Author Archive

Celebrating Our Books and Their Authors


This month, the Royal Society of Chemistry is celebrating its Golden Anniversary of Books, marking 50 years since the publication of the first book in our Specialist Periodical Reports series. With titles spanning the breadth of the chemical sciences for a variety of audiences, from popular science books to textbooks to professional reference books, the books program continues to thrive thanks to contributions from our international community. The RSC’s portfolio of textbooks provide an approachable and engaging suite of books for all students of the chemical sciences, from the fundamentals of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry to the frontiers of knowledge in pharmaceutical development and forensic science. The high-quality content of our books enables us to fully support learners and contribute to the development of the next generation of professional chemists. We are keen to understand how you find, access and read electronic (digital) non-fiction books in a professional or academic context, and would appreciate your insights through this short survey that will be available through December 15th, 2018.  Please join us in celebrating 50 years of books, made possible by our outstanding authors, and read on to learn more about two who recently finished their second book with us.

Meet the Authors of Our Newest Book

We recently published a brand new textbook from two California-based co-authors and leading educators, Professor Christopher Walsh, from Stanford University and Professor Yi Tang  from the University of California, Los Angeles. Their new textbook, Chemical Biology of Human Vitamins, is now the second that they have authored together with the RSC. Professor Walsh and Professor Tang are happy to share their new book with the world, and gave us some insights into their motivations and strategies for writing it, and explain what makes this such a fascinating and timely topic. Christopher Walsh’s research has focused on enzymes and enzyme inhibitors, and specifically on antibiotics and biosynthesis of biologically and medicinally active natural products. He has extensive academic leadership and biotechnology industry experience and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. In 2010, he received the Welch Award in Chemistry for his pioneering work in biological chemistry along with co-recipient JoAnne Stubbe. Yi Tang holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Bioengineering at UCLA. He has received numerous accolades, including the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award and the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry.  

Over many decades, scientists discovered thirteen essential molecules that humans lost the capacity to make as they evolved from primordial organisms. These thirteen vitamins are crucial for metabolism, and this book chemocentrically analyzes the mode of action of each one of them to tell a compelling tale of the challenges that every human cell faces. It provides a thorough view on the key small molecules of life, the human vitamins and their active coenzyme forms. Detailing how their unique chemistries control the interconversion and the flux of hundreds of central human metabolites, Chemical Biology of Human Vitamins  examines the parallel and convergent tracks of the vitamins and their coenzyme forms. 

With these two leading educators bringing their talents and expertise to the table,  Chemical Biology of Human Vitamins aims to serve as an ideal guide and reference point for chemists in both academia and industry, graduates and advanced undergraduate students in biochemistry, chemical biology, metabolism and metabolomics, with beautifully crafted artwork to complement the cogent and engaging explanations. Professor Walsh explains, “Since the artwork is so much of the communicated message, we work hard to get that right, with clarity and as much elegance as we can.”

Highly Efficient Teamwork

The two professors first met while Tang was a postdoc with Chaitan Khosla. “We had our PKS/NRPS (polyketide synthetase/non-ribosomal peptide synthetase) super group meetings every year,” says Tang. “Chris was very friendly and open to everyone, including me. I started collaborating with Chris as an independent PI in 2010.  We worked on the biosynthesis of fungal indole alkaloids and nonribosomal peptides.”  In 2016, they started collaborating on their first book, Natural Product Biosynthesis: Chemical Logic and Enzymatic Machinery, which was published the following year; that same year, in 2017, they also started working on their newest book,  Chemical Biology of Human Vitamins, which was published earlier this fall. Now with two full textbooks completed in only two years, it is evident that these authors work very well together. They explained that balancing the workload was key to making such speedy progress. “We collaborated on different aspects of the book; Chris was mainly the writer for the text, while I worked on the figures, proofread the documents and prepared the references,” says Professor Tang. Professor Walsh explained why this system is most effective during the process: “I focus on writing a chapter at a time coincident with the artwork so that the text follows the information to be displayed in the figures,” he says. “Otherwise we have to go back and rewrite the text to match how any given figure turns out, and that is tedious with over 200 pieces of ChemDraw artwork in a book.”

A book often requires a great deal of dedication, and Professor Walsh explained how he works through the writing process to assemble the final product. “I tend to write straight through a project, starting before breakfast to capture early morning ideas. I pause when a major section or chapter is finished and only when I know how to start the next topic. I write to the exclusion of almost every other activity and can write a chapter a week with embedded artwork in first draft.  The first draft goes to my coauthor Prof Tang for additions, omissions, corrections, deletions, and most importantly setting the tone and aesthetics of each chapter.” The editorial staff at the RSC were impressed with how quickly these authors were able to work, often beating target deadlines and finishing ahead of schedule. “It was an efficient arrangement and we were able to get through each book in about eight months,” says Professor Tang.

Planning for an Effective Textbook

Once committed and with clear intentions in mind, they were able to finish with impressive haste, but it took a bit more time and a great deal of thought to get to the point where they could really take off. Both authors have previous experience with writing books, which helped make it easier to develop an idea and a plan. “This is the sixth book that I have written, the last two with co-author Professor Tang of UCLA,” says Walsh. “For about a year and a half I had a one page summary of the structures of the vitamins sitting on my office desk with the vague intent that the topic might be worth examining.” He explained what motivated him as an author and what he aims to accomplish with this work. “The prime motivation in each case, and this one in particular,” says Walsh, “is first to explain the topic to myself/ourselves, and then to others with some clarity about the chemical logic that underpins the role of key molecules in nature. Given the “vitamania” that  has turned the global vitamins and dietary supplements market into tens of billions of dollars in sales each year, we thought it would be useful to remind readers what is actually known about the molecular and chemical roles of the 13 human vitamins and why they are essential micronutrients.”

The two co-authors formulated their ideas and decided what they wanted to cover and how to approach it. “I felt that exploration of the chemistry enabled by these thirteen human vitamins, how they had been discovered, would give insight into the connectivity of the network of human metabolism and how those pathways may have evolved. The current interest in metabolomics -the simultaneous measurement of changes in metabolites in different physiologic/cellular states – would benefit from a reminder of what chemistry was actually possible in human cells. For this book, Professor Tang and I had several discussions about the scope and approach of such a work before committing our energies. Once I have committed to writing on a book project, I have outlined the number of chapters and the topics in those chapters.”

Learning by Teaching

One of the benefits of writing a book to teach others is that the authors can dive deeply into a topic and come out with a greater appreciation of different facets of a topic. Professor Tang was surprised to learn how societal focus on different vitamins change, as we understand more about human physiology and cell biology.  “Vitamin C started the wave, followed by vitamin A,” he says. “Nowadays it’s all about vitamin D, because we now understand it regulates many more cellular processes than just strengthening our bones.”

