Announcing the host of the #RealTimeChem Week 2015 Blog Carnival

Hi #RealTimeChemists,

 

A brief update on #RealTimeChem Week 2015 (more to come). In previous years the Blog Carnival has been hosted by @JessTheChemist on her blog “The Organic Solution”. Unfortunately, Jess has moved on to pastures new and her blog is no longer that active, so I’ve sought out a new blog to host the carnival this year.

I am pleased to announce that the folks at Elsevier’s SciTech Connect have kindly volunteered to host this the #RealTimeChem Week 2015 blog carnival. You can find a preview post on that SciTech Connect have put up on the subject here, which contains all you need to know about the blog carnival.

I am really hoping that many of you chemistry bloggers out there will join in to write a blog post for #RealTimeChem Week 2015, which starts on 19th October. Once you’ve written your post don’t forget to share it during #RealTimeChem Week with one of the two topic hashtags: #OldTimeChem and #FutureTimeChem. The nice folks at SciTech Connect will be looking out for these hashtags and collecting your blog posts together in daily round ups.

 

If you need a reminder of the two topics this year:OldTimeChem-PosterFutureTimeChem-Poster

Happy writing!

-Doctor Galactic-

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Joining the dark side of the Force for a week

Hello! I am Clemens, a postdoc at the University of Cambridge, and in this #RealTimeChemInFocus blog post you will follow me, a chemist, doing some “biology” a.k.a. the dark side of the Force.

 

I know it’s weird. Why would a chemist venture into the world of biology in the first place? Honestly, it just happened! Organic chemistry was my first love as an undergrad, even after my final product of a 9-step carbohydrate synthesis decided to spontaneously decompose! I still try holding on to my first love by attempting to solve the Denksport problems of Dirk Trauner’s group and I still admire elegant total syntheses. However, the dark side of the Force has always been strong in me and over the course of my PhD and postdoc, I gradually moved towards chemical biology. I can’t help it; I am simply fascinated how chemistry can give answers to complex problems by probing or perturbing cellular systems. So, without further ado, this is a typical week in my life.

Monday

Although I am not a particular fan of Monday mornings, this Monday morning is one of the toughest of the year! I just came back from an exciting week featuring the ISACS16 conference in Zurich and a 3-day music festival in Austria (Figure 1). It made me realize how similar festivals and conferences are. Long days, short nights, meeting new people and listening to some raw talent all day long.

Figure 1: A tough start to this week after a conference & festival double feature last week.

Figure 1: A tough start to this week after a conference & festival double feature last week.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it a lot, but it took a lot of energy out of me and getting up for the obligatory Monday morning group meeting at 9 a.m. is tough. I get coffee and arrive on time, a miracle! After the meeting, which is held in the Chemistry department, I postpone my plans to go to the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Institute, where the biology projects of our group happen, for one day and take some time to recover. After all, I missed a lot of science in the last week, as my RSS feed and email client tell me (Figure 2). Even better, I have to analyze some exciting sequencing data, which were generated in my absence. Having multiple, diverse projects running in parallel is one of the great things about being a chemical biologist. As my computer does all the hard work, aligning millions of reads to a reference genome, all I need to do is drink coffee and use the software correctly. The latter is something I am still struggling with (Figure 2). Nevertheless, at the end of the day I get everything analyzed and the results tell me that I am all set for writing my first manuscript as a postdoc! I also managed to catch up with my emails and the RSS feed so it’s time to cycle home and get some much-needed rest!

Figure 2: Clearly, I haven't figured out how to take screenshots on a mac…

Figure 2: Clearly, I haven’t figured out how to take screenshots on a mac…

Tuesday

Another morning and it is time to head to the CRUK Cambridge Institute (Figure 3), where I will spend the rest of my working week.

Figure 3: The CRUK Cambridge institute and yes, we do have the occasional sunshine here in the UK.

Figure 3: The CRUK Cambridge institute and yes, we do have the occasional sunshine here in the UK.

I am not sure how many of you fellow chemists have ever set food in a hardcore biology working environment, so let me give you a short tour. Things here are a lot cleaner and the number of fume hoods is sadly kept to a bare minimum. They are mostly used for “dangerous” phenol-chloroform extractions of nucleic acids. Being thrown into a new working environment, I always look out for things I recognize or can relate to. Lab coats are mandatory and even wearing eye protection is reinforced (Figure 4). You can also spot the occasional TLC chamber (everybody loves TLC chambers), although they are often used for a completely different purpose than analyzing your reactions.

Figure 4: Familiar sights for a chemist in a biology lab.

Figure 4: Familiar sights for a chemist in a biology lab.

