Ernest Giralt, Uncle Peptide


This is the second post from Mark Peczuh on the culture of doing science in Spain and, specifically, in Catalunya. (I do owe Mark a big apology for not getting this out sooner.) I really have enjoyed reading this interview with Ernest, and I hope you will too. Lots of great stuff to learn! “Thank you to […] the perpetually avuncular Ernest whom I hope to grow up to be.” That’s the sentence thanking Ernest Giralt in the acknowledgements of my dissertation. Ernest and my PhD advisor began a collaboration in the late 90’s that involved my thesis project. Ernest’s group used NMR to help us characterize the conformational changes in some α-helical peptides that occurred when a ligand was bound. During that time he visited our lab for a few weeks at a time. I also spent a few weeks in his lab in the summer of 1997 at … Continue reading

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The JACS Challenge – A Mini-Round Up

First of all, I wanted to offer a big thank you to everyone who participated. My co-conspirators (CJ, See Arr Oh, and Stu) and I are truly grateful to everyone who took time out of their day to answer our survey questions. We’ve had 401 responses (as of Monday evening at 8pm EST), which, in all honesty, is so much more than we had ever expected. We need to send a special word of thanks to the ever-generous, and awesome, Derek Lowe who, I am sure, was the reason that many of those respondents found the survey in the first place. I wanted to give a brief run-down of the responses that we received from our first 19 guinea pigs. Not including the four of us, the remaining 15 included: Christopher Cramer, a crew from TNA Synthesis by DNA Polymerases” Total Citations: 59; Total Responses: 19. Many of our respondents … Continue reading

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The JACS Challenge

What makes a scientific publication good? As scientists, are we capable of discerning good papers from bad papers? These questions were the focus of a recent conversation I had on twitter with Stuart Cantrill, editor at Nature Chemistry, and bloggers extraordinaire, Chemjobber and See Arr Oh. This conversation started with the observation that a recent paper, containing what might be evidence of scientific misconduct, was generating a lot of buzz on-line. Chemists were rightly upset about this alleged impropriety. But, the incident highlighted a different aspect of scientific publishing to me. Precisely: We, as a scientific community, generate many thousands of research articles a year. In my ideal world, research publications should be an ongoing conversation to better understand our world. Most of that conversation does occur in the literature. For a healthy discipline, shouldn’t that conversation be happening outside of the literature as well? This dialogue certainly happens at … Continue reading

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Interview with Xavier Salvatella – by Mark Peczuh


This is the first of several posts from Mark Peczuh that I am hosting. In this post, Mark interviews Xavier Salvatella on his research (protein-protein interactions and their implications for disease) and why he works/lives in Barcelona. Enjoy! “It is a bit like Janelia Farm on the Diagonal” We met, unexpectedly, at the entrance to his building in the Barcelona Science Park on the University of Barcelona campus. His building is literally in the shadow of Camp Nou, the home stadium of the famed Football Club of Barcelona better known simply as “Barça”. He was hurriedly arriving to make our appointment in the same way I was. Although it has been a few years, I instantly recognized Xavier Salvatella by his characteristic gait with the torso slightly askew and the welcoming smile. Xavier had reluctantly agreed to be the subject of my first interview – a guinea pig. I am … Continue reading

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Guest Writer: Mark Peczuh


Over the next several weeks, I am going to be hosting posts written by Mark Peczuh (pronounced PEEzee – thanks to some brilliant translation of Hungarian at Ellis Island). Mark is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Connecticut. His research group synthesizes molecules that are used to better understand how proteins interact with sugars. In order to do this, they make sugar molecules with seven-membered rings (instead of the natural six-membered – as in glucose – or five-membered – as in fructose). Some of you may know Mark from Twitter. Mark Peczuh (Photo Credit: UConn Chemistry) Mark is currently on a Fulbright Fellowship in Barcelona. He is working with Toni Planas of the Institute of Chemistry of Sarria at the University of Ramon Llull. Toni is an expert in (and one of the founders of) a field that develops proteins called glycosynthases (proteins that synthesize sugars). Mark … Continue reading

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Alchemy vs Chemistry: Same as it ever was

… The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m currently reading The Secrets of Alchemy by Lawrence Principe. It’s a really enjoyable book, and I’ve learned so many things from it. I hope to share some of my favorites. But, I’ve just read a bit of Principe’s research in the book that seems poignant for my profession (chemistry) in these times. (In any book, there is always some bit: character, place, situation, or story that seems very relevant to some part of your life … and this book is no different). On communication issues: Let no man trouble to explore this art If he can’t understand the aims and jargon Of alchemists – and if he does, then He is a pretty foolish sort of man Because this art and science is, said he, Indeed a mystery in a mystery And so I conclude: since God in … Continue reading

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Movie Blood


“If it bleeds, we can kill it” – Major Dutch Schaefer (This post is an entry in See Arr Oh‘s Chemistry at the Movies Blog Carnival) When Dutch and his band of military mercenaries went stalking the Predator in the jungles of South America, they had no idea what they were going up against. Bio-adaptive camouflage. Laser-based weaponry. Infrared vision. These guys were screwed. Not even Apollo Creed or Jesse “The Body” Ventura had any hope of surviving! So, yeah. This alien is pretty bad-ass. But probably my favorite anatomical feature (ahem) of this thing is its blood. The Predator has this really cool luminescent blood. Being that I’m a nerd (check), that I really enjoy sci-fi (check … really, people, I’m just a statistic), and that I’m a bioinorganic chemist (that means that I study metals in biology, and, specifically, that I study metals in proteins, and, more specifically, … Continue reading

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Tryptophan and Sleepiness


Someone asked about tryptophan and sleepiness earlier … So I am adding some of the slides from my Chemistry of Cooking Thanksgiving lecture. This is certainly not the final or complete word on the subject, but I thought people might enjoy it anyway. Here are the slides Cheers

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#FoodChem Thanksgiving Blogging Carnival


Thanks to the CENtral Science blogging crew for putting this together! Rachel has been aggregating the incoming links. Go and have a read. Some great stuff here! Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of gratitude. It is a day set aside to remember all that we have been blessed with and all that we are grateful for. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the season’s harvests, a time to recall the first harvest of the original European settlers to America. Well, that’s what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. What Thanksgiving is, however, is something entirely different. It is a day when we pretend to care about the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. It is a day when we remember just how much we dislike our relatives’ politics. It is a day when you drink one too many high balls and your grandfather starts making boilermakers with Canadian Club and … Continue reading

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#ChemCoach Carnival

See Arr Oh is hosting a ChemCoach blogging carnival over at his site. The hope is that someone, somewhere will find some useful helps and hints as they are pushing for their degrees in chemistry. So … Here goes … Your Current Job I am an assistant professor of chemistry at American University. No, really, I am. They actually gave me my own lab and let me teach this stuff. I have proof. Here and here. What do you do in a standard work day? I think, one of the recurring themes from this blogging carnival is that there is no standard work day. Recently I’ve been devoting 95% of my waking hours to two grants that I am writing. But, I also teach. (Normally, it’s two classes a semester. But, I have this semester off for a research release!) I have undergraduates who work with me in lab. I … Continue reading

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