A Tale of Vegemite (or Marmite) and Credit Where it’s Due

I had an interesting experience recently regarding some media coverage of my work. Readers of this blog will remember my Vegemite aroma analysis from June last year, which at the time got a nice amount of media attention, notably this Guardian article and this interview on ABC radio.

On October 6th (AEDST), I became aware through a Google Alert I have on my own name (narcissist, who me?), that the UK publication Chromatography Today had picked up on the Vegemite work and written an article in their ‘Breaking News’ section. 16 months old is quite a loose interpretation of breaking news in my opinion but hey whatever.


I thought it a little strange that they had gone ahead and written this article without even contacting me, but I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to media coverage and whatnot so I’m not really sure if this is normal or not. Once I read the article I could see that there were a few errors contained within, the major one being that they’d said I did the work on Marmite. Can you believe it, Marmite? That horrid stuff? As if!

Anyway, there was a link off to the right hand side of the article to “Request more information” so I submitted a little thingamajig there pointing out the mistakes and asking for them to be corrected, receiving only this automated reply.


I also contacted the @Chromtoday Twitter account, even though it had not tweeted for over 2 months.


Then I waited. After 5 days I still hadn’t received a reply through either of these channels to I sent the following email to the generic info email account of Chromatography Today. I recognised that my initial reactions were made in the heat of the moment, and maybe I had not been as courteous as I could have, so my aim was to be polite and civil in my email communication. In order of importance (to me) the changes I requested were:

  1. Correcting Marmite to Vegemite
  2. Removal of the false assertion that this work is part of my PhD studies
  3. A link back to the original work here on this blog
  4. Correction of typographical/methodological errors


Again I received no response, this time I waited 9 days before taking the next step. With a bit of Google-fu I was able to find the personal email addresses of several employees of the company that produces Chromatography Today. This information was publicly available by a Google search, I didn’t do anything special other than to select the right search terms. So I sent to all of these employees pretty much the same email I’d sent to the generic account earlier, slightly modified to explain that I hadn’t received any responses from my prior enquiries.

Hours after I sent THAT email, I get a response! Finally!


And then this the following day.


GREAT RIGHT? Well, let’s have a look at the changes they made using the compare feature in Word


  1. Correcting Marmite to Vegemite                   KINDA YEP (in the text only not the title)
  2. Removal of the false assertion that this work is part of my PhD studies YEP
  3. A link back to the original work here on this blog          NOPE NOPITY NOPE
  4. Correction of typographical/methodological errors        YEP 

Well, I’m not going to take this any further but I can’t say I’m fully satisfied with this outcome. I still feel like it is quite bad manners to not link back to the original source but this is over for me now, I’m not putting any more effort into pursuing this. As always, opinions and stuff welcome here and on the twoots.

My Three Minute Thesis Experience

I recently competed in two rounds of the Monash University 3 Minute Thesis competition, for more info on what 3MT is go here. I love the idea of 3MT and have been keen on participating for a couple of years now. Last year I didn’t feel quite ready, and wasn’t 100% happy with the idea I’d come up with so I didn’t end up entering. But this year – I had a great idea and I was ready man, so READY.

I’ve also been on a serious mission to improve my public speaking skills following an epically disastrous talk at ANU late last year. I’ve tried to take up all of the speaking opportunities that come up for me, and I joined the local branch of Toastmasters which has really helped as well. Simply practising public speaking in one form or another with a minimum frequency of once per fortnight has definitely accelerated my improvement.


The School of Chemistry Finals

When I showed up on the day, five contestants had become three and the order of presenters had been rearranged so that I was no longer first, but last. I’d had a dastardly cold/flu thing complete with fever and aches for about a week, so I was not in the best form of my life. Thankfully, the lecture theatre and lighting was set up such that I had to stand behind the lectern in order for the microphone to pick up my husky, disease-ridden voice. Under the circumstances, I was quite happy in the safe haven behind the lectern but still delivered my 3MT rather quickly, coming in ~25 seconds under time, including two bouts of coughing.

Despite the length and my rather deadpan delivery, I was still reasonably confident of getting through to the next round. Feedback from the judges suggested my presentation required more ‘scientific depth’ and although they did acknowledge my temporary otolaryngological disability, commented that my delivery could’ve been more authoritative and punchy. Fair enough.

