chemistry careers chemnet events cutting-edge chemistry chemistry on the web issue 41 February 2010 A bright future… Welcome to issue 41 This month’s edition focuses on the uses and applications of all things that ‘glow in the dark’. The phenomenon of ‘luminescence’ is the emission of photons (particles of light) by a material or chemical. There are many different types of luminescence – some of which you may have seen in things like glow sticks, special paints and other novelty items. However, in the scientific out a sting! community luminescence is way... hopefully with gy the bio- chemical no novelty – it has been Providing new technolo used in many applications including mineralology, Careers There are lots of things one of a number of types of luminescence, many of chemical sensors and spot that you could come across which have some amazing applications including fluorescent labelling. It has in the natural world that bioluminescence (genetic engineering, bio-imaging); even been responsible for a ‘glow in the dark’. Some of chemiluminescence (sensors, DNA sequencing); Nobel Prize or two with these you may have seen phosphorescence (glow sticks); and phosphorescent materials in the TV nature programmes, or some of you may electroluminescence (lighting, information displays). prompting the discovery of have been lucky enough to see them up close! Glow Radiation and more recently With the breadth of applications that luminescence in the dark in terms of chemical science means a green fluorescent protein touches upon, its not surprising that many people have whole lot more than just pretty colours… (GFP) has been used to study gone on to have successful careers using this clever bit of One of the earliest mentions of luminescence in a science. There are still lots of fundamental research genes. I hope you all find it scientific context was made by George Gabriel Stokes in projects being done with luminescence at their centre. an ‘enlightening’ subject! 1852. He observed something he called ‘fluorescence’ Many new therapeutic techniques rely heavily on spectral when he was observing “a solution of sulphate of quinine analysis to feedback inform about a range of conditions and similar media”. The molecule quinine is actually ranging from viral to cancerous. Without the continued found in drinks such as tonic water and when under a efforts of young new scientist, lots of the therapies of UV-light this emits a purplish glow. Fluorescence is just tomorrow would just be an unachieveable dream. Mike Bonne – Editor www.rsc.org/chemnet Registered Charity Number 207890 Dates for lace o ook a p ent: na your diary To b e t ev ChemN etevents@ mn rsc.or g E: che 3 432340 e 122 d mor ChemNet Events: T: 0 and fin : k online e events at or boo ut all th o et Meet the Universities info ab .org/chemn 2010 www .rsc Royal Horticultural Halls, London Saturday 3rd July Reserve the date in your diary now – it’s a great opportunity to find out more about how chemistry can fit RSC Shire Prize 2009 into your future! the winners! Cool My mind was wandering and I was running late. Lathering Chemistry up in the shower cubicle, I realised how everyday phenomena such as the cleaning action of soap is taken for granted - chemically, soap is a sodium salt of fatty acids Over the last decade, formed by the alkaline hydrolysis of a triglyceride. Soap scientists have developed a has a dual hydrophobic and hydrophilic nature - the new technique called hydrophobic part is attracted to grease, while the bioluminescence imaging hydrophilic part is attracted to water molecules. This effect (BLI). It allows the non- loosens the grease particle from the surface medium invasive study of ongoing resulting in a clean body (or clean clothes!). biological processes in small laboratory animals. The DNA With nothing but chemistry on my mind, I got dressed. from a luminescent protein is There was chemistry in my fancy dress too - my orange incorporated into the animal nylon outfit. We had recently completed a laboratory either via a virus or by practical where we had made a few strings of 6,6 nylon via creating a transgenic animal. a polycondensation reaction of hexamethylene diamine It can then be used to and 1,6-hexanedioic acid! The absolute pervasiveness of t year... ? could this be you nex the subject is astounding, something which most of us identify tumours and Last years winners - infections. remain oblivious of. Shire Pharmaceuticals Group is a global specialty The results of this technique biopharmaceutical company working together with I then rushed to the dinner table to be greeted by a plate of can lead to some rather odd the RSC to reward excellence in chemistry by post-16 salad. The Chemistry all around me was mind boggling. I looking animals – have a students. For the second year running they have held stared at the tomatoes - brightly coloured due to the look at these mice for a competition for those students who achieved the presence of carotenoids (lycopene) in the chromoplasts. example… highest marks in their A-level and Scottish Higher The conjugated pi systems in the structures of the examinations, the prize an all expenses paid trip to carotenoids lead to the formation of chromophore regions. Boston, USA in December. Here is an example of one Electrons in the ground state in these regions absorb light of the winning essays… in the blue end of the spectrum to move to an excited state, resulting in red wavelengths being