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Nilay Hazari, D.Phil

Overview of current project

We are interested in developing new chemical reagents that will make the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals more affordable. In particular, a new reaction (cross-electrophile coupling) for the formation of carbon-carbon bonds, which are ubiquitous in pharmaceuticals, was recently developed. Cross-electrophile coupling utilizes readily available starting materials and can form carbon-carbon bonds that are difficult to generate using traditional methods. However, this reaction utilizes elemental zinc or manganese as reagents. As a result, it is difficult to scale up cross-electrophile coupling reactions. We have discovered more practical alternatives to the zinc or manganese reagents and have shown that they can be used to facilitate the cross-electrophile coupling reactions. To our surprise, our new reagents can also sometimes facilitate reactions that cannot be performed with zinc or manganese. Our ongoing work involves trying to make our new reagents even more practical by reducing the cost associated with their synthesis.

Favorite off-time activity

If I was not a scientist, I would like to be a sports commentator. As a result, my favorite off-time activities involve playing and watching sport. I am most happy playing sports that require hand-eye coordination like tennis but I will try my hand at most sports. I grew up in Australia, so my favorite sport to watch is Australian Rules Football, which really does not have a direct analogue in the United States.

Best advice for new innovators

I do not consider myself or my group to be innovators. Our focus is fundamental science but we try to make sure that we are aware of practical challenges that are related to our work. We have been fortunate that some of our elementary discoveries have made it relatively easy to solve more applied challenges. Hence, my advice to new innovators is to make sure that you are knowledgeable about what the current state of your field is in terms of practical challenges, especially as these can be very different to academic problems. This knowledge will help you realize the commercial potential of any discoveries that you make.