Professor Walsh says that writing this book helped him better appreciate structural features of human vitamins that he hadn’t fully considered before. “What I have learned that I had not thought deeply about the fact that nine of the thirteen vitamins have heterocyclic rings, from monocyclic to tetracyclic frameworks. Each of these nine distinct heterocycles brings particular chemistry to bear in metabolic steps: so one could say that the bulk of the chemical biology of vitamins is the chemistry of the heterocycles which are likely ancient molecules during the evolution of organisms,” Professor Walsh explains. “The eight B vitamins are classified under the letter B because they all have co-enzymatic roles. In a real sense understanding the metabolic nodes where the active coenzyme forms of the B vitamins act explains the logic of essentially all of the intersecting pathways of  energy metabolism in cell, tissues, and the whole human organism. Thus, the topic offers thirteen snapshots of the underlying logic and an alternative title would be: Human Vitamins: Thirteen Insights Into Human Metabolic Logic

Working with the Royal Society of Chemistry

While writing a book can seem like a long and daunting process,  now with fifty years of experience publishing high-quality books, the RSC aims to make it a pleasant and rewarding experience for authors. We are happy that these authors were pleased to write another book with us. “RSC has been wonderful in our writing projects.  Natural Product Biosynthesis: Chemical Logic and Enzymatic Machinery was my first experience as a book author,” says Prof. Tang. “There are many more aspects in assembling a book than just writing, including preparing the graphics to the required resolution, obtaining permissions, and thoroughly checking every detail.  RSC made the process straightforward with instructions and checklists.  The staff at RSC are not only responsive, but incredibly informative and patient with our questions and requests.  The vitamin book was much smoother in terms of assembly and submission, using our prior experience as a guide.  Overall, working with RSC has been fantastic and we will certainly choose RSC again if we write one more.”

To request an inspection copy of Profs Walsh and Tang’s latest textbook, Chemical Biology of Human Vitamins, use our online form. For more about our textbook and professional book publishing, or to propose an idea for a book please see our guidance for authors and readers. 

 

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PhD to Publishing: Jeremy Allen

Jeremy Allen, PhD, was recently appointed the Deputy Editor of Chemical Science, the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. While he is based in Cambridge in the UK, as part of his role as Deputy Editor, Jeremy works with international staff and attends conferences around the globe. We first met Jeremy at the 3rd annual University of California Chemical Symposium, where many attendees were interested in learning more about his career path and what led him to his current position. Read on to learn about Jeremy’s current role and how he went from earning a PhD to a rewarding career in publishing!


“I guess I fell into my career in publishing through a desire to move away from active research while still keeping in touch with science. After my undergraduate degree I completed a PhD in computational chemistry. I was unsure about what to do as I was getting to the end of my graduate studies, and wasn’t really sure which direction to go in, but then a post doc opportunity turned up so I thought I’d give it a go. I stuck with my post doc for about 5 years altogether but for the last couple of years I knew that research wasn’t going to be the career for me – I didn’t have the passion and drive for the work that I felt I’d need to be a really successful academic and lecturing didn’t really appeal to me too much – so I started to look around for other industries/roles to move into. By chance I bumped into a former PhD student from my post doc group who was working at the RSC and she mentioned that they were recruiting. Like her I had a similar interest in science communication and I enjoyed proof reading/editing papers and theses from my group so thought I’d give it a try.


“I knew that research wasn’t going to be the career for me – I didn’t have the passion and drive for the work that I felt I’d need to be a really successful academic and lecturing didn’t really appeal to me too much – so I started to look around for other industries/roles to move into.”


Jeremy Allen at the 4th International Conference on Energy and Biological Materials in Hefei, China

“I’ve now been with the RSC for about 4 years and continue to enjoy the role. Publishers differ in whether they have in-house professional editors to handle papers, or whether they use academic-based editors. For the ACS, for example, all editors are based in academia with their staff supporting them in their role, whereas Nature editors are all professional editors. At the RSC we have a mixture, and the composition varies by journal. When I first started at the RSC I worked on PCCP and Nanoscale as a Publishing Editor. PCCP is a hybrid journal so it uses a mixture of the two, giving me a great opportunity to work with and support our academic editors while handling papers myself through the peer reviewer process. This ranged through carrying out initial assessments to check if a submitted manuscript was suitable for the journal based on scope, finding and inviting reviewers, and making decisions. In addition to this, I also played a role in commissioning cover artwork for Nanoscale, editing accepted manuscripts to make them ready for publication and I helped coordinate the production aspects of Nanoscale. I also was involved with a couple of Faraday Discussion meetings, which are  essentially physical chemistry-based conferences where the speakers write a paper ahead of the meeting, which is sent to all delegates, and then the meeting is used to discuss the work. These discussions are all recorded by us and published in a volume with the papers. On one of our blogs, some of our Publishing Editors have shared some brief thoughts about their roles and experience which may be of interest to anyone considering a career in publishing.”

Jeremy Allen with poster prize winners at the 4th International Conference on Energy and Biological Materials.


“I now work alongside the Executive Editor and the Editorial Board, analyzing journal performance and planning the longer term strategy. I am responsible for putting together plans of how much work we want to commission for the journals I work on and what we will do to enhance their visibility within the community.”


After working as a Publishing Editor for a little over 3 years, I then changed position to become Deputy Editor for Chemical Science, ChemComm and Chemical Society Reviews. This role is more about the development of a journal, rather than production, and is much more varied. I now work alongside the Executive Editor and the Editorial Board, analyzing journal performance and planning the longer term strategy. I am responsible for putting together plans of how much work we want to commission for the journals I work on and what we will do to enhance their visibility within the community. I also go to conferences, like a recent GRC (Gordon Research Conference), to connect with academics, to hear of the new developments in a given field and to get direct feedback on our journals and the publishing landscape from our authors/reviewers point of view. My role has been taking me to amazing new places around the world – I recently attended a conference in China, the 4th ICEBM. There I had the opportunity to meet poster prize winners, colleagues like Hongmei Peng from the RSC’s Shanghai office, and Xinhe Bao, who was one of the organizers and also serves on the Editorial Board for Energy & Environmental Science.

Jeremy Allen with Hongmei Peng (center) from the RSC Shanghai office and Energy & Environmental Science Editorial Board Member Xinhe Bao.


“Working for a society publisher is also really nice, not only because of the not-for-profit motivations, but also because there is a whole aspect to the organization that isn’t publishing and focuses on supporting people in the chemical sciences…”


Overall, I’ve really enjoyed working in publishing over the past 4 years and have no plans on changing career anytime soon! Working for a society publisher is also really nice, not only because of the not-for-profit motivations, but also because there is a whole aspect to the organization that isn’t publishing and focuses on supporting people in the chemical sciences, whether it be through education, RSC membership, conferences/events, awards or influencing government policy which leads to a really diverse group of people to work with. While publishing is relatively self-contained at the RSC, there are opportunities to interact with other departments, and potential future career options too!”


