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ACS Meeting News

Stereo Chemistry: Live from Boston

Current and former members of C&EN’s Talented 12 faced off in a chemistry news quiz show recorded live at #ACSBoston

by Matt Davenport
September 4, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 36

Credit: C&EN

Three of chemistry’s rising stars joined us on stage at the ACS national meeting in Boston for a light-hearted look at some of this summer’s most buzzworthy chemistry news. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks (University of Utah), Staff Sheehan (Catalytic Innovations and the Air Company), and Jillian Dempsey (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)—all members of C&EN’s Talented 12 this year or in past years—went head-to-head in our quiz show that covered everything from avocados to ZIF-8, a metal organic framework.

The Stereo Chemistry logo with the word "live" stamped on top of it

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The following is a transcript of the podcast.

Matt Davenport (in studio): Hey everyone. This is Matt Davenport and you are listening to C&EN’s Stereo Chemistry. We did something a little bit different for this episode. We recorded it live at the ACS national meeting in Boston. And we made it a chemistry news trivia show, featuring three of chemistry’s rising stars. So I guess we actually made it a lot different, but we really think you’re going to like it. Without any further ado, let’s take you to Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center for our first-ever live episode. Cue the game show music!

Matt (in Boston): So. Let me start by saying: How’s it going Boston?


Again, thank you all so much for being out here. We are thrilled to be here, recording our first-ever live episode of Stereo Chemistry. How are you all feeling today? Pretty good?


I just really want to stress how excited we are to be doing this. We are going to have a ton of fun this afternoon, thanks in no small part to our amazing panelists joining us today. You may recognize them all as members of C&EN’s Talented 12.

In fact, we’ve got one of the newest members of the T12 and a materials chemistry researcher at the University of Utah, please say hello to Luisa Whittaker-Brooks.

From the T12 Class of 2017, we have an electrochemist and who also happens to be president of Catalytic Innovations. Please welcome Staff Sheehan.

And last, but certainly not least, also joining us from the class of 2017 is a chemist from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who uses inorganic spectroscopy and electrochemistry for solar energy conversion. Please welcome Jillian Dempsey.

So before we get into the quiz portion of this show, I thought it would be helpful for us to know you a little bit better, so... Luisa, I actually know you pretty well. I got to write your profile this year for the C&EN Talented 12, which was so much fun, but at one point, I was I was talking to your postdoc adviser, Lynn Loo at Princeton, who kind of stopped me and said, “I get the sense that you maybe don’t understand everything Luisa does.” And that still might be true, so can you just tell us a little bit about what you do at Utah?

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: So I’m a material chemist at the University of Utah and the main goal of my program is to come up with devices that can convert different types of energy into electricity. And we want to understand interfaces in materials. The problems is that when you build devices, you have to put in a lot of different interfaces. And when you add all those different interfaces, you tend to decrease the efficiency. So it’s like that saying, “More money, more problems.” And more interfaces, more problems. So we basically try to come up with methods where we clean up all the different interfaces and expose those interfaces to study what happens. And, in that way, we can increase the device efficiency of different devices.

Matt: Awesome. Thank you so much. I feel like we should make #MoreInterfacesMoreProblems a hashtag. Like, we should totally get that going. Thank you so much for being here. We’re really excited to have you.

Moving onto Staff, you are our representative from the industrial side of chemistry, but you also started your own company. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do, but also what it’s like starting a chemistry-based startup?

Staff Sheehan: Yeah, it’s a long journey. It’s not, these aren’t like software companies where you can turn them over in a very short amount of time. Chemical companies take a lot of capital, time, and effort. Currently, Catalytic Innovations is running and operating pretty successfully and I currently, recently became the chief technology of the Air Company, which is in the know, because we’re supposed to talk about our science a little bit. The science that I work on there is turning carbon dioxide and water into alcohols for consumer products.

Matt: [Giggles]

Staff Sheehan: And that’s something, we’re going to have them going into a bunch of products in 2019. So I hope that everybody recognizes the Air Company.

