An open letter to Phil S. Baran
(Spotify users, cue this before reading further)

Phil S Baran

Dear Phil,

On behalf of all mankind: Would you please slow down? We mortals have no chance to keep up with you. It is not funny anymore. We need a break.

You have more than 100 papers out in the juiciest journals, several patents, been a tenured professor since 2008 and worked with E.J. Corey and K.C. Nicolaou at some of the finest institutions in the world (New York University, Harvard and now Scripps).

What is your secret recipe? Hanging out with Nobel prize winners cannot be all; it appears as if you have more awards now than several of them already. Is it your first name? In poker, as a comparison, several of the best players are your namesakes: Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth and Phil Gordon. Are we non-Phil:s without a chance? You are clearly in the zone. Would you mind giving us a break?

I have written about you and provided links to your results several times before. But it was not until yesterday that I took a good look at your resume.

For fuck’s sake, Phil, you were born in 1977. How do you think that makes us feel?

And now with your latest one-step recipe for the simple and swift trifluromethylation of practically any compound?


Popular version
PNAS, Article ASAP (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1109059108).

Do you realize what you have done?! I bet thousands of medicinal chemists around the world, as I write this, are now working full time to stick -CF3 groups to existing substances in the giant compound libraries the big companies have.

What you need to do, Phil, is to take a sabbatical. A sabbatical decade. If not, you leave us with no options left to properly celebrate your progress.

Seriously, what are your plans exactly? “Before I turn 40, I hope to”-kind of stuff.

May I suggest you make a Heck? That is: Invent an awesome reaction, publish, disappear from the face of the Earth for some 20+ years, only to return to pick up the Nobel prize.

Think about it.

Best regards
Someone who is clearly lagging


29 Responses to Slow down, Phil

  1. Alex says:

    This is hilarious 😉

  2. Ray Putra Prajnamitra says:

    LOL, this is very funny… I bet a lot of chemists agree with you when reading this post 🙂

  3. balaji says:

    ha ha , ROFL , I think by writing this piece, you mind became cool

  4. Lastmonkey says:

    I agree 100% 

  5. Phil Baran says:

    Ha! Thanks for making me smile this morning. You are way too kind and if I’m “super” in any way then we need to revise the Webster dictionary to reflect the diminished standards. My students, on the other hand, ARE super and deserve credit for anything you find interesting.

    Warmest Regards,


  6. Angel says:

    This was one of the best blogposts in I dont know how long!

  7. CTchem says:

    Dr. Freddy : ha ha…like your post….

    Phil : of course the good combination of you as a supervisor and your students resulted something really interesting…

  8. fng says:

    good man, indeed

  9. RB Woodweird says:

    Fast? I got my BS and PhD in three years, total. This guy looks like 100 ml of molasses at -78 degrees C to me.

  10. tlp says:

    It’s life saving post! I was about to jump out of the window reading paper about gram scale synthesis of axinellamines after yet another 33% yield in amide bond formation on mg scale. Well, since now I’m gonna consider Baran’s papers as sci-fi.

  11. Anonymous says:

    there is a little similarity between Baran and ‘seriously guy’
    I hope my spelling is correct

  12. The PNAS paper is a really good read. Really shows what research is about: brute force (500+ reactions screened), diligence (even down to the effect of stirring rates), and acuity (application to selectivity in bio-active molecules, honing site selectivity…). Very impressive.

  13. drfreddy says:

    Nature Chemistry ran a short story on this post. Out in yesterday’s issue. Cool, huh?

    Nature Chemistry 3, 753 (2011) (DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1169)

  14. Lorena says:

    That´s a GREAT letter with an AWESOME comment from the main character! (I shared it on Facebook – ICIQ-Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia, I hope you don´t mind).

    I was lucky enough to meet Phil Baran at a conference in Gregynog (UK) and apart from being an outstanding chemist he is a great guy.

  15. james says:

    This is funny! Haha.

  16. Failedreaction says:

    Ha ha, love it and so true. Phil makes us all look like slackers. So let me get this right, I have 7 years to get 100 publications and win tonnes of awards if I am to compete with the gun show.

  17. Chemist says:

    Dude that paper is shit.

  18. Cobalt says:

    See you in Stockholm, Phil!

  19. Javaslinger says:

    Baran is coming to Virginia Tech this fall as our student invited speaker… took me 3 years to land him.. 🙂

    I think this may serve as my introduction… 🙂

  20. Gene Orzel says:

    “Dude that paper is shit.”
    Paper? euh what is this thing? 😉

  21. […] he tends to make the rest of us look bad and just won't stop writing review after review after review, I still  get excited whenever he […]

  22. Lola says:

    phil hasn’t had that much hair since 1977. you better update the pic.

  23. […] sense of humor is evident in his posts at Synthetic Remarks. You may recall his open letter to a certain Scripps Research Institute organic chemist. Today, Fredrik writes about anonymity on blogs. It’s a familiar discussion point to […]

  24. […] It’s tough to describe the magnitude of Phil’s accomplishments to a non-specialist audience, so I will describe it this way. If I met an organic chemist who had been out of the field for 10 years and wanted to learn about the most important new innovations in natural product synthesis over the past decade, I would tell him to start by reading Phil Baran’s papers. Phil has accomplished in a decade what many organic chemists would be happy to achieve in several lifetimes – to the point where some jokingly tell him to slow down.  […]

  25. anuvab Jana says:

    Hey,Phil..can you just give us a detailed description of your regular diet??I think that is the source of your unparalleled brilliance..I am joining organic synthesis lab in this year as a,I should start following the diet from now..

  26. CJ says:

    Just gave a group meeting to on this bad boy. He does not mess about, and I look forward to seeing his continued publications 😉

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