This week, Austin Marchese was named one of 2019’s Vanier Scholars, Canada’s most prestigious award for doctoral studies. Marchese, who is supervised by Professor Mark Lautens, is recognized for his research proposal "Novel Enantioselective Nickel-Catalyzed Transformations Forming Medicinally and Industrially Relevant Halogenated Compounds".
Tell me a little bit about the research you’re working on in the Lautens Group.
My research is focused on finding novel and unique reactivity using simple and affordable transition metal catalysts. The methodology I aim to create generates divergent compounds containing carbon-halogen bonds, which will serve as diverse synthetic building blocks for medicinal and organic synthetic chemistry alike.
What was your reaction to being named a Vanier Scholar?
I was extremely excited, and I let a few people know. I actually had to attend a group meeting immediately after finding out the news, so I had to keep my composure to go up in front of my group and try to solve a mechanistic question.
What keeps you busy outside of your research?
I genuinely enjoy working in the lab, so the majority of my time is spent doing chemistry-related activities. When I get out of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my family, friends and girlfriend, as well as anything related to sports or music. I play on the lab volleyball team which recently finished fourth in our division.
Where do you see yourself after your studies at U of T?
Ideally, I would like to continue doing research via a post-doctoral fellowship at an institution abroad. My goal is to one day lead my own research team, and I believe continuing my studies at another institution would be the best way to work towards this.
How has the Department of Chemistry helped you reach your goals?
The Chemistry department here at U of T has set up an environment that is conducive to success. My PI has set up a great group environment, where there is a balance between guidance and having the autonomy to learn and think on our own. Mark is always open to our ideas and will lead us in the right direction as we learn and grow as chemists. This mentality is passed through the group, and I was fortunate enough to have been mentored by an incredible senior student in my first year in the lab. The graduate office is also extremely helpful and understanding, and without them I honestly wouldn’t have even applied for this award. Lastly, the facilities and staff here are incredible. Coming from a smaller university, you really appreciate the accessibility of these resources, which makes it possible to do quality research here at U of T.