We’re happy to have Jeremy on board with Chemical Science and we’re excited to see what the future will hold as the journal continues to develop. The upcoming year will surely be a time of excitement, with IUPAC declaring 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table. We expect lots of events and opportunities to meet more RSC Editorial Board Members, Associate Editors, and Deputy Editors like Jeremy. Next time you’re at a conference that is being supported by Chemical Science, keep an eye out for Jeremy and make sure to say hello!

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Frontiers of Molecular Engineering: A First-of-its-Kind Conference

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 27: The University of Chicago Institute for Molecular Engineering in partnership with the National Science Foundation, The Institution of Chemical Engineers and Molecular Systems Design & Engineering hosted “Frontiers of Molecular Engineering” at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo credit: Randy Belice for the University of Chicago.) © Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

Beyond publishing high-quality journals, The Royal Society of Chemistry aims to bring together communities of researchers from all stages of their careers and from around the world for active exchange of ideas. The inaugural Frontiers of Molecular Engineering Symposium was organized by members of the Molecular Systems Design & Engineering (MSDE) team and hosted by the Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME) at the University of Chicago. This first-of-its-kind symposium brought together world leaders in the emerging field of molecular engineering to share their latest work and to discuss key challenges to innovation.

Developing a diverse, interdisciplinary community

Left to right: Laura Fisher, Andy Ferguson, Luke Connal, Marcus Müller, Patrick Stayton, Neil Hammond, and Kristi Kiick.

As a joint venture between the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), MSDE is a truly interdisciplinary, first-of-its kind journal, crossing the boundary between chemistry and chemical engineering. Dr. Neil Hammond, Executive Editor, and Dr. Laura Fisher, Deputy Editor of MSDE, work with the Editorial Board to develop the journal and the community that it caters to – spanning experimental, theoretical, and computational research in physics, biology, chemistry, engineering, and materials science, with the international Editorial Board reflecting the diversity of the field. Over the course of the two-day event, 25 researchers convened to discuss their discoveries and the future of molecular engineering with 120 attendees that included researchers from all levels, from graduate students to experienced research scientists. Speakers came from institutions across the globe, including the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Australian National University, Imperial College London, and Collège de France.  Along with Laura and Neil, almost all of the Editorial Board members attended and contributed to the success of the symposium, including Juan de Pablo, Claire Adjiman, Luke Connal, Andrew de Mello, Andrew Ferguson, Samson Jenekhe, Kristi Kiick and Patrick Stayton.


“Advances in our ability to manipulate molecules have led to the concept of using molecular principles to engineer solutions to societal problems.”


The Chair of the Editorial Board, Juan de Pablo, Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering at IME and vice president of national laboratories at UChicago, opened the symposium, noting that advances in the ability to manipulate molecules “has led to the concept of using molecular principles to engineer solutions to societal challenges.” The conference included a panel discussion focused on how molecular engineering is taught and researched at three of the key molecular engineering institutes: Board Members Claire Adjiman, Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-Director of the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, and Patrick Stayton, Bioengineering Distinguished Term Professor and Director of the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute at the University of Washington, joined Matthew Tirrell, dean and founding Pritzker director of the IME for the panel discussion on the past, present, and future of molecular engineering. 

Left to right: Editorial Board Chair Juan de Pablo and Board Members Patrick Stayton, Claire Adjiman join IME Director Matthew Tirrell for a panel discussion at the Frontiers of Molecular Engineering Symposium on September 27 2018. (Photo credit: Randy Belice for the University of Chicago.) © Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago

Cutting-edge research

Poornima Padmanabhan is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and her paper on gravitational collapse of colloidal gels was featured on the cover of Soft Matter earlier this year. Emphasizing the interdisciplinarity of the emerging molecular engineering field, she said she attended the event to “learn about the cutting-edge science and get new ideas for my research.” Frontiers of Molecular Engineering initiated in-depth discussions of critical issues that intersect with this new field of scientific study. Presentations focused primarily on fundamental materials science, with an emphasis on global challenges in health care and the environment.

On the health care side, Sarah Heilshorn of Stanford, who also serves on the Editorial Board of Biomaterials Science, covered new developments in stem cell transplantation. John Rogers of Northwestern University discussed bio-resorbable implants and the development of water-soluble transient electronics.  Jeffrey Hubbell, Eugene Bell Professor of Tissue Engineering at IME, studies cancer immunotherapy, or ways to use the body’s immune system to find and fight cancer, and highlighted innovations in drug delivery systems for tumor suppression. Specifically, he discussed whether targeted therapies injected into the bloodstream could be as effective as treatments injected into tumors, with fewer adverse effects. Hubbell remarked, “We found that if we use targeted drugs, we have just as much efficacy, with less toxicity.” MSDE Editorial Board Member Pat Stayton discussed his group’s work on molecular engineering of macromolecular therapeutics. 

Invited speakers Sarah Heilshorn, Jeffrey Hubell, John Rogers, Seth Darling, Patrick Stayton, and Chong Liu. (Photo credit: Randy Belice for the University of Chicago.) © Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

Presentations on the environment included the work of Argonne National Laboratory’s Seth Darling on water technologies with functionalities ranging from energy transduction to pollution mitigation. Chong Liu, Assistant Professor at IME, also presented her research on water, which focuses on materials for electrochemical resource mining; this work is applicable to, for example, uranium extraction from seawater or heavy metals recovery from wastewater. During the “Molecular Engineering for Energy Research” session, Chaired by Boeing-Martin Professor of Chemical Engineering and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Washington and MSDE Editorial Board Member Samson Jenekhe, Christine Luscombe discussed her research on conducting polymers for wearable electronics. Christine, who is the Campbell Career Development Endowed Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and part of the Clean Energy Institute at the University of Washington, explained her work on how to design and build organic electronics that can be stretched while retaining the optical properties for energy capture solutions.  

During the session on “Molecular Engineering of Soft Biological Assemblies,” Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Chris Spadaccini spoke on additive manufacturing. Chinedum Osuji, who recently moved from Yale University to become Eduardo D. Glandt Presidential Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, presented self-assembled polymers and molecular materials with bespoke textures. MSDE Board Member Luke Connal from Australian National University presented his research using enzymes as the inspiration for designing and engineering catalysts. 

Poster session and prizes

Conference programming also featured a poster session with work from more than 40 researchers from across the globe; held in the modern and spacious atrium of the IME, the poster session was an opportunity for attendees to showcase and discuss their research with one another and get to know their peers and seek advice from leading experts. From the myriad engaging discussions, attendees learned from one another and surely to come are many future collaborations and continued friendships. Vivek Sharma, an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is interested in soft matter interfaces and rheology, the connection between the macroscopic behavior & applications and the physicochemical properties of the underlying molecular/macromolecular species. He was drawn to the meeting by the opportunity to attend cutting-edge research presentations by leading researchers while simultaneously witnessing how the molecular systems engineering approach is already impacting diverse scientific disciplines and quests.

