Volume 3 Issue 9, September 2011

Volume 3 Issue 9

To mark the International Year of Chemistry and the hundredth anniversary of the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Marie Curie, this issue features a series of Commentary articles examining broader issues in chemistry beyond the science itself. As part of this collection, Michelle Francl considers how the representation of women in science has changed since Curie's day. The image on the cover comprises a mosaic of female scientists — many thanks go to them and also to Michelle who suggested the concept and collected most of the pictures.

More information about the cover can be found in this post on the Sceptical Chymist blog.

A higher resolution PDF file of the cover is available here.

Commentary p670;

Insight pp667–695





  • Thesis |

    Michelle Francl wants a chemistry book that could conjure up Linus Pauling.

    • Michelle Francl

Books and Arts

Research Highlights


News and Views

  • News & Views |

    Characterizing electrochemical behaviour on the nanometre scale is fundamental to gaining complete insight into the working mechanisms of fuel cells. The application of a new scanning probe microscopy technique can now relate local surface structure to electrochemical activity at a resolution below 10 nm.

    • Johannes A. A. W. Elemans
  • News & Views |

    Growing good-quality single crystals of proteins for high-resolution X-ray diffraction relies on the use of a diverse range of materials as nucleating agents. Smart hydrogels, in the form of molecularly imprinted polymers, may provide a general solution.

    • Michael J. Whitcombe
  • News & Views |

    Glucose meters allow rapid and quantitative measurement of blood sugar levels for diabetes sufferers worldwide. Now a new method allows this proven technology to be used to quantify a much wider range of analytes.

    • Samuel K. Sia
    •  & Curtis D. Chin
  • News & Views |

    Stereochemistry represents a common thread uniting chemists from a range of sub-disciplines at the Bürgenstock conference, an annual scientific meeting rich in tradition and characterized by intensive, interdisciplinary discussion.

    • Mark S. Taylor
  • News & Views |

    A joint X-ray/neutron diffraction study has enabled the direct observation of a hydronium ion coordinated by three amino-acid residues of an enzyme. This sighting will affect our views on how enzymes transport and use protons.

    • Victor L. Davidson
  • News & Views |

    Achiral molecules have now been assembled into a homochiral porous network at a solid–liquid interface. This has implications for practical processes such as separations, but also for understanding how homochirality — crucial in biological systems — arose from achiral or racemic species.

    • Leila M. Foroughi
    •  & Adam J. Matzger
  • News & Views |

    Dynamic communication between atoms within folded proteins is potentially important for function, but its measurement has been a challenge. Now, a combined NMR and modelling study provides insights on the presence and strengths of such correlations.

    • Rafael Brüschweiler


  • Commentary |

    One hundred years on from Marie Curie being awarded her second Nobel Prize there has been only a handful of female scientists who have received the call from Stockholm. Why are women still under-represented? A lack of ability or passion, or could it be that we create labs into which women don't quite fit?

    • Michelle Francl
  • Commentary |

    The communication of chemistry to wider society is difficult because of 'chemophobia', its inherent complexity and its lack of unifying grand themes. To engage with citizens about the benefits and related dangers of the field, chemists must improve their dialogue with broader sections of the public — but how?

    • Matthew R. Hartings
    •  & Declan Fahy
  • Commentary |

    Chemistry creates both agony and hope in less-developed countries — although it may provide solutions to many of the problems faced there, the lack of expertise and poor infrastructure renders research extremely difficult. What challenges must scientists overcome and what can be done to improve matters?

    • C. N. R. Rao
  • Commentary |

    As well as teaching students what we know, it is becoming increasingly important to teach them how we think. We must take a scientific approach to science education and experiment with teaching methods, including context-led work and media-rich resources, to foster active and independent student engagement.

    • David K. Smith
  • Commentary |

    Changes in the chemical industry over the past decade — ranging from globalization to an increased focus on speciality chemicals — threaten to leave the aspiring industrial chemist unprepared. This Commentary discusses those changes and outlines strategies to enter the job market as well equipped as possible.

    • Keith J. Watson
  • Commentary |

    The spectre of insecure supplies of some mineral raw materials could hinder the development and deployment of new technology. This Commentary discusses and analyses the reasons behind the potential insecurity, how markets are responding, and what roles government should play.

    • Roderick G. Eggert
  • Commentary |

    Powerful technologies allow the synthesis and testing of large numbers of new compounds, but the failure rate of pharmaceutical R&D remains very high. Greater understanding of the fundamental physical chemical behaviour of molecules could be the key to greatly enhancing the success rate of drug discovery.

