Thursday, 21 May 2015

Chemistry for the Future: Solvay Prize 2015

Solvay has announced the start of the search for its Chemistry of the Future prize for 2015. The prize is intended to endorse basic research and underline the essential role of chemistry, both as a science and an industry, in helping solve some of the most pressing issues the world is facing today. The Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize rewards a major scientific discovery that could shape tomorrow’s chemistry and help human progress and celebrates the strong support for scientific research given by the founder of the Solvay GroupErnest Solvay.

The €300,000 prize is awarded every two years. In 2013, the inaugural Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize was presented to Professor Peter G. Schultz. The next Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize will be awarded on 18 November, 2015 at Le Palais des Académies in Brussels, Belgium.

Professor Peter G. Schultz (above), professor at the Scripps Research Institute in California, and director of the California Institute for Biomedical Research, was awarded the first Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize in 2013 for his multiple scientific contributions at the interface between chemistry and biology. In particular the exploitation of molecular diversity and the rational expansion of the genetic code of living organisms. His ground-breaking work has made an impact in many scientific fields, including biotechnology and medicine. It also has important implications for regenerative medicine, and the treatment of infectious disease, autoimmune disease and cancer.

Selection process
The selection process for the 2015 prize is two-stage process. First, independent nominators propose candidates whose achievements in the field of chemistry, including biochemistry, material sciences, soft matter, biophysics and chemical engineering, will shape the chemistry of the future. Then the international jury selects the winner of the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize from amongst the list of candidates.

The jury for 2015 will be led by Håkan Wennerström, Professor of theoretical and physical chemistry at the University of Lund, Sweden. He is a former chairman of the jury for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is joined by the first winner Professor Peter Schultz, Paul Chaikin, Professor of Physics at the New York University, USA, specializing in solid state physics, in particular soft matter, and Christopher Dobson, John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge.

Also on the jury is Gerhard Ertl, Professor emeritus at the Department of Physical Chemistry, Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-PlanckGesellschaft in Berlin, Germany, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of chemical processes on solid surface, together with Jean-Marie Lehn, Professor at the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de l’Université de Strasbourg and Professor emeritus at the Collège de France in Paris. Lehn was an early innovator in the field of supramolecular chemistry and is a fellow winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Completing the jury are Patrick Maestro, member of the Académie des Technologies in France, Scientific Director of Solvay, and Paul Baekelmans, Science Adviser to the Solvay Group and Professor emeritus at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He chairs the Conseil National de Chimie of the Académie des Sciences de Belgique.

Find out more at the Solvay website and a flyer for the prize can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Waterloo Walk 2015

The sun certainly shone on the section’s Spring event: a walking tour around the historic site of the Waterloo battlefield on Sunday 10 May.  At almost 200 years to the day since the historic battle 21 members and friends of the section followed in the footsteps of the Anglo-Dutch and French troops at the battle guided by historian and Project Hougoumont Co-ordinator for Historical and Archaeological Research, Alasdair White.

The walk started at 14:15 prompt outside the Wellington Café in the shadow of the famous Butte de Lion. Here Alasdair (below) explained the (still) ongoing building works happening in the area that will provide a new and a very shiny visitor centre and other facilities hopefully in time for the 200th anniversary of the battle on 18 June 2015.

We then moved on to visit the part of the battlefield occupied by the Anglo-Dutch right flank, an area that was held mainly by the Dutch and Dutch-Belgian units while being subject to French cavalry charges and later the attack of the Imperial Guard. Alasdair explained the use of infantry ‘squares’ to repulse cavalry attacks, showed us where the main action took place and told numerous anecdotes of personal actions that made an impact on the course of the battle. During his explanations we also encountered the remnants of a French cavalry charge (see below) still wandering the battle field clearly in a daze!

Alasdair then led us down to Hougoumont farm, where some of the heaviest fighting occurred. There Alasdair explained the major restoration work and archaeology that is happening around the farm and associated buildings and fields. He also described the importance of the farm to the successful outcome of the battle.

Finally we walked across the battlefield to La Belle Alliance (Napoleon’s HQ) and via La Haye Sainte farmhouse back to our starting point following the final failed attack of the Imperial Guard that signalled a general retreat of the French forces as the ‘Anglo-Dutch’ (but consisting of a majority of German troops it would seem) and the Prussians closed in.

 All-in-all the walk was a fascinating four hour tour-de-force and provided an excellent entertaining and educational afternoon. Over a beer or two at the Wellington Café tactics and strategy were further discussed and Alasdair also had copies of his two new books (described below) on the Waterloo campaign available for purchase.

June 1815 – the Belgium Campaign
With text by Alasdair White telling the tale of the 'Campaign of June 1815' and photographs by Marc Fasol taken during various recent re-enactments of the battle, this bi-lingual (English and French) publication includes 89 photographs and five maps to deliver a beautiful ‘coffee-table’ book that would grace the library of any historian or interested reader.

The book is available in hardback €25 direct from the author or from Renaissance du Livre or from Amazon.

The Road to Waterloo: A Concise History of the 1815 Campaign 
This second paperback book from Alasdair contains many new interpretations of the events of 1815 and leads to some perhaps controversial conclusions. It cuts through the accumulated inaccuracies and wishful thinking that has characterised the writings of so many historians to give the interested reader a clear, concise and remarkably unbiased understanding of what actually happened during the early summer of 1815.

This slim volume is available as a paperback (€9.00/£7.50) and e-book (€4.50) from White & Maclean or from Amazon or direct from the author.

Waterloo 200
To find out more about Waterloo and the 200 year anniversary visit the Waterloo 200 website. This is a joint project between charity Waterloo 200, the National Army Museum, and Culture 24 and is largely funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The site covers many famous names associated with the battle, like Wellington and Napoleon, but also less well-known figures. You can use this website to find out ‘Why Waterloo Matters’ and to uncover the stories behind the names.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

RSC CEO Robert Parker presents ...

On the evening of 5 May a special meeting of the RSC Belgium executive committee welcomed RSC CEO Dr. Robert Parker to Brussels. Dr Parker was in the Belgian capital for a meeting at the European Parliament and stayed on to talk to the executive committee and make a special presentation to one of its long-term members: Dr Ian Carson.

Robert recalled that one of his first major public events after being appointed as interim CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry was to speak at the European Schools Science Symposium (ESSS) in 2011. The  ESSS 2011 was held at the European school in Woluwe Brussels and RSC Belgium had initiated the invitation to Robert's predecessor Richard Pike. Robert's experience at the Symposium was a significant factor in his decision to apply to become the permanent CEO. Ian as secretary of RSC Belgium at the time had issued that invitation.

Ian (above, left) received a Long Service Award from Dr Robert Parker (above, right) in recognition of his ten-year service on the RSC Belgium committee and his tremendous efforts to organise many significant events for the section including the recent major tour of Belgian schools by Prof Averil Macdonald and our annual Cafe Chimque events.

RSC Belgium section chairman, Tim Reynolds, said: "It was really pleasing to see Ian get this long service award from Robert Parker. It was a special occasion. Ian has done so much for the section in Belgium."