Vivek Sharma discusses his research in soft matter and rheology with Chinedum Osuji during the poster session at the Frontiers of Molecular Engineering Symposium at the Institute for Molecular Engineering on September 27, 2018. (Photo credit: Anne Ryan) © Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

Cecilia Leal discusses her research on microfluidic synthesis of cubosomes and cuboplexes with Sarah Heilshorn at the Frontiers of Molecular Engineering Symposium on September 27 2018.

Cecilia Leal is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying cubosomes. She presented her research on microfluidic synthesis of cubosomes and cuboplexes, loaded with nucleic acid. She said the best part of the meeting was that there were plenty of opportunities to chat with colleagues and friends. 


“The best part of the meeting was that there were plenty of opportunities to chat with colleagues and friends.”


On day two, three students each were recognized for their outstanding posters and received a $100 cash prize from MSDE . Ashley Guo, a fourth-year student at IME, was honored for her poster, “Understanding nucleosome dynamics using diffusion maps.” James Crawford from the Colorado School of Mines was recognized for his outstanding poster on “Deoxygenation of Unsaturated Linoleic Acid to Heptadecane over Zeolite Supported Pt/ZIF-67 Catalysts” and Hao Yan from Stanford University received a prize for his poster “Diamond meets molecules: Scientific opportunities with diamondoids.”

Highlights from the poster session and reception held in the atrium of the IME during the Frontiers of Molecular Engineering symposium on September 27 2018. © Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

The Emerging Investigator Award

Prof. Juan de Pablo (at right) presented the first MSDE Emerging Investigator Award to Prof. Andrew Ferguson. © Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

The second day also included the presentation of MSDE’s inaugural prize for best emerging investigator paper to Andrew Ferguson, Associate Professor of Molecular Engineering at IME. Ferguson was honored for his paper “Rational design of patchy colloids via landscape engineering.” The paper was part of a themed issue, which features work that showcases molecular engineering approaches from leading scientists in the earlier stages of their independent research careers. The 2018 Molecular Systems Design & Engineering Emerging Investigators were individually nominated by members of the journal Editorial and Advisory Boards in recognition of their potential to influence future directions in the field. The Board has been so impressed with Andrew that he was asked to join them, and is now one of the newest Editorial Board Members of MSDE.

Recognizing an emerging field

Matthew Tirrell, dean and founding Pritzker director of IME, said, “This conference demonstrates how the Institute for Molecular Engineering and the University of Chicago have become the epicenter of the emerging field of molecular engineering. This is where world-class researchers from across disciplines come to discuss advancements and promising research in the field.”

Matthew Tirrell, Director of the IME. (Photo credit: Randy Belice for the University of Chicago.) © Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

Ryan Shafranek, a fourth-year chemistry PhD student from the University of Washington in attendance, summed up the symposium this way: “It was an informative and promising conference for the growing community surrounding molecular-level design.”


“This is where world-class researchers from across disciplines come to discuss advancements and promising research in the field.”


Frontiers of Molecular Engineering was co-organized by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago sponsored by Molecular Systems Design & Engineering, the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and the National Science Foundation. This article has been enhanced with adapted content from an original report, courtesy of the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

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Summer Board Member Awards and Accomplishments

We wish to extend our sincerest congratulations to all of our Board Members, as they continue to impress the community with their achievements and contributions!

Several of our Chemical Science Board Members have been recognized for outstanding contributions to their respective fields.

Many other Board Members across the US and Canada have been recognized for their accomplishments with a variety of awards, prizes, and appointments. 

  • Sarah Tolbert was appointed the Director of the new UCLA-led Synthetic Control Across Length-scales for Advancing Rechargeables, or SCALAR. Sarah is a professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Materials Science & Engineering and serves on the Editorial Board of Nanoscale Horizons and led the organizing committee of the 10th International Mesostructured Materials Symposium, IMMS10, which took place September 10-13, 2018 at UCLA.
  • Green Chemistry Associate Editor Chao-Jun Li was awarded a prestigious Killam Research Fellowship by the Canada Council for the Arts. CJ is the E.B. Eddy Chair Professor of Chemistry at McGill University, Canada Research Chair in Green/Organic Chemistry, and Director of the NSERC CREATE Center for Green Chemistry Training.
  • Professor Heather Maynard serves on the Editorial Board of Polymer Chemistry and was selected for the 2018 UCLA Faculty Student Development Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award.
  • At this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Professor Geoffrey Coates was presented with the 2017 Newcomb Cleveland Prize from the for the best paper published in Science. Geoffrey serves on the Editorial Board of Organic Chemistry Frontiers.
  • Peter Vikesland has been named the Nick Prillaman Professor in Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. Peter is the Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Science: Nano and a professor of the civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Other North American Board Members were honored by the RSC with awards and medals for their contributions to advancing the chemical sciences.

  • Professor Bradley Moore, Editorial Board Chair of Natural Product Reports, was honored by the RSC with the Natural Product Award for his pioneering discoveries in the chemical biology, biosynthesis, genomics and engineering of marine natural products. 
  • Professor Warren Piers was recognized for his contributions to detailed mechanistic understanding of catalytic reactions with the 2018 Ludwig Mond Award. Warren is S. Robert Blair Chair in Polymerization Catalysts and Canada Research Chair in the Mechanisms of Homogeneous Catalysis and serves as an Associate Editor for Dalton Transactions.
  • Professor Yang Shao-Horn was honored by the RSC as the first woman to win the Faraday Medal for her work at the chemical/materials physics and physical/materials chemistry interfaces. Prof. Shao-Yang serves on the Editorial Board of Energy & Environmental Sciences 

See all of the 2018 winners of Royal Society of Chemistry Prizes & Awards, which include many of our Advisory Board Members, colleagues and friends from around the world.

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Outstanding Student Profile: Caroline Rouget-Virbel

We introduced the Certificate of Excellence in 2017 and continued it in 2018 as a way for institutions to recognize students who have shown outstanding achievement in the chemical sciences; this year we want to showcase one of the recipients who embodies the spirit of the award and who inspires those around her to pursue their dreams while making a difference not only in their own communities but also those around the world. We are pleased to introduce you to Caroline Alice Rouget-Virbel, who will be starting her graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley this fall.

