Field of Science

Three lessons

When you have been in graduate school for two or three years, it's a good question to ask which are the important lessons you have learnt from your time there. These are not the "lessons of life" I am talking about- they are perhaps even more important- but technical lessons which spring to your mind. In my case, three lessons strikingly come to my mind. All of them are related to work that our group has done, but also to other people's work and general thought. All of them deal with material published in the literature that is unfortunately "fiction", and articles in journals don't seem to acknowledge this fact. Here they are:

1. Oxidation states for transition metals greater than 1 (eg. Au3+, Cu2+) are fictional and non-existent (related post and references)
2. Single "average" structures derived from NMR for flexible molecules are fictional and "virtual" (related post and references)
3. 3-fluoropiperidines exist in solution almost exclusively as the axial-F conformer. (related post and references)


  1. Yeah, that first one was a good one. I even participated in that one for a bit.


  2. Yeah, and also your memorable comment that all metals in your daily experience actually exist in +0 state, which is true :)

  3. Oxidation states are really about electron accountancy and it makes sense to assign these to the transition metal because that is the part of the molecule that allows the the redox chemistry. I would argue that an oxidation state is a lot less fictional than an atomic charge in that it is something that is precisely defined and can in principle be measured. I understand what you're getting at but a count of electrons is a lot better defined that most of the attempts to partition those electrons among atoms.


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