Skip to main content

My Chem Coach Carnival

This week on Twitter there is the #ChemCoach carnival, as organized by @SeeArrOh in which my hand was forced by doing a retweet... (but forced in a nice way). So now I'm obliged to contribute to the carnival.. (day 1, day 2, day3..)

picture by M.P. Johansson
Your current job. I'm an ICREA Research Professor at the University of Girona. ICREA stands for Instituci├│ Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avan├žats, i.e. the Catalan research institute, which does not have its own facilities but places the Research Professors within the Catalan universities. Basically it means that ICREA hires excellent investigators to do breathtaking research, performed within the universities (or other research centers). 
I'm a Chemist.... working in the Institute of Quantum Chemistry and Catalysis (IQCC), and work on different things: method development, DNA, transition-metal complexes, iron proteins, fullerenes, supramolecular cages.

What you do in a standard "work day." I'm a computational chemist, so basically I spend lot of time in front of the screen. But also there are administrative meetings, scientific meetings, etc. that I have to attend, so there is not much chance of getting RSI. And then as well, there are (undergrad/Master/PhD) students and postdocs to supervise, so I'm lucky if I can sit two to three hours uninterrupted in front of the screen. Fortunately, my group is not so big yet so I do still have time to do so.
But let me get me back to the question, what it is that I do in a standard "work day". Being a computational chemist, I spend lots of hours looking at numbers. I guess I inherited that from my father who was accountant at a local printing house. These numbers give for instance the Cartesian coordinates (x,y,z) of atoms within a particular molecule, or reaction barriers, or vibrational frequencies.
A Fe-complex that we recently studied
Apart from the numbers, I also play around a lot with visualizing the results. This is much more insightful, because as the saying goes, "one picture is worth a thousand words". Again, I guess I inherited this from my father who was very keen on graphics.

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there? I went to the best university (Groningen) in The Netherlands for chemistry at that time. Right now, with the crisis and the budget cuts, I'm not sure if they still are in the same position, but at that time they were first-class in many chemistry disciplines (e.g. Feringa, Berendsen). According to THE it is still in the top100 universities in the world, so I guess they are still going strong. The theoretical chemistry group at that time was very good (Nieuwpoort, Broer, van Duijnen, Snijders), and I learned most of what I know now in that period. Apart from the education "in-house", I was also privileged to be able to go to the two Quantum Chemistry summer schools (Ry, Denmark; ESQC, Tjornarp, Sweden), an annual "summer" school (in December!) in Belgium (Han-sur-Lesse), and had travel funding with my PhD project that allowed me to visit 2-3 international conferences each year.
After my PhD I went for a postdoc in a completely new area (iron chemistry), and switched after two years to again another subject (DNA/RNA, SN2 reactions). I learned a lot of project management in my postdocs, because the first one was really tough (lousy equipment) and the second one an immediate success.
Chocolate cake

How does chemistry inform your work? Chemistry is all around us, inside us, going through us, so I can't actually separate Chemistry from myself or my work. It is what Harry Gray told last year at the ICBIC meeting in Vancouver: "the two most important reactions in the world are photosynthesis and respiration", which are both in the field of bioinorganic chemistry (I was there myself, and so was Nature Chemistry). But there is more to it than that because the people in Girona have a craving for chocolate (I know that there are many more people that like chocolate, but here they are addicted to it). Understanding why that is, and why people like chocolate is again simply Chemistry. We have taste receptors in our body that screen everything that we drink, eat, inhale, and one of them is called the Sweet Taste Receptor (hT1R2/hT1R3). These receptors are so-called G-Protein Coupled Receptors, which have become quite en vogue since a few weeks.

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career. During my study I became ill (Infectious mononucleosis, or in Dutch: Ziekte van Pfeiffer), so was ordered to bed for two-three months for complete and full rest. I was that tired that I did not want to do study anymore and was ready to quit*. At the final stages, my girlfriend (now wife) gave me the material for one course (Reaction Mechanisms, Carey/Sundberg), for which I might just be able to be in time for the exam. This material revived my spirits, I recuperated promptly and became Chemistry workaholic ever since.

*I doubt that I would have quit my study, but at least Carey and Sundberg helped my recuperation tremendously.


Popular posts from this blog

Impact of Plan S on Chemistry research in Europe

Below is given a list of journals that are present at the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) and that are listed in one of the seven categories in Chemistry in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR): ·CHEMISTRY, ANALYTICAL ·CHEMISTRY, APPLIED ·CHEMISTRY, INORGANIC & NUCLEAR ·CHEMISTRY, MEDICINAL ·CHEMISTRY, MULTIDISCIPLINARY ·CHEMISTRY, ORGANIC ·CHEMISTRY, PHYSICAL These seven categories include all 553 journals in Chemistry (see Appendix 1), except some general scientific journals like Nature, Science, Nature Communications, Scientific Reports, etc. and also does not include new initiatives like iScienceChem Squared
The full list of 49 DOAJ entries in Chemistry (8.9% of all Chemistry journals) is given in Appendix 2, but shown here below is the list of 11 journals (2.0% of all Chemistry journals in JCR!!!!) that I recognize[1]:
·ACS Central Science·Catalysts·Chemical Science·ChemistryOpen·Croatica Chemica Acta·Frontiers in Chemistry·International Journal of Molecular Sciences·Journ…

Impact of Plan-S on European Research in 10 scientific disciplines

A few weeks ago I posted already the troubling current situation for Chemistry, where out of 553 journals listed in Journal Citation Reportsonly 48 journals[1] are included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), and only 11 were known to me (i.e. 2.0%).

Today I add the same analysis for nine more fields in scientific research (Bio, CompSci, Engin, Math, MatSci, Med, Phys, Psych, Social)[2][3], with similar results. Out of the total of 4773 journals listed in JCR for these disciplines, only 399 are listed in DOAJ (8.4%).

Within the field of Chemistry, the majority of the 48 JCR/DOAJ journals were not known to me, and often included local/national journals. Assuming that the same holds for the other disciplines, and using a conservative estimate for this proportion of unknown journals (at least half), one comes to the conclusion that for the ten fields of science listed below, only ca. 2-4% of scientific journals is currently compliant with Plan S.

FieldNr. in JCRNr. in DOAJBio…

Exotic chemistry trumps nature

A few weeks ago the Twitter world was surprised by several Tweets where Chemistry played a big role. First of all, @StuartCantrill posted a cry for help:
Can somebody please hurry up and make a cyclic trimer from livermorium – I'm desperate to use 'Bizarre Lv triangle' as a cover line at NChem — Stuart Cantrill (@stuartcantrill) May 26, 2017 A few days later there was a late-night typo by @RealDonaldTrump:
Despite the constant negative press covfefe — Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) May 30, 2017 which was deleted the next day (but that does not work), and replaced by a challenge:
Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017
This obviously calls for a #CompChem solution, and hence I accepted the challenge and proposed a structure for the cyclic trimer livermorium (at BP86/TZ2P with Spin-Orbit ZORA as done within the ADF program):
something like this?
(cyclic Lv3 trimer with odd orbitals) pic.twit…