News & Comment

  • Q&A |

    Manza B. J. Atkinson talks to Nature Chemistry about his path to become a chemist, and how he applies the scientific method to all aspects of his life — from financial analysis to coaching youth sports teams.

    • Anne Pichon
  • Comment |

    Stay-at-home policies invoked in response to COVID-19 have led to well-publicized drops in some air pollutants. The extent to which such reductions translate to improved air quality is dictated by not only emissions and meteorology, but also chemical transformations in the atmosphere.

    • Jesse H. Kroll
    • , Colette L. Heald
    • , Christopher D. Cappa
    • , Delphine K. Farmer
    • , Juliane L. Fry
    • , Jennifer G. Murphy
    •  & Allison L. Steiner
  • Thesis |

    There are plenty of online resources to ensure that learning can continue for students who cannot access universities during a pandemic, but what options are there for practical aspects of science courses? Daren J. Caruana, Christoph G. Salzmann and Andrea Sella offer a manifesto for home-based experiments.

    • Daren J. Caruana
    • , Christoph G. Salzmann
    •  & Andrea Sella
  • News & Views |

    Controlling the formation of ordered and predictable patterns in dissipative reaction–diffusion processes is challenging. Now, liquid vibrations induced by audible sound have been shown to direct the formation of spatiotemporal patterns in switchable chemical systems and assemblies.

    • Charalampos G. Pappas
  • Meeting Report |

    Chemical systems can show complex behaviour that is not seen in individual molecules or reactions. Helena S. Azevedo, Sarah L. Perry, Peter A. Korevaar, and Dibyendu Das report on the emergence of this complex behaviour, which was discussed at the Virtual Symposium on Systems Chemistry

    • Helena S. Azevedo
    • , Sarah L. Perry
    • , Peter A. Korevaar
    •  & Dibyendu Das
  • News & Views |

    Enzymes that methylate using S-adenosyl-l-methionine — nature’s methyliodide — are abundant and often promiscuous; however, a preference for alkylation over methylation has been neither observed in nature nor engineered. Now, carboxymethylation has been demonstrated using engineered methyltransferases.

    • Jennifer N. Andexer
    •  & Andrea Rentmeister
  • News & Views |

    Recent research has shown that vibronic coherences are one of the primary drivers for ultrafast light-induced processes. Now, ultrafast spectroscopy has been used to uncover vibronic coherences in the excited-state dynamics of an iron complex, leading to its redesign and the drastic prolonging of its excited-state lifetime.

    • Julia A. Weinstein
  • News & Views |

    White phosphorus is a prominent source of P atoms but has remained difficult to activate without using transition metals. Now, a bidentate ligand based on silicon(ii) donors has successfully stabilized a P2 moiety, and the resulting complex acts as a transfer reagent for P anions.

    • David Scheschkewitz
  • News & Views |

    An approach to design artificial intrinsically disordered proteins using a short peptide as a repeating unit has been reported. This design enables the phase behaviour of the protein to be finely tuned inside cells and enabled the formation of phase-separated condensates that can modulate chemical reactions.

    • Soumik Ray
    •  & Samir K. Maji
  • Comment |

    Valuing diversity leads to scientific excellence, the progress of science and, most importantly, it is simply the right thing to do. We must value diversity not only in words, but also in actions.

    • César A. Urbina-Blanco
    • , Safia Z. Jilani
    • , Isaiah R. Speight
    • , Michael J. Bojdys
    • , Tomislav Friščić
    • , J. Fraser Stoddart
    • , Toby L. Nelson
    • , James Mack
    • , Renã A. S. Robinson
    • , Emanuel A. Waddell
    • , Jodie L. Lutkenhaus
    • , Murrell Godfrey
    • , Martine I. Abboud
    • , Stephen O. Aderinto
    • , Damilola Aderohunmu
    • , Lučka Bibič
    • , João Borges
    • , Vy M. Dong
    • , Lori Ferrins
    • , Fun Man Fung
    • , Torsten John
    • , Felicia P. L. Lim
    • , Sarah L. Masters
    • , Dickson Mambwe
    • , Pall Thordarson
    • , Maria-Magdalena Titirici
    • , Gabriela D. Tormet-González
    • , Miriam M. Unterlass
    • , Austin Wadle
    • , Vivian W.-W. Yam
    •  & Ying-Wei Yang
  • Thesis |

    Despite the romantic mythology that often accompanies stories of scientific discovery, pinpointing the exact moment in history when a new concept emerged is often a matter of debate — and the hydrogen bond is no exception explains Bruce C. Gibb.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
  • News & Views |

    Tailor-made reverse transcriptases are used in molecular biology and synthetic genetics. However, re-engineering these enzymes to work with non-natural nucleic acids is difficult and requires powerful directed evolution strategies. Now, an adaptable selection approach has been demonstrated for the evolution of new reverse transcriptases.

    • Melanie Henkel
    •  & Andreas Marx
  • News & Views |

    Spin-1/2 kagome lattice antiferromagnets are geometrically frustrated materials poised to host yet-unobserved behaviours. Now, such a lattice has been prepared that shows no structural distortions and hosts its spin in the dxy orbital of d1 Ti3+ centres, rather than the more-widely investigated d9 Cu2+ ions.

