The list extends life. The list expands consciousness. The list is vital to grad school.
Ok, so, the list and “the spice” actually have little to do with each other…
Anyway, for those that are curious, here’s the full breakdown of places I’m applying, as well as professors I’m interested in working with. First and foremost, I’m all about total synthesis (and associated reaction development). However, if I can also find a lab that incorporates biologically active products¹(optimization/library type work), that would be icing on the cake. Living somewhere that doesn’t suck is not required, but highly recommended. The going theme generally tends to be 2 professors I’m really interested in, and 1-2 professors in doing related work. Commentary follows.
- Yale – Herzon (thanks paul!), Phillips. Considering Miller, Ellman, Spiegel. I’m very interested in the chemistry here. Herzon and Phillips are my choice professors for straight up synthesis, but the other profs’ biological/methodology work is nothing to sneeze at, and also, if the planets align, some possibility of doing some heavy-duty synthesis as well. Of course, this would mean having to live in New Haven for a few years. Frankly, I’ve had my fill of New Haven after spending time waiting to change trains, so I don’t know how a few years would tread on me, but we’ll see
- UCSB – Pettus, Zakarian. Considering Read de Alaniz and Lipshutz. I like Zakarian’s chemistry a little more, but I’d be happy as a clam on Pettus’ work, too. Read de Alaniz’s or Lipshutz are a different story. Read de Alaniz is a total mystery – brand new faculty, and only 1 publication thus far at UCSB. Claims to do carbon-nitrogon bond forming methodology, to be used for alkaloid synthesis. I’m not enthralled with fledgling faculty and the idea of just methodology, but methodology AND alkaloid total synthesis? I could be into that… Similar sentiments toward B-Lip. Bonus points for california weather, double bonus points for getting to hang out with Ψ*Ψ.
- UCLA – Garg, Kwon, Jung. Considering Merlic. This one’s actually a curiosity: at the current moment, there’s nobody that scores insanely high on who I’d like to work with, but I’m generally intrigued by the “all around” aspect of the professors I’m interested in. Although recently, Garg’s work has been a little more methodology-y, I’m curious about future total synthetic prospects. With respect to Kwon, her syntheses aren’t exactly as hard-core as I’d like, and like Garg, recent looks slightly more methods focused, but the prospect for legit synthetic work is there, alongside diversity oriented work. Jung and Merlic round out the lot for some (in my opinion) “standard” total synthesis and methodology, respectively.
- UC Irvine – Rychnovsky, Vanderwal, Overman. Considering Jarvo. So… if you’re beginning to see the thought process here: Rychnovsky and Vanderwal for synthesis, Jarvo for methods. Overman’s a possibility, but he’s on the older side of professors I’m looking at, and I don’t know how much longer he intends on staying in the game.
- Colorado State – Wood, Ferreira. Considering Rovis. Wood and Ferreira are doing stuff synthetically interesting, but don’t really offer much of a look into the biology of anything. Rovis for methods. Bonus points: I got the opportunity to see Wood give a presentation, and I liked his research and how he appears as a mentor. Minus points: CSU scores lowest on my NMR scale of grad school interest. (access to 300/400/500, but regular walkup use seems pretty much relegated to the 300)
- UT Austin – Martin, Magnus, Siegel. Considering Krische. Martin and Siegel for synthesis (especially interested in Siegel’s work. He seems to strike the exact balance I’m looking for), Krische for methods. Like Overman, Magnus is also one of the older prof’s I’m lookin to work for, but I like his work more.
- UNC – Crimmins, Johnson, Nicewicz. Considering Alexanian. I like the list of synthetic guys here, but there’s not a lot of options for looking at biology of anything. Regardless, whereas most other schools have only 2 professors I’m really into, I’d like to work with any of the three here. Plus, backup plan of Alexanian if I should defect to methods…
- U. Pitt. – Wipf, Curran, Koide. Originally, I had not really considered it until a professor I’m getting a rec from suggested I check it out. I’ve since taken quite a shine to U Pitt. Wipf and Koide are in the right vein of synthesis, and Curran looks like he does a fairly decent mix of synthesis and biologically relevant stuff (although, I’d like a bit more biological breadth than just tagging everything with fluorines) In the Northeast “bracket,” I think Yale edges out Pitt a little bit when it comes to chemistry, but when it comes to living somewhere that’s not New Haven, Pittsburgh wins, hands down.
Most likely, I’ll have two or three templates for my personal statements. Something along the lines of:
- blah blah blah I want to do organic synthesis. Specifically, I’m interested in the work of professors so-and-so, et al. Let me in.
- blah blah blah I want to do organic synthesis. Specifically, I’m interested in the work of professors so-and-so, et al. Additionally, I’m interested in biological studies and optimization of biological activity, alongside heavy synthetic work. I believe that professor whats-his-face offers the best opportunity towards this kind of research. Let me in.
- I’ll bake you cookies. Please let me in.
Now then… if you happen to have any comments on this list, please let me know. If you think I’m on the right track, or think I’ve forgotten a professor at one of these universities, I’d be glad to hear it.
If you have any scathing comments toward certain professors, I’d certainly like to hear them too, so I can get as comprehensive a view as possible. However, at the least, be diplomatic if you’re going to leave a comment, or if you want to be extra hateful, just email it to me.
If you also think I should look into XYZ university that was not listed here… well, I’ve probably already looked at it/ruled it out. Most commonly, there would be 1 professor I’d like to work with, and a bunch of “back up” professors that I wasn’t too interested, or in rare cases, maybe 2 professors I’d like to work with, but zero “backup” options I’d really want to/consider doing. The master list is an attempt to optimize the amount of professors I’d truly like to work for, as well as the amount of “back up” options that I wouldn’t mind working for.
 Not that I’m exactly looking to do the assays on anything… I’m no biochemist. However, having the option of working with collaborators (in-house, or external) where I can make stuff, and they can test it would be the dopest. (dope-est? most dope? whatever, it’d be cool.) That’s the system I used on the previous project I was working on, and it was a pretty sweet deal.