DD11: Stanford and Scripps

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Mar 27, 2019
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So, the conference is over, but the work of a Nature Chemistry editor isn’t. As you might have heard on the podcast, we’re combining our conference visits with trips to nearby chemistry departments. So the day after we’d wrapped up DD11, I took the (surprisingly far) journey to Palo Alto on the other side of the San Francisco bay to visit the chemistry department at Stanford University.

This is my first set of lab visits, and my main impression so far is that it’s like having a day of one-to-one tutorials with some of the best chemists in the world! I wonder how much you’d have to pay to get that kind of consultancy…?

Another impression is ‘interdisciplinary’: it’s impossible (and essentially worthless) to pigeonhole any of the faculty I met into the traditional disciplines of chemistry. For instance, Chris Chang at Berkeley makes organic molecules so they can interact with inorganic species in the body and then give some sort of physical response!

And so on to the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla (nr San Diego). There’s a strong emphasis here on organic chemistry/biochemistry because Scripps is a biomedical research organisation. Again, more interdisciplinary work…apart from Phil Baran, who proudly does undiluted organic chemistry. He has a quote on his wall (and on his homepage) from his Scripps/ETH colleague Albert Eschenmoser, the key part of which is “neither biology nor chemistry would be served best by a development in which all organic chemists would simply become biological”. I’d like to think there’s space, and funding, for both approaches.

And finally…the Berkeley summer visitor housing I was staying in is right next to the university’s Hearst Greek Theatre, and on my last night there, I was treated to a free concert by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant (formerly of Led Zeppelin).

From La Jolla, Neil

Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)


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