Maryam Rahimi, master student at the Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry visited the group of Prof. Deryn Fogg at the University of Ottawa for a collaboration project. Below is her report on catalysts for ring-closing metathesis reactions and a city resembling a painting.
In September 2015 I started my pre-master at University of Amsterdam after finishing my Bachelor degree of Applied sciences. As soon as I started my master I always thought about doing my master internship outside the Netherlands. I had completed two of my Bachelor internships in Amsterdam at Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA), which had properly prepared me for an international research experience.
In the group of Homogeneous, Supramolecular and Bio-inspired Catalysis at the Van’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Science (HIMS) I was able to find a project for my internship. It concerned a collaboration between Prof. Joost Reek of HIMS and Prof. Deryn Foggs of the University of Ottawa. The project was about encapsulation of ruthenium metathesis catalysts to prevent dimerization and oligomerization in the ring-closing metathesis reaction. This is a reaction that allows the synthesis of small, medium and large macrocyclic alkenes that could be used for the synthesis of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
After working at the Reek group for three months and having promising encapsulation results I moved to Ottawa. There I used the knowledge of the Fogg group to perform catalysis with a variety of substrates. In the months that I worked in Fogg's group, I learned a lot about ruthenium metathesis catalysts. In our weekly meetings, we discussed our projects and came up with new ideas. For Thanksgiving all the group members were invited at the professor’s house. For me this was a new experience since this did not happen in the large group in Amsterdam, with some 30-35 PhD's and a few master and bachelor students.
The day I arrived in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada was experiencing the warmest day in September and it looked like a painting: fallen leaves had all different kinds of color, from deep red to orange yellow. The people in Ottawa were friendly and open and I was able to find a few Canadian friends with whom I got to spend my weekends and Christmas Holidays. One of the unforgettable moments in Ottawa was the night that I went to the restaurant in Parliament Hill that is not accessible for everyone in Canada. After the dinner we were able to walk freely in the Parliament Hill and admire the gothic revival style of the building, which had elements from Britain, France and Italy.
The life in Ottawa taught me how to be more independent and to work and live along new people and colleagues who have different perspective about life and research. I learned how to be more open to new people that I will meet in my life. The nice memories of Ottawa make me want to advise other students to come out of their comfort zone, do their project abroad, and experience other cultures and research and live in a new environment.