Once you are feeling more comfortable in the world of biology, you might even find more similarities to your familiar chemistry lab. For working with tissue cultures, we have special hoods that remind me a lot of glove boxes. Instead of using an airlock you are using ethanol to decontaminate everything before placing it inside the hood. Of course, once you put your thoroughly washed hands inside, your nose starts to itch. Another similarity to the familiar glove box; you have to keep the place spotless as contamination with evil bacteria or yeast will spoil not only your cells, but could affect the cultures of a whole lot of other people (Figure 5). This scenario is especially bothersome, when you have worked for months creating a cell line for a particular disease you’re studying, only to find it contaminated and yourself right back at the start of your project.

Figure 5: Things you do not want find in your mammalian cell cultures! (https://www.microscopyu.com/articles/livecellimaging/livecellmaintenance.html)

Figure 5: Things you do not want find in your mammalian cell cultures! (https://www.microscopyu.com/articles/livecellimaging/livecellmaintenance.html)

Unfortunately for you, I won’t culture any cells this week, so I can’t show of my recently acquired and still embarrassingly clumsy skills, but I encourage anyone who’s curious to give it a go. It is surprisingly simple to culture mammalian cells like HeLa or HEK293 and as a chemist you have enough skills in your repertoire to learn it quickly. Because you have to work carefully and be gentle with the cells, I always picture myself handling tert-BuLi, which freaks me out, but my cells seem to appreciate the gentle treatment.

The plan for the week is to continue with a project I stopped working on before my week abroad. To cut a rather long story short, we identified some potential protein targets in a screen and are now keen on validating these hits. To get an independent confirmation, we need to clone all  28 proteins of interest (P.O.I.) into a transfection vector and express them inside the cell as a tagged version, in order to confirm the interaction by Western blot. That should suffice to give you a rough idea, and the rest of my day is spent planning everything and diluting 56 primers to the right concentrations. By the time night falls, my pipetting thumb has had a good workout!

Wednesday

I spent my PhD in an enzyme-engineering lab, so I did my fair share of cloning and from my experience I can tell you everything starts approximately like this:

Figure 6: Every good cloning starts with a successful PCR. The tricky thing is where to go from there.

Figure 6: Every good cloning starts with a successful PCR. The tricky thing is where to go from there.

For the current task at hand it is a bit trickier. For half of our P.O.I.s we were lucky and could obtain the cDNA – that is the complementary DNA synthesized from the corresponding messenger RNA – in the form of E. coli glycerol stocks that carry a vector containing the cDNA. For these proteins, cloning is easy: isolate the plasmid from the E. coli precultures and simply amplify the cDNA with the correct primers. We use primers that have 5’ and 3’ overhangs, which allow us to subclone the amplified cDNAs into the Gateway cloning system (Figure 7, http://scienceftw.wikia.com/wiki/Gateway_cloning).

Figure 7: Step-by-step workflow of Gateway cloning.

Figure 7: Step-by-step workflow of Gateway cloning.

This method is neat, because it uses a recombinase instead of restriction enzymes and the main objective is to bring your insert into the entry vector for the Gateway system. From there, you can use another recombinase and insert your cDNA into a whole bunch of different vectors that carry appropriate tags and also allows transfecting mammalian cells! Compared to 10 years ago, when I first tackled a cloning problem, this protocol is a piece of cake.

As I started the E. coli precultures from the glycerol stocks before I left yesterday, my day consists of isolating the plasmid, doing the PCR reactions, and purifying the inserts. Sounds like a walk in the park, but it takes time (a lot of pipetting again). By the end of the day, I got 12 out of 28 cDNAs ready to insert them into the entry vector. It was clearly a successful day and I leave the lab happy for my weekly basketball game!

Thursday

Today, I start the cloning of the P.O.I.s we couldn’t obtain from the cDNA in the convenient E. coli glycerol stock form. This cloning is a lot trickier, as we have to prepare our own cDNA. For this, we isolate the total RNA from HeLA cells, which involves a phenol-chloroform extraction (so dangerous!) in a real hood (so happy!). Next, we use a poly dT primer that – at least in theory – is expected to hybridize with all mRNAs in the cell as they carry a complementary poly A tail. Creating an RNA-DNA duplex allows us to reverse transcribe the whole transcriptome and generate our sought-after cDNAs. In principle, we should have our P.O.I. cDNAs in there as well, however there is no easy way of determining the concentration and whether they were fully reverse transcribed in the first place. Nevertheless, we take the crude reaction as a template for some PCR reactions. Given that we are working with a complex mixture, I start a gradient PCR – which probes annealing temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees – and hope for the best. A few hours later, I load the first 48 out of 96 PCR reactions onto an agarose gel (Figure 8), and after size separation take a look at the gel under UV light! Hurray, for 4 of 6 targets we amplified something (Figure 8). I check, whether they have the right size, which they all do, and purify them. The second batch looks equally good, which means that combined with the inserts I amplified yesterday, I got 25 out of 28 constructs ready for the recombination reaction. That’s pretty awesome and I call it a day!

