Reactions – Pance Naumov

Pance Naumov is at the Department of Material and Life Science at Osaka University, Japan, holds a position from the external staff of Ss Cyril and Methodius University in Macedonia, works on solid-state chemistry and photochemistry, and is particularly interested in unstable and “exotic” molecular species.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

More than anything else, it was pure and simple curiosity that initially led me to chemistry. As a nerdy kid, this raw drive to find out about things compelled me to spend countless hours in a makeshift lab that I created out of my family’s storehouse. And throughout my entire career, my curiosity has never really waned. It grew stronger during my school days, when I managed the school lab, and remains just as strong even to this day in my very own laboratory. One particular quote by E. Einstein has always resonated with me ? “Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” To that I would add, “…and it will never cease to exist.”

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I would most likely be an astronomer. As broad as the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics are, we can only begin to explore one side of the spectrum of infinity. We examine organisms, cells, tissues, molecules, atoms, quarks, and even tinier “particles”. However, there is a whole other side that is equally exciting and technically challenging. If I were an astronomer, the possibilities to study planets, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters, and certainly much more beyond that would quite literally be endless.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

Throughout history, the problems that our world has had to deal with have been numerous and varied. However, it has become increasingly clear that our society today is faced with these three major problems: security, the environment, and energy. In my research group, we are interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying the processes of conversion among the light, chemical, thermal, and mechanical energies in the solid state. By elucidating the details of these mechanisms, we hope to arrive at a deeper understanding of the structural factors that govern energy transformation and improve its efficacy in the future.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

Actually, I would love to break bread with two historical figures. Having both Alexander the Great and Nikola Tesla at the dinner table would make for an exciting and incredibly stimulating evening. At the mere age of 30, Alexander the Great succeeded in uniting most of the known world at that time with his visionary approach. The wisdom that he displayed beyond his years and beyond his time has made our Macedonian nation very proud. In my view, Alexander the Great’s strategy of “conquer and unite” instead of “divide and conquer” was really a progressive concept not unlike the ones seen in contemporary unions such as the United States and the European Union. Perhaps along with Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla should have been awarded the Nobel Prize. If in 1893 Tesla could demonstrate a wireless energy transfer, there is no doubt in my mind that he would be able to make a profound contribution to our society’s endeavors today and even to our future undertakings, such as teleportation. He could change the world as we know it. I’d love to ask him how.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

A couple of months ago, I was trying to crystallize an important antiviral compound. Unfortunately, being a group leader has prevented me from dedicating the time necessary to be directly involved in experiments of late.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

I would undoubtedly take “The Little Prince,” a book that amazes me with its simplicity of narration. I love it now, but I haven’t always held it in such high esteem. When I was 7, I hated it. At 14, I still considered it a very ho-hum read. Then, at 21, something clicked and it became my favorite book. Eventually, at 28, I made sure most of my friends had a copy. If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend it.

As far as music is concerned, I would need something to soothe the soul. The Best of Nina Simone would probably do the trick with her “blue” moments under the “blue” skies. But, how would I play it on a deserted island? I guess the album could double as a fan or placemat!

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

Bart E. Kahr from New York University in New York would make an excellent choice for the innovative methods he uses in furthering our knowledge of solid state chemistry and supramolecular chemistry. I find his work enlightening and timeless.