Eurasia Conference Preview
The 11th Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences (EuAsC2S-11), at the Dead Sea, Jordan, will begin on Wednesday, Oct. 6, and run through Sunday, Oct. 10. This conference series, which began 22 years ago, "aims to deepen the friendship of chemists in the Eurasia continent," according to the program notes. A preconference tour to the ancient city of Petra, made famous by the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," already has begun to plant seeds of new friendships among participants and cement old ones. About an hour through the three-hour bus trip from the Dead Sea to Petra, our tour bus broke down. While waiting for repairs, we stretched our legs, admired the scenery, took lots of pictures, and then settled into casual conversations of chemistry, politics, etc.
I got to know Upendra Pandit, who will give a plenary lecture on "Mimicking Biomolecular Systems" on Friday. Upendra is an emeritus professor of bioorganic chemistry at the University of Amsterdam. During more than six hours of travel to and from Petra, Upendra and I conversed about everything from chemistry to religion. I even got to see a picture of his grandson.
I met Yury Zolotov, an analytical chemist at Lomonosov Moscow University and a researcher at the Kurnakov Institute of General Chemistry & Inorganic Chemistry, in Moscow. He will present a paper titled "Simplification of Environmental Analysis: Test Kits, Portable Instruments & Other Approaches."
Geoff Cordell, now retired but formely with the University of Illinois, Chicago, intrigued me with idea of coconut water as a reagent for chiral reduction of carbonyls. Apparently the water, which was a favorite childhood refreshment of mine, contains enough reductase to mediate enantioselective conversions of aldehydes to alcohols. He also intrigued me with the premise of his talk on "Sustainable Drugs for Global Health," which is: "For most of the world's population, plants in either crude or extract form represent their only option of primary health care for the foreseeable future."
Birgul Karan, an inorganic chemist at Hacetteoe University, in Ankara, Turkey, will present a paper titled "Novel Bioinorganic Core-Shell Materials for Magnetic Delivery."
Those are just a few of the people that I got to know because I was on field trip and the bus broke down. It got me thinking about the push to use technology to bring people together through webinars, virtual meetings, and the like. How, I wondered, could such technology-mediated "gatherings" bring about the kind of personal connections that face-to-face meetings and shared experiences inevitably foster?
Petra did not disappoint. As the bubbly looking sandstone formations emerged on the landscape, all I could think of was, What gave rise to such a massive formation that is so morphologically different from the land masses around it?
Walking through the site, I felt a distinct sense of deja vu, which the Treasury, the elaborate ruin of Petra, confirmed. Of course, I've seen these images--in an Indiana Jones movie. Still, nothing beats the awe inspired by the narrow gorge leading to the Treasury and the evidence of nature's and humans' handiwork on the majestic rocks.
Field trippers while away the time as they await repair of broken bus
We returned to the Dead Sea from Petra just in time to catch the opening reception of EuAsC2S-11. I caught up with ACS President-Elect Nancy Jackson, who introduced me to some members of the conference's organizing committees. According to Jackson, this conference means a lot to the Jordanian organizers, who have worked so hard to bring eminent chemists from all over the world to their home country.
The Treasury, Petra
ACS President-Elect Nancy Jackson with (from left) Salim Sabra, cochair of the national organizing committee, and Musa Abu Zarga, chair of the scientific committee