The Royal Society
Tue 6 Feb 2024
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Rising Star Africa Prize Lecture image

The Royal Society Rising Star Africa Prize 2023 is awarded to Dr Wade Petersen for his research into new methods for the construction of molecules relevant to drug discovery using visible light as a source of energy.

Small Molecule Synthesis in an Energy Deprived World: Experiences from ‘Loadshedding’ (Blackout) South Africa.

Chemists have provided the world with an abundance of enabling synthesis methods for the construction of molecules significant to human life; specifically crucial medicines. Many of these methods utilise rare and expensive metals and/or require significant heating processes. In a world of rapidly declining resource, both in terms of energy and materials, a very sobering question emerges:

‘How will we make critical medicines if some resources are no longer available — say in the middle of a blackout?’

In this talk, Dr Petersen will share some of his experiences working under such conditions in Africa, as well as describe his research endeavours toward achieving sustainable and energy efficient syntheses of therapeutically relevant small molecules: mimicking photosynthesis and using light energy in pursuit of chemical synthesis perfection.

Dr Wade F Petersen was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He obtained his PhD degree in organic chemistry at the University of Cape Town (2015), under the supervision of Professor Roger Hunter. Following postdoctoral fellowships with Professor Kelly Chibale (H3D, Cape Town, 2015), and Professor Richard Taylor (University of York, 2016–2017), he returned to Cape Town to commence his independent academic career. He was a recipient of the inaugural Royal Society FLAIR (Future Leaders – African Independent Research) Fellowship (2019) and received an NRF (Nation Research Foundation, South Africa) Research Excellence Award for Emerging Researchers in 2022. Dr Petersen’s research interests lie in the field of sustainable synthetic chemistry, with a focus in developing photocatalytic methods for the synthesis of biologically important nitrogen heterocycles.
The Royal Society Rising Star Africa Prize is to recognise early-career research scientists based in Africa who are making an innovative contribution to the physical, mathematical and engineering sciences. The prize was established in memory of Paul O’Brien FRS and his work encouraging excellence in science and education in Africa. Winners will receive a grant of £14,000 to support their research and a personal gift of £1,000