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A            Day in the Life

                              of an organic chemistry DPhil student

             Name: Laia Josa-Culleré
             College: Balliol
             Group: Professor Mark Moloney
             Graduate training programme: Oxford
             Innovative Organic Synthesis for Cancer
             Research (OxIOSCR)

            I originally come from Barcelona, a beautiful city in the north
            of Spain, where I did my undergraduate studies. I first moved to
            the UK to do a Master’s Degree at the University of Cambridge,
            where I worked on the synthesis of chemical probes for cancer
            imaging. I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of my
            research project, and I was certain that I wanted to pursue
            a similar path during my PhD. The OxIOSCR Marie Curie
            Innovative Doctoral Programme (IDP) programme seemed like
            the perfect fit to my ambitions, as it afforded an opportunity   experiments properly and interpret results, but planning
            to work on collaborative projects between chemists and cancer   the experiments requires reading the relevant literature,
            biologists.                                         having creative and independent thinking, decision making,
                                                                prioritising work… In spite of this, results are likely to be
            As an organic chemistry researcher, for me there is no such thing
            as a typical day. Most likely, it will involve setting and working   unexpected and it is important to be ready to change the plan
            up some reactions, purifying the product (and/or by-products),   for the day, week or even the research project.
            usually with flash column chromatography, and analysing   Being a PhD student in Oxford has given me the privilege of
            results. We can also be found discussing NMR experiments in   being surrounded by highly talented chemists and attending
            the basement, queuing to use the IR in the ground floor, waiting   lectures and symposia from leading researchers; sharing
            impatiently for MS results, preparing reports and presentations,   knowledge and discussing science is indeed one of the beauties
            attending group meetings, answering questions from Part II   of the academic world. Oxford also offers many training
            students and, if time permits, having tea breaks with the other   courses and workshops, as well as the opportunity to teach
            group members in the atrium.                        undergraduate students in either demonstrations or tutorials.
                                                                Even though finishing our project, writing a thesis and passing
            As I have been involved in collaborative projects with the   the viva might seem to be our main objectives, in my opinion
            Department of Oncology, some of my days would also require   a PhD should be more than that, and we should take the
            cycling up to the Old Road Campus and working with cancer   opportunities that Oxford offers us to develop ourselves not
            cells. Although this has taken time outside the lab, learning how   only as organic chemists but also as scientists and professionals.
            to run cell cultures and handling biological material it has been
            very rewarding to see the application of the compounds that I   Despite frequent frustrating results, long working hours and
            had designed and synthesised.                       the pressure to have enough data for high-impact publications
                                                                and a good thesis, that rare day when we manage to obtain good
            I consider that one of the most important tasks of our day is   results or to finally see our name in a paper (and, maybe one day,
            deciding what to do – which reaction to try, which conditions,   our name after the “Dr”), we all remember why we all like and
            what route to choose for our synthesis… It is a matter of time   actually enjoy being organic chemistry researchers.
            and experience to get used to the lab and know how to run

                                           Through the University’s extensive expertise in organic synthesis, fundamental cancer
                                           biology and medicinal chemistry, OxIOSCR (Oxford Innovative Organic Synthesis for
                                           Cancer Research) is a Marie Curie IDP providing an interdisciplinary training programme
       for 13 graduate organic chemists, to develop optimal synthetic routes to natural products
              and their analogues with anti-cancer activity.  Working with a network of eight Associated Partners distributed across six
              European countries, the project encompasses synthetic chemistry, exploring new technologies of biocatalysis, electrosynthesis and
              flow chemistry., Twitter: @OxIOSCR

              Periodic       The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
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