Julian West: My Next Great Impossible

Julian West

Dr. Julian West is a chemist focused on the field of organic synthesis. He reminds us to always be on the lookout for inspiration from other people and other disciplines of research.

The synthesis of game-changing molecules of modern life – from powerful therapeutics to next-generation materials – requires ever-better chemical tools. My lab and I are deeply interested in designing new methods of transforming simple starting materials into functional molecules using unusual mechanisms and creative combinations of reagents.

“We’re really excited at the impact our methods could have…”

Our current ‘impossible’ is combining iron, cobalt and other earth-abundant elements to invent new organic reactions for radioisotope labelling and late-stage diversification of complex molecules. We’re really excited at the impact our methods could have on the design and synthesis of diagnostic and therapeutic oncology molecules.

“It is truly an honor to work with diverse young scholars…”

I’m constantly inspired by my group members to solve our Next Great Impossible. It is truly an honor to work with diverse young scholars who bring their own interests, motivations and goals, and I’m always amazed by how much we can achieve together. I’ve also been consistently surprised by how observations in other subdisciplines of chemistry, from biochemistry to physical inorganic chemistry, have been absolutely essential for my research directions (including having my work recognized by the 2016 Alfred R Bader Award!).


Q: What kind of mindset do you need to achieve the Next Great Impossible?

A: I firmly believe that tackling the greatest challenges requires an open and curious mind. EB White said it beautifully: "Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder."