This year is the International Year of the Periodic Table of chemical elements, as designated by UNESCO to mark the 150th anniversary of the periodic table created by Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev.
Many of us are familiar with the periodic table of chemical elements from our school days. It’s an easy-to-use visual tool showing the relationship between the chemical elements, which is useful for all who learn and work in science.
To celebrate this venerable chart, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has created the 'Periodic table of younger chemists', profiling successful young chemists from around the world.
Associate Professor Elizabeth New and Professor Richard Payne, both from our School of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science, have been honoured with elements in this periodic table – iron for Associate Professor New and selenium for Professor Payne.
"It’s a great honour to be included in this periodic table, particularly because it represents the exciting future of chemistry," Associate Professor New said.
"I was nominated by one of my colleagues, and IUPAC chose iron for me, I think, because I’d recently published a paper on a new method to detect iron in biological systems,” she said.
“The periodic table underpins all of chemistry and its history parallels how our understanding of the chemical world has increased in leaps and bounds over the past 150 years. There is still a pretty poor general chemical literacy in the community and hopefully the International Year of the Periodic Table will help to increase understanding and appreciation of chemistry.
"The element next to me, manganese, is actually occupied by a friend of mine – we studied together in the US, and now she’s back working in Thailand – a great reflection of the international aspect of chemistry."
The elements in this 'Periodic Table of younger chemists' are being announced in the order that the elements were discovered, with the last ones to be announced in July this year.
"It is a really great honour to be part of the periodic table of younger chemists – it is truly international and acknowledges the work that I have been doing outside of the lab for the discipline of chemistry," Professor Payne said.
"I was nominated by an organic chemistry colleague at another university, which is nice."
Professor Payne said: "My lab has recently used the very special properties of selenium to develop new bond forming reactions. We have successfully used these reactions to generate peptide and protein drug molecules, and others around the world are also using our selenium reactions. Selenium was therefore the perfect element for me.”
The selection process for being included in this periodic table looked not only at research achievement, but also at other aspects of being a scientist, such as increasing the public appreciation and understanding of chemistry, fostering diversity in the chemical enterprise, improving chemistry and science education for students, and advancing interdisciplinary and international collaboration in chemistry research.
Check out all the international chemistry researchers honoured in the ‘Periodic table of younger chemists’.