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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What makes a news story ‘news’? How do journalists construct an article? What sort of cake do they have in the Royal Society of Chemistry restaurant? If any of these questions have occurred to you, then you might be the person we’re looking for.

Cheese scones. Released by Philippe Giabbanelli under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jemsweb/13787548/)

Chemistry World has a paid internship available for eight weeks in the summer of 2014. In those two months, you’ll pitch and write news stories, interview scientists and public figures, edit and lay out our magazine and get involved with our podcasts. It’s ideal for someone with an enthusiasm for science writing and a background in the chemical sciences.

To make the most of your time with us, we’ll also pay for membership of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), and take you to the UK conference of science journalists at the Royal Society. (more…)

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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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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. Winners in this category will also receive a Chemistry World mug and a copy of The case of the poisonous socks by William H Brock.

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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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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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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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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