Signal to Noise Special Edition: IYC 2011

Articles in this Special Edition

Graphene: The coolest material that shouldn’t exist

Gairik Sachdeva

Harnessing the power of the Sun: How can raspberries and genetically modified viruses help?

Jing Yang

Jessica Wu

Materials for drug delivery

Joe Akin

Nuclear chemistry: Lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster

Leila Ross

Curbing the chemistry of climate change

Morgan Thompson

Green Chemistry: Reducing production of hazardous substances through innovative design

Jessica W. Chen

Shannon McArdel

An interview with Professor George Whitesides

Don Dressen

Words from the Editors

Chemistry is the study of matter and its interactions. Often called the “central science”, chemistry connects the fundamental laws of physics, which govern the behaviour of atoms, molecules and energy, with the macroscopic phenomena of living things and the physical environment. Take a look around you, and it’s hard not to notice how chemistry permeates all aspects of our life. The LCD monitor that you are reading this on; the materials that your clothes are made of; the fossil fuels, nuclear reactors and solar cells that power our cities; and the drugs that you take to fight off diseases — all of these are made possible by our understanding of, and our ability to manipulate chemistry. Even all the biological processes going on inside your cells and body are an elaborate series of chemical reactions.

To celebrate the role that chemistry plays in advancing our wellbeing and furthering our understanding of how nature works, 2011 has been declared the International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011) by the United Nations and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). Throughout the year, there are activities such as lectures, demonstrations, science camps and other special events around the world to increase the public’s appreciation and awareness of the importance of chemistry in our lives and in shaping humanity’s future.

SITN Flash is proud to participate in this global celebration by putting together our second special edition on the theme of chemistry. Articles written by graduate students from different programs throughout Harvard cover the latest developments in the many facets of chemistry – from the discovery and delivery of drugs, to new materials that may revolutionize electronics and energy, to safer and greener ways to run the chemical processes that sustain our industries and modern life. We will also look at the chemical basis of climate change and how chemistry might provide a partial solution, and discuss the chemistry of nuclear energy and the ongoing Fukushima disaster in Japan. A special feature will report on the exhibition Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and explore how a familiar yet unusual material fascinates both scientists and artists. It was also our honour to conduct an interview with Prof. George Whitesides, a distinguished chemist at Harvard who has contributed immensely to chemistry through his long career, and is continuing to push forward its innovative application to address the problems of the developing world and the future.

I would like to thank all the writers who contributed to this special edition, as well as the editorial team that made this project possible. I would also like to thank our illustrator, Shannon McArdel (Harvard Medical School), who created the themed illustrations throughout this edition. Special thanks to Daria Van Tyne (Harvard School of Public Health) for facilitating the interview with Prof. Whitesides, and to the organizers of IYC 2011 for permitting SITN to use the IYC 2011 logos.

Johnny Kung (Harvard Medical School), Managing Editor

Editorial Team: Brian Beliveau, Tyler Ford, Emily Lehrman, Alex Meeske, Jamie Schafer, Rosa Yoon, Rachel Yunck

Illustrator: Shannon McArdel

IYC 2011 Official Website:

Happy Reading!
Flash Editorial Staff