Thursday, October 14, 2010

National Chemistry Week

By Dr. Sheri Glaub

Oct 17-23 is National Chemistry Week . This year’s theme is “Behind the Scenes with Chemistry”, which celebrates the chemistry in movies, set designs, makeup artistry and common special effects.

As exciting at that is, imagine a career working on life-saving therapies. Drug innovations in chemistry have helped increase life expectancy in the US by 30 years over the past century, and many chemical disciplines are involved. For example, medicinal and organic chemists isolate medicinal agents found in plants and create new synthetic drug compounds. Biochemists investigate the mechanism of a drug action; engage in viral research; conduct research pertaining to organ function; or use chemical concepts, procedures, and techniques to study the diagnosis and therapy of disease and the assessment of health. Analytical chemists use their knowledge of chemistry, instrumentation, computers, and statistics to solve problems in almost all areas of chemistry. Their measurements are used to assure compliance with regulations; to assure the safety and quality of food, pharmaceuticals, and water; to support the legal process; and to help physicians diagnose disease. Last, but not least, chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, math, and physics to the design and operation of large-scale chemical manufacturing processes. They translate processes developed in the lab into practical applications for the production of products such as plastics, medicines, detergents, and fuels.

This year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to a trio of chemists for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis. A recent article in Chemical and Engineering News quotes Stephen L. Buchwald, a chemistry professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is a very exciting day for organic chemistry. This is a well-deserved award that is long overdue. It is hard to overestimate the importance of these processes in modern-day synthetic chemistry. They are the most used reactions by those in the pharmaceutical industry.”

The future of prescription drugs and medical devices depends on kids getting excited about science now. If you are in the Denver area, make plans to attend the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with your children on October 16 or 17 for the 7th Annual Demonstration and Outreach hosted by University of Northern Colorado Student Affiliate Chapter with advisor Dr. Kim Pacheco. If you are not in the Denver area, check with your local museum or your local ACS section to see what is planned.

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