Matt: Great. I didn’t mean to laugh, but I do know—being a reporter that’s friends with Lisa Jarvis who knows you quite well—I keyed in on that word alcohol a little bit.

All right, we’ll move on to to Jillian Dempsey, who—I wanted to say congratulations. I learned from this year’s issue of the T12 that you just got tenure at UNC. That’s awesome.


Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re working on now?

Jillian Dempsey: So I define myself as a physical inorganic chemist and my research program really focuses on using tools like spectroscopy and electrochemistry to tease apart the reaction mechanisms of electron transfer processes that underpin solar energy capture and conversion technologies. And so our hope is that by more deeply understanding the reaction mechanisms and what influences these reaction mechanisms we might be able to design more energy-efficient systems to launch new solar energy technologies.

Matt: Awesome. Thank you all again for being here. We are so excited, but I think it’s time we got to what everyone came here for, which is high-octane chemistry news trivia competition.


Thank you. Yeah. All right. Before we get to that though, it might be helpful for you to know how the game works. So for that, I’m going to turn it over to my cohost and official Stereo Chemistry scorekeeper, Kerri Jansen.

Kerri Jansen: Hi everyone. So here’s how today’s show will work. Our three esteemed panelists will take turns trying to answer chemistry news quiz questions. The chemist with the most correct answers at the end of the show will be crowned Regent of Stereo Chemistry. It’s really a figurehead position but we do encourage you to add that to your CV.

And you, dear audience, actually have a shot at real prizes. Well, two shots. For one, you can live tweet throughout this event using hashtag #StereoChemLive and our audience engagement editor, Dorea Reeser—sitting in the second row there—will select her favorites at various times during the recording and give away Starbucks gift cards.

I’ll have more information on the second way you can win before the second round. But for now, let the games begin with our first quiz round, which will feature questions all about chemistry-related news from this summer. We call this round: “No, I didn’t say electrochemistry, I said current events.”

Matt: Get it? Because like electrochemistry is like current flowing... electrons... You get it. You get it.

All right. So we’ll start with Luisa. Your first question:

Some Coca-Cola plants in Europe hit pause on teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony this summer due to a shortage of food-grade carbon dioxide. Warm weather and the World Cup drove up demand for the beverage, while major suppliers of CO2 were shut down for maintenance.

At those major suppliers, however, CO2 is actually made as a by-product while they’re after a different primary target. What is it?

A. Pepsi

B. Ammonia

C. Methane

D. Parliamentary law

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: I would say, methane?

Matt: I’m sorry. The correct answer is 2

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: What?

Matt:I know. Crazy, right? So I talked to Alex Scott while writing this quiz, he’s our business reporter based in England, and as of last week he told me the shortage was still going on. But that CO2 is used to extend the shelf life of baked goods and so a couple bakeries shut down their production of crumpets. And so there was a crumpet shortage for a little while in England. Can you imagine?

All right. We’ll move to Staff for our second question. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine—and their lab rats—had reason to smile when they developed a new mouthwash. That mouthwash stopped new cavities from forming, as well as stopped existing cavities from growing. What are the key ingredients in this new mouthwash?


A. Hydrogen peroxide and iron oxide nanoparticles

B. Fluoride and more fluoride

C. Alcohol and alginate hydrogel particles loaded with calcium

D. Toothpaste and happy thoughts

Staff Sheehan: C certainly sounds the most credible, so I’m going to go with C.

Matt: C. I’m sorry, the correct answer is actually A, hyrdogen peroxide and iron oxide nanoparticles. The researchers say the nanoparticles break down the hydrogen peroxide into hydroxyl radicals, which bust up the biofilms.

All right, Jillian. We all know that fish smell, but did you know that fish smell? And climate change may be affecting their ability to do so. Studies on European sea bass led by researchers at the University of Exeter suggest that ocean acidification does what to their olfaction?

