The big picture

The ‘front half’ of this week’s Nature is packed full of chemistry – there’s a News & Views by Tom Muir on a recent JACS paper from David Liu’s group, Emma Marris wrote a short News piece on the controversy surrounding two recent syntheses of hexacyclinol, and Phil Ball wrote a News Feature on the big questions facing chemistry (or in his own words: “are there still major chemical questions to crack?”)

In 2005, Science published a special issue that featured 125 ‘big questions’ that scientists hope to solve in the next 25 years – some of the chemical questions included ‘How far can we push chemical self-assembly?,’ ‘What is the structure of water?,’ and ‘Are there limits to rational chemical synthesis?’. Phil adds a few more questions to the list, including ‘How do we design molecules with specific functions and dynamics?’ and ‘What is the chemical basis of thought and memory?’.

Let’s say you had a lab of 20 highly competent graduate students and post-docs and was just awarded a large grant (how about one million dollars per year for five years – wouldn’t that be nice…) What problem(s) would you work on? Would you tackle a basic/fundamental problem or use chemistry to explore an interesting biological system, make new materials/devices, develop new therapeutic agents, or something other application?


Joshua Finkelstein (Associate Editor, Nature)