To address the critiques from the school finals, I removed one kind of wishy-washy sentence from the script, replacing it with two longer sentences explaining the principles and advantages of gas chromatographic separations (ooh, so scientifically deep man). I also practised – A LOT. Punchy, authoritative delivery I am all over you.


The Faculty of Science Finals

Having mostly recovered from my sickness, on the day of the faculty finals I was about 50:50 nerves and confidence. Surprisingly, I was the only female contestant and also clearly the oldest (so damn old, these kids are like 22 years old how do they even scients). This time we were miked up so I didn’t have to worry about being trapped behind the lectern. There was however, a non-moving spotlight. Here is where I’ll let you watch the video and watch me twitch like a twitchy twitchface who wants to walk around, practised walking around, planned to walk around but is trapped in the spotlight to twitch away for three twitchtastic minutes.


The slide which is on the display behind me looked like this:

So yeah, clearly I had a problem. The feedback from the faculty judges was that they loved my story, but the delivery was distracting. DANG. So annoyed. I know I can do better than this. See you next year, 3MT.

More Silly Science Songs

It’s time for another edition (edition 1 here) of “songs posted on twitter that I have reappropriated with stupid science lyrics“. Please enjoy/roll eyes/headdesk as appropriate. I’ve included YouTube links to the original songs this time, for those who don’t share my refined and highly sophisticated tastes in music.


Wuthering Heights Synchrotron Nights by Kate Bush – March 28

Out on the circley, light source floors
You diffract the x-ray beam
You had to work nights
I had jealousy
Too late, too sciencey

How could you leave me
When I wanted to
Watch BSG with you
I hated you, I loved you too

Bad dreams in the night
They told me it was just a really bright light
Leave me behind on synchrotron, synchrotron, synchrotron nights

Heathcliff, it’s me Cathy
Please come home
I’m so bored, let me watch that TV show


Just the Way You Are Be a Chromatographer by Billy Joel – March 25

Don’t go swagin’
To try and seal me
I’ve never sprung a leak before
I don’t imagine
You’ll lose your helium
I’d might not seal you anymore

I would not leak you
In times of trouble
We never could have flowed this far
I’ll take the noble gas, I’ll take the bad air
So you can be a chromatographer

Where the Streets Peaks Have No Name by U2 – May 13

I want to run I want to find
I want to identify the molecules that show up as ions
I want to reach out and touch the flame
Where the peaks have no name
I want to feel, the oven vent on my face
I see my sample disappear without a trace
I want to take shelter from the unknowns, shame
Where the peaks have no name


Nightswimming Titrating by REM – May 27

Deserves a quiet lab

The standard solution in the fumehood
Made up years ago
Turned around backwards cos the label’s gone

Every titre
Reveals the indicator changes
The endpoint’s so much clearer

I forgot my labcoat at the benches edge
The burette’s low on titrand

You May Be Right by Billy Joel – June 10

Friday night I smashed your flasky
Saturday I said I’m sorry
Sunday came and trashed glassware again
It was just a reaction
Wasn’t hurting anyone
And we all worked through the weekend so no change


I’ve been stranded in the no yield zone
I walked the mass spec room alone
Even solved the NMR shifts in the rain
And you told me not to characterise
But I made the white crystalline
So you said that only proves that I’m insane


You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be the molecule I’m looking for
Turn out the lights
Turn on the UV
You may be wrong for all I know
But you may be right


Young and Beautiful Topical by Lana Del Rey – June 25

Will you still cite me
When I’m no longer young and topical
Will you still cite me
When I am nothing but historical
I know you will


Heart Nanoparticle of Gold by Neil Young – July 1

I’ve been to Stanford
I’ve been to Harvard
I’ve crossed the ocean for a nanoparticle of gold

It’s citrate stabilised
It’s such a small size
Keeps me searching for a nanoparticle of gold
And I’m getting old


Running on Cooking Up Ice by Billy Joel – July 10

There’s a lot of tension in my home
The cancer’s building up inside of me
I’ve got all the symptoms & the side effects
Of imminent mortality