At Princeton’s Class Day ceremony for Chemistry seniors in the Class of 2018, Caroline was recognized for her academic performance and her contributions to the department. She earned Highest Honors in Chemistry, was elected to Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society, and was awarded The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Certificate of Excellence. But Caroline was not the typical Princeton University undergraduate. She grew up in Pélissanne, a small town in the south of France, in what most would describe as a rural area. She attended a public school and then applied to an international boarding school, Ecole Internationale de Manosque (EIM) in the French Alps, for her high school education. There she obtained a British OIB (International Optional Baccalaureate) diploma, a joint educational degree between the French Department of Education and the University of Cambridge.

While in high school, Caroline developed interests in both science and foreign languages, which in turn got her excited about applying to foreign universities in the U.S. and England. To put this in context, Caroline grew up in a comprehensively working class environment and it was not typical and expected in her family to apply to college. To then take the step of applying outside of France for higher education was quite remarkable. She took a major leap of faith and applied to Princeton University. When she was offered admission along with a generous grant for financial aid, she simply could not turn down the opportunity. Needless to say, her acceptance of Princeton’s offer not only provided a highly constructive four-year experience for Caroline, but her contributions to the department and to the campus as a whole proved to be a plus for the University community.

During her first week on the Princeton campus, Caroline quickly identified a way to produce a steady income. Always determined to pay her own bills and add to her personal savings as much as possible, she held down a paid position as a Dining Services Student Manager, training new incoming workers and overseeing meal services for her dining hall and for special catered events. In fact, she continued to hold that job during all four years at Princeton. The summer after freshman year, she added another country to her growing list of travel experiences by serving as a volunteer at the Mahatma Gandhi Orphanage in Jaipur, India. While there, she assisted with childcare, global health initiatives, and infectious disease prevention efforts. And, of course, she explored the area and soaked in the culture.

Caroline hails from Pélissanne, a small town in rural France and is the first person in her family to apply for college, but by following her passion for science, foreign language, and community service, she has managed to expand her horizons and travel the globe.

During Caroline’s freshman and sophomore years, she began work with the campus mental health initiative. In addition, knowing how it felt to be an international student, she became involved with the University’s David International Center, taking on the responsibility of planning and leading events for incoming undergraduate and graduate students, as well as year-long community-building activities. This particular type of involvement helped not only others adjust, but also helped her as she took steps to find her place within the University, so much so that she continued to contribute to this program until she graduated. During the spring of her sophomore year, Caroline gathered information about the various science departments at the University and, after much deliberation, elected to major in chemistry. With that plan in place, she lost no time laying out her “What Next?” The summer of 2016 offered her yet another opportunity to live abroad. Caroline traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to pursue research at the National Children’s Research Center. She studied the underlying patho-mechanisms of the dysregulation of the NOX-1 and -4 genes in Hirschsprung’s-Associated Enterocolitis. Her work gave her the opportunity to add skills in protein expression and PCR analysis, gel electrophoresis, and immunofluorescence microscopy to her research “toolbox.”

As a first semester junior, Caroline decided to join a research lab a full term earlier than her peers. That plan led to a round of investigations to identify a lab that would be the right fit with her interests and her style of learning. By the second month of the term, she was hard at work in the lab of Professor David W. MacMillan, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry. While 12 to 14 hours of original research per week is the expectation for young chemists, Caroline spent as much time on her project as the demands of her coursework and extracurricular commitments permitted. That dedication spoke volumes since the junior year for chemistry majors is extremely demanding with regard to reading assignments, papers to write, problem sets to complete, discussion groups to attend, and the time commitment need to complete the required experimental laboratory course. She also took on the role of undergraduate preceptor in our newly restructured organic chemistry sequence. Preceptors assist instructors of auxiliary class sessions that work on learning material and practicing skills outside of the lecture period. Caroline was one of the preceptors instrumental in developing and running review sessions prior to exams. She also spent many hours tutoring students one-on-one, providing not only academic guidance, but also a “Can Do” attitude for her students who were concerned about doing well in mastering a difficult subject.

During that same period, Caroline elected to plan for a semester of study abroad with the goal of completing her Spring 2017 term in Australia. The opportunity to explore another country and live in yet another culture proved irresistible. Within no time at all, plans were put in place for her to study at the University of Melbourne. Adjusting to a program with courses that involved no periodic evaluation until the final exam, blending into a different culture, completing an original research project in a new chemistry laboratory, and pursuing opportunities to explore Australia formed the perfect combination for this intellectually curious student. And, as luck would have it, her sister was pursuing a program in Southeast Asia, so they were able to meet up and travel together, exploring the beautiful landscape of New Zealand, spending two full weeks road-tripping and camping around the South island. Caroline’s world was expanding rapidly from the rural area of France into a global viewpoint.

The summer prior to the start of her senior year was spent on the Princeton campus in order to focus on her senior thesis research. During those months, she was the senior class catalyst, bringing all of the summer researchers together for meals and other activities to create a sense of community. In her senior year, the craving for travel led her to plan a trip to the Caribbean for yet another cultural experience, which she hopes will be her next voyage into unfamiliar lands. In September of senior year, Caroline was off and running, returning to her role as a preceptor and tutor for undergraduate organic chemistry courses. Her dedication has yet to be matched. She developed a reputation for patience and careful instruction. As side projects, she designed a senior class t-shirt that included a structure from each of the senior chemistry theses and organized various get-togethers for her classmates. She also served as a Peer Academic Advisor, shepherding first and second year undergraduates as they settled into University life. All the while, Caroline was tackling her own demanding academic schedule, which included graduate level coursework, and was spending innumerable hours on her laboratory research project. The culmination of Caroline’s research was the submission of her senior thesis entitled “Application of Dual Nickel-Photoredox Catalysis to the Synthesis of Unnatural Amino Acids.”

To quote her faculty mentor, Professor MacMillan, “Caroline is one of the best undergraduates that I have ever worked with in 20 years of being an independent academic. She is smart, driven, funny, creative, and a team player. She is beloved by my research group and she can hold her own with any current graduate student in terms of her research drive.” Caroline has been accepted into the chemistry PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley. We have no doubts whatsoever that Caroline will continue to be an outstanding student and researcher as she works towards her graduate degree.

Special thank you to Kirsten M. Arentzen, Undergraduate Administrator for the Department of Chemistry at Princeton University, for contributing the majority of the content for this article, for continuously supporting the student body, and encouraging the recognition of outstanding undergraduates. 

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Certified Excellent: Congratulations Winners!

We are happy to announce the recipients of the 2018 Certificate of Excellence! Back for its second year, this special program was developed to recognize outstanding students who have shown special achievement in the chemical sciences. Join us in congratulating these stellar students who are being honored by their departments for their achievements. We first introduced the Certificate of Excellence in 2017 as a way to recognize the younger generation of students who have shown interest and curiosity and a passion for learning in the chemical sciences. If you’re interested in getting your department involved in future Certificate of Excellence programs, please contact us at americas-editorial@rsc.org.

