DOI: 10.1002/chem.201405575


The European Young Chemist Award 2014 Bruno Pignataro*[a]

Continuing the tradition started in Budapest, and further established in Torino, Nrnberg, and Prague, the European Young Chemist Award (EYCA) took place for the fifth time in Istanbul as an integral part of the 5th European Chemical and Molecular Science (EuCheMS) Chemistry Congress. The Italian Chemical Society (SCI) and the Italian Consiglio Nazionale dei Chimici (CNC) again sponsored the initiative which, as perviously, took place under the patronage of EuCheMS, the EuCheMS Chemistry Congress, and the European Young Chemistry Network (EYCN). This year I chaired the EYCA with an Advisory Board comprising Frderique Backaert (EYCN), Camille Oger (EYCN), Michele Pavone (SCI), Santiago Gmez Ruiz (EYCN), Maria-Cristina Todasca (EYCN), Sergio Facchetti (CNC), and with Camillo Sartorio (University of Palermo) for the General Organization. The aim of the EYCA is to showcase and recognize the excellent research being carried out by young scientists currently working in the chemical sciences. According to Sergio Facchetti “CNC supports the awarding of young chemists not only to facilitate the improvement of their preparation with positive implications for the career, but also for a more thorough knowledge of chemistry that will bring unexpected benefits to the entire society which can then have better living conditions and a more secure environment”. As now part of the established EYCA tradition, two levels of competitors were considered: one at 35 years old level and the other at PhD level. Again based on the evaluation of the Symposia Chairs from the 5th EuCheMS Chemistry Congress and/or recognized scientific experts, a group of finalists was selected and invited to deliver a talk at the European Young Chemists Award Competition Session during the Congress in front of the audience and a jury. This jury selected the award winners according to excellence in chemistry and related fields, originality, and independent contribution, thoroughness and a depth of understanding of the research area, and the awareness of the future perspectives of their research. This year the jury was composed of Luisa De Cola (University of Strasbourg), Maurizio Prato (University of Trieste), and Barry M. Trost (Stanford University). For each of the two levels of competitors one Gold and two Silver Medals were presented at the special Award Ceremony during the Closing Ceremony of the Congress. The winners (see below) received a certificate and a cash prize, with the whole budget for the EYCA being about 6000 Euro.

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As in previous years, the EYCA had a good number of applications coming from all over the world. The already long list of countries from which applicants have applied to participate in the EYCA was supplemented this time, for example, by Algeria (for information on former EYCA events see references [1–5]). Overall we received about 50 applications with about 20 of those being PhD. Interestingly, we have had applications also from a Bachelor (born 1993 and already having a patent!) and two 16-year-old teenagers (who presented a research abstract at the Congress in Istanbul). About one third of the competitors were female. A characteristic, which was common to many of the candidates and had already been noted in the previous EYCA events, is that many participants had experience of working in several countries and several different laboratories. The scientific standing of the candidates was again very high. Much of their research was published in high quality journals including Nature, PNAS, Chemical Reviews, Angewandte Chemie, JACS, and Chemistry—European Journal, or the best niche journals in the fields of Organic, Inorganic, Organometallic, Physical, Analytical, Environmental, and Medicinal Chemistry. Some of the work submitted by the participants had featured on the cover pages of the different journals. Most of the competitors work at Universities or research Centers, but a few of them were in contact with industry and some were authors of patents. The candidates included group leaders with teams of several researchers and principal investigators of important research projects. Most of the finalists had already received several awards, and some were members of Editorial Boards of scientific Journals. Many, had already given invited talks at important international meetings and had served as reviewers of scientific grants. Regarding the bibliometric indices, finalists with an hindex as high as 19 and more than 1000 citations and others having more than 65 published papers in peer-reviewed international journals could be found. These are impressive figures considering that these participants were younger than 35 years old. Many of the competitors were already set up with permanent positions. Practically all the applications were accompanied by very laudatory supporting letters of the candidates by eminent scientists, which assisted in the assessment [a] B. Pignataro Dipartimento di Fisica e Chimica Universit di Palermo V.le delle Scienze ed. 17, 90128, Palermo (Italy) E-mail: [email protected]


