Nov. 29, 2016
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.
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