I always liked the process of discovery in synthetic chemistry. What we do is to carry out a reaction, isolate the product, identify it, and then repeat this process to construct a complex target molecule. The creative aspect of synthetic chemistry is incredibly important – in some ways it’s more of an art than a science. It’s a lot like baking or cooking – sometimes it works out, sometimes not.
When we go through long sequences of reactions in the lab, tweaking details and reaction times to get a pure final product, it is very satisfying. Our goal is to make liquid crystalline compounds, where molecules are ordered like a solid, but fluid like a liquid. We check to make sure they are liquid crystals by heating it up and cooling it down under a microscope, and observing texture changes that allow us to identify the liquid crystal phase.
Every time we make a brand new compound, it is exciting.
Ken Maly is also Associate Dean, Priorities and Planning, for the Faculty of Science.
We see you are accessing our website on IE8. We recommend you view in Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE9+ instead.×