Nilay Hazari is in the Department of Chemistry at Yale University and studies synthetic inorganic and organometallic chemistry, with an emphasis on reaction mechanisms and catalysis. Nilay recently published a paper in Nature Reviews Chemistry entitled ‘Well-defined nickel and palladium precatalysts for cross-coupling’.
1. What made you want to be a chemist?
As an undergraduate I was a double major in chemistry and statistics. Pursuing a career in either of these two areas would have enabled me to understand how systems work and analyze data regularly. However, chemistry allows me to interact and work with many different people on a daily basis, which I greatly enjoy.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be — and why?
A sports commentator. There are so many different sports that I love watching, playing and understanding. A job as a sports commentator would allow me to watch a large amount of high level sports live and also pass on my passion to other people.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
My group is working on developing transition metal catalysts for a range of different process relating to the synthesis of both pharmaceuticals and fine and commodity chemicals. More specifically, there are mechanistic challenges associated with nickel catalyzed cross-coupling and carboxylation reactions that I would like my group to assist the community in solving in order to design improved systems. Additionally, the incorporation of a catalyst for formic acid or methanol dehydrogenation that my group and our great friends the Bernskoetter group at the University of Missouri develop into a functioning and practical device is another long-term goal.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with — and why?
Richard Feynman, who was a great scientist who by all accounts was a lively story teller with a diverse range of interests.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab — and what was it?
Around one month ago I made a pincer supported Pd complex from the literature for an undergraduate student who I am working with. I find working in lab to be an excellent break from my normal routine, which involves spending a large amount of time in front of my computer and in meetings. I also enjoy interacting with my co-workers in the lab.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
For the book, I would choose A Catcher in The Rye by J. D Salinger, and for the album I would go with What’s the Story Morning Glory by Oasis. I was introduced to this album by my lab mates during my PhD and have numerous pleasant memories associated with it.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions — and why?
Ann Valentine, as she is an excellent role model and always has amusing and interesting anecdotes.