Saturday, January 21, 2017

Chemistry Bumper Cars, 2017

In the age of globalization, Reddit, DM, and coffee shops, it's surprising when you don't hear about a faculty move at least two months ahead of it becoming reality.

(Alert! Repurposed text to follow!)

Last year's list has grown ungainly, and so it's time for a new batch. Same rules apply: If you hear of a move, please tell me in the comments, and I'll post in the "Pending Confirmation" section. Escape from pending purgatory involves sending me a link or other documentation from the new institution. Happy speculating!


Adam Braunschweig (Miami to CUNY)
Gong Chen (PSU to Nankai, 2016)
Nathan Gianneschi (UCSD to Northwestern)
Karen Goldberg (Washington to Penn)
Laura Kiessling (Wisconsin to MIT)
Ken Knappenberger (Florida State to PSU)
Kirill Kovnir (Iowa State)
Chenglong Li (OSU to Florida)
John MacMillan (UTSW to UCSC)
Christopher McCurdy (Mississippi to Florida)  thanks, Cunningham!
Pere Miro (UNF to South Dakota) thanks, Chemjobber!
Randall Peterson (Harvard MGH to Utah, admin)
Ronald Raines (Wisconsin to MIT)
Chris Scarborough (Emory to Syngenta)
Kirk Schanze (Florida to UT-San Antonio)
Daniel Seidel (Rutgers to Florida)
James Skinner (Wisconsin to Chicago)
Carlos Silva (Montreal to Georgia Tech)
Greg Verdine (WaVe, WuXi Venture, Eleven, Fog)
Daniel Weix (Rochester to Wisconsin)
Michael Wolfe (Harvard Med to Kansas)
Roy Wollman (UCSD to UCLA)
Bill Wuest (Temple to Emory)
Chengguo Xing (Minnesota to Florida)  one source

Pending Confirmation

Jen Heemstra (Utah to Emory?) three sources
Andreas Lendlein (HZG to Texas A+M)  two sources
Rob Paton (Oxford to Colorado State)  one source
Scott Phillips (PSU to Boise State)
Junrong Zheng (Rice to Peking)

Very unlikely method - too much H2O gets into the deuterium oxide...

New Hires

Samuel Awuah (Kentucky)   thanks, Lippard lab!
Jean-Luc Ayitou (Illinois Institute of Tech)
Jeff Bandar (Colorado State)
Chris Barile (UN-Reno)
Eszter Boros (Stony Brook)
Andrew Buller (Wisconsin)  thanks, Chemjobber!
Justin Caram (UCLA)
Carlos Carrero (Auburn)  three sources
Matthew Chambers (LSU)
Craig Chapman (UNH)
Christopher Dares (FIU two sources
Eric Detsi (UPenn)
Noemie Elgrishi (LSU)
Jeremy Feldblyum (SUNY Albany)
Thomas Gianetti (Arizona)
Todd Gingrich (Northwestern)
Christopher Hendon (Oregon)
Kristin Hutchins (Texas Tech)  thanks, Moore group!
Meredith Jackrel (WU St. Louis)
Carlos Jimenez-Hoyos (Wesleyan)
Evan Joslin (U of the South)  one source
Jessica Kramer (Utah Bioengineering)
Jiwoong Lee (Copenhagen)
Semin Lee (LSU)
Ashley Longstreet (Tampa)   two sources
Justin Lopchuk (Moffitt)
Long Luo (Wayne State)
Tomoyasu Mani (UConn)
Andrew Nieuwkoop (Rutgers)
Michael Norris (Richmond)  one source
Davit Potoyan (Iowa State)
Eric Price (Saskatchewan)
Rebecca Quardokus (UConn)
Madalyn Radlauer (San Jose State)  personal communication
Maxwell Robb (Caltech)
Andrew Roberts (Utah)
Jennifer Rupp (MIT)
Aaron Rury (Wayne State) from school Facebook page (?!?)
Kimberly See (Caltech)
Christo Sevov (Ohio State) thanks, Sanford Lab!
James Shepherd (Iowa)
Alexey Silakov (Penn State)
Zachary Smith (MIT)
Alexander Sokolov (Ohio State)
Mark Tibbitt (ETH)  one source
Pratyush Tiwary (Maryland)
Gael Ung (UConn)
Alexandra Velian (Washington)
Konstantinos Vogiatzis (Tennesseeone source
Zachary Wickens (Wisconsin)
Jingjie Wu (Cincinnatti)
Xingchen Ye (IUB)
Joseph Zadrozny (Colorado State)
Julia Zaikina (Iowa State)

Pending Confirmation

Jennifer Bridwell-Rabb (Michigan)
Dugan Hayes (URI)
Marie Heffern (UC Davis)
Rashad Karimov (Auburn)
Stephen Lopez (Northeastern)
Jarad Mason (Harvard)
Jeff Mighion (Kent State)
Jia Niu (Boston College)
Bess Vlaisavljevich (South Dakota)
Yiming Wang (Pitt)
Ran Zhao (Alberta)


For 2016 moves, click here
For 2015-2016 moves, click here

For 2014-2015 moves, click here.
For 2012-2013 moves, click here

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Better Than Word of Mouth

Hello, dear readers. It's been...a while. I promise the blog is not dead, just sleeping for now. My 2017 New Year's resolutions include sculpting specific time out for all the sci-writing goodness. Stay tuned.

