Every now and then we have a seminar that I miss because I consider it to lie outside my area of expertise. While this might help save time, I later regret not attending those “out of my comfort zone” kinds of talks because I know for a fact that one tends to learn the most out of people who work in unrelated areas. The reason is simple: those folks do not have any of my default assumptions and tend to ask great questions. I can speak from a personal experience as it is all too often that, when I visit other places and meet people who work in areas that are closely related to my lab’s interests, I refrain from asking about certain things because “well, they probably thought of THAT”. This is a mistake, and the only way to rectify it is to attend lectures that are not directly related to what one does. Needless to say, you also learn a lot just by listening to such talks. Today was no exception. I really enjoyed hearing Barney Grubbs of Stony Brooke University (http://www.chem.sunysb.edu/faculty/grubbs.shtml) speak about his lab’s work in the area of materials chemistry. One of the reactions caught my eye. You can read about it in the link below. In order to make the tellurium-containing molecule shown, Barney used an interesting coupling partner – a tertiary alcohol – in place of our “usual suspects” such as organotin or organoboron reagents. I don’t think I saw a transmetallation accomplished in this fashion too many times before! You can think of a mechanism… I think it is quite interesting.