Figure 8: Loading of my agarose gel on the left (hoping), results on the right (celebrating).

Figure 8: Loading of my agarose gel on the left (hoping), results on the right (celebrating).

 

Friday

It’s Friday! And it’s a special Friday, as we are invited to our bosses place for a British “summer” BBQ. I prepared some salmon-spinach roles yesterday night, but they really looked ugly so I didn’t dare taking a picture. With the BBQ coming up later in the afternoon, it will also be a short day in the lab, which suits me, as all I need to do is finishing the first stage of my cloning efforts.

To insert my cDNAs into the Gateway entry vector, all I need to do is mix the vector with my PCR products. I then add the recombinase enzyme that swaps the standard insert – a gene encoding for a toxic protein that prevents growth of false positives – with my cDNAs. After incubating the reaction for an hour at room temperature, I thaw some chemically competent E. coli cells, which I will use for the upcoming transformation. These bacteria are suspended in a buffer-DMSO mixture, conditions that promote plasmid uptake through the cell membrane when heated to 42 degrees Celsius for a short time (about a minute). This procedure is a bit cruel as it kills most of the bacteria; after all they don’t like the DMSO too much. However, some bacteria that took up the plasmid during the heat shock survive and they are allowed to recover at 37 degrees Celsius in a rich medium for half an hour. Next, they are pelleted by centrifugation and resuspended in 100 μL of medium. The E. coli suspension is finally spread onto LB agar plates that have the right antibiotic (kanamycin) in them, which ensures the plasmid is amplified while the bacteria happily divide. Normally, you would incubate at 37 degrees Celsius overnight, which will give you good-sized colonies; however, with the BBQ and the weekend coming up, I just place them on my bench, where they will incubate at room temperature over the weekend, delaying the growth by about two days (Figure 9).

Figure 9: My prize after a week of cloning! Grow E. coli, grow!

Figure 9: My prize after a week of cloning! Grow E. coli, grow!

All there’s left to do: Head home, get the ugly salmon-spinach roles out of the fridge, cycle to my bosses place and enjoy a burger and some beer at the BBQ. Obviously, rain begins to fall as soon as the BBQ starts, but hey, that’s life in the UK after all.

 Figure 10: A proper British “Summer” BBQ in the rain.


Figure 10: A proper British “Summer” BBQ in the rain.

Author biography:

ClemensClemens Mayer is a postdoc, working at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Prof. Shankar Balasubramanian. He was born in Graz, where he completed his undergrad in 2008. Subsequently, he moved to Zurich to pursue his Ph.D. in the field of enzyme engineering. In 2014 he joined the University of Cambridge, where he is currently investigating the role of RNA structures in biological processes. Passions include coffee, basketball, the accumulation of useless knowledge, being a geek, and dreading the English summer.


If you are interested in writing a guest post for #RealTimeChemInFocus, please get in touch with @RealTimeChem on Twitter.

A week in my life

Hello! My name is Laura Jane, and I’m a PhD candidate hailing from Stellenbosch, South Africa, here to show you what a week in my #RealTimeChem life entails!

 

One of the things our group is working on is a class of molecules called dithiadiazolyls (see this paper for more). Dithiadiazolyls (or DTDAs) are sulphur- and nitrogen-containing heterocycles that exist as neutral radicals. (It is interesting to note that the SOMO, in which the unpaired electronDTDA resides, is nodal at the carbon of the DTDA ring, so it is possible to alter the nature of the R-group without significantly altering the nature of the DTDA ring.) Thiazyl radicals have been investigated as potential building blocks for the design of molecular materials with interesting and desirable physical properties, such as conductivity and magnetism. Their magnetic and electrical conducting properties relate directly to their solid state structure. Unfortunately, many DTDAs tend to diamerise in the solid state, which results in spin pairing and, consequently, loss of any magnetic or conductive properties. We therefore look into ways to override this diamerisation and direct the structure of these materials in the solid state. My project involves the use of porphyrins as supramolecular scaffolds to create novel materials.

Monday

Monday morning starts like any other, with a cup of tea and `n Ouma beskuit while I read the news, then a breakfast of fresh fruit while I check up on what’s new in the Chemistry world. After checking my email, it’s off to my supervisor’s office, to discuss my plans for the week, but more importantly – to discuss our group’s plans regarding data backups (and storing data off-campus), spurred on by the previous day’s fire at one of our neighbouring buildings. Today ended up being an office day, not a lab day. First, backing up my data. While that’s running (my laptop tends to crash if you try giving it two things to do at once), I head off on a library run. When I return, it’s time to go play catch-up by going through some data from the last two weeks that I collected, but didn’t process, as I had fallen ill.

