Victoria – the gem of the West Coast

I started my three-day West Coast trip today. The first stop was at the University of Victoria. I have to say that Victoria is probably the most beautiful place I have been to and I have been to many… The town is right on the Pacific Ocean coast and is a short 15 minute flight from Vancouver. The harbor somehow reminded me of Copenhagen, but it is better.

I gave a talk at the Chemistry Department here, spreading my lab’s gospel of amphoteric reactivity. Most importantly, I got to meet some of the folks whose work I have known for a number of years, and also made some new acquaintances. Fraser Hof’s work in interrogating methyllysine binding domains is really exciting, I can’t wait to read about the latest findings his lab made in recent moths. My graduate student Rebecca Courtemanche hails from Fraser’s lab and I gave Rebecca a big shout out in my talk. Robin Hicks told me about his lab’s research on redox-active ligands based on indigo. Indigo! This is the stuff the jeans are coloured with! Really creative stuff. Who would have thought that this old dye holds so many surprises. I also met Jeremy Wulff, one of UVic’s youngest faculty members. His lab does so many interesting things. I think that his cyclic peptide work geared towards interrogating a protein/protein interface mediated by two beta sheets is very thought-provoking. I am looking forward to seeing some time soon in the literature.

A recent paper in Angewandte by Neil Burford really caught me by surprise, I must say. Neil told me about this piece in detail. We all know that palladium does reductive elimination really well, which is the basis of the vast majority of cross-couplings. But what about reductive elimination from a main group element? I was not aware that this is possible. Yet, Burford’s lab showed that reductive elimination happens in a very curious fashion from antimony compounds. I wonder if main group elements will one day be shown to display this kind of behavior in catalytic reactions…


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