Essay competition: Meet the judges


Hello from London, where I have temporarily set up camp in light of the uncertain situation in Toyko in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan. We have seen poignant images and videos, including some pictures of a damaged chemistry lab in Tohoku University, and the various consequences — or potential consequences — of the earthquake and tsunami are being widely discussed in the media and on the internet (including Derek Lowe’s take on why Americans certainly shouldn’t rush to take potassium iodide tablets). Like everyone else, I am very much hoping that the situation at the Fukushima site will soon be under control (and that we can go home in the very near future), and I hope I’ll be able to help the disaster-struck areas in some way (at the moment I have settled for donating money).

I would like to bring your attention to more cheerful matters, such as the essay competition, mentioned here a couple of weeks ago.

As announced on the competition page, the Nature Chemistry team planned to enlist the help of an independent judge (that is, from outside NPG) to review the entries and make decisions on the winning essays. Well, we actually have two independent judges — we are delighted that Matthew Hartings and Michelle Francl have both agreed to take on that role.

Matt Hartings works at the American University in Washington, DC, on the uses of metals in biological systems, either for medicinal purposes (metal complexes with anti-cancer activity) or environmental ones (protein mimics that could, for example, convert CO2 into valuable chemicals). He also blogs at ScienceGeist about science policy, which should — ideally — combine solid scientific understanding and clear communication between scientists, policy-makers and the general public. You can also find Matt on Twitter at

Michelle Francl, a computational and theoretical chemist at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, looks to develop new models to probe the structure and reactivity of molecules even before carrying out any experiments. She is one of Nature Chemistry’s regular columnists, and has written in the past about a variety of topics from the image everyone invariably has of scientists — men with weird hair and glasses — to the urban legends of chemistry (subscription required). Over at her Culture of Chemistry blog, Michelle has recently mused about writing science, prompting scientists to write, including about the perfect cup of coffee, their pets, and the last time they itched. You can also find Michelle on Twitter at

It’s our turn to prompt you to write about an element — which one of helium, nitrogen, sodium, copper, bromine, indium or plutonium will catch your attention?


Anne Pichon (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)

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