Peter Vollhardt: In Pursuit of a Parking Space

Peter Vollhardt: In Pursuit of a Parking Space

Author: ChemViews

Peter Vollhardt, University of California at Berkeley, USA, was recently interviewed for an Author Profile in Angewandte Chemie. With statements like, his work is significant because it keeps him off the streets and the inclusion of the pursuit of a parking space among his hobbies, we particularly enjoyed his answers. Therefore, ChemViews presents some of the other highlights.

Peter Vollhardt on …

… advice …

The best advice I have ever been given is do your best science and ignore the rest, so that when you get fired, you can get another job (Bob Bergman, on my arrival at Berkeley in 1974) …

… exciting chemistry …

I get excited about high-energy molecules that encounter unusual reagents and conditions to elicit unprecedented behavior, and then about elucidating in great (some of my co-workers would say excruciating) detail the pathways that describe such behavior.

… how research has changed …

There is no doubt that the planning and execution of chemical research has been profoundly affected by advances in technology during the last roughly 40 years. I experienced this change first hand, when I tried to re-enter my own laboratories to carry out some experimental work in 1980, only three years after my last action at the bench. My group threw me out immediately, because I was a major disruption to the smooth functioning of everyday operations …

… the future of chemistry …

To quote George W. Bush: “I am no homo sapiens”, and the future is hard to predict. However, I like science fiction and, in this vein, one might reasonably well imagine the reaching of a number of current “holy grails”.

… the secret of high-quality papers …

In 1992, I crossed the 200 mark in my list of publications, an event that I proudly announced to my colleague Bob Bergman. His laconic response was: “Yeah, but how many good ones?”, whereupon I withdrew to my office to brood. I am gratified that most of my peers have found some of my papers worthwhile reading and that this journal [Angewandte Chemie] has been instrumental in publishing many of them. Of course, there is no secret. My papers are the result of discoveries made by my co-workers. My only contributions have been advice, encouragement, raising money, and entertainment …


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