Now Accepting Nominations for the 2011 Chemmys

December 15th, 2011

We have reached the end of the year, which means that it is once again time to decide who will take home the ChemBark Chemmy Awards for excellence (or the opposite) in chemistry. The categories are the same as last year:

Outstanding Achievement/Paper in Organic or Biochemistry
Outstanding Achievement/Paper in Physical, Materials, Inorganic, or Analytical
News Story of the Year
Chemical Hero(ine) of the Year
Chemical Villain of the Year
Accident of the Year

The award winners will be announced in the first week of January. Please use the comments to make nominations. I have jotted down some of my favorites in each category, but I’ll wait a couple of days to share them. You first!

21 Responses to “Now Accepting Nominations for the 2011 Chemmys”

  1. David Eisenberg Says:

    For best paper in biochemistry (and energy research, eventually), I nominate the work of Umena et al., who have finally solved the crystal structure of the reactive center of Photosystem II – the amazing little cluster of atoms that splits water.

    The exact structure of this inorganic cluster (Mn4CaO5) is so important, that several works before it have simply published all possible combinations of these atoms to try and work out from there. I think it will advance water splitting research considerably.

  2. Capek Says:

    Rather obvious nomination…

    Accident of the year: Fukushima Daiichi

    For chemical villain of the year, how about something far less timely, but just as significant.
    Warren Anderson, former CEO of Union Carbide, who shares criminal responsibility for the Bhopal disaster of 1984. His villainy continues as he remains a fugitive from justice, living in the US. He may be 90 years old now, but it is still not too late for him to appear in the Indian courts to face the charges against him.

  3. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    My nomination for the best paper in biochemistry would be the tour-de-force from Brian Kobilka’s lab that solved the very first structure of a GPCR bound to a G protein (Science).

    A candidate for materials/physical might be Ben Feringa’s recent molecular car with its purposeful unidirectional motion (Nature).

    For hero/heroine of the year I nominate Rosie Redfield who has single-handedly taken it upon herself to validate or refute the ambiguous claims regarding the “arsenic-eating” bacteria.

    I wouldn’t categorize Fukushima as a primarily chemical accident, more as an engineering disaster. I do second Warren Anderson as a perpetual villain of the year.

    By the way at this point I think you should start sending out actual award to those who are deserving.

  4. N Says:

    The structure of nitrogenase to 1 angstrom resolution and the discovery that there is a carbon at its center was the coolest thing in biochemistry this year

  5. Matt Says:

    I refute your statement that C4- should be the winner, because my friend, the first author, will explode.

    … on second thought carbide it is!!
    (This is a truly astonishing and stunning find. And an experimental force to figure it out)
    Funny how either this paper or the PSII paper could win both the Inorganic or the Biochem awards. I vote that they be split that way.

    The news story of the year would be quasi-crystals. I say this because I had no idea they existed before the award and am now quasi-educated on them.

  6. hunchback Says:

    My vote goes to Kyle and co-workers for their carbon-centric nitrogenase discovery. He’ll accept the award on their behalf with all the grace and dignity that we have come to expect from him.

  7. Speaking Frankly Says:

    Hi Paul,

    These things are always fun to think about. For the best paper in materials, I would have to submit Ludwik Leibler’s work on malleable polymer networks. The chemistry is super simple, but the concept and material properties are brilliant. I have a feeling a lot of polymer chemists will work to improve this system and this paper will change the way people think about reliving stress in plastic-based materials.

    For the runner-up, I would submit Joanna Aizenberg’s work on non-fouling surfaces. She took a well-developed field and leap-frogged everyone with the simple concept of trapping a fluorinated fluid in a porous matrix. Her materials have by far the best non-fouling properties I have ever seen and could realistically be incorporated in an industrial setting in the near future.

    Would love to know what people think about these and other papers in materials!


  8. wolfie Says:

    And for outstanding remainer, who never had to leave ?

  9. wolfie Says:

    troll of the decade : WOLFIE

  10. Bend Says:

    Giving the “Chemical Villain of the Year” award to Warren Anderson would render the title meaningless. Sure, he’s a villain, but his vile (in)actions took place not this year but almost 3 decades ago. Moreover, as CEO, he may have been ultimately responsible for the neglect that lead to the disaster, but his fault (as his profession) was more business than chemistry. The man may not have paid for his crimes, but surely you could find a more relevant, infamous chemical villain.
    How about Vladimir Putin for, allegedly, poisoning Alexander Litvenenko with polonium-210 in 2006 (hey, 2006 is a lot closer to 2011 than 1984 and Putin is still relevant).
    Actually, I don’t think that Putin should receive the title either, but he would be a much better choice than Anderson.
    My vote for villain goes to Lisa and J.B. Handley, the founders of non-profit Generation Rescue, who continue to spread the misinformation that mercury in vaccines cause autism. Despite the demonstrated malfeasance and discrediting of Andrew Wakefield, who originally published “results” linking vaccines and autism, J.B. has said “To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.” While avoiding vaccines hasn’t prevented any case of autism, it has certainly led to more suffering and mortality.

