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30 under 30: Searching for Sustainable Carbon-Based Chemistry

Meet Jonathan Moerdyk, one of the promising young chemists attending the 2013 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting



Roxanne Rathge © University of Texas at Austin Graduate School

Each year hundreds of the best and brightest researchers gather in Lindau, Germany, for the Nobel Laureate Meeting. There, the newest generation of scientists mingles with Nobel Prize winners and discusses their work and ideas. The 2013 meeting is dedicated to chemistry and will involve young researchers from 78 different countries. In anticipation of the event, which will take place from June 30 through July 5, we are highlighting a group of attendees under 30 who represent the future of chemistry. The following profile is the sixth in a series of 30.


Name: Jonathan (Jon) Moerdyk
Age: 26
Born: Three Rivers, Mich., U.S.
Nationality: U.S.

Current position: PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin
Education: BS in chemistry from Hope College in Holland, Mich., U.S.

What is your field of research?
My area of research resides in the design, development and implementation of a unique class of organic compounds called carbenes in order to mimic transition-metal catalysts and access fundamentally new reactivity. Transition metals are crucial in the chemical industry but present economic and sustainability concerns that we seek to address through the use of these carbon-based alternatives.

What drew you to chemistry, and to that research area in particular?
For me, chemistry is a giant logic problem (with sometimes seemingly illogical pieces) that I find extremely enjoyable and engaging. Every solved problem helps address another challenge while providing perspective on the larger field and the realization of just how much more there is to learn, which is also exciting to think about in its own right.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I see myself in an independent career as a (hopefully!) tenured professor at a college or university, sharing my passion for organic chemistry both in the classroom and as part of an active research program. While the specific goals and problems of my research are likely to evolve over time, my desire is that the research will significantly impact the greater community while engaging, teaching and inspiring those working on it.

Who are your scientific heroes?
Galileo Galilei, Max Planck and George Washington Carver—not only for what they accomplished but when and how they did so.

What activities outside of chemistry do you most enjoy?
I enjoy sports of any kind, but particularly baseball and the Detroit Tigers, outdoor activities, and spending time with my wonderful wife and our non-retrieving black Labrador retriever.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
I seized upon the Lindau meeting as an exceptional opportunity to interact with current and future leaders in the scientific community. From an intellectual perspective, I believe that sharing with and learning from Nobel laureates and peer researchers will sharpen my intellectual understanding and inspire my vision on various chemistry topics. The international nature of the meeting also provides an exceptional venue to forge new connections with peers from around the globe and gain international perspective on my field. By the end of the week, I particularly look forward to the connections I will have made as well as a continued maturation of skills and perspectives essential to my independent career.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet?
At the expense of sounding cliché, I truly am excited to meet all of the Nobel laureates. If pressed, though, I am an organic chemist at heart and particularly keen to meet Robert Grubbs and Akira Suzuki. Doctor Grubbs was not only my advisor’s advisor but also his research relates to one of my early research projects. And the cross-coupling chemistry developed by Doctor Suzuki has enjoyed tremendous utility in organic synthesis.

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5. Anwen Krause-Heuer
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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7. Caroline Bischof

 

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