A. Heightens it, leading to increased mating activity and potential overpopulation

B. Heightens it, potentially creating a species of super fish with a predilection for the scent—and taste—of human flesh

C. Lessens it, leading to decreased mating activity

D. Lessens it, hampering a fish’s ability to find food and avoid predators

Jillian Dempsey: I think ocean acidification is an overall bad thing, so I’m guessing it’s going to hurt the fish. So I’m narrowing it down to C and D. And I think that I will give C as my final answer.

Matt: C is your final answer. I’m sorry, it’s actually D. The researchers showed that, in more acidic water, sea bass had to be 42% closer to a smelly object to detect it and recognize it as food.

Matt (in studio): So hey. This is Matt again, back in our D.C. studio and yeah, we were off to a little bit of a rough start in Boston. Our panelists were oh for three and that bozo hosting the show said “hydroxical” instead of “hydroxyl.” But I just wanted to cut in really quick here to say we turn this thing around. Just you listen. All right, back to Boston.

Matt (in Boston): So, we’ll come back to Luisa for question 4.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, direct infusion nanospray mass spectrometry could still differentiate between historic manuscripts and forgeries. Karl Burgess at the University of Glasgow showed this technique could be used in a virtually non-destructive manner to differentiate between authentic works of Robert Burns and phonies penned by Alexander Smith. The trick was dissolving the ink used with how much of a water and methanol mixture?

A. 2 nL

B. 2 µL

C. 2 mL

D. 2 L

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: Basically, we’re always trying to increase sensitivity, right?

Matt: Yeah.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: So I’m going with either A or B. So now it’s fifty-fifty. And we all know how good we are at this. I would say, B. 2 uL?

Matt:Two µL is correct.


Excellent. I smell a streak coming. All right, Staff, we’ll move to you for question five.

Artificial intelligence is a big deal. I mean, I have no idea how it actually works, but Android says it’s making my phone work better and Google used it to teach computers how to recognize pictures of cats, so that’s pretty great. Now, it also has uses in chemistry, including which application developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health?

A. Predicting chemical toxicity better than animal models

B. Predicting drug safety better than tissue cultures

C. Predicting useful material formulations better than mortal chemists

D. Predicting safe and stylish labwear trends better than social media influencers

Staff Sheehan: To keep this winning streak going, I’m going to narrow it down to either C. Sorry, narrow it down to either A or B. They both sound credible. But I’m going to say, A might be easier to do in a computer. So I’m going to say A.

Matt: That was amazing. You talked yourself right into the right answer. Congratulations.


It was like being inside your head. It was amazing. Yeah, so actually according to a press release from the school, FDA and EPA are formally evaluating the new method to see if and when it could become an acceptable substitute.

Although, this was a really tricky question to write because I’m like, in three days, they might all be true. Right?

Staff Sheehan: Fair enough.

Matt: So Jillian, question six.

Metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, are near and dear to my heart because they were the subject of the very first episode of Stereo Chemistry. But chemists are also really excited about them because, among other things, they are really promising materials for gas separation and storage. Chemists at Koç University recently developed a post-synthesis treatment for a MOF called ZIF-8. This post-synthesis treatment improved that improved its CO2 uptake by nearly a factor of 6 and its selectivity for CO2 over methane by a factor of 45. What was that treatment?

A. Taking ZIF-8 to dinner and a nice movie

B. Baking it at 180° Celsius for three hours

C. Coating it in an ionic liquid

D. Storing it under vacuum for 30 minutes before the tests

Jillian Dempsey: So this is inorganic chemistry, so I feel like the pressure is on. B and D seem quite straightforward, so I’m going to guess C.



That was also amazing. I feel like you’ve sort of Beautiful-Minded the way this game works.

Staff Sheehan: Trust me, I’ve tried A, taking my MOFs out to dinners and a movie and it never works.


Matt: Luisa, we’re back to you for question seven.