  11. luysii Says:

    The end of the year means you all should relax a bit. To restore your soul (assuming you have one), go sing the Messiah. For why you should do this see

  12. CR Says:

    How about a prize for “Blogger that most references themselves on other blogs?”

    Winner (by a landslide): luysii…Congrats!

  13. See Arr Oh Says:

    Outstanding Achievement: The field of C-H activation continues to grow at breakneck speed (Jin-Quan Yu’s had a good year, eh? Daugulis, too). Also been a good year for quat centers, Z-metathesis, and GPCR structures.

    In drugs, it’s been a real blast for Hepatitis C, blood thinners, and targeted cancer meds.

    For villain? “The Economy” (closely followed by Big Pharma downsizing / outsourcing)

    For hero? I say the former members of the Fagnou group, who continue to publish under their advisor’s name (and put out pretty good stuff) despite his tragic and early passing.

  14. Paul Says:

    Some other candidates (presented without analysis, for now):

    News Story: Pharma pipelines drying, jobs (won last year, but maybe again?), science funding in US/UK, Sames-Sezen and the Columbia Report

    Hero: Shechtman (who held firm in the face of Pauling), John Schwab (who retired from NIH this year and was wildly important in supporting organic chemistry), Zewail (who got involved with Arab Spring)

    Villain: Sezen (Chemmy laureate from 2006, but the full extent of her machinations were only exposed in 2011), Wolfe-Simon (the arsenic-life story continued to evolve in 2011), Linus Pauling (deceased, but he gave quasicrystals a really hard time)

    Accident: Boston College explosion and flight from the scene, Yale machine shop lathe, Maryland nitric acid

    Papers: Many crystal structures, Klapotke et al.’s azo-linked bis tetrazole explosive

  15. wolfie Says:

    Who, in hell, is Klapötke ? Did I ever send him an email on that bullshit on science and military ? I remember, it was entitled, “si vis pacem, para bellum”.

    At least I know his colleague P. Klüfers. When I was very young, I learned an important wisdom from him : Erst das Wasser, dann die Säure, sonst geschieht das Ungeheure.

    Try to translate this with Bing or Google. It has something to do with H2SO4, non-aqueous.

  16. Bryan Says:

    Perhaps not totally chemistry, but Adam Cohen’s work developing fluorescent voltage-sensitive proteins seems to have the potential to really be useful in neurobiology. Electrophysiology, while a very useful technique, is very technically challenging and low throughput. Being able to perform electrophysiologic measurements optically has the potential to really enable a lot of really cool experiments.

    Kralj et al. Science 2011 doi:10.1126/science.1204763
    Kralj et al. Nature Methods 2011 doi:10.1038/nmeth.1782

  17. yonemoto Says:

    Adam Cohen’s work developing fluorescent voltage-sensitive proteins seems to have the potential to really be useful in neurobiology.

    Pun FTW!

  18. Walter W Says:

    I agree with Paul, Pauling seems to be the villain of the year and Schechtman an excellent choice for hero. Wonderful choice by the Nobel committee and a great platform to get his story out. Those that thought the prize wasn’t chemistry likely are having second thoughts.

    As for paper of the year – Nocera’s Sceince paper on earth abundant photo catalysts with no wires should be recognized in one of these categories.

  19. John Spevacek Says:

    I thought the paper by Read et al. linking reactor conditions to linear and non-linear melt rheology was quite a breakthrough. The only problem I had was that the University’s PR department so overly hyped it that it end up being “scientists discover perfect polymer”, when the results where only for low density polyethylene and only for the melt rheology at that. Nonetheless, it was quite a significant step, one that we will see replicated in the future for other polymers.

  20. John Spevacek Says:

    Looks like your posting service doesn’t like the “” tag. Here’s the links:

  21. Mark Says:

    News story of the year: The space dinos!
    Which leads nicely to the villain; Ronald Breslow for the space dino self plagiarism episode.

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