Building the Smallest Chemical Beaker

Typically, if you want to understand the foundation of something, building from the ground up sounds like a sensible approach. However, researchers in Dr. Ni’s group at Harvard have taken this idea a step further by building molecules one atom at a time. The group’s goal is to better understand the minimal requirements and exact properties of chemical reactions. For comparison, while every chemistry class … Continue reading Building the Smallest Chemical Beaker

The FDA Approves the First Non-Opioid Drug to Ease Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

It is 2018, and we are well on our way towards curing cancer. Yet, as we look around, we find another nightmare haunting our society that is as formidable, if not more so, as it has been for centuries. That nightmare is opioid addiction.  Overcoming opioid addiction is notoriously difficult, because of the excruciating symptoms associated with the withdrawal process, during which the only aid … Continue reading The FDA Approves the First Non-Opioid Drug to Ease Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?

Is this apple safe to eat? Did that course of antibiotics work? To answer these types of questions we often need to know how to find and count illness-causing bacteria. Several bacteria counting techniques already exist. However, these approaches are slow and sensitive to laboratory conditions. Sam Nugen and his team from Cornell University are streamlining this process using a type of virus called phages, … Continue reading Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?

AI advises chemists on how to make complex molecules

What is the hardest thing you think scientists need to do in a lab? Organic chemistry may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but multi-step organic syntheses are easily ranked a top challenge, even among experienced chemists. Nevertheless, computer scientists surprised us again with artificial intelligence (AI) which, despite having less chemistry experience than the average high-schooler, could prescribe recipes with success. … Continue reading AI advises chemists on how to make complex molecules

Spectrum

These colorful fractions were obtained upon purifying a synthetic small-molecule through flash column chromatography. Though most of these were impurities (bright colors in organic chemistry is usually not a great sign), it served as a reminder to appreciate the beauty in the mundane and seemingly unimportant. Contributed by Carmen Sivakumaren, a graduate student in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Harvard Medical School.   Continue reading Spectrum

The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

By Andrew Wong, a second year graduate student in the Applied Physics program at Harvard University.       The increase in global energy demand and subsequent carbon dioxide emissions has driven advancements in renewable energy generation technologies such as wind turbines and solar cells. However, these technologies are inherently intermittent, and require robust energy storage devices. Inexpensive, large-scale energy storage systems such as aqueous … Continue reading The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

The Flavor Rundown: Natural vs. Artificial Flavors

by C. Rose Kennedy figures by Kaitlyn Choi What’s in a Flavor? The word “flavor” pervades our daily vocabulary, evoking associations of rich or vivid experiences beyond the experience of eating. Even in the literal context, the Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) describes flavor as “the entire range of sensations that we perceive when we eat a food or drink a beverage. Flavor encompasses a substance’s … Continue reading The Flavor Rundown: Natural vs. Artificial Flavors

Plastic bottles

Public Opinion Forces Companies to Seek Safer Replacements for Safe (and Essential) Chemical

Consumer pressure – not scientific evidence – has prompted companies like Nalgene, General Mills, and Campbell’s to remove a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) from their merchandise.  BPA is primarily used to make plastics that are found in many everyday products, such as water bottles, medical devices, toys, and liners for food cans.  As a result, BPA is ubiquitous in modern life and many people … Continue reading Public Opinion Forces Companies to Seek Safer Replacements for Safe (and Essential) Chemical

Memoirs of a Toxin: The lasting human impact on mercury in the environment

Presented by Hannah Horowitz Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. For thousands of years, humans have altered mercury cycling in the environment by introducing massive amounts of mercury to surface water, soils, and air, through mining and burning coal. Once in the surface environment, mercury can threaten human and wildlife health, is transported globally through the air, and continues to have an impact for hundreds of … Continue reading Memoirs of a Toxin: The lasting human impact on mercury in the environment