I enjoyed organic chemistry at school. I liked the order in the subject; the homologous series of alkanes and alkenes, the nomenclature for different functional groups, the way you could represent molecules on paper. I was fascinated by the power organic chemistry gave you to create new molecules. And I had brilliant teachers – they gave me the freedom to explore the subject, they answered every question I had and were always encouraging.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I would probably like to be a sports scientist and endurance sports coach. That way I would still be able to do research, indulge my inner geek in the scientific aspects of performance, and contribute to the growth and development of those I coached, and share in their successes – essentially, all the best aspects of an academic job.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

My research is focussed on the field of N-heterocyclic carbene complexes of main group elements; mostly boron at the moment. I hope the research will lead in many different directions, including using the complexes as catalysts, and maybe even in medicine. However, in such a new and relatively unexplored field, fundamental structure and reactivity studies are also very important, and we hope to make a contribution here as well.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

I think the 1965 Nobel Prize dinner would have been fun – RB Woodward and Richard Feynman were both fascinating characters. But I think I would choose Richard Feynman if I could have only one guest.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

I work in the lab a lot these days. The last reaction I did was the synthesis of an imidazolium salt, which will be used to form an NHC-borane complex.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

Music album would be “The First Circle” by the Pat Metheny Group. Once you get past the comedy first track, it’s a brilliant album which loosely falls into the jazz category. The book I would take is “Underworld” by Don DeLillo. It’s a tour through American history from the beginning of the cold war to end of the 20th century, told through a mix of fictional and fictionalised historical characters, and their reaction to events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy’s assassination. If I could cheat and have two books, I’d take also take “Earthly Powers” by Anthony Burgess.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

Kevin Booker-Milburn, one of my old colleagues at Bristol, just to see him struggle to reduce his music collection down to one album.

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