    • Kelsey A. Collins
    •  & Danna E. Freedman
  • Comment |

    The gap between fundamental academic research and the applied industrial research that is necessary to ensure real-world applications can be bridged by engaging in well-defined collaborative academia–industry projects and fostering better communication between the scientists involved in them.

    • Danielle Schultz
    •  & Louis-Charles Campeau
  • News & Views |

    It’s not known how life’s essential properties of replication, metabolism and compartmentalization were first integrated. Two recent articles now shed light on how metabolic characteristics may be incorporated into replicating systems, harnessing an external energy source to increase their rate of replication and acquiring catalytic activity.

    • Pablo Solís-Muñana
    •  & Jack L. Y. Chen
  • News & Views |

    The potential applications of smart photoswitchable porous materials are currently limited by incomplete switching. Now, efficient bulk switching has been achieved by embedding a photoisomerizable overcrowded alkene in a highly porous aromatic framework, creating a material capable of photomodulated gas uptake.

    • Jet-Sing M. Lee
    •  & Hiroshi Sato
  • News & Views |

    Is a nanoscale hydrophobic bowl wet or dry when dissolved in water? It turns out that the answer depends on the architecture of its rim. A molecular host decorated with four methyl groups around its rim pointing inward, rather than up, has now been shown to expel water from the bowl, making it dry and sticky.

    • Shekhar Garde
  • Thesis |

    Michelle Francl worries about the long-term effects of playing by pandemic rules.

    • Michelle Francl
  • News & Views |

    Identifying chromatin modifications and their interactomes is imperative to understand how chromatin functions and is regulated. Now, two new studies report on chemical tools that enable characterization of the biological interactions within native chromatin.

    • Yi Zhang
    •  & Tatiana G. Kutateladze
  • News & Views |

    Three versatile and mutually orthogonal tRNA/aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase pairs have been developed. Collectively, these pairs enable the site-specific incorporation of three different non-canonical amino acids into a protein that can still be terminated faithfully by a natural stop codon.

    • Christopher D. Reinkemeier
    •  & Edward A. Lemke
  • News & Views |

    The direct conversion of lead compounds into potentially more potent derivatives, through selective functionalization, could help to speed up the discovery of drug candidates. Now, a method has been reported that enables the late-stage C–H methylation of complex drug-like molecules, using a sustainable cobalt-based catalyst.

    • Joanna Wencel-Delord
  • Comment |

    Chemistry is now starting to embrace preprints, with more and more researchers in chemical and materials sciences posting their manuscripts online prior to peer review. Preprints can speed up the dissemination of scientific results and lead to more informal exchanges between researchers, hopefully accelerating the pace of research as a whole.

    • François-Xavier Coudert
  • Meeting Report |

    The use of automation for chemical research and reaction discovery has seen significant advances in recent years, but there are still problems that need to be solved. Ella M. Gale and Derek J. Durand discuss limitations in the field and how researchers are working to address these issues.

    • Ella M. Gale
    •  & Derek J. Durand
  • News & Views |

    Single-molecule magnets are able to store information through their magnetic anisotropy, making them very promising systems for memory applications. Now, femtosecond-laser-initiated molecular dynamics that modulate magnetic anisotropy have been observed, paving the way for operation on ultrafast timescales.

    • Eric Collet
  • News & Views |

    A series of mesoscale supramolecular hexagonal grids have been constructed in solution through stepwise intra- then intermolecular coordination-driven self-assembly, and characterized with atomic resolution by scanning tunnelling microscopy and spectroscopy.

    • Ruoning Li
    •  & Yongfeng Wang
  • Thesis |

    Bruce C. Gibb takes a look at the chemistry and biochemistry of intermittent fasting.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
  • News & Views |

    A balance between order and disorder provides living materials with just the right amount of disorder needed to sustain life. This feature is currently not found in synthetic materials. Now, a route to the production of composite membranes that are simultaneously stiff and reconfigurable upon contact has been developed.

    • Ankit Jain
    •  & Rein V. Ulijn
  • News & Views |

    Hydrogels that can respond to multiple external stimuli are typically prepared as a single or interpenetrated polymer network material. Now, water-in-oil droplet networks have been used to precisely pattern different stimuli-responsive materials into well-ordered, continuous hydrogel structures.

    • Abigail O. Delawder
    •  & Jonathan C. Barnes
  • News & Views |

    A heterodinuclear MgCo catalyst has been shown to be highly active for the copolymerization of CO2 and epoxides under low (atmospheric) CO2 pressures. Its performance arises from the intramolecular synergy between the two metals, which adopt distinct roles and mediate each other’s reactivity during catalysis.

    • Xiao-Bing Lu
  • News & Views |

    The widespread application of quinone methides — reactive intermediates in a variety of reactions — is limited by their tedious synthesis. Now, hypoiodite catalysis allows the efficient generation and use of these species in a plethora of tandem processes for the functionalization and synthesis of biologically active compounds.

