Reactions: Clemens Richert

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Clemens Richert is in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart, and works on functional nucleic acids. His group’s homepage can be found at

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

The desire to get an education in a fundamental field of science that fascinates me. I was more drawn to chemistry than physics, probably because I liked synthesis better than mathematical approaches.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I like to build things, both on a molecular level and on a macroscopic level. I enjoy working with my group and do not actively think about other options, but I can well imagine being an entrepreneur in the (bio)tech area, making novel devices. For example, we are thinking about using the organic waste that a household produces and harvest enough energy-rich compounds from it to make the household independent of fossil fuels. If I was more patient, I would also like to teach autogenic training as a technique to overcome stress-related diseases.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

My lab focuses on synthesis and molecular recognition. We have projects on enzyme-free replication, high fidelity diagnostics, and nanostructured materials. I hope we will find new ways to induce energy-rich organic compounds to drive spontaneous molecular evolution, and to develop devices that are based on molecular recognition and that include molecular machines. I also would like to be able to find highly specific ligands for biomacromolecules within days rather than years.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

Linus Pauling or Richard Feynman. I have so many questions I would like to ask either of them.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

I like to be in the lab and perform experiments. There is immense satisfaction in being able to synthesize a new compound with the desired properties in high yield. I go to the lab daily, but the last time I did a serious study with my own two hands was seven years ago. I measured the reactivity of active esters, using a mass spec-based approach (Synlett 2005, 411-416).

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

The book would be Ernest Hemingway: The old man and the sea. The album would be Dire Straits: Making Movies. I would prefer to take my guitar, though.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

Peter Gölitz, editor of Angewandte Chemie. I wonder how he manages to deal with thousands of manuscripts per year and still remain an approachable human being.

Anne Pichon

Senior Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature

Anne received a broad training in chemistry at the National Graduate School of Chemistry in Montpellier, France. She then focused on inorganic and supramolecular chemistry and obtained her MPhil and PhD degrees from the Queen's University Belfast, UK, investigating porous coordination polymers for host–guest applications. After an internship with Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Anne moved to John Wiley and Sons in 2007 as an assistant editor of the Society of Chemical Industry journals. She joined Nature Chemistry in October 2008, and was initially based in Tokyo where she also worked on other publishing projects with Nature Asia-Pacific. In April 2013, Anne relocated to the London office and now works full time on the journal.