David MacMillan coined the term organocatalysis

Checking the daily flood of emails is likely to be a tiresome task for David MacMillan as a renowned and internationally well-networked researcher. On Wednesday, however, he found an e-mail from the Swedish Nobel Prize Committee, usually very encouraging for scientists.

In it he was informed about his award in the “Chemistry” category – if he had not already checked his mailbox, on which Göran Hansson from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences left a corresponding voice message

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Eventful career to success

MacMillan 1968, born in Bellshill, Scotland, near Glasgow, runs a laboratory at Princeton University US state of New Jersey. At the time of the call, it was before six in the morning. What the scientist was doing only became known later.

His path to the elite university led through no less renowned institutions. After studying chemistry at the University of Glasgow, he received his PhD 1996 from the University of California (UC), Irvine, and then moved to Harvard University as a postdoc. There he researched metallic catalysts. These worked under laboratory conditions, but were rarely used in industry. They were too expensive and too fragile.

MacMillan therefore turned 1998 in his first own laboratory at UC Berkeley to researching small organics Molecules with a carbon skeleton act as catalysts for chemical reactions. He introduced the term organocatalysis for the effect of the new class of molecular tools.

In the year 2000 he moved to Caltech and in the year 2006 to Princeton, where the call from Sweden didn’t reach him on Wednesday.

In the meantime he explained why not: “Today I have I got a few text messages early in the morning from people in Sweden and thought they were playing a prank on me, so I went back to sleep. ”But then the phone started“ going crazy ”and the good news reached him several times.

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