    • Patrick R. Connelly
    • , T. Minh Vuong
    •  & Mark A. Murcko


  • Article |

    Portable sensors for the rapid quantitation of a variety of analytical targets could revolutionize both medical diagnostics and environmental monitoring. Here, functional DNA sensors that release the enzyme invertase in response to an analyte of choice are described. The enzyme converts sucrose to glucose which can then be easily detected using a widely available personal glucose meter.

    • Yu Xiang
    •  & Yi Lu
  • Article |

    A drawback of recently reported prebiotic routes to RNA is a requirement for enantioenriched reactants. Here, the presence of a slightly enantioenriched amino acid in the reaction mixture is shown to drive the formation of enantiopure RNA precursors. This provides a plausible scenario in which single-handed biological molecules were formed prior to the emergence of self-replicating informational polymers.

    • Jason E. Hein
    • , Eric Tse
    •  & Donna G. Blackmond
  • Article |

    Optimizing oxygen-reduction and -evolution reactions is crucial for improving fuel cell efficiency, but the reaction is poorly understood at the nanoscopic level. Now, the oxygen activity of a platinum-functionalized surface has been mapped at below 10-nm resolution using electrochemical strain microscopy.

    • Amit Kumar
    • , Francesco Ciucci
    • , Anna N. Morozovska
    • , Sergei V. Kalinin
    •  & Stephen Jesse
  • Article |

    The generation of two-dimensional homochiral porous molecular networks at the liquid–solid interface is described. Using scanning tunnelling microscopy, the formation of homochiral porous networks was observed both from solutions of homochiral molecules and from solutions of achiral molecules in the presence of a small amount of a chiral modifier.

    • Kazukuni Tahara
    • , Hiroyuki Yamaga
    • , Elke Ghijsens
    • , Koji Inukai
    • , Jinne Adisoejoso
    • , Matthew O. Blunt
    • , Steven De Feyter
    •  & Yoshito Tobe
  • Article |

    Membrane-enclosed reaction compartments are considered important for establishing plausible pathways of prebiotic organization. Here, simple mixing of mononucleotides and cationic peptides in water is shown to produce microdroplets that sequester photo-active molecules, catalytic nanoparticles and enzymes. Such droplets might provide plausible pathways of prebiotic organization prior to the emergence of membrane-based compartmentalization on the early Earth.

    • Shogo Koga
    • , David S. Williams
    • , Adam W. Perriman
    •  & Stephen Mann
  • Article |

    The natural product thiostrepton is known to have anticancer properties but its mechanism of action is not known. Here, it is shown that thiostrepton binds to the protein FOXM1, preventing its interaction with several gene promoters and inhibits their expression. This illustrates the druggability of transcription factors, and provides a molecular basis for targeting FOXM1.

    • Nagaratna S. Hegde
    • , Deborah A. Sanders
    • , Raphaël Rodriguez
    •  & Shankar Balasubramanian
  • Article |

    The outer surfaces of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are known to participate in a range of chemical reactions, but the inner surfaces have so far been thought to be somewhat unreactive. Now, it has been shown that electron-beam irradiation of rhenium–fullerene complexes inside SWNTs can trigger reactions at the inner wall to form protrusions on the nanotube surface.

    • Thomas W. Chamberlain
    • , Jannik C. Meyer
    • , Johannes Biskupek
    • , Jens Leschner
    • , Adriano Santana
    • , Nicholas A. Besley
    • , Elena Bichoutskaia
    • , Ute Kaiser
    •  & Andrei N. Khlobystov
  • Article |

    Selective reaction of one C–H bond among many in complex organic molecules is a grand challenge for organic chemistry. Here, starting from an enzyme that oxidizes two positions in a steroid without bias, laboratory evolution is used to prepare mutants that can regio- and stereoselectively oxidize either position.

    • Sabrina Kille
    • , Felipe E. Zilly
    • , Juan P. Acevedo
    •  & Manfred T. Reetz

In Your Element

  • In Your Element |

    If ever there was an element that epitomizes the notion that chemicals might be good or bad depending on their use, arsenic must be it. Katherine Haxton explains why.

    • Katherine Haxton


  • Insight |

    Nature Chemistry Insight – Chemistry beyond the bench

    The designation of 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry by the United Nations offers our community an opportunity not only to celebrate its successes, but also to look critically at the challenges it faces.