An enduring mystery

As you may recall from basic biochemistry courses, introns represent long stretches of noncoding DNA between exons. The latter are the bread and butter of genetic processes because they carry the code that makes us who we are. Introns (junk DNA) may have a functional role in biology, but no one has been able to show it in any rigorous manner. Now there are definitive accounts that suggest that junk DNA has a meaning. In yeast, introns persist after splicing and appear to be associated with cell growth regulation under stress. You can read about this fascinating find in the link below, but I call upon the research community to fix another gap, namely the mysterious fingerprints region in IR spectra. Let me tell you: I am tired of teaching this material on a yearly basis, regurgitating the apparent dissonance between the name “fingerprint” and the lack of any teachable meaning in that region. What a misnomer. When will we get a handle on that paradox and move beyond discussing broad peaks around 3300 cm-1 (an OH stretch) and 1700 cm-1 (a carbonyl stretch)? At least biologists called the regions they had no clue about for their worth. By way of contrast, we chemists have no idea how to interpret 90% of IR, yet we refer to the corresponding regions as “fingerprints.”–helping-cells-cope-under-stress-65330

A nice catch

I have to get back to blogging, partly because I miss it and partly because RSC mentioned that I had a blog when they ran an announcement related to my new position as an Associate Editor of Chemical Science ( Some people are wondering what has been going on, why I am not posting anything. So I guess this is as good a time as ever to get back to writing. Fittingly, we had Prof. Kei Murakami of Nagoya University visit us yesterday as part of his Canadian tour. Kei gave a great talk, and I want to focus on the paper he published not long ago ( Apart from seeing an amazingly facile route to nanoribbons, I marvel at the simplicity of the reaction below that had enabled the rapid assembly of the graphene-like building blocks. I wonder why is it that this process has taken so long to reveal itself. Just look at what is happening here and never mind the mechanism, for which we do not have time. My question is how many times in the past, likely all over the world, students must have run a coupling between a biphenyl chloride and some amine, or a boronic acid, or what not. I know that homocoupling is a common by-product of palladium-catalyzed processes, but are you trying to tell me that no one ever ran control experiments in his/her mechanistic studies and did not notice the (homocoupling – 2) mass? Nope, which is why we now have a new reaction. Kei left for Queen’s University after his talk here, and I wish him all the best for what should be a notable career!