It’s not hard to understand that
My blue crystals are superior
In a world of pregnant wife and teenage son
My motives are ulterior

So I decided to start cooking up ice
Paying the price too long
Killing and scheming cos I’m cooking up ice
Where did my life go wrong



Long Hair Lab Hack

At the end of my recent glove post I mentioned that I wear my hair down in the lab, and was admonished for doing this (and rightly so). My reason for wearing my hair down to work is pure vanity, I prefer the way I look with my hair down and I’ve also found that wearing my hair in a ponytail all the time leads to a lot of breakages where the elastic goes which makes my hair look quite yuk.

But, what I didn’t mention earlier is that when I am doing ‘wet chemistry’ type activities in the lab I usually do have my hair secured away from my face. I want to share the way that I do this in case there are any other long-haired lab lubbers out there who have the same problems as me, like:

  •          Not carrying hair ties
  •          Not wanting to use rubber bands
  •          Generic laziness
  •          Extreme vanity

OK so here goes. How to secure your hair away from your face with a pen (or pipette):

  1.        Using both hands, sweep your hair into a ponytail
  2.        Keeping the ponytail straight, twist the entire ponytail very tightly (but not so tight that it kinks back on itself) in a clockwise direction
  3.        Coil the twisted ponytail around itself, starting at the base, to form a bun and hold the end with your left hand
  4.        With your right hand, grab a pen and with the pointy end skewer the bun. Start by incorporating some of the non-bun hair (see pic) and push/weave through so you skewer both ‘sides’ of the bun ring. Using some non-bun hair is important as this will help it be weighted correctly and stay secure for longer.

I have used the (clean and disposable!) pipette here mainly to illustrate this point. It’s too long to actually be practical. I find a pen is the perfect length and it’s pretty much hidden when done correctly – see pic at the bottom.


Extra tips

  •          Instructions are for a rightie, if you’re a leftie do it in reverse I guess
  •          Your hair needs to be past shoulder length for this to work
  •          Make sure if you use a pen, that the tip is pointing upwards. If it’s pointing downwards you may end up drawing all over the back of your shirt (yes, I learned this the hard way).
  •          I suspect this might not work with super straight or fine hair.



Flawless execution of pen hair using this pen.


Let me know if you have any lab hair hacks!

A Boundless Dorkery of Chemistry Songs

Reading back my tweets in shame
Whoa oh oh ahhh oh
And the world’s gonna know I’m lame
Whoa oh oh ahhh oh.



My twitter followers might have caught one or two of my tweets where I take a pop song and change the words to make it it chemistry themed. If this is not definitive proof of my boundless dorkery, I don’t know what is. I’m going to start collecting them together in blog posts before twitter eats them into oblivion (because some have already been lost and the world is certainly poorer for it). I find inspiration for these songs all around me, in fact it’s quite possible that I might be a creative genius. Now if only I could be this brilliant when it came to my science…


Monsters Ghost Peaks by Something for Kate: March 21, 2014

I was sitting in the lab of chromatography
Waiting to discover something about some fuel
I couldn’t find my compounds
And I couldn’t separate them
It was like trying to think in reverse
And I don’t want to rinse a non-crosslinked phase
And I don’t want to inject acid or base
But these ghost peaks follow me around
Hunting me down
And I can’t bake them out
Bake them out


Scenes from an Italian Restaurant Chemistry Laboratory by Billy Joel: March 18, 2014

Alkyl nitrite, chlorophenol red
Perhaps a solvent wash bottle instead
We’ll get a fumehood near the sink
In our old familiar place
You and I face to face
Ruthenium red, sodium sulphite
It all depends on your reaction tonight
I’ll meet you any time you please
In our chem laboratory


Blame Myself by Sky Ferrera: March 14, 2014

How could you know what it feels like
For analytes to coelute
You think I’d learn to dilute
How could you know what it feels like
When your analysis is moot
Chromatographic pursuit
I just want you to realise
I blame I blame I blame myself
For this separation


Elevation Separation by U2: March 12, 2014

A mix
What I can see is nix
Very complex matrix
Maybe you can separate my kind
Explain these controls
Can’t isolate the whole
The goal


