Sympathy for the chemist

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For some reason, many non-scientists (and even some scientists) see chemists as “”">nefarious creators of toxic pollutants … [or] mad scientists brewing up Love Potion #9 in … [a] cluttered and archaic laboratory." Or worse yet, they think chemistry is boring and/or useless…

The editorial in the September 7th issue of Nature tries to capture why organic chemistry is interesting and attempts to explain some of the things that excite the ‘average’ organic chemist. (Though the editorial is mainly about organic chemistry, I think many of the statements in the editorial are true for other areas of chemistry…)

Many organic chemists spend their days searching for creative solutions to real-world problems, yet the media pays them just a fraction of the attention devoted to physicists or biologists. Even fellow scientists think organic chemistry is esoteric … [But a]sk a group of organic chemists why they love their work … and most will tell you that it enables them to make things that no one else has made before … ©hemists are frequently drawn to the field because there is not just one way to solve the problem, and the search can reveal a bit more about how the world works.

When people ask me why I like being an editor, I often tell them that it’s like being a first year graduate student again: every day I get to read exciting chemistry papers and often feel like that “”">child in a sweetshop" – there are so many interesting discoveries out there, and countless problems that still need to be solved. The excitement peaks when I’m at a meeting – I love going to sessions and hearing people talk about their unpublished/newly published work, meeting students and post-docs at the poster sessions, and chatting with speakers after the talks about their future plans…

With that in mind, I hope to bump into you at the ACS meeting next week – keep an eye out for Catherine Goodman (from Nature Chemical Biology), Mirella Bucci (from Nature Chemical Biology), and Emma Marris (from the Nature news team) who are also in town for the meeting. And don’t forget to check back here regularly, as we’ll be blogging throughout the meeting…

Hope to see you there,


Joshua Finkelstein (Associate Editor, Nature)