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If algorithmic synthesis actually gets as good as the hype indicates it might, then chemistry is going to be a lot more about finding new families of reactions for use in algorithmic synthesis. This means that chemists will be chained to their computers like the rest of us and denied the salubrious benefits of breathing laboratory air and relying on borosilicate glass to protect them from personally participating in various reactions.

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Synthesis | Organic Synthesis | Chemical Reactions

Organic synthesis is a special part of chemical synthesis

But if the goal of organic synthesis is to synthesize a molecule, then it does reduce in that way. That’s where many people have a problem, because it feels wrong to them in the same way that brute-forcing to the end of a chess game does. So that starts a search for other goals – training chemists, discovering new reactions, and many more – some of which are good arguments and some of which aren’t. I think, though, that the listing of them comes from that initial feeling of strange wrongness that people get when they envision hitting a “start” button for a program to optimize a retrosynthesis, which then starts a hood full of robot parts to cranking out the molecule – while the chemist does what, exactly? If chess is just two computer programs banging into each other, what’s the point, and if organic synthesis reduces to a pile of algorithms and a bunch of tubing and pumps. . .?

It builds organic compounds using organic reactions

Phillip Ball has at Nature on the future of organic synthesis (and quotes a number of times from discussions on this blog). He starts off with the reasons why people go to the trouble of making molecules in the first place, looks at how that process has changed over the years (and how the reasons behind it have), and at where both of those might be going.

Multi-step Organic SynthesisConversion of existing molecules into other useful molecules

hexanes are flammable organic solvents

I am thankful of the giants (such Johnson, Woodwrod, Corey to name a few) that revitalized and forged their way in the age of where we did not have any of the sophisticated tools that we have today for synthesis, purification and characterizations. My labmates always ponder upon this as we are lazy to make couple of NMR samples and go run the NMRs to see what we have made……To me it appears that every one is failing to see the big picture, central nature, and utility of organic synthesis is because there is no funding for it and it is laborious. If tomorrow NIH and NSF announces couple of big initiatives of funding for organic synthesis, I am sure many universities would ask people such as Prof. Albert Padwas to come out of retirement and occupy the while research building………money rules everywhere……the only field that is reproducible (forget about 10% discrepancy in the yields!) and in creation of the biologically important molecules is OS. I pity those who can’t see the beauty, scinece and art of it. I am glad that I am graduating at times from synthesis group where I do not have to compete with bunch of people that have the same skill set, and mental and intellectual ability. I am going to learn other fields to ride on what I’ve already mastered which is hard for many people.

Define organic synthesis: the synthesis of organic compounds including pharmaceuticals and dyes

Designing an organic synthesis- Learn Chemistry

“When some enormous and intricate natural product becomes the next Everest, elegance is sacrificed for speed, and ingenuity for graduate-student hours, Lowe says.”
There are always a few sleep-in-the-lab professors who fall into this category, but the vast majority do not and the field should not be characterized that way. Most use complex natural product structures to test the limits of certain reactions they find interesting, realizing some required modifications to make those reactions more efficient in a particular structural environment or completely developing new reactions to solve the problem at hand. Chemists in industry then use these reactions or a particular modification without much consideration of where it was developed or why. The need for complex and challenging synthetic problems hasn’t been lost, it has been forgotten by those who take it for granted.

The study of organic chemistry exposes a student to a wide range of interrelated reactions

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Organic Synthesis - Christine L

Organic Synthesis | Electrochemical R&D | …

Comparison of synthetic chemistry with chess is only useful in parts. In the end, mixing, dosing, temperature, solvent etc can and should in parts be automated, but the result cannot be predicted reliably, unless you do the simple Amide bonds or Suzuki with trivial reactants. In chess however, the machine can calculate positions with many moves ahead and judge it reproducibly. Exactly this virtual ahead processing and judging cannot be done in chemistry on a general basis, since the outcome is beyond simple definition as required by machines (ever tried to direct a reaction to a certain product polymorph?). For this we need a huge jump in machine intelligence. I do not see this coming, yet. Current obsession with big data does not solve anything, since chemical data comes at a price and big (=high quality) chemical data comes at a big price!