Thursday, October 11, 2012

Prize ponderings

There have been some particularly interesting and worthwhile points made on the blogosphere over the last two days in the wake of the Nobel announcements.

1.) The success of small/investigator-driven/table-top science.  Actually, this applies to more than just the Chemistry Prize - see here for some comments regarding this year's Physics Prize. 

2.) Are we doing ourselves a disservice by discussing and debating the Nobel ad infinitum?  Is trying to find one to three people to recognize for a certain (set of) accomplishments really the best option?  How much of this is a holdover from how science used to be conducted pre-1900?  I happen to especially like Paul's Chemical Hall of Fame idea, and am willing to participate.  (I may want to nominate a physicist or two, though.*)

3.) Chemjobber brings up the interesting point as to whether the "mix" of chemistry that gets highlighted due to the Prize announcements is the one the community wants to present to the public. 

4.) There seems to be a sense that we need to circle the wagons a bit before the central science withers away.  I can't entirely disagree with this one.  I've been told multiple times that some of the questions I've stumbled over while doing biological chemistry regarding underlying questions of (mostly) physical and inorganic chemistry aren't really fundable, at least relative to the biological question with which I'm engaged.  You can only try and spin questions into applications for so long and so far before it gets tedious.

5.) I would read this post over at Everyday Scientist if you haven't already.  I'm in the same sort of boat as a bio/physical chemist.  I look at the Physiology/Medicine Prize and see work like in vitro fertilization and the H. pylori work recognized, and vast amounts of cell biology and systems physiology in their ranks (immunology, olfaction, neurobiology, and so on).  I view biochemistry as something which is securely rooted within the realm of chemistry.  Of course, this makes me wonder - while the issue of communicating chemistry to the public has been a discussion topic in various contexts over the years, maybe we also need to open up the lines of communications between chemists.  I'm not entirely sure how to go about doing this right at the moment, but I am definitely open to ideas.  

Of course, perhaps this is all just colored by my spectroscopic tendencies - if I can fit it into a coil,  cuvette, or beamline, consider my interest piqued.  Biological, chemical, geological, material, or physical. 

As always, the comment section is open. 

*: Erwin Hahn and Albert Overhauser.  Spin echoes and the Overhauser effect.  You know you want to agree with me!

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