"We are changing the field by working together," says Davies, who holds weekly video-conferencing sessions that unite the center's far-flung members. "We're pulling together the range of expertise needed to go beyond our individual research programs and develop broad applications of C-H functionalization."
Graduate students serve as liaisons, bridging labs and specialties. Felicia Fullilove, a PhD candidate in the Davies lab, is collaborating with a chemical engineer at the Scripps Research Institute, where she will spend some time this fall.
"It's great experience to venture outside of our group and bounce ideas off of someone with a different perspective," Fullilove says. "It's changed the way I think about chemistry. Most big science problems now require more of a team effort, so it's important to learn how to communicate across specialties."
Fullilove especially appreciated the chance to travel with a CCHF team to Washington DC, to help make the case for the $20 million grant to move the center into its second phase. "We had to make presentations and answer some tough questions before a panel," she says. "I learned a lot by seeing the inner workings of the grant process."
The CCHF is now poised to help C-H functionalization enter the mainstream of organic chemistry, Davies says. "We will keep building on the synergy and trust we've created," Davies says. "Collaboration will help us to make advances faster."
Many hurdles remain, he adds, before C-H functionalization can be fully optimized for broad applications. "Our goal is to make available a suite of chemical transformations for bond formation that are predictable, general and utilitarian," Davies says. "It's going to be an incredibly difficult thing to achieve completely, but even if we partially achieve it, that will be a huge advance for chemistry and for society. Today, more than ever, new products
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