Reactions – Karl Gademann


Karl Gademann is a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Basel. His research interests include the synthesis and biological properties of natural products.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

There are two aspects: for one, I have always been fascinated by the power of chemical compounds, and of natural products in particular, to interfere with biological systems. For example the way how cats react to catnip in such an enthusiastic manner, all mediated by one small terpene! The other aspect that remains truly fascinating is the creative act of synthesis — of ‘making something new’ — that continues to captivate me.

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

I would have studied German literature. But my German teacher advised my to go for chemistry, as literature can be read as a pastime, whereas doing chemistry is more difficult.

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

We are interested in natural products that induce neuritogenesis and hope to learn something about their mechanism of action and this fascinating biological phenomenon in a larger context.

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

It would be interesting to have Mozart in my car, and listening and talking about the music of the last 200 years while driving fast on a German highway.

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

I studied the mechanism of action of nosocarboline, in particular whether it can inhibit heme polymerization, by an in vitro assay.

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

The bible and ‘highway to hell’ from AC/DC would be suited for being lost on a desert island.

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

It would be interesting to hear answers from prominent chemists that have left chemistry, such as Margaret Thatcher or Bernie Ecclestone.