reflected. At the The Winners: Rohan Sakhrani (a student from other end of the table, my grandmother was taking her Westminster School, London); Sarah Gales (Kings statin tablets, which aim to slow atherosclerosis by School, Macclesfield); Jie Ming Yeo (Abbey College, inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and increasing the Cambridge); Alison Davies (The High School of Glasgow); synthesis of LDL receptors in the liver. Sebastian Rex (Kings School, Canterbury) and Prateush Singh (Loughborough Grammar School) All these musings about Chemistry had made me late, and I demanded that my mother drive me to the party. The car “Why is chemistry important in your had been refuelled with a new high-octane fuel ensuring a everyday life?” smoother and more efficient drive by reducing the By Rohan Sakhrani, Westminster School, London knocking characteristics of the fuel. Such technological net advances are only possible due to chemists spending Chem list of 0 will be I never give much thought to the role Chemistry plays in hours in laboratories to determine the composition of the A full 201 g my everyday life, but the true magnitude of its importance most practical and commercially viable high performance Even ts for eep checkin struck me on a Saturday evening some weeks ago. It was fuel. I then looked at the airbags, which offer protection by n.K . g soo etails my friend’s 18th birthday party that night. I was awoken inflating with high pressure nitrogen gas in a crash, comin ebsite for d net by my alarm clock after my evening snooze. The ticking of produced via another chemical reaction - that of sodium the w c.org/chem the clock suddenly got me thinking about the importance azide with potassium nitrate. rs www. of Chemistry. My clock itself was powered by the I expected the rest of the evening to be different. However, chemical interaction of the zinc and manganese dioxide once at the party and with alcohol in my bloodstream, yet electrodes with the alkaline electrolyte in the batteries! again, I lapsed into the wonderful world of Chemistry... Chemistry Careers: A glowing career on the web From jellyfish to cancer diagnostics, Roger Tsien discusses the There aren’t many ways you challenges of looking into a cell with Harp Minhas. Interview reported can listen to or watch things about science. What makes by Leanne Marle this group of people special is that they love to talk about Roger Tsien is an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute science and in very interesting and a professor at the University of California, San Diego, US. In 2008 ways too! he was co-awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery http://www thenakedscientists.com/ and development of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) “The naked scientists” What motivated you to specialise in cellular imaging? details the exploits of a group My interest in imaging actually started as an interest in neurobiology. of researchers in Cambridge. I wanted to see lots of neurons interacting and essentially neurons are It has lots of pod-casts and a large number of cells interacting. They couldn’t be measured just by details of shows that are sticking in an electrode them as I wanted to actually see the neural conducted on BBC radio on a populations firing away and that proved too hard to begin with. In the weekly basis. It also looks to meantime we looked at calcium which was just a poor man’s way of go further afield and see what Curriculum vitae getting a big chemical signal. Once we could define how to measure science is happening around Work experience calcium then we could do it on lots of cells, not just neurons. the world. Why don’t you have a look and listen? 1989-present : Professor, Dept. Since being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry what, if anything, of Pharmacology and Chemistry, has changed in an unexpected way? Univ. of California, San Diego; Well, I guess most things were expected. There was one particular case Investigator, Howard Hughes though, where I had written to a company to ask for an anticancer agent Medical Institute that wasn’t commercially available and I got no response to my email. I wrote again a month later saying that we still hadn’t had a response and 1987-1989: Professor, Dept. of asked for an answer, even if it was just to say no. There was still no reply. Physiology-Anatomy, Univ. of Then, a few days after the Nobel prize, I got a letter saying they hadn’t California, Berkeley opened my previous email and that they were contacting their legal 1985-1987: Associate Professor, department to discuss a Material Transfer Agreement to give me the Dept. of Physiology-Anatomy, agent - so that was an unexpected bonus. Univ. of California, Berkeley Douglas Prasher sent you the gene that created GFP in the Aequorea 1981-1985: Assistant Professor, victoria jellyfish. If he hadn’t, things could have been very different - Dept. of Physiology-Anatomy, could you comment on the importance of collaboration with other Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists and disciplines for scientific development? 