High-school talk
Oct10

High-school talk

It’s not common at international chemistry conferences for high school students to be the audience. At a panel discussion on youth involvement in chemistry held on Sunday, Oct. 10, about half of the audience consisted of high school students. ACS President-Elect Nancy B. Jackson was among the panelists.  The students came from the Jubilee School, King Abdullah II School For Excellence, the Islamic Educational College, the Amir Bin Al Jarah School, and the International Pioneers Academy. The students raised questions and offered comments, even thanks, for the discussion. I was surprised that they eagerly engaged the panelists. Clearly, many of them were inspired by what they heard. Sara Al Thnaibat and Dara Al-Fakhouri both told C&EN that Jackson’s life story left a deep impression on them.  In her introductory remarks, Jackson described growing up in a family that believes in giving back and helping to improve the world. She recalled how she had intended to major in political science but how after taking a course in chemistry she realized that she “really, really liked” chemistry and began to think about giving back with the help of chemistry. And she recalled how a chemistry professor told her:  If you study chemistry, you could do all that you wanted to do with political science and more. “The challenges you will face will be technical and will require understanding of science and engineering,” Jackson told the high school students. “Energy, environment, water, diseases—to solve them requires some technical background.  Chemistry touches all of these – medicines, pharmaceuticals, how to get clean water, energy. Chemistry presents incredible opportunities to give back. It was also a lot of fun; doing research was like doing a puzzle.” Jackson convinced me that anyone can do something with chemistry to change the world, Al Thnaibat told C&EN.  Her life story “made me think deeper about chemistry,” Al-Fakhouri said. Both said the discussion gave them a better appreciation of chemistry. Others who spoke at the panel were Kazuyuki Tatsumi and Musa Nazer. Their life stories struck Hashem Amireh, who asked the panel why he should stay in Jordan when he could have more personal benefit by working in another country, such as the U.S. Considered the father of chemistry in Jordan, Nazer is highly esteemed, almost revered, by Jordanian chemists. In response to Amireh’s question, he described the situation when he returned to Jordan in 1965, after having done a Ph.D. at Harvard University: “The university had “no faculty of science, no building, no equipment, few people with high degrees working here and there. The first day I arrived, people told me that I was mad man: What...

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Excerpts from Reporter’s Notes
Oct09

Excerpts from Reporter’s Notes

On the second day of the 11th Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences, in the Dead Sea, Jordan, Nobel Laureate Walter Kohn gave a lecture titled “A World Powered Predominantly By Solar & Wind Energy. And I attended two panel discussions, one on industry-academia interaction and the other on scientists’ social responsibilities. Following are excerpts from my notes. On alternative energy Nuclear energy should be used only if we can be sure that the world has reached agreements that can be trusted so that development of nuclear power is not channeled into the next phase of development of nuclear weapons. It is better not to rely on that; better to go with solar and wind.—Walter Kohn, Nobel Laureate On industry-academia relations The most important factor is efficiency and productivity. People are overly concerned with intellectual property and royalty. The goal is to see realization of academic achievements put to good use. Eventually we will come to the point of intellectual property aspect.—Youngkyu Do, KAIST Research is transforming money into knowledge; innovation is transforming knowledge to money. Industry would like for students to learn things other than pure science, to engage in entrepreneurial thinking during studies. –Bernhard Schleich, Evonik Degussa On the future of chemistry professionals Can we still have department of chemistry in 2025? Nobody knows. Chemistry will be required by many other disciplines. Chemists don’t have to work only in the chemical or pharmaceutical industries. Many of my students go to the electronic industry—Youngkyu Do, KAIST Chemists have a brilliant future in many branches. I do not agree with you that chemists are out of work; that is true in the U.S. mostly. Chemical companies are doing extremely well; we run the fear that we will not have enough chemists.—Bernhard Schleich, Evonik Degussa Chemists will practice in new areas of technology; basic sciences, including chemistry, will not go away—Chu-Huang (Mendel) Chen, Texas Heart Institute Today, 95% of energy production has not much to do with chemistry. In 50 years, 95% of energy will have to do with chemistry; materials and all the new energy technologies are connected to chemistry.—Bernhard Schleich, Evonik Degussa On scientists’ social responsibilities The most effective way to deal with depletion of gas and oil by end of century is education for women. This is not a sexist remark; this is a demonstrated fact. In Iraq, the government successfully promoted birth control, and the average number of children per woman was reduced by 40%. As a result of fewer children, women were able to acquire the same kind of higher education as men did. In Jordan, women are the majority of university students; the usual family...

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Eurasia Conference, Opening Shebang
Oct06

Eurasia Conference, Opening Shebang

The big auditorium at King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center in the Dead Sea, Jordan, is abuzz as participants of the 11th Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences eagerly await the formal opening ceremonies. Here's the program: Jordanian National Anthem Welcome Notes from Musa Nazer, chair of the national organizing committee; Bernd Michael Rode, chair of the international organizing committee; and Adel Tweissi, president of the University of Jordan. Remarks will be followed by the national anthem again and then a reception. Amal Al Aboudi, secretary general of the 11th Eurasia Conference, is giving the first welcoming remarks. Chemistry Cares, the slogan of the conference, is the goal itself, she says, to demonstrate how chemistry is helping people in developing countries improve various areas of their lives. "We take great pride that Jordan is hosting the Eurasia conference for the first time in the Arab world," she says. Musa Nazer is up next. The meeting, he says, underscores the responsibility of chemists to help meet the global challenges facing Earth, such as the depletion of water resources. Included among the challenges, he says, is youthful talent is moving away from chemistry. How to make chemistry attractive and promising to youth needs to be addressed, , he says. Bernd Michael Rode is the next speaker. He is listed in the program with the title Prof. Dr. DDDDr.h.c. I wonder what all those Ds mean. He is one of the founders of the Eurasia conference series. He thanks the King Of Jordan for patronage of the conference. "Eurasia is not only a supercontinent but it is also the continent that is the center of some power, not so much political or military, but of cultural power. All the famous old cultures have been generated and are still existing in the countries of the supercontinent," he says. The idea of a Eurasian conference was to move international meetings to to less prosperous countries so that the youth there--students and junior scientists--can participate and interact with eminent scientists. Nobel laureates have been integral in the program of these conferences. "We show through this conferences that chemistry cares about the development of human resources," he says. Adel Tweissi is the final opening ceremony speaker. He is president of the University of Jordan, which is the organizer of the Eurasia Conference. The conference is testament to Jordan's commitment to developing its human resources, he says. He gives stats about the University of Jordan: 37,000 students, 2/3 of whom are female, and including 4,500 graduate students. The institution is on the way to becoming the first research university in Jordan, he says. COFFEE BREAK. At the small...

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Eurasia Conference Preview
Oct05

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...

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