On Tuesday afternoons I have to demonstrate (“demi”) for an undergraduate practical session. First though, marking a stack of my class’s lab reports (nothing like leaving your marking to the last moment!). By the time that is finally done, there’s only an hour or two to spend in the lab, so I catch up on the always-fun tasks such as cleaning the never-ending pile of dirty glassware, sweeping the floor, taking inventory and so on. After a quick lunch at my desk while I catch up with what’s happening on Twitter, I haul myself and my giant stack of books across the road and around the block to one of the other Chemistry buildings for my demi duty. (The Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science at SU is spread over five buildings). This semester I’m involved in second year Inorganic Chemistry, a fun course to demi for as the pracs involve fundamental concepts and lots of pretty colours! Today’s practical involves introducing the students to the concept of qualitative analysis. South Africa has a very diverse population and consequently has 11 official languages – so language policy is a very important topic. While SU has traditionally been an Afrikaans university, undergraduate programs are now mostly bilingual (with postgraduate programs typically run only in English), so it’s quite a challenge constantly switching between the two languages when explaining to the students if your brain isn’t fully engaged.

Tuesday 

Wednesday arrives and it’s time to hit the lab for some DTDA synthesis! DTDAs are very moisture sensitive, so it’s all about the Schlenk line. I work in a tiny little synthesis lab, where currently only myself and a MSc student are working in the fume hoods.  Today it’s just step one of the DTDA synthesis, first creating LiHMDS in situ (it arrives in an unusable state when purchased as-is), then – no, wait, load shedding has kicked in again. Luckily, our building can get power from back-up generators (otherwise it’s 2.5 hours without power each time), but it’s still a minute of standing around in the dark waiting for electricity to return. Once the lights are back on and the stirrer plate is working again, it’s on adding the desired aromatic nitrile to form a silylated amidine.  While those reactions are stirring away until completed, I turn my attention to my DTDA – metalloporphyrin complexations. These tend to take (what seems like) forever to form diffraction-quality crystals, so there are normally lots of these running in the background. Because of the moisture-sensitive nature of the DTDA radicals, I tend to set up these crystallizations in skinny Schlenk tubes rather than crystallization vials – it turns out that old-school test tube racks are perfect for holding these flasks when there’s only so much room to clamp flasks in your fume hood!

Wednesday

Thursday brings step two, condensation of the silylated amidine with SCl2 to form a dithiadiazolylium chloride salt. SCl2 is another reagent that we have to synthesise ourselves (from powdered sulphur and chlorine gas), and smells just about as lovely as you can guess, so luckily I don’t have many lab-mates to irritate! Once the product has formed, it’s time to filter and wash it – inertly of course. After drying in vacuo, the dithiadiazolylium chloride salt is obtained as a yellow powder. Halfway through the day, there’s a short break from the lab for group meeting. Typically, our group meetings involve one student presenting their current research and another presenting a paper in a relevant field. This week, however, was something a little bit different as our group was hosting Prof. Wais Hosseini (University of Strasbourg), who was given the opportunity to discuss some of his group’s work in molecular tectonics.

Thursday

The last thing to do for Friday is reduce the dithiadiazolylium chloride salt to the dithiadiazolyl radical. There are several ways to do this, but my favourite is a solid-state reduction using triphenylantimony. (Zinc-Copper couple in THF is another option.) If the reaction is successful, a drastic colour change from yellow to purple is observed. Purification is then achieved by means of sublimation to get shiny dark purple crystals, all ready to meet up with some porphyrins next week.

Friday

Finally, the week comes to an end and it’s time to enjoy the late afternoon sun with a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc on the lawns of a wine farm just up the road! Life in Stellenbosch isn’t all too bad!

wine

Author biography:

 

LauraJane

Laura van Laeren is a PhD candidate at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. She is currently investigating novel thiazyl radical – metalloporphyrin complexes under the supervision of Prof Delia Haynes and Dr Katherine de Villiers. Her passions include the written word, scientific education and the Cape Winelands.

Blogs at Whimsical Science (http://www.whimsicalscience.com/) & Whimsy Is Forever (http://www.whimsyisforever.com/)

 

A week in the life of a Radical Chemist

G’day! Welcome to the inaugural #RealTimeChemInFocus post, where I aim to give you a bit of an insight into the world of a radical chemist. Radical in the sense that I work with free radicals (molecules or atoms with an unpaired electron), not my political/social leanings. Read on for an introduction to our work on respiratory disease and atmospheric pollutants as I walk you through a typical week in the life of an organic chemistry PhD student.

The WHO estimates that roughly 7 million deaths per year are caused by exposure to air pollution. It is now well known that living in highly polluted areas makes you more susceptible to maladies such as respiratory disease, allergy, asthma and even death. My PhD aims to work out the underlying chemical processes, or chemical entities, responsible for these biological effects. Using a bottom-up approach, we expose simple biomolecules to pollutant gases and see what kind of havoc they wreak.

