A club for “the best of the best” in chemistry

The Reaxys Prize Club helps talented young chemists connect with each other throughout their careers

The Reaxys Prize Club gives members a forum for discussing chemistry and inspiring each other to greater heights of research. It has grown into a network of 300+ young chemists from around the world. (Photo by Ashley Bingham, A&M Photography, London)

While scientists in isolation can make incredible discoveries, in research as in life, it’s better with friends. Being able to discuss projects with other researchers who understand the joys and frustrations of your lab work, who have ideas that can inspire you and, above all, who share your love of science – that’s an invaluable resource. Whether they are working on the same project or doing research in completely different areas, scientists can help each other and inspire each other to greater things.

This was very much what we had in mind when we started the Reaxys Prize Club in 2010. We wanted to build a thriving community that would support talented young chemists and help them to inspire each other. The hope was that the club would become a lifelong part of its members’ careers and serve as more than just a line on their curriculum vitae.

The Reaxys Prize Club consists of all of the finalists of the Reaxys PhD Prize competition, which is now entering its eighth year and has become a very widely recognized international prize for young chemists. Every year, hundreds of submissions come in from PhD students or recent graduates from academic institutions worldwide. A committee of highly respected professors of chemistry from universities around the world reviews the submissions and chooses 45 finalists, all of whom are given membership in the Prize Club.

“They are the best of the best,” said Prof. Tony Barrett of Imperial College London. “It’s the most prestigious prize for PhD students in various areas of chemistry, so we have a stunning group of people (as finalists).”

Networking at the annual Reaxys PhD Prize Symposium. This is 2016 finalist Dr. Laura Ackerman, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and new Reaxys Prize Club member. (Photo by Ashley Bingham, A&M Photography, London)

At the annual Reaxys PhD Prize Symposium, the 45 new members of the Reaxys Prize Club have their first opportunity to meet each other as well as longer-standing members, many of whom attend annually. The symposium is a private event, open only to the membership of the Reaxys Prize Club, Review Board and Advisory Committee along with a few special guests.

It’s an exciting opportunity for the younger chemists. “You get to meet these people that are doing chemistry that you’re reading about online and in journals, and discuss the chemistry with them,” said 2016 finalist Lauren Doyle, a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary in Canada.

Beyond the annual symposium, there are several ways that the Reaxys Prize Club can have a significant impact on its members’ careers. Many of the finalists talk about the potential for networking and collaboration. “It’s a great network,” said Dr. Andrew Chapman, a finalist from 2012 who is now a researcher and lecturer Kingston University in London. “Starting out as an academic, it’s been really important to have a support network, a source of funding, and an easy connection to other academics.”

Meeting at chemistry conferences around the world is another way the members stay in touch. Aside from meeting at the annual Reaxy Prize Symposium, the members organize informal get-togethers at annual meetings of major chemistry organizations like the American Chemical Society and the Chemical Society of Japan. The Prize Club also offers support for the organization of local events related to the club.

Recognizing that the globally spread membership might have difficulty traveling to some conferences, the founders of the Reaxys Prize Club also set up travel grants. In 2016, such a grant was used to send three members to a major organometallic chemistry conference in Australia, the ICOMC. What’s more, these grants are not just for travel to conferences: members can also apply for a grant to go and visit another member to learn about the science being done in another lab.

While networking is the major benefit for Reaxys Prize Club members, there are plenty of other perks. All members get free access to the premier chemistry and bioactivity research solutions: Reaxys and Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry. There are also discounts on Elsevier chemistry books and more than 40 Elsevier conferences. The club also sponsors local lectures at members’ universities.

Ultimately, the idea behind the founding of the Reaxys Prize Club was to facilitate contact and collaboration among talented chemists, and it certainly appears to have succeeded. Like Dr. Chapman, many members report about the support they’ve received from other members. Then there are the international partnerships, like that of 2010 finalists Dr. David Michaelis of Brigham Young University and Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura of the University of Tokyo. In a recent interview with Times Higher Education, the scientists describe how much they’ve benefited from working with people from different countries and cultures, and how their partnership has given them new perspectives.

As the founders of the competition and the club prepare for the next Reaxys PhD Prize, which means another group of finalists joining the Prize Club, they are keeping collaborations like those in mind. Their goal is clear: to continue to provide a platform for talented and creative young chemists to meet, discover each other’s research, inspire each other and, above all, succeed.

The Reaxys PhD Prize

The winners of the 2016 Reaxys PhD Prize: Jiheong Kang, PhD, of the University of Tokyo; Pascal Ellerbrock, PhD, of Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich; and Jamie Hicks, PhD, of Monash University in Australia. (Photo by Ashley Bingham, A&M Photography, London)

The Reaxys PhD Prize recognizes innovative and original research in chemistry by leading young chemists worldwide, with an emphasis on synthesis. Since its inception seven years ago, the contest has received over 3,000 submissions from more than 40 countries.

The winners of the 2016 Reaxys PhD Prize were announced September 23 at the annual Symposium held in conjunction with the New Scientist Live festival in London. They are:

  • Dr. Pascal Ellerbrock of the Trauner group, Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich (now Head of Laboratory at Bayer HealthCare). Presentation title: “Biomimetic Synthesis of Dibefurin and Epicolactone”
  • Dr. Jamie Hicks of the Jones Research Group, Monash University in Australia. Presentation title: “Utilising Extremely Bulky Amide Ligands to Stabilise Highly Reactive Two-Coordinate Transition Metal Complexes bearing Mixed Metal-Metal Bonds”
  • Dr. Jiheong Kang of the Aida group, University of Tokyo. Presentation title: “Rational strategy for the realization of chain-growth supramolecular polymerization”

They each received a check for $2,000 and membership into the Reaxys Prize Club.

Read more about the Symposium here.

Are you eligible for the next Reaxys PhD Prize?

The Reaxys PhD Prize is a unique opportunity for talented PhD students in chemistry.

Are you studying for a PhD in chemistry or just graduated? Have you published cutting-edge research?

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Written by

David Evans, PhD

Written by

David Evans, PhD

Dr. David Evans, Scientific Affairs Director for RELX Intellectual Properties SA, has led Reaxys Inspiring Chemistry efforts since the program's inception in 2009. He has been with RELX Group (Elsevier's parent company) in a variety of roles for over 16 years, including journals and books publishing and software product management. He is also board member and the current Chairman of the InChI Trust, a charitable organization founded to support the development of the InChI – the international chemical identifier. David has a BSc and PhD in Chemistry from the University of Bath in the UK.


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