 

 

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Chemistry Education: All Fun and Games

Besides publishing high-quality research from around the globe, the RSC’s activities support chemistry education and lifelong learning. During Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7-11) we celebrated the launch of Professional Development of Chemistry Teachers: Theory and Practice, the first book in the RSC Advances in Chemistry Education series. We reflected on all the educators who are making a difference for those studying chemical sciences and wanted to showcase one of the outstanding young educators we’ve met who are making an impact in the North America chemistry community.  At the 3rd annual University of California Chemical Symposium, Zachary Thammavongsy from the Yang Group at UC Irvine (UCI) won the coveted “Social Media Prize” for generating the most buzz around the meeting, but what really made Zach stand out was his game company, d-Orbital Games. Attendees like Chemical Science Deputy Editor, Jeremy Allen, had so much fun playing that they may not have even realized they were learning. Since many graduate students with a passion for teaching are often torn between their roles as a researcher and an educator, we caught up with Zach during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7-11) to learn more about his accomplishments while in graduate school, what he has in store for the future, and what advice he would give to others who are inspired to teach. Zach, who won the 2017-2018 UCI Most Promising Future Faculty Award, has found a unique way to manage both research and teaching and even start his own business. Read on to learn more about Zach’s story and how teaching and learning really can can be fun and games.

Chemical Science Deputy Editor Jeremy Allen plays SeArCH with UC grad students and postdocs at the 3rd annual UCCS

“A game can be many things, but, at its core, a game is a defined set of parameters that allow a player or players to compete. This is a very structured answer, but these predefined parameters make games fun to play (either alone or against other players). A game should be fun, challenging, thought-provoking, foster a sense of competition, and ultimately provide a tangible way to accomplish one’s goals (winning). These concepts are easy to translate into simplified science topics. When playing a new game one must become familiar with the rules; I just make those rules simple to understand while teaching players about science!

“Growing up, I had amazing teachers. My source of inspiration for how to teach effectively has always been my high school teachers. They put maximum effort into their curriculum and I felt that they genuinely loved interacting with students. Now as a teaching assistant (TA), I take the same approach to teaching my lab sections and discussion courses. I don’t think I have a skill that others don’t possess in teaching, but I do believe I have the desire and the drive to pursue teaching as a career that I admire in other teachers. This is why I improve my teaching ability by taking advantage of the education classes offered at UC-Irvine and I attend teaching conferences. I am fascinated by the teaching techniques and learning strategies utilized in the subject of chemistry, and I hope to pursue conceptual learning as a research topic in the near future.

“I am a pedagogical fellow at UCI through the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI). The fellowship is highly competitive as it is open to every graduate student at UCI. I learned of the fellowship through a former pedagogical fellow in the chemistry department. I submitted a sixty minute video of my teaching, collected student evaluations and underwent a formal interview process. The fellowship provided invaluable opportunities, like taking a year-long seminar on teaching techniques with pedagogical fellows from other departments and leading a two-day teaching workshop to prepare incoming graduate students in  chemistry for teaching responsibilities. Preparation for the workshop was rigorous; I now fully appreciate the time commitment instructors invest into preparing lecture notes.

“Initially, I was apprehensive about revealing my  games to my advisor. I didn’t know how she would receive the news since research is a graduate student’s top priority.”

Zach’s company d-Orbital Games uses simple but clever games to teach chemistry concepts while making education fun.

“As a pedagogical fellow, I crafted a few chemistry flash cards with some paper, pen and scissors to make a simple game to play with my colleagues. The game was so popular with those who did not have a chemistry background, that I used it as the basis of the first d-Orbital game, SeArCH! I launched a Kickstarter soon after, where I converted the seed money from the funded campaign to make more science-based card games and built a brand! The name d-Orbital Games (dOG) was brainstormed one late night in lab with an undergraduate researcher, Wyeth Gibson. It was only fitting that as an inorganic chemist, the chemistry card game company would be named after the transition metal electron orbitals (d-orbitals). I also love the acronym “dOG” since I love dogs and my parents have a shiba inu – which is the company mascot featured in our logo wearing a lab coat and goggles.

Initially, I was apprehensive about revealing my games to my advisor. I didn’t know how she would receive the news since research is a graduate student’s top priority. I finally told my PI four months after launching the d-Orbital game website and she was absolutely supportive and encouraging. I am not quite sure why I initially felt that my PI would not be receptive to the idea, as she is a very supportive mentor to her students and their scientific goals, even if it isn’t strictly research. My PI has even retweeted things posted on d-Orbital game’s Twitter. If she is reading this, Jenny, you are the best!

“I wandered often while navigating my way into starting a company. I gathered the courage to approach all types of people, not just academics. I asked business owners who started their own companies and shared my business platform at entrepreneurial meet-ups sponsored through UCI. One of my biggest challenges was approaching domestic or international manufacturers to make my games for the lowest price. The best advice I received thus far is from Catherine Croft, Ph.D., the CEO of Catlilli Games, who advised me to submit my games to award shows and attend conferences to showcase d-Orbital Games. It is amazing how many doors open by starting a conversation with people you barely know. I was happy to receive such a warm welcome at UCCS. I went to the symposium unsure how chemistry graduate students from other UCs would react to d-Orbital Games. I had one of the best moments this year watching other graduate students take interest in the education games my team developed. Specifically, I enjoy seeing the smiles and laughter that “Slap Count” brought to the table when a collective group of graduate students were competing to show off their skills in counting d-electrons! The UCCS Chair, Andrea Coleman from UC-Davis, was the star player that night, by bringing the energy to the game table.

“It is amazing how many doors open by starting a conversation with people you barely know.”

My current team is made up of lab members and childhood friends who possess skills that are unique and vital to the success of d-Orbital Games. They provide critical feedback on every detail, allowing us to provide the most accurate and fun chemistry games. Also, it is nice working with your friends! They don’t hold back on their opinions and I appreciate that a lot. The game designers can be anyone on the team, but usually Bianca and Wyeth help come up with initial concepts and game mechanics. The two editors Kim and Brian are extremely critical of spelling and grammatical errors. Ali and Mike are hometown friends that have helped me get through some of the computing and business side of the company. They are a big help from far away. Fortunately, the game designers are my lab mates. I see them every day. Since we are all busy researching, we don’t normally set a schedule for designing games. The game design happens over at the pub or during our group bonding time. We choose a chemistry topic to tackle and share how certain game mechanics can be incorporated into highlighting a difficult chemistry concept. We try to simplify our games as much as possible, so that students can quickly pick up the game in a one-hour classroom setting. From there, I talk to my editing team about the overall look of the game. I make a lot of grammatical errors, and I am so lucky to have editors that can spot all of my mistakes. The most exciting game that my team is currently working on is a proton NMR game. We try to focus primarily on games that can be implemented in the college level classroom. The proton NMR game will be our first game with a gameboard! I even had students from my organic chemistry course play test the game several times. I am exciting to be presenting the results from the proton NMR game at this summer’s ACS Biennial Conference on Chemical Education! Please come check it out if you are attending the conference!

