Conferences



The 13th conference in the highly successful International Symposia on Advancing the Chemical Sciences (ISACS) series is taking place in Dublin, Ireland, this July and there’s still time to submit a poster abstract. Extensive poster sessions will form a key part of the symposium and Chemistry World is delighted to be sponsoring a prize for the best poster at the event. The winner will receive £250.

Challenges in Inorganic and Materials Chemistry (ISACS13) will bring together leading experts from several disciplines and encourage the cross fertilisation of ideas. Keynote speakers include David Parker from Durham University and Matt Rosseinsky from the University of Liverpool.

To take advantage of this excellent opportunity to showcase your latest research alongside leading scientists from across the globe submit your poster abstract before 21 April

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If you follow us on Twitter you’ll know that I spent 16-20 March in Dallas, Texas for the ACS spring conference, hearing about peptides that attack TB, dissolvable electronics and new drug testing methods.

Chocolate absorbing volatiles from wine

I was also happy to find that – perhaps fitting for a state known for generous helpings – there was plenty of food and booze research on the scientific agenda.

First up, chocolate. We all love it, and apparently so do the bacteria that live in our guts. Dark chocolate has been linked to various heart and metabolic heath benefits in past studies. Now, a group led by John Finley at Louisiana State University, US, may have come closer to figuring out the reasons behind some these effects. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contains polyphenol antioxidants (such as catechins which are also found in tea), but these are poorly digested and absorbed in the gut, so this is unlikely to be the full story. (more…)

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How childbirth in rural Africa, petunias and deadly marine snails combined to open the door for new types of drug.

In the future, sufferers of chronic pain may simply need to sip petunia tea or pop a petunia seed pill in order to alleviate their symptoms. These petunias would have been genetically modified to produce small, circular peptides very similar to conotoxins, produced in the wild by a family of marine molluscs called cone snails. (more…)

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Last week the youth section of the Royal Flemish Chemical Society (Jong-KVCV) held its biennial Chemistry Conference for Young Scientists (ChemCYS) in Blankenberge, Belgium. For many attendees it will have been their first experience of a conference. And it’s a great way to start. Blankenberge was cold and miserable but the warmth of the people inside certainly made up for the weather. Masters students, PhD students and postdocs can present their work in a non-intimidating and supportive environment.

The posters sessions were my favourite time of the conference. It was great to chat to people and share in their enthusiasm for what they were working on.

Originally set-up as an event for Belgian groups to network, the conference has been steadily growing in size over the past few editions. This year it made an impressive leap in the variety of nationalities attending the conference with delegates from 37 different countries (only nine countries were represented in 2012). I met people from Costa Rica, Algeria and Taiwan to name a few of the furthest places delegates had come from. Considering that until 2008 the conference was held in Dutch, before changing to English in 2010, this is a huge achievement. Hanne Damm, the president of Jong-KVCV says the internationalisation of the conferee can chiefly be credited to the President of ChemCYS 2014, Thomas Vranken, securing recognition of the conference from IUPAC, EuCheMS and EYCN. (more…)

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What can chemists do to help create a ‘virtual human’? At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2014 meeting in Chicago, a panel of researchers set out their demands for the chemistry community.

Using multiple supercomputing resources at an unprecedented scale, we show how it is now becoming possible to reliably select the appropriate drug with which to treat an individual patient based on the strength of interaction of that drug with the patient’s own protein sequence. This is demonstrated in the case of HIV infection in which one wishes to know which of the several FDA approved drugs will be most effective against the HIV-1 protease target. These findings will be published on 14 February 2014, to coincide with the AAAS 2014 session on the Virtual Human: Helping Facilitate Breakthroughs in Medicine. Credit: D. Wright, B. Hall, O. Kenway, S. Jha, P. V. Coveney, “Computing Clinically Relevant Binding Free Energies of HIV-1 Protease Inhibitors”, Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation (2014), DOI: 10.1021/ct4007037

But what is a ‘virtual human’? Projects range from organ-on-a-chip microfluidic devices that might mimic a particular behaviour of a certain organ, through to detailed computer models that map the entire skeleton, or even simulate a human brain. Others take a broader approach, sampling thousands of biomarkers from thousands of healthy individuals to chart the variability and dynamism of human biochemistry.

It’s a subject that exists at the interfaces chemistry, biology, physics and computer sciences, and has obvious medicinal potential in allowing us to develop new drugs in silico or helping us to treat existing patients. (more…)

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Sometimes people like to moan that chemistry doesn’t get enough media attention, but we have news to counter this claim. Our colleagues have let us know that this weekend the BBC World Service will be broadcasting an episode of The Forum, which was recorded last week at the RSC’s ISACS12 conference, Challenges in Chemical Renewable Energy.