The Trump Administration recently announced its plans to nominate Kelvin Droegemeier as the director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy, the top science post in the White House. Droegemeier is currently a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and earned his Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. What is the title of his 1985 doctoral thesis?

A. “A Rather Blustery Decade: Trends in Storm Wind Velocity in the Midwest from 1970-1979”

B. “No, My First Name Ain’t Baby. It’s Kelvin. Dr. Droegemeier If You’re Nasty.”

C. “Improved Prediction of Storm Intensity Using Computational Algorithms”

D. “The Numerical Simulation of Thunderstorm Outflow Dynamics”

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: Can I go to Twitter?

Matt: Yes. Well, talk it through. What are you thinking right now?

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: One, I don’t know this guy.


So that’s the first thing I’m thinking. But it seems that it’s something related to the weather.

Matt: Yup.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: So it can’t be B by any means.

Matt: He’s a huge Janet Jackson fan.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: It sounds weird. All right, so I guess you need some kind of flashy name when you’re coming up with your thesis title. So I would say it’s between C and D. But then thunderstorm seems you would have a lot time coming up with thunderstorms, because it doesn’t happen all the time. You would have to look for it. So I don’t know, I would say C.

Matt: What if you were to go back to your previous thinking. What if maybe instead of C, you picked D? Would you be interested in that option?

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: Yeah, I will.

Matt: Ok.


The answer is D and he actually has a sort of subtitle, which, I will give you a million points right here and now. With no hints, can you tell me what the subtitle of his thesis was?

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: No.

Jillian Dempsey: More thunderstorms, more problems.

Matt: Yes! We should send him an email right now and be like, “Why didn’t you think of this?” All right, so here’s his full title: “The Numerical Simulation of Thunderstorm Outflow Dynamics” and then in parentheses, “Gust Front, Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability, Wind Shear, Microbursts.” And I wanted to talk about that because it sounds like he was really into what he did. I just called my dissertation, “Can I Please Be Done Now?”

All right, so we’re onto current events question eight for Staff.

Mosquitoes are the worst, and that may be the first time I’ve used that expression without it being hyperbolic. But researchers at TropIQ Health Sciences and the California Institute for Biomedical Research may have identified molecules that are already on the market and could help at-risk populations avoid Zika and malaria, diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. These molecules are compounds known as, Bethany?

Bethany Halford: Isoxazolines.

Matt: Isoxazolines. What product are they already used in?

A. Bug spray

B. Anti inflammatory medication

C. Flea and tick treatments for dogs

D. Flavored syrups for hot beverages

Staff Sheehan: This is a tough one.

Matt: Thank you.

Staff Sheehan: You’re welcome.

I am not an organic chemist. I don’t know if that would help me. I don’t think it would really help me with this. I’m pretty sure it’s not D. I feel like it should—if it helps at-risk populations contracting Zika and malaria, I would think—it’s mosquito-borne, so I think it would have to do either A, bug spray or C, flea and tick treatment. I mean if it’s a treatment for a dog, maybe it also works for people. So I’m going to go with either A or C. Let’s go for C.

Matt: C. Yeah. Excellent. The correct answer is C.


All right, Jillian. Unfortunately, I don’t have any smarmy lead-up for this one, so I’ll just get straight to it.

3M’s industrial minerals division recently launched a line of titanium dioxide-coated granules used in roofing shingles to do what?

A. Harvest solar energy

B. Make roofs sparklier

C. Improve safety for workers by improving traction

D. Reduce smog

Jillian Dempsey: Well, I would be very excited if they were using titanium dioxide granules as the basis for dye-sensitized solar cell-based roofing shingles, but I am certain that is not the correct answer, unfortunately. I would encourage them to do that.

So I am going to guess that, since they’re coated with titanium dioxide that they are bright white just like powdered donuts and they’re helping reflect light and making the roofs sparklier. So B.

Matt: That might be a side effect, but it’s not what they’re going for. Do you want to take one more crack at it?

Jillian Dempsey: All right, so it’s going to be C or D. C, improves safety for workers.

