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A Day in the Life of an Organic Chemist

December 04, 2022 | 7:09 pm |

On Tuesday, October 25, ASEF, in cooperation with the Škofja Loka High School, organized a lecture as part of the ASEF Young Minds series. The lecture was conducted by Martin Rihtaršič, 2022 ASEF Junior Fellow and Master’s student in Chemistry at UL FKKT, who has just completed his research visit under the mentorship of Professor David Šarlah at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The event was opened by the headmaster of the Škofja Loka High School, Jože Bogataj, who introduced Martin and his achievements in international competitions when he was still attending the High School.

Martin began the lecture with a general presentation of organic chemistry and then presented synthetic organic chemistry, a sub-field, which he deals himself with. He introduced us to examples of the synthesis of LSD from lysergic acid and the synthesis of vitamin B12, which took more than 100 researchers and 12 years to develop. Synthesis expeditions, as Martin called these research projects, are not always useful, but they create a leap in synthetic knowledge.

Martin then introduced the main principle of organic synthesis, which he summarized as “functional groups always behave the same, regardless of the environment”. This is the principle by which the organic chemist can predict what will happen in a reaction, even though completely new compounds are reacting.

In the next part of the lecture, he presented in more detail what his work looks like and the reactions that synthetic organic chemists encounter in the laboratory. To obtain the desired product, the reaction itself must be carried out first, then the product must be separated from the other compounds. The most common purification method Martin performs is column chromatography. Finally, each separated compound must be analyzed to determine the purity of the product.

In the end, Martin presented his research visit, where he researched an anti-cancer active compound, and described the trip, with which he concluded his research visit.

The entire event was coordinated by Meta Kodrič, 2022 ASEF Junior Fellow.

The project is supported by the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth and the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenes Abroad and the World.

ASEF Young Minds