The (Tungsten) Wire by Haim: March 6, 2014

You know I’m bad at mass spec detection
It’s the hardest thing for me to do
And it’s said it’s the most important part
The analytes go through
And I’d give it all away
Just so I could say that
I know I know I know I know
That you can detect them another way

You know there’s no rhyme or reason
To the way you fragment for me
I didn’t change the ionisation source
Not intentionally
I know it’s hard for me to say it
But I can’t bear to stay and
I just know I know I know I know
That I can’t detect them another way


Royals Chemists by Lorde: March 1, 2014

I’ve never seen an atom in the flesh
I cut my teeth on retort rings in laboratories
And I’m not proud of synthesis
In the round bottom flask
No percent yield envy

But everybody’s like solvents, test tubes, shimming in the spec room
Chromate stains, lab coats, spills in the weighing room
We don’t care, we’re winning Nobel Prizes in our dreams

But everybody’s like crystals, rotavaps, diamonds on IR machines
Ring strain, science, analysis of gold beads
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in a boat or chair

And we’ll never be chemists (chemists)
It don’t run in our blood
Those electrons ain’t for us
We crave a different kind of buzz


Riptide by Vance Joy: February 18, 2014

I was scared of Schlenk lines and the Shark
I was scared of arrow curls and starting new reactions
Oh all my friends do synthesis


Buy Me a Pony by Spiderbait: February 12, 2014

Don’t you wanna be
Doing chromatography
Or mass spectrometry
But you’ll never make it if you can’t separate it


One More Time by Britney Spears: January 15, 2014

Radiation is killing me (and I)
I must confess I still believe (still believe)
When I found radium I lost my mind
Give me a prize
Nobel me baby one more time


Roar Pour by Katy Perry:  January 4, 2014

I’ve got the eye of a chemist, menace,
Dancing through the premise
Cos I am a scientist
And you’re gonna watch me pour


Any sciencey singers out there who want to join me in some kind of Bernie Taupin/Elton John-esque type relationship? We could be amaze.

Flavours of Gloves in my Chemistry Lab

 Earlier this week, a flippant twitpic of my gloves sparked a bit of a conversation on twitter about glove use in the chemistry laboratory. I was directed to these two posts from Professor Andrea Sella’s blog, and reminded of this one from ChemBark.

In my summer breaks as an undergrad I worked in the ‘inorganics’ section of an environmental lab (this meant working mainly with water), and I remember looking across the corridor to the ‘organics’ section and noting that their gloves were different to the ones I was using. I didn’t really understand at this point the difference between different glove materials until one of the chemists I worked with explained this to me. I think this was my first proper introduction to glove use in the lab.

I’ve worked in over half a dozen different labs over my career now, but I’ve found the glove culture to be reasonably consistent between them. People tend to wear gloves in the lab the majority of the time, with not much consideration for whether the task actually requires them. It’s common to see people using lab computers, door handles, pens and other items while wearing gloves. This means that EVERY SURFACE in the lab is potentially contaminated. Think about that.

My colleague recently reviewed the gloves we use in our laboratory, and their compatibility with the solvents and samples we typically work with. The bulk of our chemistry is done with hydrocarbon fuels and organic solvents. If this type of work was done as an undergrad lab class, I’d probably agree with Prof Sella and say gloves are not necessary for a one-off potential exposure and any spills could be easily dealt with using soap and water. However, I work with this stuff every day and I am concerned about the effects of repeated, long term exposure to organics which is why I use gloves most of the time. The result of the review was the acquisition of some new glove types which I’ve started using for different situations;

  • Our staple nitrile glove has been replaced with a black version (because black is the most badass), which has the benefit of being slightly thicker than the blue ones we had been using before. I use this glove 95% of the time, either for working on GC-MS instruments (where I am gloved to protect the instrument from dust and fingerprint oils) or when I am transferring or pipetting small amounts of sample or solvent. Although nitrile is permeable to most of the liquids I’m working with, the glove provides a temporary barrier and a few seconds grace where I can remove the glove before my skin comes into contact with the liquid.