The week begins with an outline of the research tasks ahead and, like most, this is one dominated by organic synthesis. For us, this is purely a means to an end. Each peptide we wish to study is carefully designed with respect to amino acid sequence and composition. As we work on gram scale, it is typically more cost effective to synthesise these peptides in-house. That means grunt work and grunt work means coffee, lots and lots of coffee.1

Past me had the foresight to prepare the compound I needed before end of year closure. Present me lacked memory of events before end of year closure.

Past me had the foresight to prepare the compound I needed before end of year closure. Present me lacked memory of events before end of year closure.

 

Synthesising each peptide involves protection of the amino acids, a coupling reaction, followed by extraction/washing and purification. Building up larger peptides, such as tri- or tetra-peptides, also involves deprotection and another coupling/work-up. To work efficiently, I often do two or three reactions simultaneously. Each reaction uses the same solvent, reagents and work-up procedure so this saves a lot of time.

 

 

 

 

A fairly epic prank by Aaron’s group members, who replaced all of the posters in the building the morning of his talk - this is one of about four different versions

A fairly epic prank by Aaron’s group members, who replaced all of the posters in the building the morning of his talk – this is one of about four different versions

The end of the week brings a busy day. Friday means more coffee (#FilterFriday!), our department’s organic chemistry seminar and, today, our group meeting and a couple of  radical reactions. These experiments are the true focus of my PhD – new, original research, delving into the effects atmospheric pollutants may have on our body. That means its time to take those peptides prepared earlier in the week and treat them with some ‘pollution’, today it will be nitrogen dioxide (NO2•).

Huge quantities of nitrogen dioxide are produced in China, where air pollution is now a part of daily life – via NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/KnowYourEarth/Air_prt.htm)

Every time you drive your car you are emitting not only carbon dioxide but also nitrogen oxides (collectively referred to as NOx gases) such as NO2•. This is one of the most abundant radicals in our atmosphere and has been implicated in respiratory disease, being toxic by inhalation. Once upon a time we obtained gas cylinders of pure nitrogen dioxide. As Australia does not produce it locally, they were shipped from overseas but sadly the freight costs are exorbitant and it can be surprisingly difficult to convince a ship captain to receive a cylinder of toxic NO2• gas. Tyranny of distance strikes again. We now produce our own nitrogen dioxide in the lab.

While chemistry is famous for beautiful colours, the field of organic chemistry is typically characterised by white solids, colourless oils and clear solutions. Peptide chemistry doubly so. My favourite chemical reaction, for reasons now obvious, is the classic reaction between copper and concentrated nitric acid. Nitric acid is slowly dripped over solid copper metal (such as the copper penny above), producing a brown noxious gas – our pollutant, nitrogen dioxide. The copper is converted from Cu0 to Cu2+, forming a gorgeous, bright blue solution of copper nitrate. Meanwhile, the nitrogen dioxide passes through a drying tube and is condensed as a liquid which allows us to react a known quantity with our peptides.

Once we have treated our peptides with this simulated pollution, we go through a painstaking process of identifying each product that is formed. This involves repeated HPLC purifications and characterisation with analytical techniques including HRMS, MS/MS, multi-dimensional NMR and, when I’m lucky, X-ray crystallography. Our results so far show that nitrogen dioxide and ozone are a destructive force, modifying residues or cleaving peptide chains. For a nice article on our latest research check out “Nitrogen dioxide and ozone: a sinister synergy” via Chemistry World or the accompanying paper  published in Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry.

Over the last few years I have taken great pleasure in becoming a part of the online chemistry community. In particular, the burgeoning #RealTimeChem community is extremely welcoming, friendly and engaging. Whether it’s talking about the latest Nature paper, whingeing about that guy who just lined up 6 hours worth of samples on the NMR queue or asking for tips about how to get that postdoc you’ve always wanted – there’s something for chemists of all kinds. A PhD can sometimes be quite a solitary experience and I love having the opportunity to engage with passionate, creative and ambitious people from all around the globe. Get on there, #RealTimeChem and tweet me some time.

 

Thankfully, I live in Melbourne, Australia’s coffee mecca (sorry Sydney), surrounded by multiple coffee roasters.

Author Biography:
lgamon
Luke Gamon is in the final year of his PhD in chemistry at The University of Melbourne, Australia. Under the supervision of A/Prof Uta Wille, he is currently investigating the effects of pollution on biological molecules. Passions include coffee, baking sourdough, photography, sci-comm and board games.
Blogs at A Radical Approach lukegamon.wordpress.com

icon320x320Follow: @lgamon

Announcing #RealTimeChem Hub & new 2015 features

Hello everybody,

It’s taken me a little while and some serious blog maintenance (wordpress sadly doesn’t make that very easy sometimes!), but I can finally announce the launch of the #RealTimeChem Hub page.

