Materials Girl: Where did October go?!

Time flies when you’re away from the lab and working across the country in an entirely new habitat! Spending three months in a high-security military lab showed me another side of research – give or take the differences in being a summer intern versus a full-time government employee… Fast forward past my eye-opening summer and the new school year is in full swing. Hoards of undergraduates line the halls while beleaguered grad students* trot amidst them. It’s time to buckle down, start another new project, teach new classes, maintain my lab & student groups, squeeze in conferences, and pump out publications! With a first author paper now under my belt (!!), I am eager to maintain productivity and graduate in style. At least, that’s the plan.  Read more

ICBIC15: Feeling jaded?

Greetings from Vancouver, where I am attending ICBIC15 – the international conference on bio-inorganic chemistry. As the name suggests, this is the 15th instalment of this series of conferences…or is it? There have been quite a few mentions of a mysterious ‘ICBIC zero’, which happened 35 years ago, also here at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Chris Orvig, the chair, showed us the programme from that meeting during his welcome address – as organizer, he was interested to see that there were no times for any of the talks, just ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’! The only speaker at that conference who is also speaking this year is (no prizes for guessing) Harry Gray, who is quite a godfather of this field.  Read more

ICCOSS XX: Growing crystals in all shapes -and sizes

All good things come to an end… Among the many, and varied, aspects discussed at ICCOSS over the past few days, I wanted to bring your attention to halogen–halogen bonding, which seems to be becoming quite popular. When a halogen atom engages in such a bond, its charge distribution changes a little, leading to a ‘polar flattening’ of the atom. The more electronegative side of one atom naturally engages in a halogen–halogen bond with what has become the more electropositive side of the other. Can these interactions be relied on to assemble building blocks? Can they be tuned in a controllable manner by judicious choice of the halogen?  Read more