Antonio Echavarren is one of our Group Leaders here at ICIQ and the Vice-Director for Academic Affairs. His research interests center on the development of new catalytic methods based on the organometallic chemistry of transition metals as well as the synthesis of natural products and polyarenes. He has received many awards over the years such as the 2004 Janssen-Cylag (Organic Chemistry) award of the Real Sociedad Española de Química (RSEQ), 2006 Liebig Lecturer (Organic Division of the German Chemical Society), Lilly-IQOG Lecturer (Madrid, 2006) and Abbot Lecturer (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaing, 2009). In 2010 he received the Golden Medal and the Research Award of the RSEQ and last year, he was awarded with the 2011 Sir Robert Robinson Distinguished Lecture in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Liverpool, UK. More than enough reasons to be our next interviewee in our Face to Face, don´t you think so?
When did you decide to become a scientist and why?
‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a chemist’. This sentence is taken from Ray Liotta in Martin Scorsese’s movie Goodfellas (gangster instead of chemist in the movie). When I was a teenager I was fascinated by the mysterious changes that occurred upon the simple mixing of chemical substances. Later I found chemistry more humane than physics and much more rigorous and scientific than biology.
What do you see as the greatest achievements in your career to date?
The mechanistically driven discovery of new organic reactions catalyzed by gold or other metals.
From your point of view, what are the most important areas in which funding should be spent on?
I would support good chemistry, regardless of the specific area. In particular, I would continue founding creative synthesis (organic, inorganic and organometallic) because of its central role in chemistry.
Could you tell us a funny anecdote that happened in your lab or your life as a researcher?
There were some anecdotes that I prefer to forget caused by the lack of funding, which forced us to be more than creative to obtain reagents or starting material that are now commonplace in my labs.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy hiking in the mountains, jogging, biking, observing small animals, reading and listening to good music.
A chemical element: Carbon
Favourite Scientist: Edward. O. Wilson (entomologist and the father of sociobiology)
An invention: Internet
If you had not been scientist … I would have been a biologist
Favourite destination: New York
A book: ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen
A movie: The Bridges of Madison County
A dream: That everyone would have enough to eat
Science is…much more than a profession to fulfill a life. Quoting Richard Dawkins, ‘Science is the poetry of reality.’