Matt:It’s actually D if you can believe it. The granules work by photocatalytically converting nitrogen oxide into water-soluble ions, says 3M lab manager Frank Clink. So that could be good news if you’re wanting to help fight smog in Los Angeles. The only thing is, you have to be able to afford a home there.

So that brings us to the end of round 1. Kerri, can you tell us our scores?

Kerri: Ok. So as it currently stands, Luisa and Staff are tied each with 2 points. And Jillian is pretty close behind with 1 point.

Matt: Excellent. So it’s still anyone’s game. Now for round 2, we’re actually going to need a little help from the audience. Can you tell us how this will work, Kerri?

Kerri: Ok, so this is how this next round is going to work. We’re going to need a volunteer from the audience. Our panelists will read four stories to that volunteer. Four zany short stories. One of them will be true. Pick that true story and you’ll be a winner. Pick incorrectly and at least you got to be on a chemistry podcast, right?

Panelists, if your story gets picked, you will get a point, so really sell it.

Now, that true story is going to still be a little bit weird because we’ve handpicked it from our wonderful weekly Newscripts column, where we curate all the quirkiest science news out there.

And you may have noticed that I said you’ll hear four stories, but we only have three panelists. Don’t worry. We have another very special guest with us today, C&EN science writer Bethany Halford,


Bethany also happens to be the fabulous editor of Newscripts. So welcome, Bethany.

Matt: Thanks you so much for being here.

Bethany: Thanks for having me, Matt. But I have a quick question for you. What if I have the true story or the contestant guesses mine?

Matt: That is a great question. Kerri?

Kerri: Yes, so I have good news. If the contestant guesses your story, Beth, then everyone gets a point.

Matt: Which is functionally the same as nobody getting a point, but we seem way more generous this way. So Bethany, before we get started, I wanted to ask you a quick question. What is your favorite thing about editing Newscripts?

Beth: My favorite part about editing Newscripts is the mail we get from readers. Often people will send in ideas for the column or stories that have been inspired by columns. So if you’ve ever thought of sending something to Newscripts, please do so at

Matt: Yes. I have to say, personally, getting to write for Newscripts is one of the most fun things I do for C&EN. Right alongside hosting live podcasts, so let’s get back to that. We will need a member from the audience. So if you are interested in playing a game with our panelists for a prize, please raise your hand.

Awesome. Yes! Come on up! Thank you so much for playing our game. So as he’s approaching the microphone, can you tell us what we’re calling this round, Kerri?

Kerri: Ah yes. It’s called, “It must be true, I read it in Newscripts.”

Matt: Excellent. So, what is your name?

César Alejandro Urbina-Blanco: Hi. My name is César Alejandro Urbina-Blanco.

Matt: Where are you from?

César Alejandro Urbina-Blanco: I’m from Venezuela, but I work in Belgium in Ghent University.

Matt: Oh great! And what do you do there?

César Alejandro Urbina-Blanco: I’m a postdoc in the Laboratory for Chemical Technology and also I’m a Future Leader, Class 2018.

Matt: Oh awesome. Congratulations! Welcome to our show. This is awesome.


All right, so just a reminder: You’re going to hear four stories. Only one of them is true. You’re going to try to pick the true one. And so there will be theme. You will try to tell us which beloved British exhibit may sadly be past its prime, on its way out. So Staff, can you give us our first story?

Staff Sheehan: All right, story number 1 is: Damien Hirst is known for his unconventional art. For example, he had two sculptures on display at London’s Tate Modern Gallery. One contained a dead sheep and the other a bisected cow, both preserved in tanks of formaldehyde. A report in the journal Analytical Chemistry, however, found that the encasements for these exhibits appeared to be leaking, exposing workers and visitors to unsafe levels of the compound. The artist and museum agreed to replace the jarring and potentially dangerous exhibits with a indoor petting zoo.

Matt: All right, so option 1 is Damien Hirst’s leaky formaldehyde exhibits. Let’s go to Jillian for our second story.