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Editorial of the scientific quality of the EYCA candidates themselves. Examples of the types of comments accompanying the applications to the EYCA can be read in the previous editorials.[2–5] The high quality of the candidates and the limited number of places for the final session of the EYCA, however, meant that unfortunately a number of high caliber applicants were unable to give presentations despite having been very well judged in the first selection phase of the competition. The majority of the Conference Sessions were represented during the final phase of the competition: Resources and Environment dealing with environmental contaminants of emerging concern; Materials concerning properties, structure and synthesis of materials under extreme conditions, nanochemistry, functional materials, energy materials, soft solids and polymers; Synthesis and Catalysis mainly relating to new horizons in catalysis, advances in inorganic synthesis, advances in organic synthesis; Chemistry for and in Life Sciences dealing with advances in the chemistry of biomacromolecules, chemical biology, and drug discovery. There were a few applications also from other Sessions but these contributions did not pass the first selection phase. The impressive breadth of chemistry represented was comparable to that of previous EYCA years [see previous Books in references [6–12]]. Both fundamental and applied features were treated with a lot of innovative ideas and paradigms. Many of the candidates had developed good collaborations with other authors. In the final of the Award, we had 11 candidates for the 35 years old category and 8 candidates for the PhD level Figure 1. In the following I will try to briefly summarize the main topics presented by the finalists. Regarding the area of Resources and Environment—environmental contaminants of emerging concern, Marjata Cˇesen presented work entitled “The Occurrence and Removal of Cytostatic Cyclophosphamide and Ifosfamide in Wastewaters”. To evaluate the impact that these molecular systems have on ecosystems, the authors quantified cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide in hospital wastewaters; both drugs are routinely administered to treat various types of cancers. The presented results also indicated the potential of using UV/ozone/H2O2 for removing both compounds from wastewaters. The contribution by Eduard Matito pertained to the Properties, Structure and Synthesis of Materials Symposium and dealt with the characterization and identification of electrides, which are intriguing chemical species with an electron not formally assigned to any atom and therefore with peculiar physicochemical properties. By using the quantum theory of atoms in molecules and the electron localization function, the authors uncovered important details of the electronic structure of these systems, a few of which have since now been synthesized, thus helping to design new electrides with enhanced properties. Marc Garcia-Borrs was one of the coauthors of the previous work and like Eduard Matito comes from Girona University. Following his main research interest centered on the theoretical study of the structure and exohedral reactivity of (endohedral metallo-)fullerenes and related compounds, he presented Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 16405 – 16410

Figure 1. Finalists competition session program.


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Editorial work entitled “The Key Role of Aromaticity in Determining the Molecular Structure and Reactivity of (Endohedral Metallo)Fullerenes”. David Portehault, a Key Note speaker at the Istanbul EuCheMS Congress, presented work from the nanochemistry area in which the aim is to bridge the gap between soft chemistry and solid-state chemistry. In particular, according to the authors of the work “the presentation highlights some of the outcomes of research efforts conducted over a few years, aimed at the design of functional nanomaterials with innovative elemental compositions, some of them being considered as ”exotic“ to chemist”. The design, synthesis, characterization, and material properties of ruthenium polypyridyl complexes and giant molybdenum oxide clusters was the focus of the talk given by Amrita Ghosh. These functional materials offer diverse applications in the fields of anion sensors, nanoscale materials formation, water oxidation catalysts and interaction with DNA. In contrast Tom Hasell presented work on porous organic cages. This featured the strategy of the synthesis of these materials, which are soluble molecules that contain an internal void and windows that allow guest inclusion. It was shown that directed assembly of porous crystal systems can control their properties and in particular the sorption behavior for applications in gas storage and separation. In the last contribution from the materials area, Sleyman Er reported on the high-throughput computational discovery of small molecules for flow batteries. Here, the speaker introduced their computational approach for finding new organic molecules for flow batteries. In particular they gave details of some of the important structure–property relationships of the studied molecules, and showed the importance of theoretically predicted key materials properties for the design and engineering of new molecules. Particular attention in the work was paid to new quinone-based compounds. The synthesis of poly(phosphoester)s (PPEs) with tunable hydrophilicity and interesting adhesion properties formed the basis of the talk given by Frederik Wurm. The presented research illustrated that modern needs in materials science and bioapplications are manifold in the sense that both hydrophobic matrices for tissue engineering as well as water-soluble protein therapeutics are needed. According to the author, the incorporation of phosphates within the polymer backbone is a unique handle to tune the materials properties both along the main chain but also at the side chains via the pendant phosphoester from very hydrophobic to highly water-soluble poly(phosphoester)s. Thus PPEs are a material that combines synthetic chemistry with biomedical and materials science needs for the future. Zoel Codol’s work focused on iron-catalysed water oxidation and in particular on its mechanism and intermediates. According to the authors water oxidation catalysis constitutes the bottleneck for the development of energy conversion schemes based on sunlight. At this stage of the chemical research, the catalysis based on abundant and benign materials such as manganese, cobalt, copper and iron has to be better understood at the molecular level. The importance of the conChem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 16405 – 16410