From this page you can find links to other parts of the #RealTimeChem universe. So far, these include a link to the #RealTimeChem: FAQ and a few other features. These include:

RealTimeChemInFocus copy

New for 2015 are guest blog posts from members of the #RealTimeChem community with the 1st one scheduled for February 2015. To find out more about these posts and how this works, click the picture above to take you to the #RealTimeChemInFocus page.

RTCBanners#RealTimeChemBanners is the new name for the #RealTimeChemBannerChallenge that started at the end of 2014. If you are feeling artistic, why not submit some art and it could be used as the banner for the @RealTimeChem feed on Twitter!

FAQ Banner

Finally, the recently announced #RealTimeChemPlaylist, hosted on Spotify. Add your favourite chemistry based tunes and rock out in the laboratory/office/shed.

 

So, that’s it for now. More to come! Any questions, get in touch on Twitter.

 

-Doctor Galactic & The Lab Coat Cowboy-

 

#RealTimeChemBannerChallenge Update!

Hi all,

So the #RealTimeChemBannerChallenge came and went. I had 3 entries from #RealTimeChemists @narf42, @theyakman and @azaprins. All very good ones, so I couldn’t really decide who should win. Then, it hit me that it might be better to run the whole challenge a different way, so…

Here is @narf42's banner, which will be up until the end of December.

Here is @narf42’s banner, which will be up until the end of December.

The #RealTimeChemBannerChallenge is now an all year event! Think of it as #RealTimeChem’s version of cover artwork, just like your favourite chemistry journals (except without any fees, ever.). 

Entries that are chosen to feature will be used as the banner (+ avatar if provided) for the #RealTimeChem feed for a whole month before being replaced with the next chosen artwork.

I will add this up to the all new 2015 FAQ that I am building at some point, but I thought I’d get it out there now.

THE NEW “RULES” OF THE #REALTIMECHEM BANNERCHALLENGE

1. Your image has got to be chemistry related. Pretty obvious I know. It can be from your latest research, something exciting, something funny, one of your most beautiful realtimechem images etc. The sky is the limit really.

2. Along with your banner you can also produce an Avatar Image – all I ask with this one is that it contains Real Time Chem in it, or no one is going to recognize it!

3. The final dimensions for the image should be 1500px (width) X 421px (height) – I’d suggest a resolution of at the very least 300 DPI or greater. In case you need any further guide on the layout you should look at this handy template I found (here).

4. In order to enter the competition please upload your entry to Twitter using the hashtag #RealTimeChemBannerChallenge. Otherwise it won’t be considered. I’m harsh like that.

5. If chosen, your artwork will be assigned to a month of the year, I’ll then let you know which month and you can send your final image to realtimechem@gmail.com.

 

I hope that some of you will chose to take up this challenge and produce some fantastic banner artwork to keep the feed looking fresh and exciting each month.  The running order so far will be as follows:

December 2014 – @narf42

January 2015 – @theyakman

February 2015 – @azaprins

March-December 2015 – Up for grabs!

 

 

-Doctor Galactic & The Lab Coat Cowboy-

Real Time Chem Week: The FAQ (updated!)

RTCBannerSmall

So this week is #RealTimeChem week! This time around rather than a day, the format has been extended out to a week so that more people can participate. As before I have written an FAQ below to answer questions anyone might have about the event and #RealTimeChem in general.

RTC_FAQ

What is #RealTimeChem?

RealTimeChem is a Twitter-based community project designed to encourage chemists to actively engage with one another online, by sharing what they are working on at any given time. Chemistry often gets sidelined when it comes to science media exposure (thanks for that Physics!), so #RealTimeChem is here to celebrate chemistry and give an insight into the real science that chemists do each day.

The fantastic C&EN article on #RealTimeChem

The fantastic C&EN article on #RealTimeChem

As @carmendrahl of C&E News put it “#RealTimeChem is a virtual watercooler that enables chemists to swap stories, start discussions on journal papers or laboratory techniques and generally geek out over pictures of obscure pieces of glassware, vibrantly coloured compounds or pretty crystals. The sky really is the limit (oh okay you can go into space if you want to). #RealTimeChem is what chemists choose to make of it and I will certainly endeavour to keep it running for as long as the community wants it.

So, if you are doing any type of chemistry (teaching, industrial, research, etc) and you want to share it with the rest of the world, then get on twitter and tweet it under the hash tag “#RealTimeChem” and you’ll find many others doing the same (by Feb 24, 2013 there had been over 3,110 tweets containing #RealTimeChem and counting).

If you want to find out what others are doing then search for the #RealTimeChem hash tag and follow @RealTimeChem.

What do I get out of it? Isn’t it all a bit…well… “pointless”?

Firstly, Pointless is just a TV show…

Pointless

It’s got nothing to do with us. Move along, move along.

