High honors for great work

Dr. Joyce Grimm receives the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society

June 14, 2024

During its Annual Meeting the Max Planck Society has awarded the Otto Hahn Medal to particularly talented young researchers. One of them is Dr. Joyce Grimm, a former doctoral student at the MPI für Kohlenforschung.

Dr. Joyce Grimm did some extraordinary work during her doctorate at the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim. Together with her colleagues, the former doctoral student of Prof. Benjamin List succeeded in developing a particularly elegant synthesis pathway for menthol and various cannabinoids. The young scientist has now been awarded the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society for this achievement.

Menthol has been produced synthetically for a long time. However, it is only thanks to a special chemical process, which Grimm and her colleagues describe in a paper in the journal Nature, that the previous process can be significantly simplified - and therefore cheaper and more sustainable. The same method can also be used to produce cannabinoids, which are also sought-after active ingredients due to their medical applications.

This reaction, which is also important from a technical point of view, is primarily based on fundamental research at the MPI. In chemistry, there has long been a "desired reaction", namely the direct, selective conversion of neral into a specific molecule called isopiperitenol. "For a long time, this reaction was considered impossible because the product reacted even more to the catalyst than the starting materials," explains Joyce Grimm. More than 100 years ago, chemists Albert Verley and Friedrich Wilhelm Semmler had already tried their hand at it - in vain. However, Ben List, Joyce Grimm and their colleagues have made precisely this desired reaction become reality.

The Otto Hahn Medal has been awarded by the MPG since 1978. Otto Hahn himself was President of the MPG from 1948 to 1960. Every year, up to 30 young scientists are honored for their outstanding achievements. The medal comes with prize money of 7500 euros.

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