  • Also made of nitrile, these gloves are considerably thicker than above with a textured outside surface for better grip. These gloves are marketed as disposable, so I’m a little uncomfortable using these very frequently because their stiffness means they would take up a lot of space in landfill – probably the space of at least half a box of regular nitriles. Also, they’re permeable to most of our common lab solvents, although the grace time is longer given the thickness. On the plus side, the extra grip is fantastic and dexterity in this glove is very good.


  • These gloves are new to me and the best glove we could find for working with hydrocarbon fuels. They’re impermeable to kerosene and gasoline type fuels, so they are my new go-to glove for working with larger volumes. They have a weird, flat shape and are very smooth which is not great so if I need extra dexterity I use a nitrile glove one size up from my usual over the top.


  • I’ve started doing washing up of glassware using these elbow-length beauties. Before I was using either nitriles or supermarket washing up gloves, both of which are practically useless because I would always dunk my arms too far into the washing up and just get all the water and fuel and detergent and any other junk filling up all the space between the glove and my hand anyway. These are much better because it’s almost physically impossible for me now to dunk my arms in above the glove line – I’d have to fall into the sink (which may be possible, our sink is enormous).


  • These PVA gloves are used only for handling dichloromethane. DCM will instantly plough through all gloves except these. They’re a total pain to use, very stiff and dexterity is extremely poor but the only choice when handling DCM. I also had an accident with dichloromethane early on in my career so I am quite wary of any extra exposure to this solvent.


So while I do think about glove use more than some, there are a few of my own glove-related behaviours that I may need to think about more;

  • I tend to wear my hair down and loose most days so occasionally in the lab I find myself needing to get hair out of my face while my hands are gloved. If blowing it away with a large exhale doesn’t work (ie if my hair is stuck in my lipstick), I generally use the back of my hand to push it away.
  • Similarly, if I happen to have an itch on my face or other part of my body, I will use a gloved hand to scratch it, but use some part of my hand other than my fingers, which are most likely to be ‘contaminated’.
  • I often re-use disposable nitriles if I think they’re not contaminated.
  • I often use gloves simply to work in a dirty/dusty environment ie around our GC gas lines.

Holy moly, who’d have thought I would write >1000 words about gloves? GLOVES.


Papes for the Peeps – Analysis of Antioxidants in Fuels

This is the latest in a series of posts where I attempt to translate my published research into a format suitable for a non-specialist audience.

My paper “Synthetic Phenolic Antioxidants in Conventional and Alternatively-Derived Middle Distillate Fuels Analysed by Gas Chromatography with Triple Quadrupole and Quadrupole Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry” was recently published in the ACS journal Energy and Fuels (paywalled).

This piece of work describes two new methods for determining antioxidant compounds in jet and diesel fuels. Antioxidants are added to some fuels to stop the fuel reacting with oxygen while in storage. When fuels react with oxygen, they can become unsuitable for use and cause engine problems. Although these antioxidants serve an important purpose, they are only permitted to exist in the fuel up to a certain concentration. Sometimes, if a fuel is suspected to be reacting with oxygen, the users might want to add antioxidant to stop the fuel from going bad – but if they don’t know how much antioxidant is in there (if any), how will they know how much to add without going over the limit?

The antioxidants are present in the fuel at very low concentrations, which makes it difficult to measure them without the bulk of the fuel interfering in the analysis. It’s possible to extract the antioxidants from the fuel, which then makes the measurement easier, but the extraction process is often long, resource intensive (uses lots of solvent) and frequently doesn’t work well enough. My laboratory recently acquired two new GC-MS (gas chromatography – mass spectrometry) instruments with advanced detection systems so I decided to see how these instruments would go at detecting antioxidants in fuels at low levels, and without any sample treatment.


Left: generic structure of these antioxidants, where ‘R’ can represent a methyl or tertiary butyl group in 1-3 of these R positions. Right: BHT, a common antioxidant used in fuels, foods and other products, where the R group opposite the OH is a methyl and the two R groups adjacent to the OH are tertiary butyl.


I have posted before about how gas chromatography and mass spectrometry work, and in this study it is the mass spectrometers that play a key role in the detection of the antioxidant compounds. The two different instruments I used are able to exploit different characteristics of the target molecules, in order to detect them at low levels, without interference.