Quentin Cooper hosts the programme with Daniel Nocera of Harvard University, Clare Grey of the University of Cambridge, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz of the State University of Campinas and Jim Watson of the UK Energy Research Council. The panel will discuss the work in their areas of expertise and future challenges for renewable energy as a whole. If you want to listen in, the programme will be broadcast at 23.06 GMT on Saturday 14September, 10.06 GMT on Sunday 15 September and 2.06 GMT on Monday 16 September and you can find out when this is in your local time at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmeguide/.

It will also be available to listen on the iPlayer shortly after the broadcasts have finished at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01g94yj. Make sure to let us know what you think.

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Today, (8th September 2013) was the first day of formal science events at ACS Fall, the American Chemical Society’s annual autumnal conference. This year the host city is Indianapolis, and Emma Stoye and I have come along to cover the action. From now until the 12th, I should expect to see more chemistry in the news than is normal, as the press team here are working hard to get stories from the conference into the headlines.

So it may sound a little odd that I decided to board a shuttle bus away from the conference centre, away from the press room with its free coffee and bagels, and away from room after room of scientific discussions where researchers share ideas and chew over the new results that will go on to generate headlines that we’ll publish in Chemistry World. It may almost sound like dereliction of duty when I tell you that the bus was headed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. But while the conference centre and nearby downtown hotels were hosting the scientific programme, the speedway was taken over by Celebrate Science Indiana, an annual event that ‘demonstrates the importance of studying science and the joy of discovery, the economic value of science, and its significance to society’. (more…)

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‘Chemists are wimps.’ So said Paul Mulvaney of the University of Melbourne in his plenary session at the 11th international conference on materials chemistry (MC11), as he called chemists out for their lack of grand vision and willingness to openly ask the big questions. Referring to a special edition of Science magazine, Mulvaney pointed out that of the 125 ‘big questions’, vanishingly few were proposed by chemists. (Of course, this could say more about Science than about chemists…)

Neuroscientists have the basis of consciousness, medics seek a vaccine for HIV, geneticists still don’t know why humans have so few genes and cosmologists enquire after the very material of the universe, but examples that are purely chemical were conspicuous by their absence. Mulvaney mentioned just one chemical example – self-assembly – but even that, he felt, was poorly defined. His challenge was met by a murmur of agreement and inspired impassioned discussion over wine at the conference banquet. (more…)

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Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m not a chemist. I always enjoyed chemistry at school – I’d even go as far as to say I was good at it – but in the end the lure of the living was just too strong and I opted to do a biology degree.

It turns out that not being a chemist is something I have in common with several of the Nobel Laureates here in Lindau. Some were awarded the Nobel prize in physiology and medicine, or in physics. Others’ pioneering chemistry work was an offshoot from a career in another scientific field. 2012 chemistry Nobel Brian Kobilka, who opened the first day of scientific lectures with a summary of his work on G-protein coupled receptors, explained he was a ‘new kid on the chemistry block’.

‘I’m a physicist, but hey no one’s perfect!’ quipped David Wineland at the beginning of his talk on quantum theory (to a murmur of agreement from the crowd). The next day Erwin Neher told us he ‘trained as a physicist, won a Nobel in physiology & medicine and I’m now speaking at a chemistry meeting.’

Three days in, I’ve heard from more than 20 Nobel laureates from across the whole spectrum of science, and there are many more still to come. (I won’t go into much detail here – keep an eye on the website for videos). I’m beginning to realise the extent to which the sciences are intermingled. As Jean-Marie Lehn neatly summed up in his talk: ‘Physics concerns the laws of the universe, and biology the rules of life. Chemistry builds a bridge between the two.’ (more…)

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Picture hundreds of chemists taking over a tiny island. It may sound bizarre, but that’s pretty much what’s happening in Lindau, Germany right now.

I’m lucky enough to be at the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, an annual event that sees Nobel laureates summoned to the beautiful Bavarian island of Lindau, along with 600 of the world’s most promising and passionate young researchers, all hoping to meet their heroes. This year, it’s chemistry’s turn. Brian Kobilka, Harry Kroto, Akira Suzuki and Ada Yonath are just some of the 35 science legends who will be taking to the stage this week.

It’s a conference like no other, with one specific goal: To build bridges. Bridges across generations, across cultures and across disciplines. As all the speakers have achieved remarkable things in different areas, the talks and discussions will cover a mish-mash of topics, from drug discovery to quantum theory. Many will focus on grand challenges such as sustainability or energy production, and broader topics such as science communication are also on the agenda.

(more…)

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