Enough maudlin overtures. Now, on to the fun!

Strem has, as any synthetic guru would attest, the highest-quality metal precursors in the biz.* Now, you could spend a weekend cracking ampoules to find out, or just open to the Supporting Information of one of Jeff Bode's recent publications in Org. Lett. Perhaps you remember this reaction - SnAP synthesis of saturated heterocycles - best from a cheeky Derek Lowe tweet:

That's in reference to the stoichiometric incorporation of tin** in the reagent, which serves as a linchpin for the eventual transmetalation to a copper species and ring closure, neatly without disturbance of the ipso heteroatomic group.

Well, much to my surprise, Prof. Bode has climbed on the recent trend of showing one's work through tactful inclusion of smartphone pics to buoy up procedure adoption. Especially with fussy transition metals, valency, contaminants, poor environment, and a whole host of other factors lead to catalyst poisoning and color changes. In the SnAP case, the litmus test seems to be formation of a correctly ligated Cu(II) ion in lutidine relative to the (probable) hexaaquo cuprate species formed as a blue heterogeneous train wreck.

The kicker? The fairly indiscreet preference for the Strem copper(II) precursor over all other suppliers. Look at the change! Night and day, and key to making these reactions work.

You couldn't buy better advertising than this....right, Strem?
Bravo, Bode group! I look forward to seeing your colorful coupling chemistry in future reads.


*Dear Strem: please send non-sequential $50 bills to See Arr Oh at Big City Company, USA
**SnAP. Get it? [drum kit]

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Tale by Mail

Long-time readers will no doubt be aware of my running affectation with the "Profiles, Pathways, and Dreams" series of books from ACS; books which, had I not read them in grad school, would probably cause this blog to never exist.

So I have a sneaky hobby: scouring the Internet's used book counter to assemble an entire set. Thus far, I've collected 17 of the 22 from the original 1990-1995 run. As I'm simultaneously trying for thrift, I'm proud to say the most I've paid for one of these books was around $25.

One of the best came in the mail only today - a first-edition, basically mint copy of Djerassi's Steroids Made it Possible. You know, the one with the picture of Nobelist R.B. Woodward going Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! on another esteemed chemist?

Steroids Made it Possible, ACS Books, p. 60

I open the plastic packaging, breathe in the old-book-paper smell.  But wait, there's no library markings. And the book is, what, 26 years old, and is basically undamaged? Curiously, I opened the cover, and realized that Djerassi himself had dedicated it:

To whom, exactly? Why, to Larry Lehmkuhl, the previous president of St. Jude Medical, according to Bloomberg. And is that really Carl's signature? I've compared it against two *for sale* on eBay and at Amazon - $89 euro and $39.85, as of this writing, respectively - it's the real McCoy.

This, of course, raises more questions: Did Lehmkuhl ever read his gift? Was he from a chemistry background? (I can't find much about him through the usual channels).

Did Djerassi mail out copies of his books, en masse, to anyone interested? If so, perhaps other signed treasures are out there, waiting to be found.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

ETC: Vonnegut, Djerassi, and a Mystery Polymer

I've recently finished the 1973 novel Breakfast of Champions, by acclaimed science fiction / humor writer Kurt Vonnegut. For those unfamiliar with Vonnegut's work, I enjoy drawing parallels* between him and "chemical provocateur" Carl Djerassi.

These two men share some odd similarities: born within 13 months of one another, each man suffered the Second World War - Djerassi as a refugee; Vonnegut as a POW - and had their personal lives scarred by young, tragic deaths in their families. Nevertheless, both became prolific writers of short stories, novels, and plays, and both lived to be elder statesmen in their chosen careers: Vonnegut to 85, and Djerassi to 91.