Secondly, the truth is this is a community driven project, and you get out whatever you put into it. There are a great many people of the opinion that Twitter and other social media (*cough* Facebook *cough*) are a waste of time, but what there is no denying is that they can be powerful networking tools. They are changing the way we get news and the way we interact. Twitter in particular is very instant, far more so than any other form of “normal” chemistry networking. It only takes a few moments and you can tweet any time of the day or night.

What is #RealTimeChem week?

A weeklong event designed to raise awareness of “the project” (which makes it sound far more sinister than it actually is) and encourage as many chemists in the community as possible to join in. It is a follow on to #RealTimeChem Day which took place on the 7th November 2012.

It takes place the week starting 22nd April 2013 and runs for 7 days (that’s Monday 22nd to Sunday 28th all inclusive  we know some of you work on weekends!).

Note: The epic trailer provided above is courtesy of regular (and fantastic) #RealTimeChem contributor @V_Saggiomo

What are “RealTimeChem Awards”?

Something new for this event are the “RealTimeChem awards”, which are designed to recognise the standout contributions of those taking part in  #RealTimeChem week.

I’ll be selecting my top 20 favourite #RealTimeChem tweets everyday of the week (update: Monday-Friday will have top 20’s and Sat/Sun will have a combined one as those days are simply not as busy – Doctor Galactic). Places 20-11 will win a Silver award. Places 9-4 will win a Gold award. The top three will win the soon to be coverted Platinum award (which you can see below).

AgAward                     AuAward                     PtAward

Shiny, right? You know you want one.

Update:

As an additional incentive the winners of platinum awards will also be added to the shortlist for “best tweets of the week“. The top three tweets of the week shall be selected from this shortlist (via an expert judging panel) and the winners will each win a prize, which has been kindly provided by RSC and Chemspider: A Chemspider branded Lab Coat! (see below):

CSPLabCoat1CSPLabCoat2

The Best Tweets of the Week will be announced a week after the event. So stay tuned and make sure you tweet something brilliant.

Some Rules: Note that prizes will only be awarded for “individual” tweets, links to blogs for example, are excluded. Additionally, prizes will not be awarded to organizations only participating individuals.

Who can take part?

Anybody on the planet Earth (sorry alien species) who works in the field we call “chemistry”. This is an all inclusive event no matter what branch of chemistry that you partake in (including biochemistry, geochemistry, astrochemistry, crystallography, organic, inorganic, analytical, industrial etc) or what level of chemistry you are currently participating in (high school, undergraduate, postgraduate, academia, industry, person in shed etc). It also doesn’t matter what part of the world you live in, which is one of the best benefits of the Web of Interconnectedness (a.k.a the Internet).

Please though only join in if you can spare the time. We understand that you’re all busy people – work commitments and getting our chemistry done must take priority over any shenanigans on Twitter and we wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone getting into trouble.

What should I tweet?

Anything that involves chemistry counts – lab work, journal reading, writing papers, teaching, demonstrating, field work, instrumental work, baking cakes at home etc. It is entirely at your discretion so long as it’s got some link to real chemistry. If you want some good examples, then check out the recent Chemistry & Engineering News piece, which has some really nice ones.

All things that happen over the weeklong period can be tweeted, good or bad. I’m sure the former shall outweigh the latter, but if you are having problems, say with an experiment or finding a piece of literature then someone else might be able to help you out. Also if you see someone tweeting about something you find interesting, or you think you can help with then, please tweet back. Engagement is the name of the game.

I greatly encourage as many of you as possible to include pictures and videos (especially of great looking experiments) in your tweets because they really stand out.

Vine. Grow some chemistry vines.

Vine. Grow some chemistry vines.

Obviously, we aren’t all great directors so I reccommend using the mobile app Vine (@vineapp) which you can download from the app store (if you happened to have an iPhone). Vine enables its users to create and post short videos with a maximum length of six seconds that can be shared on a variety of social networking services, like Twitter. Perfect for capturing snippets of chemistry as it happens (as this example from @ethylove demonstrates).

Obviously, when it comes to what you can Tweet, there are limits. For instance, only take pictures of things you are allowed to show. We understand certain areas of chemistry are shrouded in secrecy, particularly in industry. Don’t tweet anything sensitive and always get permission first. If in doubt, don’t tweet it.

Equally, be nice to others. Just because you’re on the internet doesn’t mean you should forget your manners.

How much should I tweet?

As much or as little as you want. Some participants will tweet their whole day or week, others just brief highlights, but even if it is just one tweet then that is perfectly fine. So long as you remember to include the hash tag #RealTimeChem, so that your tweet can be easily found by other chemists in the community and is recognised as part of the event.

How can I follow the event?

Search for the hashtag #RealTimeChem on Twitter or follow @RealTimeChem for highlights. I’ll be keeping an eye on twitter all week long and re-tweeting the best #RealTimeChem tweets I find (or as many as Twitter will allow me too) and commenting on the fabulous things you are doing.

