Moments At A Poster Session
Aug20

Moments At A Poster Session

Company pride, pushpin-style. Spotted on a table- free chemistry sudoku and other puzzles, courtesy of chemist Stephen Waller. A saxophone solo closes out a jam by locals Mac McDonald and Bluz You Can Usethe Bluz U Can Uze Band. Beer from Flying Dog Brewery in nearby Frederick, Maryland was...

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ACS National Meeting Dress Code
Aug20

ACS National Meeting Dress Code

The national meeting program comprises over 400 pages of information, some of which is actually useful. It tells you where to see talks, what hotels to book, where to catch the bus, and how to find free food. One thing it does not tell you is what to wear—and I wish it would. It’s high time for the ACS to either establish a dress code or at least provide guidance on the matter. Since I expect no such by-law will weave its way through the executive committee, I am taking it upon myself to set the rules. And they’re, like, totally official because this is the official blog of the official magazine of the ACS. For some reason, dress codes are always set by what men are supposed to wear. (Women don’t wear sports jackets to “jacket-required” events, nor do they wear ties (of any color) to black-tie events.) I assume all women are just born with some innate conversion factor that lets them know what to do. With that in mind, I can boil down the official ACS National Meeting dress code to two simple rules: Rule #1: Men’s shirts shall have collars. Polo/golf shirts are acceptable. Jackets are optional. Ties are optional. I can’t fathom why you would want to wear a suit in Washington in August, but feel free. You’re truly hardcore. The only exception to the collar rule is that you may wear a T-shirt if it is of the cheesy chemistry variety (e.g., a periodic table of beer). Otherwise, no T-shirts. Stay classy, my friends. And under no circumstances may anyone wear a tank top. Ever. Rule #2: Men shall not wear flip-flops. Given the amount of walking that some people are forced into, sneakers are completely acceptable. Sandals are really pushing it and should generally be avoided. (I don’t care if it’s 95 degrees outside—men’s feet are gross.) Flip-flops are disrespectful and are strictly verboten. That’s it, plain and simple. These rules go into effect starting with the 2010 meeting in San Francisco. Non-compliance will result in the confiscation of your meeting credentials and your being declared persona non grata at all ACS events for 18 months. Please address all comments and complaints to the chairs of the OMG and WTF committees, which are co-sponsoring this initiative. Image:...

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The Langmuir Lectures: Of Colloids and Mussels
Aug19

The Langmuir Lectures: Of Colloids and Mussels

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the Langmuir Award Lectures, a session the Division of Colloid & Surface Chemistry has been hosting for well over 20 years, according to presider Deborah Leckband. This year’s awards went to Jennifer A. Lewis of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Phillip B. Messersmith of Northwestern University. Each gave an overview of the research that garnered them the award, interspersed with tantalizing bits of unpublished results. The differences in their presentations, though, interested me almost as much as the award-winning research. Lewis talked at a rapid-fire pace about using colloidal particles for patterning and printing, cramming a lot of information into her lecture on “dry” chemistry. In contrast, Messersmith methodically presented some “wet” chemical research on biomimetic coatings and adhesives inspired by ocean-dwelling mussels. Because of his slower pace, he had to skip over a few slides to take questions. Both presentation styles worked—and meshed well together—to make for an entertaining session, although my note-taking hand cramped a lot more trying to keep up with Lewis. She focused her presentation on work her group has done with direct-write assembly of ink filament. In the case of silver nanowires, this involves taking a colloidal mixture of 70 to 85% Ag nanoparticles and extruding it through a nozzle to “write” a structure. This technique enables what Lewis called “omnidirectional,” or 3-D, printing of microelectrodes. In response to a question about the speed of this writing technique (on average 1 mm/second) she mentioned that her team is currently working to reduce manufacture time, particularly with multinozzle arrays. Messersmith discussed materials his group has fabricated on the basis of the chemical composition of adhesive proteins that mussels use to stick to “any surface you throw at them.” Specifically, mussel adhesive proteins contain high concentrations of 3,4-dihydroxy-l-phenylalanine (DOPA). And it is the catechol group in this compound that is suspected to cause bonding to surfaces, although there’s a lot that’s still unknown about the mechanism. One attendee asked whether barnacles bind to surfaces in the same way. Messersmith said that it isn’t through DOPA (which hasn’t been detected), but because barnacle protein is protected by a calcified shell, it’s also harder to study. At the end of the session, Messersmith previewed some work his team has been doing with DOPA-based adhesives to more strongly attach transplanted islets to a diabetes patient’s liver. In addition, he mentioned using the sticky compounds surgically for fetal membrane wound closure. Although most of the research presented during this session wasn’t new, I enjoyed listening to two well-known experts that I had never heard speak before talk in detail about their work. Did anybody else...

