Highlights from Dalton 2014


As you know, this week I attended the Royal Society of Chemistry‘s Dalton 2014 conference held at the University of Warwick. It was three days of key note lectures, shorter presentations from young researchers, a poster session and lots of food and drink. Overall, it was a great experience – the science was not only interesting but relevant and novel, and Warwick looked after us very well. The the Dalton Division’s new president, Professor David Cole-Hamilton, welcomed us all very warmly, and his enthusiasm for the conference and the division came across immediately.

The key note lectures over the 3 days covered all of the 4 sections which had come together for the conference – coordination chemistry and organometallics, main group chemistry, inorganic reaction mechanisms and bioinorganic chemistry. This gave every delegate the chance to experience something outside their immediate area of interest.

Highlighted Speakers:

Richard Layfield – University of Manchester – Reactive Metal-Carbon Bonds in Three-Coordinate Iron NHC Complexes – Winner of the Sir Edward Frankland Fellowship


If you haven’t heard of NHCs, or N-heterocyclic carbenes, where have you been for the last few years? They’ve been coming up in all areas of inorganic chemistry, and have been used to stabilise all manner of interesting and reactive compounds. Dr Richard Layfield has been working on three-coordinate iron complexes featuring bulky NHC ligands which have been proving to have interesting structures and reactivity. I heard Richard give a talk a year ago at the Coordination Chemistry Discussion Group Meeting last July at Imperial College London, and he is still a great speaker, who conveys real enthusiasm for his work. I suggest anyone interested in this area takes a look at his research webpage for for information.

Rebecca Melen – University of Toronto – Activation of Alkynes with B(C6F5)3: Intramolecular Cyclisation Reactions and Rearrangements – Winner of the Dalton Young Researcher Award


Rebecca is another researcher I’ve heard speak before, and here she was explaining her work which led to her receiving the Dalton Young Researcher award. Being a main group chemist myself, I take a great deal of personal interest in Rebecca’s work, particularly in the area of frustrated Lewis pairs. I was impressed by the remarkable volume of work she has carried out, and found her to be an engaging and interesting speaker. She explained her research into various main group-catalysed processes, which proved to be very efficient, and could lead to the replacement of transition metal catalysts in some reactions. Having already amassed a number of publications and having received a string of awards through her academic life, Rebecca is definitely a young researcher to keep an eye on!

Kit Cummins – MIT – Group 15 Element Triple Bonds and Reactive Intermediates


This was one of the highlights for me! Professor Christopher Cummins is an excellent speaker, and his research group at MIT carry out some very interesting work utilising low-coordinate transition metal compounds to activate various important small molecules, such as N2, and to provide accessible routes to new small molecules, such as the P2 and PN. I myself remember during my undergraduate studies learning about his molybdenum-amido compound which was able to split dinitrogen, which was a remarkable discovery. Kit has continued this work into the activation of heavier group 15 molecules, with very interesting results so far. His work was fascinating, and he was an excellent speaker, providing a great deal of knowledge and detail to support his discoveries. If you’re interested in low-coordinate coordination compounds and their reactivity, I strongly suggest looking into his work. You can find his webpage here.


Other than the key note lectures, there was a plethora of shorter presentations given by PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. These were split into four parallel sessions each day, for each of the 4 interest groups which were attending. I admit I mostly went to the Main Group presentations, which proved to be interesting, engaging and to contain very high-quality science. For such a small interest group, there’s a great deal of variety and good work coming out of it, and I found myself furiously scribbling down notes throughout.

I particularly enjoyed Dr Ewan Clark, from the University of Manchester, talking about his work on frustrated Lewis Pairs, Owen Metters, from the University of Bristol, talking about the use of amine-boronium cations to synthesise polyaminoboranes, Dr Benjamin Day, from the University of Manchester, talking about the selective functionalisation of pentadienylsilanes, Rebecca Musgrave, from the University of Bristol, talking about silicon-bridges ferrocenophanes and Dr Sophia Solomon, from the University of Cambridge, talking about mesityl-phosphonium salts. However, all of the presentations were very good, and I was very pleased with the standard of talks throughout the conference.

On the first evening there was a poster session consisting of over 150 excellent posters, which gathered considerable interest from students and academics alike. I myself presented a poster on radical BODIPY anions and other main group analogues, which I thought was a bit of a different area that hadn’t been talked about elsewhere at the conference. The session was great for allowing researchers to network and learn about what other work was being carried out within the Dalton Division. Hopefully, this will pave the way for new collaborations and the sharing of information for the benefit of the progression of this area of chemistry. The posters were mostly of a very high quality, and it was encouraging to see so many PhD students getting both their names and research known in the inorganic chemistry community.


Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Dalton 2014, and I am greatly looking forward to the next one in two years!


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