Triple Quadrupole (QQQ) MS

The QQQ achieves excellent sensitivity by fragmenting molecules in the mass spectrometer more than once. For example, using the antioxidant shown in the picture above, the spectrum for this compound is


Which means that ordinarily, I would use the strong signal from the ion with a mass of 205 to look for this compound. But fuels have so many other moelcules in them, that there are loads of other compounds that also generate a signal at 205 and these swamp the signal from the target compound. So I can program the QQQMS to collect the strong ions, and perform another fragmentation on it. This generates a new mass spectrum with a new set of fragment ions. In this case, the fragmentation of 205 produces a signal at 145. So I can get the QQQMS to monitor these specific fragmentations, and keep track of the transition of each ion into another ion as it is broken apart in the spectrometer. So while there may be many compounds that have a signal at 205, there is only one molecule which has a signal of 205 fragmenting to 145. By using this approach, I can be very specific in my identification and measurement of my target compounds and this specificity brings with it excellent sensitivity and low detection limits.

Quadrupole Time of Flight (QTOF) MS

The QTOF is able to detect very specific compounds because it can measure their mass very accurately. The other mass spectrometers in our lab are able to measure the weight of ions to one atomic mass unit (amu). Using the example above, the most accurate mass of the main ion we can obtain with these instruments is 205 amu. And again, there will be many other compounds with fragment ions of the same molecular weight. However, if we calculate the mass of this fragment (C14H21O) accurately, it comes out as 205.1587. Another possible ion with the same molecular weight is C13H19NO, but the accurate mass of this ion is 205.1461. This difference of 0.0127 amu is enough for the QTOF to distinguish between these two molecules, so I can program the instrument to look only for the accurate mass ion I’m interested in and discard the other closely matching, but interfering compounds.

Exploiting the strengths of these two mass spectrometers has allowed me to detect and measure low levels of antioxidant compounds in very complex  fuel mixtures.

Aliquots of the #chemophobia blogversation

10 days is a long time in internetland, this fickle place where memes flap in and out of our lives like disoriented cartoon birds attempting to navigate between vertical pipes. In the time since I posted the first part of the chemophobia blogversation, there have been many fantastic contributions to the discussion.

Chemtacular put forth three contributions, the first of which began with calling me a superstar so naturally, everything she said in the rest of the post was flawless. NEXT.

In the second post, Chemtacular used a recent twitter interaction as an example to make her case. She argues that the label chemophobia is a gateway to ad hominem attacks and bullying of those who fear or misuse chemistry.

Chemtacular’s third offering was posted at Chemistry Blog and asked ‘where to from here?’. If the chemists of the internet can’t agree on how to use the term chemophobia (herding cats anyone?), does it really matter? (yes, it does) We all want the same thing, to see chemistry appreciated amongst the wider community, and how can we as professional chemists help to make that happen?

Luke expressed his concern that chemists are losing ownership of the word ‘chemical’ and suggests taking concerns about false labelling of products as ‘chemical-free’ to the relevant authorities. He asserts that we as chemists are ‘brand ambassadors’ for chemistry, and this is an attitude that we can adopt in our everyday lives amongst our families, friends and colleagues.

Chad* made references to things like dolphins and jazz music in the beehive state, which appear to somehow relate to some strange North American cultural phenomena that I in the land down under found utterly puzzling. However, he also said some good things that I did understand. Namely, that chemophobia is not an insurmountable problem. Together with organisations like the ACS, we can make a concerted effort to change the way the public responds to chemistry. Also, keep an ear out for an upcoming episode of Chad’s Chemjobber’s podcast, in which he, Chemjobber, Chemtacular and ScienceNotScary will explore these issues further.

Dorea tells us that she is ahead of the curve, and ditched using chemophobia in favour of ‘chemical misconceptions’. Dorea’s emphasis is on increasing understanding of chemistry in everyday life, with a splendid example of this in her follow up post.

Edit 1: Feb 13 2014 8:30 PM AEDST

Thanks to commenter Chad below, I’m pleased to add two more posts to the roundup.

