When I go to meetings, I like to seek out folks that I may have interviewed or written about for a story, but that I haven't yet had the chance to meet in person. I learned that Stanford grad student Guangbin Dong was presenting a poster at the NOS, so I stopped by to introduce myself.
Last year, I interviewed Guangbin's advisor, Barry Trost, for a story about the pair's speedy new route to bryostatin 16, a marine natural product in a family with a knack for killing cancer cells. Lots of places covered this synthesis, but Guangbin specifically mentioned that he enjoyed reading TotSyn's coverage of the bryostatin work.
Macrolides like bryostatins aren't the only types of molecules Guangbin's worked on. In his years at Stanford, he's also made alkaloids and terpenes. As might be expected from a Trost group member, Pd catalysis features prominently in each of his projects. His poster fit in nicely with the symposium's catalysis theme for NOS Day 2.
Lots of folks at the poster session asked him whether he can make other bryostatins just as efficiently. (He didn't have any new data for this project on his poster.) It's definitely something he's working on, he says. Also, he gave me a heads up--he'll be giving a talk about his work at the ACS fall meeting in DC.
When I spoke with Guangbin, I was curious about the unusual piece of flair that he had looped around his belt buckle. Turns out, it's a good luck charm. He hails from Qingdao, a coastal city in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong. The city might be more recognizable to you by its Romanized name, Tsingtao. Apparently, this region of China used to be occupied by Germany, and a beer brand by the same name thrives there. Guangbin's mother is a folk artist who runs a shop in Qingdao, and she made the red and green charm for him before he went stateside for grad school.
Each piece of the charm symbolizes something different. The circular element at the top means safety, and below the red flowerlike piece are pairs of elements symbolizing bamboo, luck, and wealth.
He told me he wears it for good luck every day. I didn't believe him at first, but after talking to a few Trost group members, past and present, who happened to be at NOS, I realized that it's true. Guangbin's got a postdoc lined up with Robert Grubbs, and from there, he's shooting for an academic post. Good luck, Guangbin (though you probably don't need any from me)...