tribution was based on the fact that the elucidation of the active species and the O O bond formation mechanism mediated by these metals is the key for the rational catalyst design. In another contribution dedicated to the catalysis area, Marc Font showed that an unprecedented two-electron AgI/AgIII catalytic cycle is operative in model C O and C C cross-coupling reactions. According to the speaker, these findings provide unique fundamental mechanistic understanding of Ag-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions and dismiss the generally accepted conception that silver redox chemistry can only arise from one-electron processes. Organometallic chemistry and in particular the chemistry of silicon derivatives was the basis of Shigeyoshi Inoue’s contribution in the area of synthesis. Following the research line of his previous studies, the author reported a convenient synthetic strategy to access silyliumylidene cations and gave some examples of its interesting reactivity. Another study in the catalysis area concerning the selective rhodium-catalyzed reduction of tertiary amides in amino acid esters and peptides was presented by Shoubhik Das. The author believes that by combining the advantages of automated peptide synthesis with such selective reductions, a multitude of novel peptide derivatives for chemical biology studies as well as potential pharmaceutical applications will be available. A novel procedure, presented at the award session by Gregor Kiefer, was proposed for the oxidative homo- and cross-coupling of Grignard reagents in which nitrous oxide serves as an oxidant. The interest in these reactions with respect to those involving alternative oxidants such as dioxigen stems from the fact that oxidation reactions with N2O are environmentally friendly, since an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas is destroyed and dinitrogen is released. Anna M. Rydzik presented work on the development of binding and activity assays using fluorinated molecules. The work, which was performed in C.J. Schofield’s Lab, reported on interesting methodologies for the observation of enzymatic activity based on fluorine-containing molecules. Another talk by Christoph Loenarz also presented work coming from the same laboratory and this time dealing with the chemical biology of prolyl di-hydroxylases. According to the speaker, the reported findings “suggest novel approaches for the treatment of genetic diseases linked to nonsense mutations, and is of commercial value: > 1800 separate human


Table 1. Winners at the 35 years old level. EYCA 2014 35 Years


Gold Medal 1800 Euro

Frederik Wurm Polyphosphates and More Max Plank Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz (Germany) GonÅalo Bernardes Drug Conjugates for University of Cambridge (UK) Targeted Cancer Therapy

Silver Medal (ex equo) 800 Euro Silver Medal (ex equo) 800 Euro

Research Field

Tom Hasell University of Liverpool (UK)

Porous Organic Cages

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Editorial Table 2. Winners at the PhD level.[a] EYCA 2014 PhD Level


Gold Medal Zoel Codol 800 Euro University of Girona (Spain) Silver Medal Jonathan O. Bauer (ex equo) Technical University of 600 Euros Dortmund (Germany) Silver Medal Anna Maria Rydzik (ex equo) University of Oxford (UK) 600 Euro

Research Field Fe Catalysts for Water Oxidation Alkyllithium Adducts with Stereochemically Pure Aminomethoxysilanes Development and Activity of Fluorinated Molecules

[a] Note that a special mention was given to Gregor Kiefer from the jury.

medical disorders are thought to be due to premature termination, including cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and beta-

Figure 2. The winners at 35 years old level: from left to right Frederick Wurm, Tom Hasell, GonÅalo J. L. Bernardes.

thalassaemia. In addition, many sporadic colorectal cancers feature premature stop codon mutations”.

Figure 3. A picture at the finalists competition session. Left to right : E. Matito, G. J. L. Bernardes, F. Wurm, I. Rivalta, B. Pignataro, S. Inoue, D. Cole-Hamilton (EuCheMS President Elect), T. Hasell, D. Portehault, S. Das, G. Kiefer, A. Ghosh, L. De Cola, M. Prato, B. M. Trost, R. Riccio (SCI President).

Figure 4. The finalists at PhD level with the session chairman. Left to right A. M. Rydzik, M. Cˇesen, M. Borras, Z. Codol, G. Kiefer, J. O. Bauer, F. Backaert (session chairman), M. Font, W. Kellett. Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 16405 – 16410 16408  2014 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim


Figure 6. The jury with the EuCheMS President Elect: left to right D. ColeHamilton, L. De Cola, M. Prato, B. M. Trost. Figure 5. The winners at PhD level: Left to right: Zoel Codol, Anna M. Rydzik, Jonathan O. Bauer.