1978-1981: Postdoctoral Absolutely, things could have been very different - I think that GFP research with Dr. T.J. Rink, wouldn’t have escaped from just being a curiosity of the jellyfish without Physiological Laboratory, Douglas Prasher. Collaboration is absolutely crucial. We’re lucky as Something for you all to Cambridge, England scientists that we can work together. Artists or authors can’t really team look out for on iPlayer this up or pass their work to somebody else to continue - it’s not quite the month is the BBC Four series, 1975-1978: Research assistant same. Chemistry: A Volatile to Prof. R.D. Keynes, History. If you don’t manage Physiological Laboratory, What projects are you working on at the moment? to catch it first time around Univ. of Cambridge, England We’ve had a big push in attempting to find synthetic molecules that will on the television then have a home in on cancers and will be of clinical relevance. We’re not working as look on the web at the BBC Education much on fluorescent proteins as most people think we are. They assume iPlayer page. 1977 – Harvard College, A.B. that just because of the Nobel Prize I have to do that for the rest of my life http://www.bbc.co.uk/ summa cum laude in Chemistry and that is everything I do - if ever I show a cancer cell that’s glowing they iplayer and Physics, University of assume it’s because I stuck GFP in it, which is not true. That’s just one of Cambridge, Ph.D. in Physiology many projects. This programme looks at the explosive story of chemistry What would you ultimately like to achieve from your research? and the building blocks that I would like to achieve something that could be clinically beneficial. My make up our entire world - ‘...you have to follow your father and PhD supervisor both died from cancer and it would be very the elements. From fiery own gut and do what you nice to do something in their memory if nothing else. phosphorous to the pure find interesting yourself and untarnished lustre of gold What do you see in the future for cellular imaging? and the dazzle of violent, that’s the best chance you A lot of the difficulties arise when doing cellular imaging inside a living have that it will turn out to be violet potassium, everything organism. And not a zebrafish or a worm that is very small and is made of elements - the good enough and make transparent, but inside mice or humans. Humans are the most difficult earth we walk on, the air we an impact.’ because you can’t put genes into humans. breathe, even us. Win stuff Many of you will have seen Cutting-edge Chemistry glowsticks before – they Two techniques are better than one exhibit a type of luminescence called Using inorganic dyes to label cells allows imaging by ‘chemiluminescence’. This is fluorescence and resonance Raman spectroscopy at where a chemical reaction the same time, which could help understand cell occurs which releases a death caused by cancer and strokes, say scientists in photon – but what is the Ireland. name of the chemical that causes this in glow-sticks Fluorescence imaging and Raman mapping are two called? common techniques used to study live cells and understand the processes occurring in diseased cells Send your answer by email such as tumours. But Raman microscopy can suffer from to: email@example.com with low sensitivity and background fluorescence your name and ChemNet interference limiting its usefulness. Tia Keyes and membership number. colleagues at Dublin City University have shown that Closing date 15 February. using ruthenium complexes to label cells allows both Two winning entries will each techniques to be carried out independently without receive a copy of Elegant changing the conditions. This allows consecutive or Solutions, showcasing 10 of simultaneous imaging by both techniques. the best chemical Where chemistry and This multi-modal imaging would not be possible with biology collide ... experiments of all time. traditional organic dyes, explains Keyes. But unlike Last month’s winners were The group are now creating a library of dyes using organic dyes, the inorganic metal complexes have large Seehan Tang from Enfield ruthenium, iridium, osmium and copper to make the Stokes shifts, so when Raman imaging is carried out, and Ben May from complexes. ‘We’d like to see some of these dyes used in there is no background fluorescence interfering with the Woodbridge. understanding the biochemical processes in cells and for Raman signal. mapping the concentrations of chemicals,’ says Keyes. Ruthenium complexes allow simultaneous fluorescence For a chance to and resonance Raman cell imaging The work has attracted interest already, Yunhua Yu, WIN, email us at: who also works on cell imaging at Georgia Institute of ‘The advantage of Raman mapping is that you can get firstname.lastname@example.org Technology, Atlanta, US, says that ‘with such structural information on the dye, which can reflect on the sophisticated functionalisation, resonance Raman imaging environment,’ says Keyes. The ruthenium dye shows that will be a powerful tool for biological studies.’ the Raman signal validates the fluorescence results, but Chemistry other dyes can sense oxygen and pH levels, she says. Article by Laura Howes facts Did you know that you can do your own triboluminescence experiment at home? All you need is a something made out of crystals and something to crack it with… I usually use a sugar cube. If you take the cube, turn off the lights and split it you will see what look like sparks! This is the emission of photons caused by the breaking of chemical bonds in the sugar. You can also try this with most adhesive tapes when you remove ogical systems understanding of biol mistry methods cou ld really progess our them from a surface. Why The use of analytical che don’t you give it a go?