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C&EN Fan Club
Aug19

C&EN Fan Club

I found Murray State University chemistry professor Bommanna Loganathan grinning from ear to ear after having made the cover of C&EN on Monday morning. He and 125 other avid C&EN readers got personalized covers during a two-hour event at the ACS publications booth in the expo hall. We love you, too,...

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WMD Goodie Bag
Aug19

WMD Goodie Bag

If you are looking for a light moment at an ACS national meeting, you wouldn’t first think of finding it in a talk titled “Weapons of Mass Destruction Counterproliferation: Interdict/RADACAD training.”  But program manager William C. Cliff of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Richland, Wash., delivered a combo of deadly serious and seriously entertaining material to the small audience that gathered to hear him first thing in the morning this past Monday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  And everyone walked away with a veritable WMD goodie bag. The gripping part of his story was Cliff’s description of RADACAD, which stands for Radiation Academy. So far Cliff and his colleagues have trained 3,500 U.S. and 1,600 foreign nationals from 56 nations. Those who sign up for the three-day course are primarily border guards, customs agents, port inspectors, and others paid to be perpetually paranoid about the potential ill intentions of those trying to enter their respective countries. With a halting delivery liberally peppered with humor, Cliff, a veteran of the counter-WMD culture, talked about lots of fascinating detection technologies, among them a bevy of “portal monitors” designed to scan cars, trucks, trains, planes, and sea vessels for the “hi theres” of radioactive isotopes–gamma rays and/or neutrons. He also described X-ray backscatter systems that have revealed secret compartments in truck trailers that sometimes conceal people trying cross borders illegally. He talked about the turnkey GR-135 handheld radiation detectors that agents and inspectors use to determine what specific radioactive isotope might be present in a suspect shipment. Quite often, when one of these monitors or gadgets sounds a signal, Cliff noted, it’s because an occupant of the vehicle recently had a thallium-201-based stress test and the radioactive isotope hasn’t yet cleared the person’s system. Or there might be a shipment of kitty litter made with clays rife with natural radioactivity. Empty propane tanks also have a knack for setting off alarms. Amid the majority of false positives, there have also been some real interdiction moments. Among the few that Cliff briefly described was one in Romania in 1999 in which a guy who already had driven his car through several border crossings was caught with 4 g of weapons-grade uranium hidden in a lead “pig” the size of medicine vial. In a 1995 case, agents arrested three men in New York who were trying to smuggle 7 tons of zirconium (two of them in Cyprus) into Iraq where it presumably would have been useful for a nuclear weapons program. All is not Sturm und Drang among the WMD crowd. During the talk, with the help of other symposium participants, everyone in attendance received a set of RADACAD...

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Hire Me–Please!
Aug19

Hire Me–Please!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. During the Academic Employment Initiative poster session at Sci-Mix on Monday night, several graduate students decided to forego the usual research poster and put up a giant CV instead. “I need every bit of help I can get,” said Elliot Ennis, a doctoral student at Middle Tennessee State University, who is looking for a teaching position at a four-year college or university. Here he is next to his poster titled “Elliot Ennis and the Great Job Odyssey”: With so many chemists seeking jobs, C&EN wanted to do our share to help. We gave five randomly selected job seekers 30 seconds to sell themselves. Here are their pitches: Let us know if you’d like to contact any of these job seekers, and we’d be happy to put you in...

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