Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Reactions – Paul Plieger

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

Three things, really. Firstly I have a love of symmetry and structural – some structures of chemical molecules are really visually stunning. Secondly people kept giving me money and jobs related to chemistry. OK, so thats only two things and that’s probably another reason why I am a chemist and not a mathematician.

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

If I don’t think about this too hard I think I would have been an archaeologist. Maybe working on a dig discovering a new tomb in Egypt or a new civilisation in the Amazon jungle. Possibly in the 1950’s, maybe I would need a whip to get out of trouble…

3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?

I think we as chemists are already doing a fantastic job at contributing science to the world. From materials science through to environmental monitoring a chemist is in the mix somewhere!

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

I first thought of Jesus Christ because I would want to ask him straight out if he was really the son of God. However, the way that guy talked in riddles I am not sure I would get a straight answer out of him. So I think a less intense evening with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might be in order. Some fine dining then perhaps a story or two by a large fire in a Scottish castle with some good wine.

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

About mid-way through last year. I was having trouble getting a strong diffraction pattern on one of our helicate systems, so I thought I would add a heavier anion to it as I thought it might improve the scattering. What I got for my troubles was a structurally characterised encapsulated bromide triple helicate which I liked so much that I promptly made a movie of the molecule twirling around – it’s probably not going to be a motion picture anytime soon though…

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

I think I would take the Bible. It is the sort of book that you can read time and time again and find new meanings and encouragement and there are some great stories in there too. I am sure I would have the time on a desert island to fully digest it! As for a CD I think I would go for some of my favourite trance tracks, something like Dave Pearce Trance Anthems 2008 – a bit of a cheat as its actually a three cd set. Nothing like a good trance track blaring out when you have to build a shelter!

Paul Plieger is in the Institute of Fundamental Science at Massey University and works on projects utilising supramolecular and coordination chemistry.


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