A further contribution from the chemical biology and drug discovery Symposium of the EuCheMS Conference was given by GonÅalo J. L. Bernardes. The presented work focused on the targeted delivery of effector molecules into diseased tissues, which is becoming more and more a promising strategy for their treatment. In particular, the work explored the interplay between therapeutic effector molecules (e.g. cytotoxics, proinflammatory cytokines or radionuclides), targeting ligands (linked to these effectors), and site-selective protein conjugation chemistry to create safer, more selective and efficient cancer therapeutics.

Ivan Rivalta’s talk entitled “Tracking Structure, Dynamics and Reactivity of Biological Systems by Ultrafast Two-Dimensional Electronic Spectroscopy” illustrated that that two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy (2DES) is not only very useful in physical chemistry, energy sciences and biophysics but that it will possibly be a novel diagnostic tool complementary to well-established multidimensional techniques like NMR. He presented a computational tool that can be routinely applied to accurately simulate 2DES spectra of multichromophoric systems. Evidence for a multi-site catalytic mechanism in the metalloenzyme oxalate decarboxylase were given in a contribution coming from Purdue University. The objective of this research presented by Whitney Kellett was to provide sufficient evi-

Figure 7. A picture at the EYCA Award Ceremony during the Closing Ceremony of the Congress: left to right L. De Cola, H. Grennberg, Z. Codol, A. M. Rydzik, F. Wurm, J. O. Bauer, T. Hasell, F. Backaert, S. Facchetti, R. Riccio, D. Cole-Hamilton, B. Pignataro. Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 16405 – 16410


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Editorial dence to form a comprehensive catalytic mechanism for the enzyme oxalate decarboxylase (OxDc), and to further describe the two manganese sites (N- and C-terminal). According to the authors “the results indicate that OxDc employs local and long-range control mechanisms of both manganese species (N- and C-terminal) as a function of oligomerization, to mediate high-energy chemical reactions by control of highly reactive radical intermediates”. The presentation by Jonathan O. Bauer dealt with reaction mechanisms involving silicon-stereogenic nitrogen-oxygenfunctionalized organosilanes containing R2N-Si-OMe structural motifs. The work focused on stereochemically pure N,O-functionalized silanes that form low molecular adducts comprising a silicon-based N,O-ligand and an alkyllithium compound. In Table 1 and 2 the winners at the 35 years and the PhD levels, respectively, are reported together with their research field. Some pictures taken during the finalists competition session of EYCA 2014 and the EYCA2014 Award Ceremony are given in Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5, Figure 6, and Figure 7. In conclusion, it was again clearly evident that the EYCA, provided a great platform for young chemists to present their excellent work and show their considerable talent. It is also clear that the future of chemistry in the broadest sense is in good hands. I cannot finish this editorial without warmly acknowledging the SCI and its President R. Riccio, as well as the CNC and its

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President A. Zingales for sponsoring the EYCA; the EYCN, EuCheMS (notably Nineta Majcen and Bruno Vilela), and the 5th EuCheMS Chemistry Congress for their patronage of the event; all the Advisory Board members of the Award; all the Symposia Chairs and experts involved in the first phase of the selection process; the members of the jury for their availability; F. De Angelis and S. Facchetti for helping and encouragement; all my co-workers and especially Camillo Sartorio for the continuous help. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

[7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]


B. Pignataro, La Chimica e l’Industria 2006, 9, 32 – 35. B. Pignataro, Chem. Eur. J. 2008, 14, 11252 – 11256. B. Pignataro, Chem. Eur. J. 2010, 16, 13888 – 13893. B. Pignataro, Chem. Eur. J. 2012, 18, 14881 – 14886. B. Pignataro, Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 10532 – 10537. Tomorrow’s Chemistry Today: Concepts in Nanoscience, Organic Materials and Environmental Chemistry, (Ed.: B. Pignataro), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2009. Ideas in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences. Advances in Synthetic Chemistry, (Ed.: B. Pignataro), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2010. Ideas in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences. Where Chemistry Meets Life, (Ed.: B. Pignataro), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2010. Ideas in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences: Advances in Nanotechnology, Materials and Devices, (Ed.: B. Pignataro), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2010. Molecules at Work: Self-assembly, Nanomaterials and Molecular Machinery, (Ed.: B. Pignataro), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2012. New Strategies for Chemical Synthesis and Catalysis, (Ed.: B. Pignataro), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2012. Discovering the Future of Molecular Sciences, (Ed.: B. Pignataro), WileyVCH, Weinheim, 2014.

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The European Young Chemist Award 2014.

The future's bright! The European Young Chemist Award for 2014 was awarded at the 5th EuCheMS Chemistry Congress in Instanbul. Impressions and reflect...
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