The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2020 to Emmanuelle Charpentier (Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, Berlin) and Jennifer A. Doudna (Professor at the University of California, Berkeley) “for the development of a method for genome editing.” The method in question is CRISPR/Cas9, the importance of which can hardly be overestimated.
Prior to 2020, 183 individuals had been awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry (counting Frederick Sanger once despite him being awarded twice). There were only five female laureates: Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Irène Joliot-Curie (1935), Dorothy Hodgkin (1964), Ada Yonath (2009) and Frances Arnold (2018). Approaching the end of a year where the chemical societies have seen the need to stress the importance of equality in the chemical sciences and work places, it is well worth drawing attention to the fact that this year’s Nobel prize is split between two eminent female scientists (both of whom are younger than the writer of this column).
The Norwegian government has allocated money to selected projects for upgrading physical infrastructure for eduction. In the words of the minister for research and higher education, Henrik Asheim, «studentene ønsker også mer undervisning der de deltar aktivt. Det krever at vi har auditorier, laboratorier, verksteder og andre undervisnings-lokaler som gir bedre mulighet for deltakelse.» UiB receives 25 MNOK for upgrading chemistry laboratories in the Science building, under the explicit condition that UiB allocates matching funds or more, to the same purpose.
Professor Nathalie Reuter, CBU and Dept. Chemistry, has been elected member of the PRACE Scientific Steering Committee! PRACE, short for Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, is an organization set to enable high-impact scientific discovery and engineering research and development, by offering world class computing and data management resources and services through a peer review process.
Quoting a recent Sigma2 newsletter: The Scientific Steering Committee is composed of European leading researchers that are responsible for advice and guidance on all matters of a scientific and technical nature, which may influence the scientific work carried out by the use of the PRACE supercomputers. Nathalie Reuter (..) will through the Scientific Steering Committee advise PRACE on how best to exploit the PRACE facilities to maximize the benefits to European Science.
We congratulate Nathalie and PRACE!
Today, Sondre Hilmar Hopen Eliasson successfully defended his PhD thesis Mechanistic insight for improved catalytic conversion of fatty acids to linear alpha-olefins. This is his contribution to the ongoing world-wide effort of developing chemical transformations for molecular resources of biological origin into modern commodity and platform chemicals. Sondre was first exposed to catalysis research in 2010 as part of the Nano100 experience, where he worked with Karl Törnroos to determine the structure of a Ru-based metathesis catalyst. After completing an MSc in nanoscience at the physics department he returned to chemistry and the Jensen laboratory, and today completed the circle by becoming Philosophiae Doctor. Congratulations!
Last Friday, Solmaz Ghoreishi successfully defended her PhD thesis Large-scale conversion of lignin to liquid through formic acid assisted solvolysis in aqueous and ethanolic reaction media: comparison of yields and product compositions. Solmaz has made signficant contributions to upscaling of the lignin-to-liquid process from small- to large-labscale (5L) reactors, which is an important step toward making it a viable industrial option. Both Solmaz and the two opponents did very well, making the disputation ceremony an interesting and enjoyable event for those present. Congratulations!
Yesterday’s chemistry pot-luck Christmas party was great fun and a big success, clearly matching previous year’s events and even surpassing those in attendance! A clever and well-received novelty was to precede the party by an hour of sampling of seasonal products from ABC (the Alchemy/Academic Brewing Company) – thanks guys! Huge thanks are obviously due to Bengt Erik and his crew of organic synthetic chemists: Eirin, Frida, Louise, Beate, Nina, Markus, and Zeeshan. They made such a big effort to the benefit of all of us attending the party and, by facilitating a shared and joyous evening and thus adding to the working environment; to everybody at the department. The variety of tasty dishes was only met by the variety in challenges presented by Quizmaster Bjørn – the photo of the winning team was shot before the virtual nature of the prize was revealed.
The insect gray silverfish (or long-tailed silverfish, in Norwegian: skjeggkre) should now be regarded as an established part of the population at the first and third floors, and by induction, also at the second floor of Realfagsbygget. While completely harmless, this insect multiplies rapidly and it is very difficult to get rid of once you get it into your house. It is therefore recommendable to take some simple precautions. When unpacking goods of any kind in your office or lab, please bring the paper or carton wrapping down to the basement right away. Do not use the paper bin in the mail room. Moreover, clear your floor space from unnecessary clutter, making the whole floor accessible to the cleaning personnel. Do not leave backpacks or bags at your office floor (escpecially over night!) and avoid transporting good hiding places (carton boxes etc) between home and UiB. For more information, see here.
At the recent International Symposium on Olefin Metathesis and Related Chemistry in Barcelona (ISOM23), the Conference Board elected University of Bergen to organize the next symposium in this series. Vidar R. Jensen and Deryn E. Fogg will co-chair the event, which will take place during the first week of July, 2021. This is a nice and timely recognition of the contributions from the Bergen group to olefin metathesis!
In addition to placing Bergen even more solidly on the “map of olefin metathesis”, the conference will offer a unique opportunity to showcase the Department of Chemistry, Norwegian homogeneous catalysis, Bergen as a conference city, and, of course, Bergen and the West coast of Norway as a superb tourist destination.