The synthesis machine: An automatic device that makes small organic molecules could revolutionize drug discovery


Organic chemistry is an ordeal—just ask most science majors. There are the bewildering names of molecules, the elements, bonds, reactions, and reagents. There are the recipes, lab work, and late nights hovering over flasks. There are the separations, purifications, and analysis. Even for experts, making molecules is slow, painstaking work.

“We think we can change that,” says Martin Burke, a chemist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. And to drive the point home, he offers to transform a chemistry neophyte—me—into a synthetic chemist.

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