Jen at Experimentalitea pointed out that chemophobia almost certainly isn’t technically the right word to use, as people’s fear is not an involuntary, irrational response. Rather, it is the product of years of conditioning to the false dichotomy of natural=good/synthetic=bad which is perpetuated through the media.

Tyler at Science Borealis took the example of polyaromatic hydrocarbons to demonstrate the complexities and nuance of the chemicals we experience in our daily lives. PAHs are ubiquitous in the modern world, found in cigarettes, outer space, burned food, and the atmosphere. Some of them are known carcinogens, yet we generally go about our lives breathing and eating PAHs without giving it a second thought – what does this mean for our understanding of chemicals and the risks associated with them?

Edit 2: Feb 13 2014 10:40 PM AEDST

Shawn at Chemistry Reflux suggests that it might be time for chemists to eat a little humble pie, and accept that the ‘defend and debunk’ model of combatting chemical wrongs is not going to get us very far. The last paragraph of Shawn’s post in particular is really ace and you should go and read it right now.

End Edits

It seems the chemists of the internet have well and truly spoken on this issue, but it has also become clear that we are only speaking amongst ourselves. The question of how we should best approach the problems of chemistry’s bad reputation in the public sphere is what remains.

Go forth, fellow champions of the chemical sciences and react.



*Chad recently let me in on the fact that Chad is short for Chadmium. Actually, maybe we are long lost siblings because I use Renée as the short version of my full name, Rhenéenium.

** If I have missed any other contributions, please let me know.

New Sister Journal to Nature Chemistry

Nature Publishing Group today announced that it was launching a new journal in 2014 to keep up with current trends in chemical sciences. The journal, to be known as Nature Buzzchem, will be launched later this month. I’ve obtained an advance copy of the cover and table of contents.


Nature Buzzchem

February 2014, Volume 1, Issue 1 pp1-124













Feel like having your teeny tiny mind blown? Start reading. This won’t take long.

O. Verhiped Akademik



8 weird nitrogen atoms that will make you question everything

This is what a silicon microparticle anode can do for your high energy lithium ion battery

Roses are red, violets are blue, growing nanoparticles, non-stoichiometrically in situ

You won’t believe this interstellar hydroxyl reaction with methanol

10 reasons sp3 defects brighten carbon nanotube photoluminescence

Is it just me or does this thiamine-utilising ribozyme decarboxylate pyruvate-like substrates?

14 reasons you wish you were a computational nanobiozeptophotochemist

The 6 almost-chemistry sexy subdisciplines people hate the most

The anti-Markovnikov reductive functionalization reaction you’ve always wanted

Bad day in the lab? 5 high yield, facile, sterocontrolled, metal-catalysed cycloadditions you really should try

The most powerful cloud-based simulation of ligand modulation activation pathways you will see today

How a little diversity-oriented synthesis can help change macrocyclic scaffolds forever

I’m starting to think about PET imaging and broadly applicable [18F]trifluoromethylation of aryl idodides makes a lot of sense

9 surprising facts you didn’t know about β-Carbon activation through N-heterocyclic carbene organocatalysis




*This is a joke. Apologies to NPG, Nature Chemistry and the authors of the original papers.

Books in Scientia – Periodic Tales

This is the first instalment of Books in Scientia; short reviews of books I’ve recently read.  

periodic tales

Title and author

Periodic tales, by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

What’s it about?

It is a personal and historical account of the discovery and practical applications of many of the chemical elements.

What are the good bits?

The most engaging parts of the book are where the author attempts to recreate some of the historical experiments which led to the discovery of new elements. The skill and perseverance of the historical chemists is made startlingly clear through the author’s failures. Because if you’re gonna try and extract phosphorus from collecting several hundred litres of your own wee, you kinda want it to work.

What are the not-so-good bits?

The pictures (there aren’t that many), are poor quality and may as well not have been included.

What does it say on page 181, line 5?

As early as the mid-eighteenth century fireworks were advertised as offering proper rainbow colours.” And who doesn’t love a book that contains fireworks?!

Who should read it?

Anyone with an interest in chemistry, history of the elements or popular science narratives.

How good is it?

I’m giving Periodic Tales 4.5 out of 5 test tubes.

4.5 test tubes