If James Cameron Did Chemistry

Chemistry has a lot of smart researchers, but no names or faces that the Average Joe would recognize.  The field needs a hero but, as Chembark points out, what chemist has the time to be a spokesperson?  Research in the lab is notoriously time-consuming.

Not to mention – dare I say – chemists can be kind of socially awkward.

Chemistry used to be cool all on its own (below), but sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. What we need now to snag public interest is an advocate who can integrate chemistry with something else that people like.

chemistry lab at home hero

Here are some options for modern Chemistry Advocates:

james cameron avatar chemistry

James Cameron

A few years ago, some Harvard folks put out an absolutely gorgeous 3D animation that made the molecular goings-on inside a cell seem positively magical.  (If you haven’t seen it yet, you are seriously missing out.)

Chemistry needs something like this too.  Imagine a 3D false-color rendering of a Suzuki reaction starring a glimmering palladium atom feverishly tugging pairs of aryl chlorides and boronic acids together.  Or perhaps an olefin metathesis looking like a frenzied square dance… but with much more glitz and glam.  We could watch as colorful molecular orbitals shifted around, or see a molecule stretch and bend under IR irradiation.

And who better to make such an animation than James Cameron?  He knows how to take something that isn’t inherently super earth shattering (e.g., Avatar plot), and turn it into a wildly successful hit using stunning visual imagery.  So what do you say, Jim?  Don’t forget a fantastically dramatic soundtrack.

tim gunn chemistry reality tv showTim Gunn

“The decomposition pathway must be more energetically favorable than the desired reaction!” just isn’t as striking as “We need to get this patient into surgery now or he’s not going to make it!”  For this reason, a chemistry lab drama on TV just wouldn’t have the success of a medical drama.

But how about a Project Runway-style reality TV show in which contestants vie to design and carry out the ideal total synthesis?  Tim Gunn and his encouraging “make it work” attitude would be absolutely crucial to this plan.  And Phil Baran could play host/judge instead of Heidi Klum.

lady gaga chemistry spokesperson lab coatLady Gaga

Somehow she makes really unattractive attire seem cutting edge. Perhaps she could do this with a lab coat and safety glasses?

Side note: we do already have the “Lab Romance” spin-off of “Bad Romance”… not sure if that’s helping our cause or not.

justin bieber chemistry college majorJustin Bieber

Sigh… I hate to say this one, but we need the young people interested in chemistry/science.  Justin is almost old enough to start college.  He’s already gotten most preteen/teen boys wearing his haircut.  Just think what could happen if he decides to major in chemistry.

So those are my ideas.  2011 is the International Year of Chemistry; we should really try to get someone famous/talented on our side over the next 12 months.

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9 Responses to If James Cameron Did Chemistry

  1. Paul says:

    How has a student in the Sa/nfo/rd group been blogging for four months without my being aware of it?

    I’m watching you. Well, just following your RSS…and looking forward to some hardcore discussion of C-H activation and other organometallic chem.

    • It’s OK Paul, I am not offended. Thanks for watching following my RSS.

      Though I have never ordered any magnets, I have been reading Chembark since I was still a little undergrad. I was very sad when you went on hiatus.

      I love high-oxidation state palladium as much as the next guy/gal, but I’m not sure how to weave in a hardcore discussion, considering my intentions for this blog. Feel free to start a discussion though, and I’ll try to weigh in. Disclaimer that my opinions do not necessarily reflect those of my boss; and when it comes to C-H activation at least, if our opinions differ it is probably because I am wrong.

      • Paul says:

        Ha…I “know the drill” about a blogging student’s opinions not necessarily representing those of his/her boss. (Incidentally, your boss won the inaugural ChemBark Chemmy for achievement in organic chemistry, 2006)

        And I was half-kidding about seeing hardcore OM here; it looks like it falls outside the scope of the blog. Happy writing.

      • Yes, actually I think I read about her Chemmy shortly after I applied to grad schools, when I was first learning who she was – your site was educational for me. Quite the honor indeed. Though I’m not sure if she knows about the award, you should really send some sort of trophy to the recipients ; )

    • Chemjobber says:

      Yes to Gaga, no to Bieber.

  2. Matt says:

    Hey … in re: paul … icanhasscience needs a twitter feed ;) !

    Chemistry certainly needs all of these things (though maybe not someone with a Bieber haircut). But we may have a problem of language as CJ points to in his post today. How do we, as chemists, find a way to allow for social graces (or finding acceptable social graces) while trying to plug chemistry

    • Hmmm…. twitter. I shall work on that, thanks for the suggestion Matt. Don’t worry, if Bieber decides to go the chemistry route, he will have grown out of his haircut by the time grad school has worn him down. … Hopping over to CJ’s now…

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  4. Andrea says:

    Ashton Kutcher was a biochemical engineering major before he did acting. Though it might not help the “science is cool!” vibe to have the “Dude Where’s My Car?” guys as a role model.