“I had one of the best moments this year watching other graduate students take interest in the education games my team developed.”

Zach Thammavongsy (right), founder of d-Orbital Games with Connor Easley (left), Chair of the next UCCS where Zach’s games will be featured during the 2019 meeting.

“I envision some universities giving d-Orbital Games a try, if not in their classroom then hopefully in their office hours. We hope our games will assist students in their chemistry learning. Eventually, we hope to tackle every topic in general, organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. We want teachers to be able to pull one of our games off the shelf and seamlessly incorporate them into their lesson plan. We can provide the tools and detail all the new techniques for an educator to be great, but if we don’t get educators to buy in to how teaching can be beneficial to them as much as it will be for the students then that is when students suffer. From my experience, the skills I think graduate students gain from teaching are improved communication skills and professionalism. Every day is a chance for graduate teaching assistants (TA) to practice these skills so that they can be perfected for job interviews or handling difficult workplace situations in the future. Not everyone has to have the passion for teaching, but if everyone knows the benefits from getting the opportunity to teach then perhaps we can start to improve the teaching mindset of our graduate TAs and many other educators.”

We were impressed by Zach’s story and hope it will inspire other young people who are passionate about teaching and the 2019 UCCS is planning to incorporate some of Zach’s games into the program for attendees to play. The biggest lesson that Zach has learned through this experience:

Continue through the tough times. Even when your ideas don’t work out the first, or second or third time – very similar to research – talk to as many people that are willing to listen and play your game and do what makes you happy.”

We appreciate Zach sharing his story with us and hope you join us in thanking all the teachers who are making a difference;  follow Zach & d-Orbital Games and the Yang Group on Twitter to keep up with the latest happenings in both teaching and research. Educators looking for additional teaching tools can explore Learn Chemistry, the RSCs educational resource and teacher support publishing program. In addition to the magazine Education in Chemistry which covers all areas of chemistry education, our peer-reviewed journal Chemical Education Research and Practice is free to access for all, thanks to sponsorship by the RSC’s Chemistry Education Division.

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2018 Prize Winners at 3rd Annual UC Chemical Symposium

 

Research Presentation Prize winners from the Cohen group at UC San Diego. Left to right: Jessica Moreton, Chemical Science Oral Research Presentation Prize; Joey Palomba, Dalton Transactions Poster Prize; Kyle Bentz, Materials Horizons Poster Prize; Christine Morrison, Analyst Poster Prize.

Several RSC journals supported the 3rd annual University of California Chemical Symposium by sponsoring poster and  presentation prizes. Chemical Science, our flagship journal, sponsored oral Research Presentation Prizes in each of the six subject areas and our core subject-area journals sponsored poster prizes.

 

An impressive showing came from the Cohen group from UC San Diego with three poster prizes and an oral presentation prize. Jessica Moreton was awarded a Chemical Science prize for her talk on MOFs in mixed-matrix membrane systems in the Materials/Nano category. In addition to Jessica’s talk, three posters from the Cohen group won poster prizes. Joey Palomba won the Dalton Transactions Poster Prize for Inorganic Chemistry for his work on high-throughput screening methods for MOFs for nerve agent degradation. Christine Morrison won the Biochemistry category ChemComm Poster Prize for her work on drug discovery methods using metallofragments. Kyle Bentz won the Materials category with a Materials Horizons Poster Prize for his work on hollow amphiphilic crosslinked nanocapsules; Kyle is also serving as Vice-chair of the 2019 UCCS. The group’s leader, Seth Cohen, helped found the UCCS and is surely pleased to see such a strong performance from his group. 



Netz Arroyo from UC Santa Barbara is presented a Chemical Science Research Presentation Prize by Professor Carrie Partch.

The Chemical Science Prizes were presented by keynote speaker, Prof. Carrie Partch from UC Santa Cruz and were also awarded for oral presentations in each of five other categories. Sean Nguyen from Jenn Prescher’s research group and Bryan Ellis in the Vanderwal Group took home prizes for UC Irvine. Sean’s talk on the development of orthogonal reactions for multicomponent labeling in biological systems earned him the Chemical Science Prize in Chemical Biology/Biochemistry and Bryan’s presentation on the development of an oxetane-based polyketide synthase substrate mimic won in the Organic category. In the Analytical category, the prize went to Netz Arroyo, a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Kevin W Plaxco’s group at UC Santa Barbara. Netz presented his work on coupling electrochemical, aptamer-based sensors with closed-loop control algorithms. The goal is to achieve continuous real-time measurement of specific molecules in living things and ultimately feedback-controlled delivery of therapeutic drugs, which would be valuable in a clinical setting for any number of diseases. Also from UC Santa Barbara, Andrew Cook from the research group of Trevor Hayton was recognized in the Inorganic category for his talk on catalytically active nanoclusters. These acetylide-stabilized copper and thiolate-stabilized cobalt nanoclusters can also be immobilized on silica and would be valuable for nanostructured materials. Will Hollingsworth, who also served on the organizing committee for the 2018 UCCS from the Ayzner Group at UC Santa Cruz was awarded the prize for his talk in the Physical category on electronic energy transfer dynamics in conjugated polyelectrolytes, which would be especially useful for artificial photosynthesis when oppositely-charged donor-acceptor pairs are used. Will used a variety of time-resolved techniques as well as steady-state measurements to study these complex systems. 



Chad Cruz from UC Riverside with his prize-winning poster on charge-separated S-bridged chromophores at the 2018 UCCS poster session.

The remaining posters were claimed by UC Riverside. The PCCP Poster Prize for best poster in the Physical Chemistry category went to Chad Cruz, a graduate student at UC Riverside jointly in the Chronister group and the Bardeen research lab. Chad presented on studies using anthracene in sulfur-bridged chromophore systems and examining the effects of changing the S oxidation state. His work shows significant insights into ways to tune excited-state properties in these bridged systems that could be used for optoelectronic devices due to their potential for forming long-lived charge-separated states. 

Bill Weigel from UC Riverside with his prize-winning organic poster on anacardic acid derivatives for enzyme-inhibition studies.

 

 

The Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry Poster Prize in the Organic Chemistry category went to Bill Weigel, a graduate student in the research group of Dave Martin at UC Riverside, which focuses on the design and synthesis of bioactive molecules; Bill presented his work on the use of computational docking studies to design anacardic acid derivatives, which he then synthesizes in order to study structure-activity relationships with enzymes. Specifically, they are examining the inhibition of the enzyme SUMO E1, which is known to be involved in oncogenesis, by these rationally-designed substrates.

