Àlex Cristòfol, PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Arjan Kleij, has defended his PhD thesis entitled “Stereoselective Transformations of Vinyl Cyclic Carbonates and Applications in Natural Product Synthesis” (assigned to the Analytical and Organic Chemistry Department of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili) publicly on October 8th.
The members of the evaluation committee were: Prof. Montserrat Diéguez (URV), Dr. Christopher J. Whiteoak (Universidad de. Alcalá) and Prof. Shoubhik Das (Universiteit Antwerpen).
Dr. Cristòfol is from Reus (Spain). He obtained both his degree in Chemistry and master’s degree in Synthesis, Catalysis and Molecular Design from Universitat Rovira i Virgili before joining the Kleij group for his PhD. He likes playing sports as padel tennis and basketball, meeting up with friends and cooking – doing chemistry at home, as he describes it.
Why did you become a scientist?
I have always liked using abstract thinking and an analytical approach to solve problems and exercises at High School, rather than memorising dates, or authors. I decided to do chemistry because I’m fascinated by seeing how substances transform.
From the lessons learnt at ICIQ, which one do you value the most?
In my opinion, the weekly seminars were excellent. Listening to how the speakers went through their scientific problems and how they solved them expanded my knowledge of chemistry. I found most interesting the seminars closer to my field because they helped me do a better thesis.
What surprised you the most the first time you came to ICIQ?
Since I’m from Reus, I was surprised by the number of foreign researchers that ICIQ has. I consider this an advantage because this multicultural environment opens your mind as a person and also improves the science itself.
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your PhD?
The importance of time management. The experiments can take some time, so you must know beforehand how long it will be, and plan if you can do other things while waiting. Also, I would have liked to know the importance of being collaborative; doing research is easier if you count on your colleagues.
What advice do you have for someone who’s starting their PhD now?
During the PhD, you’ll be at the front of your research field, so don’t stress yourself because some experiments fail, and remember you only need a successful one to succeed. Also, keep motivated and proactive in your daily work. Be patient and keep a healthy work-life balance,
Where are you going next? What will you do there?
I will move to Oxford to work for Cortex Organics, a spin-off company from the University of Oxford founded by Prof. Darren Dixon and Dr. Yao Shi, as a Senior Scientist. The company employs modern methods for custom synthesis and assist the life-sciences industry.
What applications can your thesis have in the future?
It will help revitalise the use of cyclic carbonates in more modern synthetic campaigns and be useful to researchers aiming to make new contributions to the field.
The thing that I like most about my work as a scientist is….
When I come across unexpected results and then I need to find new explanations to figure out what happened. It’s exciting to think outside the box!
If you were a piece of lab equipment, what would you be?
I would be a micropipette because it’s an instrument you need for a vast array of experiments and is useful to use at the microscale level.