I'd even wager that they looked somewhat alike, with their bushy mustaches, well-coiffed hair, stylish clothing and impish eyes:

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut
Credit: Enotes

Chemist and writer Carl Djerassi
Credit: DLD / Stanford

Breakfast of Champions convinced me that Vonnegut may have had more than a passing fancy for chemistry, himself. Consider this hand-drawn rendering of a mystery plastic, ostensibly factory run-off that main character Kilgore Trout has unfortunately found stuck to his feet after wading through a river in Midland City, Michigan:

Credit: Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
Clearly, that's a cyanoacrylate co-polymer - think Superglue - and it seems to be drawn with a dendrimeric A-B-A architecture. I'm guessing that the ethylene glycol spacers (O-CH2-CH2-O) are meant to suggest the foaminess several characters encounter in the novel, that this mystery polymer is "...the stuff f***ing up Sacred Miracle Cave...", an in-book tourist trap overrun by large, odorous brown bubbles.

Incidentally, I love Vonnegut's inference for the continued polymer chain; where we chemists might write n, Vonnegut inserts his time-work "ETC."

Why? I'll let the author explain his philosophy:
"The man who taught me how to diagram a segment of a molecule of plastic was Professor Walter H. Stockmayer of Dartmouth College. He is a distinguished physical chemist, and an amusing and useful friend of mine. I did not make him up. I would like to be Professor Walter H. Stockmayer. He is a brilliant pianist. He skis like a dream.
 And when he sketched a plausible molecule, he indicated points where it would go on and on just as I have indicated them - with an abbreviation that means sameness without end.
 The proper ending for and story about people it seems to me, since life is now a polymer in which the Earth is wrapped so tightly, should be that same abbreviation . . .it is in order to acknowledge the continuity of that polymer that I begin so many sentences with 'And' and 'So,' and end so many paragraphs with '...and so on.' 
And so on. 'It's all like an ocean!' cried Dostoevski. I say it's all like cellophane."
Sometimes you encounter (surprisingly accurate) chemistry in places you didn't expect.
So it goes.

*Bonus: Here's Roald Hoffman interviewing both authors in a 1999 piece for American Scientist magazine

Monday, August 1, 2016

Enthusiasm Goes a Long Way

Earlier today, I watched a scientific speaker drive people out of the seminar room.

Was the person combative? Not at all; a well-respected mid-career chemist at a Top-5 school.
Unprepared? Nope; knew the slides backward and forwards.
Bad material? It was the linchpin talk of the session,
Perhaps haughty, egotistical, or rude? Still no - a model in professional conduct.

The talk was just, in a word...boring.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

However exciting the science, you can't capture the audience if the delivery is dull as dishwater. Literally dozens of posts, listicles, humor attempts, even entire blogs (here, here) have been dedicated to the practice of scientific communication. So why don't these suggestions permeate into the wider community? Why do smart people not consider how their message comes across?

I won't go into the particulars of the talk I saw overmuch. Suffice to say that slumped shoulders, wooden expression, monotone delivery, and stiff arms will have your audience reaching for their smartphones in no time. Ditto: wordy slides, insider jargon, and attempts to somehow mash a 50-minute talk into a 30 minute time slot.

One wonders if, after a certain number of conferences, chemists have become inured to terrible talks. Perhaps we should consider installing a "canary" in the lecture hall "coalmine" - a speaking coach or senior faculty member, placed front and center, that can debrief the overall performance after the session, offer pointers, maybe even solicit feedback from the audience.

Optionally, what about Improv? Many fields - business consultants, customer service, construction, education - have benefited from comedy troupes teaching teams to think on their feet. Anyone have something like that occurring at their lab or university?

I'm not arguing that scientific talks be misconstrued as entertainment, yet I feel I could have learned more if I were actively on the edge of my seat, waiting to hear the next assay result or to see the next structure proof.

Anyone else agree?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Synthetic Endgame

Inspired by this paper from Melanie Sanford's rocking organometallic group at Michigan.

*Pun contest! I could also have called this post...

Gotta Make 'Em All
Poke-Ball and Stick Models
Chantix Charmander
Putting the Fun in C-H FUNctionalization
'All Thumbs' Synthesis

Friday Fun: Semi-Legal Starting Materials

I ran across this entertaining anecdote today while researching Lord Todd's research into vitamin B1.

From Todd's 1997 obituary in the Independent, written by fellow Nobelist "Kappa" Cornforth:
"[Todd] also worked on cannabis, and in his excellent autobiography A Time to Remember (1983) he tells with relish the story that, having naively imported 6 lb of distilled cannabis resin donated by the Indian police, he had to promise Customs that he would send 25 copies of any ensuing paper to their Bureau of Drugs and Indecent Publications."
Apparently, the "ask forgiveness, not permission" dictum applied in mid-1930s London. It bears reminding that this same choice, made today, would result the appearance of severe gentlemen in dark suits with thick briefcases and Summons in hand at the lab entrance...

Happy Friday,
See Arr Oh