Recipient of renowned fellowship chooses Brock

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Recipient of renowned fellowship chooses Brock


Sept. 2, 2009

Past recipients have taken fellowships at Harvard. Or Stanford. Or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But when Jan Duchek pursued the Swiss National Science Foundation Fellowship, he did it to join the research team of one of the most renowned organic chemists in the world — at Brock University.

Duchek, a graduate of the ETH Zurich in Switzerland, has used his prestigious post-doctoral fellowship to work with Tomas Hudlicky, a chemist whose high-profile projects include developing a faster route to Tamiflu.

It was those faster routes that attracted Duchek to Hudlicky’s work, said the 29-year-old, who received his PhD in June.

“I was familiar with the research he was doing and how he was writing his papers,” said Duchek. “I liked his focus on brevity and the practical.”

The Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship is aimed at fostering scientists who are starting their research careers. A recipient coming to Brock “speaks to where we are on the world stage,” said Ian Brindle, dean, Mathematics and Science.

“It’s a signal that if you want to do the best chemistry in the world, you come to Brock.”

The fellowship includes personal and travel expenses for one year of Duchek’s two-year stay. His post-doctoral research will be in the chemoenzymatic synthesis of morphine alkaloids.

Hudlicky gets several requests a day to join his research team. He has a preference for people who send letters tailored to him, rather than ones that start with a generic “Dear professor,” he said.

To apply for the fellowship, Duchek submitted a 10-page research proposal to the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Duchek received his Masters from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague in his native Czech Republic, where he was graded as “excellent” on his final state examination. Other internships include developing new materials for contact lenses at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. He also speaks three languages and enjoys sports and playing chess.

Duchek joins Hudlicky’s 14-member research team, which is a mixture of post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students.