Colombian David Díaz, a chemist from the National University, works in the team of one of the Nobel winners

David appears on the left of the photograph, and wears the country’s shirt

The German Benjamin List and the Scotsman David MacMillan were awarded the prestigious recognition of the Nobel Prize, which honors those who have carried out research, discoveries or contributions that are considered remarkable for humanity. The development of asymmetric organocatalysis gave them the award and, now, with the magnifying glass of the media on them, the work of Colombian David Díaz is highlighted, who has worked closely with List.

The newspaper El Espectador, one of the media in charge of highlighting David’s story, spoke with the graduate of the National University of Colombia, born in Fusagasugá, who told them the details of the moment in which he received the exciting news. The tool for which his tutor and MacMillan won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry makes work in this discipline greener.

“Building molecules is a difficult art. Benjamin List and David MacMillan are awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their development of a new precise tool for molecular construction: organocatalysis. This has had a great impact on pharmaceutical research and has made chemistry more environmentally friendly (…) Benjamin List and David MacMillan are awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry because in 2000 they, independent of each other, developed a third type of catalysis. It is called asymmetric organocatalysis and it is based on small organic molecules “, it is read on the Nobel website.

Scotsman David MacMillan. REUTERS / Eduardo Muñoz
Scotsman David MacMillan. REUTERS / Eduardo Muñoz

In 2017, as he told that media, he arrived in Mülheim, a small city located in northwestern Germany, specifically, at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, the institute where the Colombian works and where he arrived about four years ago. years to do his doctorate. There he met List, who became his tutor.

On October 6, the day the news was released, David was in that place and, around noon, he decided to watch the broadcast of the Nobel, as was customary for him, to see who would be the winner. According to what he thought at the time, it was more than obvious that the Nobel would be aimed at those people who have been working on the coronavirus vaccine for months, so the project he is participating in did not seem, according to him, to have the slightest possibility of achieve special mention. The surprise he got when they said the name of his tutor and that of his colleague, MacMillan, was immense, so much so that his first thought was that it was a joke.

German scientist Benjamin List, who shares the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with David MacMillan for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis, celebrates with well-wishers at the Max-Planck-Institute for Coal Research in Muelheim an der Ruhr, Germany, October 6, 2021. REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay
German scientist Benjamin List, who shares the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with David MacMillan for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis, celebrates with well-wishers at the Max-Planck-Institute for Coal Research in Muelheim an der Ruhr, Germany, October 6, 2021. REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay

“The Nobel announcement is always made first in Swedish. I, of course, don’t even understand Swedish. So when they uttered a word similar to my boss’s name, I wasn’t surprised. I stopped everything I was doing and looked at the computer. Then they repeated the passage in English and I couldn’t believe it: they had said Benjamin List. The screams broke out in all the offices “, the chemist told El Espectador.

David said that one of the biggest surprises regarding List’s victory is his age, since, at 53, he is considered a young person to receive this prestigious award. “Usually they give it to older people, not 50’s. So, to find out if it was a rooster bottle, we decided to call him because he was in Amsterdam that day, with his wife “The Colombian recalled that, in addition, he told the newspaper that, in effect, the man confirmed that the news was true.

What followed after the announcement was the holding of a party that, in addition to being planned in record time, required the purchase of 130 bottles of champagne. Benjamin arrived at the institute after an hour and a half, and was received by 300 people, among colleagues and journalists. List, in his kindness, David stressed, held a press conference in which he resolved the doubts of the curious regarding his professional achievement.

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Colombian David Díaz, a chemist from the National University, works in the team of one of the Nobel winners

Hank Gilbert