Jillian Dempsey: So our second story is: The Greenwich Royal Observatory is home to the historic atomic clock that helped establish Coordinated Universal Time, the global time standard, in the 1990s. Although the clock was officially decommissioned in 1999, the observatory’s staff have kept it in good working order until this year. So what happened? When staff updated the clock’s operating system, it started running slower.

Matt: So it’s not just an Apple thing. So option 2 is a slowed atomic clock. Luisa has our third story.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: All right. Mira, yo tengo la historia que es la de verdad, ¿oíste?

César Alejandro Urbina-Blanco: Ok.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: [Nada más] para que sepa.

Matt (in studio):Real quick, for our non-Spanish speakers, Luisa just told César, “Look, I’ve got the story that’s true, you got that? Just so you know.” Huge thanks to Carmen Drahl for the translation.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: In the sewers beneath the White Chapel neighborhood in London, a nasty collection of fat, feces, and other gross stuff congealed to create a 130-metric ton chunk called a fatberg. A fragment of this fatberg went on display at the Museum of London, where it began sweating this summer. Yes, this big ball of yuck started exuding moisture. But wait. It gets worse. It also started growing mold and hatching flies.

Matt: Gross. So option 3 is a fally-aparty fatberg. Which brings us to Bethany for our final story. Can you tell us which British exhibit is past its prime?

Bethany: Keith Richards.

Matt: Zing! But to be fair, he’s more of an institution than an exhibit. All right, so you’ve heard the four stories, which of these do you think is true?

A. The leaky Hirsts

B. The slow atomic clock

C. The freaky fatberg

D. Keith Richards

César Alejandro Urbina-Blanco: I wanna say A, but I think it’s C.

Matt: It is C. That’s correct! Congratulations. Whoo! For guessing correctly, we’re going to send you home with this portable Bluetooth speaker. Bethany, thank you so much for joining us.

Bethany: Thanks Matt.

Matt: Can I have you deliver the prize on your way back down? Thank you so much for playing. That was awesome.


Staff Sheehan: Shout out to the Future Leaders, too.

Matt: Luisa’s story was picked. She got a point. What does that bring our scores to, Kerri?

Kerri: Well Matt, so at the end of round 2, Luisa is leading with 3 points, Staff has 2, and Jyllian has 1 point.

Matt: All right. So that brings us to our third and final round. It’s really anyone’s game.

Kerri: Yeah, I’m not above making up points to keep this interesting.

Matt: Oh, Kerri. You keep us on our toes. So can you tell us the rules for this round?

Kerri: It’s the same as the first round.

Matt: That is crazy! But to make things a little bit more exciting we do have a special guest to help us present this round, Lisa Marcaurelle. Please welcome her to the stage as she helps deliver these quiz questions on agricultural chemistry.

Lisa Marcaurelle: Yes. Good afternoon everyone.


Matt: So there is a reason we are doing agro chem for this. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do here in Boston?

Lisa Marcaurelle: Sure. Yes, I work at a new startup company here based in Boston focused on crop protection. You wouldn’t think this is a farming town. We aren’t really. But we do have cranberry bogs, so that’s something. We chose to be located in Boston since we have access to a lot of great technology in the Boston area, so proximity to collaborators to apply cutting-edge technology to developing pesticides, insecticides, fungicides.

Matt: And I heard there might be another ACS-related event you want to plug?

Lisa Marcaurelle: Oh yes! So if you do like farming towns, I’m organizing the national organic symposium and that will be held next year in Bloomington, Ind., which is definitely a farming town. So that will be in June. So stay on the look out for that if you’re interested.

Matt: Awesome. Well thank you so much for being here. Let’s get to our third round, which we’ve titled, “The Boston gig has been canceled. I wouldn’t worry about it, though. It’s not much of a farming town.” Lisa, I’ll turn it over to you for the first question.

