Rachel Whittaker is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Murray State University, and works on iron dioxygenase mimics and other iron-catalyzed transformations.
1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I entered college as a Biochemistry major with every intention of going to medical school. My sophomore year, I had the opportunity to teach as a teaching assistant and take organic chemistry. I loved both so much that I changed my plans and went to graduate school instead.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be—and why?
I would probably be a bed and breakfast owner. It just seems like the world’s best job; meeting new people and baking are both great fun.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
I’m currently working on developing selective iron dioxygenase mimics to catalytically induce aryl–aryl bond cleavage. I’m hoping it will ultimately lead to a wider range of methodologies that utilize first-row transition metal catalysts.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with—and why?
Eleanor Roosevelt. She was so interesting and led such an extraordinary life. I’d love to hear her opinion and perspective on basically everything.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab—and what was it?
Yesterday. As a new assistant professor, I spend a lot of time in the lab. I ran a simple ketone reduction.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
I would bring some sort of carpentry book; I have always been interested in learning to build things, but never had the time. Plus, it would come in handy. As for the album, I would take In Between Dreams by Jack Johnson, since it’s the beach.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions—and why?
My former colleague, Xu Tao. I’m sure his answers would be interesting and hilarious.