 

The next UCCS will take place March 24-27th 2019 in Lake Arrowhead, California where we expect to see more exciting research and recognize the hard work of the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows behind it.  

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The Royal Society of Chemistry Certificate of Excellence Returns for 2018

Last year we introduced the Royal Society of Chemistry Certificate of Excellence – an award program to recognize outstanding undergraduate students across the United States. The Certificate is our modern reinvention of the well-known Merck Index® Award, which we have been working to transform since the RSC took over publishing of the classic text a few years ago. In the inaugural cycle, we asked institutions to select exemplary students from their department who have shown special achievement in the chemical sciences. We awarded almost 100 Certificates to students like Nancy Song (pictured,center, with Department Chair and Van Zandt Williams, Jr. Class of ’65 Professor of Chemistry, Prof. Tom W. Muir, at left, and Director of Undergraduate Studies Dr. Robert P. L’Esperance,at right), who graduated with Highest Honors from Princeton University, where she did her thesis work with Chemical Science Associate Editor, Prof. Haw Yang.)

 

Nancy Song, (center) recipient of a 2017 Royal Society of Chemistry Certificate of Excellence, pictured with Department Chair and Van Zandt Williams, Jr. Class of ’65 Professor of Chemistry, Prof. Tom W. Muir (at left) and Director of Undergraduate Studies Dr. Robert P. L’Esperance (at right). Nancy graduated with Highest Honors from Princeton University, where she did her thesis work with Chemical Science Associate Editor, Prof. Haw Yang. Photo: Frank Wojciechowski

The students chose from one of two prize options – either a hard copy of the classic reference text, The Merck Index® now in its Fifteenth Edition or a 6-month digital subscription to Chemistry World magazine. Since its first publication in 1889, The Merck Index® has become an essential reference for all scholarly and professional chemists, biochemists, pharmacists and toxicologists, of interest to students, teachers, libraries, researchers, information professionals, solicitors, journalists and government agencies – it has been the leading source of information on chemical compounds for generations of scientists and professionals. Recognized as a badge of achievement and dedication on the bookshelves of chemists worldwide, this formidable title continues to serve as the symbol of an early scholarly and professional milestone. For many of these outstanding undergraduates, receiving the text represents the closing of one chapter in their education, and the beginning of the next phase of their scientific careers. 


 


This year, we’re happy to announce that the program will continue for 2018 and invitations to nominate exceptional undergraduates will be sent to select institutions at the beginning of February. We’re working to expand the program in the future and look forward to recognizing more deserving students. For any questions or comments about the Certificate of Excellence, contact us at americas-editorial@rsc.org.

*The name THE MERCK INDEX is owned by Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, N.J., U.S.A., and is licensed to The Royal Society of Chemistry for use in the U.S.A. and Canada.

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Northwestern University: Spotlight on Women in Science & Modern Career Paths

Women in Science Career Panel, from left to right: Dr. Stacey Tobin, Dr. Sadie Wignall, Dr. Stephanie Knezz, Dr. Dimitra Georganopoulou, and Dr. Jen Griffiths.

We recently visited the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University, where we hosted a day of educational activities for graduate students and postdocs, including a career panel of women in science who chose to follow a range of traditional and alternative career paths.  Dr. Jen Griffiths from our Washington, DC office shared insights into the world of scholarly publishing and was joined by Northwestern alumni in traditional and non-traditional careers. During this engaging, informal session, attendees were able to ask questions, learn about challenges and opportunities the representatives had encountered, and hear some great advice and tips from successful women in science.


“I realized fairly early on that an academic career wasn’t for me, and I started seeking out seminars and roundtables on ‘alternative careers.’ “


Dr. Stacey Tobin noticed that unlike a lot of her peers, she really enjoyed writing as a graduate student. “I realized fairly early on that an academic career wasn’t for me, and I started seeking out seminars and roundtables on ‘alternative careers,'” she said. “One focused specifically on science writing, and the entire panel was made up of PhDs who found careers in various types of science writing—from journalism to regulatory writing, continuing medical education to advertising.” She also joined professional organizations as a student member, including the American Medical Writers Association and the Council for Science Editors, to take advantage of their educational programs and sought outside opportunities to write. “I contributed articles to the department newsletter, and took any opportunity I could to write and edit.”  Stacey built up her reputation as a skilled writer and knowledgeable scientist before starting her own firm, The Tobin Touch.


“When I discovered that I wanted my career to focus on teaching, I found my campus program that focuses on STEM teaching opportunities for graduate students and post-docs.” 


One common thread of the discussion was the importance of pursuing opportunities outside the lab to both discover interests and talents, as well as to gain practical experience. Dr. Stephanie Knezz, Assistant Professor of Instruction and Co-Director of General Chemistry Laboratory at Northwestern University says, “When I discovered that I wanted my career to focus on teaching, I found my campus program that focuses on STEM teaching opportunities for graduate students and post-docs. I was able to implement a project at a local community college “flipping” a traditional chemistry class and working on the corresponding curriculum development for a few lessons in the course.” She says that the experience not only gave her a better idea of the duties of an instructor and but also inspired a renewed motivation to continue her degree now that she could focus on a specific career goal.


“I’ve found that networking can be a great way to learn about career possibilities, and that informational interviews can be very helpful for learning about day-to-day aspects of a career.”


Dr. Sarah Kamper now oversees intellectual property protection for various chemistry and materials technologies as Invention Manager at the Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO) at Northwestern. “I learned about IP law through attending a career panel focused on careers outside of academia or industry.” she says. “It sounded like a great way to stay connected to science while transitioning into more translational aspects away from the bench.”  Sarah also realized the power of networking by talking with former members of her lab who worked at law firms in tech transfer. “I’ve found that networking can be a great way to learn about career possibilities, and that informational interviews can be very helpful for learning about day-to-day aspects of a career.” Sarah also suggests looking to campus groups as a way to begin networking: “If anyone is unsure of where to start, some organizations have student or young professional networking events where you can efficiently meet many people in a few hours!”


“My best piece of advice is to figure out what aspect of your science you are most passionate about, find opportunities where you can get first-hand experience delving into that aspect, and use careful time management to make it work with your research.” 


We also asked the panelists what actions they recommend students take or what was especially helpful to focus on for graduate students and postdocs. Stephanie suggested spending some time and effort to uncover your interests and finding ways to take advantage of related opportunities. “My best piece of advice is to figure out what aspect of your science you are most passionate about, find opportunities where you can get first-hand experience delving into that aspect, and use careful time management to make it work with your research.” And she added, “If you are doing something you love (even if it’s not at the bench), you will almost definitely be more efficient in the lab than if you’re coming to lab everyday with the primary goal of just ‘getting through it.’ ”

 

 

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