Lisa Marcaurelle: So the first question: self-driving cars may be the future, but self-driving tractors are already here. Indeed, digital technology is taking the agriculture industry by storm. Giant companies are combing the planet to work with start-up technologies to make farm production more, well, productive. Last year U.S.-based Cargill took a minority stake in an Irish firm started by two brothers. Which cutting-edge idea will Cargill get access to?

A. Drones that measure water stress in fields of oats.

B. Blockchain technology for tracking wool all the way back to the farm.

C. Facial recognition technology for cows.

D. Tomato-squeezing robots that test for ripeness.

Matt: All right and this question is going to Jillian. Which of those do you think is the correct answer?

Jillian Dempsey: All right. I’m going for A.

Matt: [Strange “ooooh” sound]

Lisa Marcaurelle: Nope. The correct answer is facial recognition technology for cows.

Matt: Isn’t that crazy?

Jillian Dempsey: That was the first one I ruled out.

Matt: Actually they can recognize the face and hide patterns of the cow, and apparently this feeds data back to farmers to make near real-time decisions about milk production, reproduction information, and just overall health.

That brings us to Luisa for question 2.

Controlling pests and plant diseases on organic crops is challenging. Bio-based solutions are one way to go. Marrone Bio Innovations has introduced new versions of two pesticides and the company just got approval from the state of California to label their products for use on which specialty crop?

A. Tomatoes

B. Strawberries

C. Chrysanthemums

D. Cannabis

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: I mean it’s California, so I would say that they like cannabis a lot, right? No?

Matt: What’s that?

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: D.

Matt:D, yeah. Cannabis, yeah, that’s the correct answer.


Lisa Malabad—who has a really cool title, she’s the Cannabis Segment Lead at Marrone Bio Innovations—said in a press release, “We look forward to helping growers and distributors integrate our innovative, effective and safe products.”

So Lisa, would you like to read our third question?

Lisa Marcaurelle: Yes. So this is for Staff. Speaking of strawberries, a common method berry growers have followed to prevent soil-borne diseases in their delicate fruit is to sterilize the soil by fumigating it with methyl bromide. But EPA has forced farmers to phase out their use of this surefire method. Why?

A. It harms bees

B. It destroys the ozone layer

C. It’s bad for aquatic organisms

D. It smells funny and neighbors complain

Staff Sheehan: Oh man. I mean, I feel like it could do many of these things. Let’s say B.

Lisa Marcaurelle:That’s correct.


Matt: Yes! Great work. Methyl bromide phase-outs are actually required under the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Round 3, question 4 goes to Jillian.

This question is about a company named Apeel Sciences. They developed a lipid-based coating designed to extend the shelf life of produce. Starting earlier this summer, customers at Costco and Harps stores in the Midwest could purchase which fruit protected by Apeel’s product?

A. Avocados

B. Bananas

C. Cantaloupe

D. Durian

Jillian Dempsey: So I got to visit UC Santa Barbara in May and talk to a lot of students whose former lab mates are now working at Apeel, which I know is based in Santa Barbara. And one of them had a roommate who worked at Apeel and was very excited that he, or his roommate, would bring home all of the leftover avocados that they were testing and so they were having guacamole every night. So I’m going to go for A.

Matt: A. Yes. It’s avocados.


So it sounds like you have a line to some inside intel. What I’m really curious about is can it also sort of make it easier to get the avocado in the Goldilocks zone where it’s not super mooshy and not as hard as a rock, because that would be amazing.

Lisa Marcaurelle: It’s funny. I also recently met some chemists from that company and they kept talking about the avocados as well. So I actually would have got that question right. That’s good. Ok. Question number 5.

Last year, C&EN’s ace agrochemistry reporter Melody Bomgardner—is that how you say her name?

Matt: Yes.

Lisa Marcaurelle: Shared four enhanced crops that experts thought were most ripe for gene-editing with CRISPR. Which of the following was not on that list?

A. Better tasting tomatoes

B. Nonbrowing mushrooms

C. Drought-resistant corn

D. Sweeter lemons

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks: Let me go with B. That’s a total guess. B.

