Rising Star Africa Prize Lecture: Dr Wade F Petersen

06 February 2024 18:30 - 19:30 The Royal Society Free Watch online

Join us for the Royal Society Rising Star Africa Prize Lecture given by 2023 winner Dr Wade F Petersen.

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.

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.

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.

Attending the event

  • The event is free to join and there is no registration required.
  • Live subtitles will be available in-person and virtually.

Attending in person

Attending live online

  • The lecture will also be livestreamed here and on the Royal Society YouTube channel.
  • You can take part in the live Q&A (details to follow).
  • This event will be recorded (including the live Q&A) and the recording will be available on YouTube soon after the event.

For all enquiries, please contact awards@royalsociety.org.