Dallas: A Structural Analysis
Mar20

Dallas: A Structural Analysis

If you haven’t been to an ACS national meeting in Dallas—the last one, if memory serves, was in 1998—there’s a few interesting things to see. This is a summation after spending some time walking the streets here the past week. Located on the Trinity River, Dallas was first settled in the early 1840s when Texas was its own country. A few homesteaders moved into this area and built small log cabins. There’s a reconstructed cabin near the convention center. Dallas is now the ninth largest city in the U.S., with about 1.2 million residents, swollen by an additional 10,000 souls this week with the ACS meeting. Dallas has a compact downtown with a surprising structural diversity when it comes to the architecture of its buildings. The Magnolia Hotel, which dates from 1922, features a neoclassic beaux-arts style common in those days and was once home to Magnolia Petroleum Co., which was one of the forerunners of ExxonMobil. The building is famous for its Pegasus sign placed on the roof. This is the iconic red winged pony you see today on gas pumps. Next door to the Magnolia is the Adolphus Hotel, another beaux-arts building, which opened in 1912. It was built by Adolphus Busch, renowned founder of the Anheuser-Busch company. Another Dallas classic is the original Federal Reserve Bank Building, constructed in 1921, another example of the beaux-arts style. The much larger new Reserve Bank Building is a glass and stone box that is not as easy on the eyes. Yet some of the modern buildings in town have an appreciated distinctive look, such as the polygonal glass Wells Fargo Building. It might at first glance look like a shard of glass, but to the country chemist in the big city it is reminiscent of a crystal of some exotic metal salt. Among the other interesting sights in town, there’s the giant eyeball. This is a 30-foot-tall ocular oddity set up in a park (maybe it is an empty lot) adjacent to the Joule Hotel on Main Street. The big eye got its start as part of a pop culture arts project in Chicago before joining the hotel’s modern art collection. But that still doesn’t explain why someone would create it. I wonder how they moved it here from Chicago? For ACS meeting-goers, another point of interest in Dallas this week has been Pioneer Park, which is adjacent to the convention center. The park features an art installation of a herd of oversized longhorns crossing a stream, pressed on by a pair of cowpokes. Oddly there’s also a cemetery right outside the convention center, where some of Dallas’ founding fathers rest in peace. It was...

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Going Green On St. Patrick’s Day

On a sunny St. Patrick’s Day in Dallas, green chemists gathered in several venues at the ACS national meeting to discuss how to encourage more chemists to live green. One well-attended symposium in the Division of Organic Chemistry that mixed academic and industry scientists focused on transition-metal catalyzed reactions with a green twist. UCLA’s Neil Garg spoke about nickel-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions that are inherently green for their atom economy, that is, most or all of the atoms in the starting materials end up in the products. Garg carried out the work in part using a grant from the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s Pharmaceutical Roundtable, an industry group made up of pharmaceutical companies that are working together to develop more efficient reactions that are kind to the environment and don’t cost a pretty penny. Shu Kobayashi of the University of Tokyo took a deeper look at using immobilized catalysts that are easily recovered and reused to help reduce waste. And symposium organizer Bruce Lipshutz from UC Santa Barbara discussed his efforts to carry out organic chemistry without using organic solvents. About 85% of the waste in a chemical reaction comes from using organic solvents, Lipshutz noted. His group has developed a micellar reaction system that allows just about any kind of organic reaction to run in water at room temperature. That is about as green as you can get. The green session was followed by a panel discussion in which journal editors and directors of green chemistry institutes, including yours truly, fielded questions from the audience. The questions focused on the challenges for pursuing green chemistry and barriers that seem to be impeding broader adoption of green practices. Among the points discussed, one that stood out is that chemists need to adopt a different way of thinking as they approach their work. The panel suggested that as academics go about teaching students and writing journal articles, and as industrial chemists help mentor their junior colleagues, they need to take the time to explain why a certain reaction pathway is taken and the difference between choosing one solvent over another. They should provide tangible numbers to show how beneficial a green process can be. These explanations are necessary, even if they seem obvious or simplified, because chemists too often assume everyone knows and understands the nuances of green chemistry, when actually many still don’t. Or many chemists simply don’t give green options consideration at all and stick with what they know–business as usual. The panelists advocated for journal editors to apply gentle pressure to their authors to describe these green attributes in research papers to help nudge the adoption of green...

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