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On the 24th of June this year, Chemistry World will be presenting a prize for an outstanding poster during the 3rd Royal Society of Chemistry Younger Members Symposium (YMS2014) at the University of Birmingham in the UK.

YMS2014 is a one-day event organised by the RSC Younger Members Network. This interdisciplinary symposium aims to provide young chemists with the opportunity to present at a major national conference, as well as the chance to network with their peers and to find out about the latest advances across the chemical sciences. Professor Lesley Yellowlees (President of the Royal Society of Chemistry) and Professor Alice Roberts (Head of Public Engagement at the University of Birmingham) will be giving keynote lectures at the conference.

Early-career chemists from all disciplines are invited to register and submit abstracts for oral and poster presentations. Posters should have a clear scientific rationale and present the author’s latest work. They will be judged on the quality and originality of the work as well the presentation skills of the author, with special emphasis on their ability to communicate their work to non-experts from other disciplines.

There will be four parallel sessions: Education & Outreach, Organic & Biochemistry, Physical & Analytical and Inorganic & Materials. Chemistry World is proud to be sponsoring the poster prize for the Inorganic & Materials category. I’ll be judging the prize alongside a select committee and the winner will receive £150, with £100 and £50 going to the runners up.

To register for the conference, visit this page: rsc.li/NzUB06 

We look forward to reviewing your posters.

Jennifer Newton

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Mid-March is one of my favourite times of the year: the days are getting longer, I can start hanging my washing outside and Cambridge is buzzing from its annual science festival.

With over 250 events across the two weeks, it was difficult to decide what to attend but I tried to squeeze in as much as I could. Here are some of my highlights from the first week:

On Monday, Tim Radford chaired a discussion between Patrica Fara, Rosie Bolton and Gerry Gilmore asking ‘What’s new in space?’ The answer? A 1 billion pixel camera aboard the Gaia satellite, which was launched at the end of last year. Back on the ground, there’s the Square Kilometre Array, a project that is set to start building thousands of 15m wide radio dishes across two sites in the southern hemisphere from 2018. So we’ll be obtaining a lot of data – big data – but rather than answering questions, the panel said that scientists first need to figure out the right questions to ask.

Wednesday saw Molly Stevens, of Imperial College London, deliver the annual WiSETI lecture. She combined a fascinating account of her unusual career path, which she described as a series of lucky events and accidents, with an overview of the exciting research going on in her group. Rather than a general call for science to improve the way it approaches women with children, Stevens explained the practicalities of how she actually did it. Her group must be the epitomy of multidisciplinary research, containing engineers, surgeons, chemists and mathematicians. She described some interesting work they published last year where they used nano-analytical electron microscopy techniques to visualise calcific lesions around heart valves, aortae and coronary arteries to better understand the pathophysiological processes underlying cardiovascular disease.

A penguin made from crystals on the Royal Society of Chemistry stand

It was an early start on Saturday to fit in a couple of hours on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s stand in the chemistry department. We had some fantastic experiments this year. One was based on a scenario where a famous painting has been stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The ‘thief’ had left a note at the scene saying that they plan to strike again, so the children were tasked with using chromatography to analyse pens from the top three suspects and match it to the ink in the note. It turns out the culprit was Leonardo da Pinchi (teehee).

 The festival is still running this weekend so do go and check it out.

Jennifer Newton

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Earlier this month the 2013 Chemistry World science communication competition reached its conclusion. Now in its second year, the competition attracted around 100 entries from every corner of the world. The quality of the entries was outstanding and we are delighted that so many chose to take part and share their interpretations of openness in science. Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry.

We whittled the entries down to a shortlist of 10, and these finalists were invited along to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s London office, Burlington House, to attend a prize giving event organised by one of our sponsors (AkzoNobel). They were also asked to pitch their stories to the audience, which included members of the press, representatives of industry and a selection of academics.

I was one of the judges, along with some very illustrious names: Adam Hart Davis, Quentin Cooper, Lesley Yellowlees, Philip Ball, Samantha Tang, David Jakubovic (chair).

After much deliberation the decision was as follows: (more…)

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The Pittsburgh Conference, or PittCon as it’s affectionately known, is one of the biggest lab equipment trade fairs on the planet. There are hundreds of exhibitors dazzling audiences with their latest shiny new instruments.

Everything is that little bit better, faster, more reliable than the competition in some way or another, and as a self-confessed amateur when it comes to most of this kit, it can be hard to see through the spiel to find out what’s really groundbreaking. But a few little things have caught my eye on my wander around the exhibition hall. (more…)

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We’re running a series of guest posts from the judges of the 2013 Chemistry World science communication competition. In this, the first of the series, we hear from Sam Tang, public awareness scientist at the University of Nottingham.

