Supporting specialist training through the Reaxys Prize Club

I am really grateful to the Reaxys Prize Club for the support and would highly recommend anyone interested in electrochemistry to apply for next year’s CVIS.

Dr. Alexander (Sandy) Kilpatrick

Hi, I’m Sandy Kilpatrick, a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow working in the group of Prof. Christian Limberg at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

I was lucky to receive a travel grant from of the Reaxys Prize Club to attend the Cyclic Voltammetry International School (CVIS) for a week in April 2019. The CVIS is a five-day training course covering the theoretical and practical aspects of molecular electrochemistry organised by Dr Cédric Tard and academics at the Laboratoire d’Electrochimie Moléculaire in Paris Diderot University.

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It was a fantastic opportunity to be part of the 2019 school, to gain new skills and learn alongside early-career researchers and academics from North America, Asia and the Middle East. Surprisingly, I was the only Europe-based scholar (other than our French hosts), reflecting the truly global reputation of the school.

Sandy-K-Blog-Header | Elsevier

Workshop overview

The morning sessions were comprised of lectures covering the theoretical aspects of cyclic voltammetry (CV) and its application in electrocatalysis and bioinorganic electrochemistry, with a focus on reaction mechanisms. It was a real pleasure to be taught by Prof. Jean-Michel Savéant, who gave an inspiring introductory lecture on the fundamentals of CV - peppered with anecdotes from his 60 years as a pioneer of the technique. The 4-hour morning sessions were very intense, and all the maths and technical discussions made for hungry work. Lunch was served in the stylish university restaurant, with all the gourmet delights one would expect in France. Savéant was also the star of the show at lunch, engaging the table with conversations ranging from French revolutionary history to global politics and Netflix recommendations.

The afternoon sessions focussed on the practical aspects of CV, and directly corresponded to the morning’s topic. The experiments provided a much-needed confidence boost for my own lab work, and it was great fun working in a pair with Dr James Blakemore from the University of Kansas. The practical sessions led to informal discussions with the course leaders and between scholars about CV methods in the laboratory and opened-up to broader discussions towards our own research questions. We then went through the data analysis as a group to extract thermodynamic and kinetic parameters and draw conclusions about the reaction mechanism.

I particularly enjoyed the practical session ran by Dr. Cyrille Costentin on catalytic systems, in which we studied electrochemical reduction of CO2 with an Fe0 porphyrin catalyst. In my current project I am developing bimetallic nickel complexes for small molecule activation, so I learned the relevant techniques to study these complexes as potential electrocatalysts. For this project I have also found the Reaxys ‘Synthesis Planner’ an invaluable tool as for planning multi-step syntheses of macrocyclic ligands that can coordinate two metal centres.

The evenings in CVIS were left as free time and I was keen to make the most of the Spring heatwave in Paris, so met up with the other scholars for dinner, drinks and walks around the 13th arrondissement soaking up the atmosphere.

I came back to Berlin highly motivated and with a head full of ideas for new CV experiments ‒  I am now employing these in my search for new nickel-based electrocatalysts. I am really grateful to the Reaxys Prize Club for the support and would highly recommend anyone interested in electrochemistry to apply for next year’s CVIS!