There is also a Facebook group, which will act as a jumping off point for people and contain useful information like this FAQ! Although only once I sort it out…

Update:

oddt_oddticon

After some recent discussions with @chemconnector and @rkiddr at RSC and some jiggery-pokery by @aclarkxyz you can also follow the #RealTimeChem hashtag via the ODDT (Open Drug Discovery Teams) app for iPad and iPhone, which can be found at the link here. If you wish to learn more about it, this blog post is quite illuminating. Suffice to say it’s rather nifty.

Who invented #RealTimeChem?

Certainly not me. The inventor was @azmanam who was trying to determine what was in Lemishine and happened to tweet his results using the hash tag. @JessTheChemist then produced a storify page to follow all the RealTimeChem that happened. I got involved in this by tweeting about my own experiments in the laboratory. The rest is history as the saying goes.

Who is running RealTimeChem?

Yours truly again who can be found under @doctor_galactic on Twitter and @RealTimeChem. I work as a publishing editor for the RSC. While this project does not have any strict official affiliation with the RSC, it and many other chemistry organisations have helped to support this project. Please note though that I run #RealTimeChem in my spare time. I don’t get paid. This is not a commercial venture.

Can I help to promote/support RealTimeChem?

Yes. A thousand times yes. There are limits of course, but word of mouth is a really important thing when it comes to a grass roots community project like this one. I’m only one person and can only do so much so please pass the word about #RealTimeChem onto any chemists you know. The more chemists we get to tweet, the more interesting chemistry we get to see we get to enjoy!

Below you will eventually find a couple of posters that I have uploaded that you can print out and use (get permission first before you put posters anywhere though). Some have been provided in B&W for easy printing. Banner and badges are provided for use in Twitter avatars/backgrounds, Facebook banners etc, etc.

First Batch Of Posters

RTCNewPostersConicalB&W RTCNewPostersConicalB&YRTCNewPostersRBF_B&WRTCNewPostersRBF_B&Y   RTCNewPostersBeakerB&WRTCNewPostersBeakerB&Y  Keep Calm I want you

Twitter Avatars – add these to the bottom corner of your twitter avatar during the event if you wish.

RTC_TwitterBadgeV2 RTC_TwitterBadgeV_3 copy

Banners – use these for forums, blogs or wherever elese you want to.

UK Date Version

UK Date Version

US Date Version

US Date Version

RTCWeekBannerInternational copy

International Date version

Blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs…I really like blogs, can I write a special one for #RealTimeChem week?

If you write a chemistry-related blog then yes, perhaps you might consider doing a special blog piece for the week.

RealTimeChemCarnival copy

RealTimeChemist, @Jessthechemist has kindly agreed to run a blog carnival for #RealTimeChem week on The Organic Solutio Much like other blog carnivals she will collect together all blog posts relating to #RealTimeChem. In order to take part in this email Jess, via: theorganicsolutionblog@gmail.com or post your blog up on twitter during #RealTimeChem week using the hashtag #RealTimeChemCarnival so that Jess can find your blog post and put it alongside all the others.

If you are struggling to think of something to write for the carnival, Jess has produced an example based on her own work, which you can access here.

What is the future of #RealTimeChem?

To continue to grow into something the chemistry community finds useful. Social media isn’t going away and having a virtual water cooler, seems to be an appealing idea.

#RealTimeChem will continue to be available as a hash tag to use every single day of the year, whenever you feel like tweeting something about chemistry.

I plan to hold a major “event” like this one every year (possibly twice if the demand is there) as they give people something to focus and prepare specifically for. The format might change in the future as more people get involved and there is the potential for actual meet ups and whatnot. We. Shall. See.

Can I have a fancy and somewhat abstract summary of what it’s all about? 

Yes. You’re weird…but yes you can. These are the three key ideas of #RealTimeChem:

Connect.

We are all spending increasing amount of time online, why not spend a little of it connecting with other people in your field? The online world and Chemistry itself can sometimes feel a little isolating, especially if you’re doing a PhD, so this is a chance to be join in and feel part of the wider community.

Discuss.

This is your chemistry, your ideas, your expertise….Your best chemistry jokes. Anything relating to chemistry can be united under the #RealTimeChem banner. Once you’ve shared your chemistry, why not discover someone else’s? If something interests you, spark up a discussion. You never know where it might lead.

Enjoy.

We all love chemistry, that’s a fact. #RealTimeChem is another way to show what chemistry means to you every day. So have fun with it, be playful, have a laugh.

Still got questions?

My, my you’re an inquistive soul. If I have forgotten anything, or anything is unclear. Then sound off in the comments or contact via Twitter. I’ll do my best to find you some answers.

-Doctor Galactic & The Lab Coat Cowboy-