    • Boris J. Nachtsheim
  • Q&A |

    Yujia Qing, an early-career researcher at the University of Oxford, talks to Nature Chemistry about winning the Dream Chemistry Award 2019, her chemistry dream of ‘Sequencing Life’, and the challenge this represents.

    • Russell Johnson
  • News & Views |

    Luminescent metal complexes play key roles in lighting, solar energy conversion, and photocatalysis. Now, a robust zirconium complex with spectacular photophysical properties has been synthesized that could inspire the design of fundamentally new types of photoactive coordination compounds.

    • Oliver S. Wenger
  • News & Views |

    Many current methods to prepare 2-hydroxybiaryls require the prefunctionalization of phenol groups or show limited substrate scope. Now, use of a pentavalent sulfone-bridged bismacycle, formed in situ by telescoped boron-to-bismuth transmetallation and oxidation, allows the direct and regioselective ortho-arylation of unprotected phenols.

    • Adrien Le Roch
    •  & Alexandre Gagnon
  • News & Views |

    RNA has multiple roles in biology, enabled by its structural diversity. Now, artificially grafted RNA motifs have been encoded in a single RNA strand to form self-assembling nanostructures with controlled geometry and function.

    • Qi Shen
    •  & Chenxiang Lin
  • News & Views |

    Although the application of force to induce chemical transformations is an active area of research, detailed understanding of these mechanochemical pathways is still lacking. Now, the mechanochemical activation of [4]-ladderane has been studied and found to exhibit unique non-equilibrium dynamic effects.

    • Vincenzo Lordi
  • Thesis |

    Bruce C. Gibb takes a look at the dark side of academia and considers a multitude of sins.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
  • Comment |

    Academic labs can be difficult places to work — but why is that the case and what can be done to address the issues that lead to harmful working environments?

    • David K. Smith
  • News & Views |

    It is crucial to replace fossil fuel-based plastics with biodegradable ones that are made from renewable sources. Now, a new generation of bioplastics has been prepared through the stereoselective polymerization of diastereomeric monomers — a synthetic approach that allows tuning of the materials’ toughness, ductility and melting point.

    • Sonja Herres-Pawlis
  • News & Views |

    Monoclonal antibodies have shown tremendous success in cancer treatment; however, humanization for clinical applications is expensive and not straightforward. Now, molecularly imprinted polymer nanogels have been developed that can block cell-surface proteins and disrupt tumour spheroids.

    • Alessandra Maria Bossi
  • Meeting Report |

    Synthetic organic chemistry is increasingly automated, data rich and intelligent. At the Automated Synthesis Forum, industry and academia showcased their recent progress towards this augmented future.

    • David M. Heard
    •  & Alastair J. J. Lennox
  • News & Views |

    Meroterpenoids are mixed terpenoid–polyketide natural products with a variety of biological activities. Now, a synthetic approach that combines biocatalytic oxidation with a range of other radical-based reactions enables the divergent synthesis of eight oxidized meroterpenoid natural products and one analogue.

    • Andrew Gomm
    •  & Adam Nelson
  • Editorial |

    Two Q&As in this issue consider aspects of chemical safety in industry and academia. And when it comes to the latter, a Review Article concludes that much more research is required to better understand — and improve — safety in academic laboratories.

  • Q&A |

    Dave Laffan, a Director in Chemical Development at AstraZeneca, talks to Nature Chemistry about safety in industry labs and his role on the Safety, Health and Environment committee.

    • Katherine Geogheghan
  • Q&A |

    Marc Reid, a researcher at the University of Strathclyde and co-founder of Pre-Site Safety, talks to Nature Chemistry about safety, both as an academic scientist and as a director of a safety-focused company.

    • Katherine Geogheghan
  • News & Views |

    Tertiary amines are poor directing groups for C(sp3)–H activation using Pdii catalysts due to favourable β-hydride elimination pathways. Now, an N-acetyl amino acid ligand is shown to shut down this deleterious pathway, enabling facile arylation of a highly medicinally relevant group of compounds.

    • Vinod G. Landge
    •  & Michael C. Young
  • News & Views |

    The tumour microenvironment has a specific enzymatic fingerprint, which provides opportunities for cancer therapy. Now, two studies show how this unique chemical environment can be used to produce reporter molecules or nanoclusters within the tumour that can subsequently be identified in urine or breath, enabling cancer detection and monitoring.

    • Alexander N. Zelikin
  • News & Views |

    Synthetic genetic circuits leverage the information processing capability of biological machinery to tackle complex sensing tasks, yet they lack many of the advantages inherent to electrical computation. Now, an interface has been designed that provides an electrical output for synthetic genetic circuits.

    • Robbyn K. Anand
    •  & Kira L. Rahn
  • Comment |

    A curious chemical structure from the imagination of a child will forever be connected with a cancer diagnosis for one particular family. And now the challenge is on to make this molecule a reality.

    • Filucca Sophia Bjørnskov
    •  & Thomas Bjørnskov Poulsen