Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Reactions – Andrew Weller

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

Nothing that exciting! I was good at it at school and my chemistry teacher – Mr Colvin – was a truly inspirational (and ever so slightly mad) person. He instilled in me the beauty of the subject.

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

My dream job (apart from what I do now) would be running a bike shop / coffee shop. Two of my passions in life.

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

We can contribute so many levels, but energy, new functional materials and healthcare are the three areas that chemists have made, and will continue to make, major contributions that fundamentally change peoples’ lives. Being a chemist is very exciting. Enthusing the next generation of scientists to the joy of discovery and knowledge.

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

Neil Armstrong. Talking to the first man to walk on the moon would be inspirational.

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

It has been a long time since I did anything really serious (2002), but I did get a paper out of it. I am in and out of the lab almost hourly sometimes and I still get a massive kick out of my (very talented) co-workers “nailing” that important new structure or isolating a very sensitive complex.

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

Book: I am going to cheat: I would take Lord of the Rings, but smuggle in between the pages Dawkin’s Blind Watchmaker. Both books had a profound impact on me: the first just blew me away with its scale and vision; the second simply changed forever the way I viewed the world.

CD: Difficult. From Elvis in Memphis – he was the king and this is him at his best, or the best of Johnny Cash. I would cheat (again) and burn a CD with both of these on.

Andrew Weller is in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and works on the synthesis, characterisation and reactivity of low coordinate late transition metal organometallics. This work has impact of catalysis, structure and bonding and new energy vectors.

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    Neil said:

    Well, Reactions is now two years old – and we’ve barely missed a week! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I have: I do enjoy getting the responses into my inbox and being the first to read them.

    We’ve decided to slightly tweak the questions, so watch out for some changes in the coming weeks. [It won’t be immediate because I tend to send out batches of questions and line up the responses as they come in]

    I’ve just been scrolling through two years’ worth of answers (here) and trying to find some trends among the books, CDs and historical figures. I’m quite pleased to say that there really aren’t any: books from Shakespeare, Dante and Cervantes are mixed with Tolkein, Tolstoy and Rowling. Perhaps the idea of being on a desert island inspired so many people to pick 100 Years of Solitude! I think the Bible is still in the lead though.

    The historical figures are even more diverse: scientists, politicians, artists, sportsmen, novelists, musicians, explorers, etc etc. It’s good to see that chemists have such a range of interests and inspirations.

    Feel free to give us your feedback on Reactions – do you read them all? Are the questions getting stale? Who would you like to see featured? Who would YOU like to have dinner with?