 

The phrase ‘openness in science’ offers a variety of meanings. For me, as a science communicator, I feel openness describes how we communicate science to the public and the media.

I like to think we’ve come a long way in making science more open and accessible, and over the last nine years, I’ve seen science communication evolve from being a fringe activity that only a handful of volunteers gave their time to do (and, dare I say it, were looked down upon for partaking), to becoming an embedded activity in universities across the UK. Type ‘science communication’ into Google and it becomes apparent that it is now a discipline in its own right: a wealth of pages appear, from masters courses to conferences, jobs in the field, even a Wikipedia entry. (more…)

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It takes a certain type of person to take an idea and turn it into a successful company, and this is as true in the chemical sciences as in any other endeavour. In fact, a successful chemistry spin-out may be even more special – most inventions and new technologies don’t face the ‘valley of death’ that often separates the university lab bench from the commercial marketplace. The dragons of the den may understand the appeal of a well-branded and marketed jerk chicken sauce, but far fewer people have the insight to see the potential in chromatin modifying enzymes, haemolysin nanopores or spherical nucleic acids.

To celebrate those people who do see this potential (and whose vision so contagious they can get the support they need), we have the Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The award recognises an individual’s contribution to the commercialisation of research, and so is open to anyone who has started or contributed to the growth of a start-up company. We’re looking for someone who has built a collection of intellectual property for the company and has developed new products that have reached the market recently or will do in the near future. The prize includes £4000, a trophy and a feature in Chemistry World. (more…)

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This evening, at the ISACS Challenges in Chemical Biology event in Boston, I was part of a conversation suggesting that the concept of chemical biology needed a rebrand. The kids aren’t into chemical biology any more, that scene’s old, man. Of course earlier in the day, I’d been discussing how ‘molecular biologists’ have become ‘chemical biologists’ as the understanding of chemical mechanisms in biology has improved.

The truth is that over the last 48 hours I’ve watched talk after talk illustrating how the mechanics of life are molecular. They are chemical. Bacteria talk to each other using small molecules and peptides that interact with specific residues in a protein, that induces a conformational change, which changes the protein’s available residues within the cell which… and then… and that activates the hydrogen of… etc. The chemical modification of histones by enzyme x alters the reaction landscape of genes by… and so on. (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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I like cabbage. It’s not a glamorous vegetable, but it’s tasty and versatile – even if it is easy to overcook and get the dreadful school canteen cabbage water smell. It’s also good for you, containing a range of medically relevant chemicals, including the potentially antibacterial and anticancer 4-methylsulfinylbutyl glucosinolate (4MSO).

The fruits and vegetables we buy in the grocery store are actually still alive, and it matters to them what time of day it is. The discovery, reported on June 20 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, suggests that the way we store our produce could have real consequences for its nutritional value and for our health.
Credit: Goodspeed et al.

But how can you get the best from your cabbage? According to new research published in Current Biology, it may be as easy as eating it at the right time of day.

A team of US scientists, led by Danielle Goodspeed at Rice University in Houston, has demonstrated that shop-bought cabbages, even days after harvest, responded to a day–night cycle that regulated concentrations of defensive chemicals such as glucosinolates and the hormone jasmonate. When growing in the wild, this strategy offers an advantage, serving to increase protective chemicals in anticipation of daily attack from insect herbivores. However, it hasn’t been clear if this process would continue after harvest, on supermarket shelves or even in your fridge.

To find out, Goodspeed took samples of shop-bought cabbage and exposed it to a regulated cycle of 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of darkness. After several cycles, the team looked at the variable chemical profile as well as the plant’s vulnerability to being nibbled by cabbage looper moth caterpillars. (more…)

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On my first day at Chemistry World, I was surprised to see a box of toys sitting on the editor’s desk. Gifts for children? Executive stress relief? Maybe I’ve joined one of those funky dotcom-style offices where people just play with toys for ‘inspiration’?

Protein Building Set

Protein Building Set

The truth, I soon discovered, is a bit of all three – the main toy in the box was the Proteins Building Set, which describes itself as ‘the most accurate protein building set’ with which you can ‘build and learn about proteins’. It was designed and developed by Marcel Jaspars of the University of Aberdeen, working with Richard Zawitz of Californian toy maker, Tangle.

Jaspars had suggested Chemistry World might like to have a sample set, so I decided to follow his advice – build a protein and see what I learn. (more…)

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