Lisa Marcaurelle: The answer is D, sweeter lemons.

Matt: Yes.

Lisa Marcaurelle: Someone wanted it I guess.

Matt: I would take that, right? Because I feel like there’s just something inherently refreshing-sounding about CRISPR lemonade.

Lisa Marcaurelle: That’s true. That’s true.

Matt: So closing out this round, we’re going to Staff with question 6.

The agricultural behemoth Monsanto—now part of Bayer—invested $100 million earlier this year in a plant genome start-up called Pairwise. Monsanto hopes that this investment will give them a head start in a gene-editing technique called what?


B. CRISPR/Cas9.1

C. Base editing

D. The molecular scythe

Staff Sheehan: All right. I feel like CRISPIER is what Tim Cook at Apple would name it. And CRISPR/Cas9.1 is what Bill Gates would have named it if it was in the 90s. And the molecular scythe sounds really, really, really cool, so I wouldn’t expect them to do that. So I’m going to go with C, base editing.

Matt:That is correct.


Thank you for saying the molecular scythe sounded cool. I made that up and I was like “This sounds rad,” but then you never know. You never know until you say it out loud.

Staff Sheehan: I don’t think you’re ever gonna beat the CRISPR lemonade, though. That’s going to have a special place in my heart.

Matt: [Laughing] So glad to hear it. So that brings us to the end of the round, the end of the game. While Kerri’s tallying up the final scores, Lisa, I just wanted to say thank you one more time for coming up here and helping out with this podcast. Is there anything you want to say before you leave?

Lisa Marcaurelle: No, thanks for having me. I’m from Boston originally, so I hope you guys who aren’t from here get to go out and see all that Boston has to offer in addition to all the great chemistry you’re hearing about.

Matt: Thank you so much. Can we get one more round of applause?


All right, Kerri. Has that given you enough time to calculate?

Kerri: It has, Matt.

Matt: What are our final scores?

Kerri: So at the end of round 3, Jillian has 2 points. Staff has 4 points. And Luisa also has 4 points.

Matt: Oh no.

Kerri: What are we going to do, Matt?

Matt: I didn’t think of what to do in the case of what to do in the case of a tie-breaker. How many fingers am I holding up behind my back? Whoever gets closest, from one to five, wins.

Staff Sheehan: Can I just forfeit and just let, you can be the queen... I’m bad at guessing. I don’t want to embarrass myself.

Kerri: Is it too much anxiety?

Staff Sheehan: I have a lot of anxiety from trying to guess how many fingers.

Kerri: Too much pressure. Can’t handle it.

Matt: And honestly it’s all needless anxiety because, really, you are all winners for being here today. And I’m not just saying that, like I believe that deep down in my heart, but we do have prizes for all of you for just being here today.

You will also be taking home portable Bluetooth speakers. So thank you so much for joining us and playing our quiz game. Thank you to all of you in the audience for joining us today. It has been so much fun. And we also have a ton of people to thank back at ACS and C&EN, whose names I will read in a voice-over because I’m afraid of forgetting someone.

That is our show. We hope you had as much fun as we did.


Matt (in studio): All right, here’s that voice over I promised. Before we get to the thank-yous, though, I wanted to drop some good news on you. The next episode of Stereo Chemistry will be coming out early next month, during the week of September 10. C&EN reporter Linda Wang, Kerri, and I literally talked to chemists from all over the world for it. Be sure to subscribe to Stereo Chemistry right now on iTunes or Google Play to make sure you don’t miss it.

I also wanted to remind you to check out our website at for more great content related to this podcast. And one more public service announcement: Please send your Newscripts ideas to us at We love hearing from you.

So there are a bunch of people to thank for making this possible and I want to start with David Vinson from ACS Productions, who mixed and recorded this episode in Boston. We also owe a huge thanks to the C&EN sales and marketing team for helping pull this off and making sure our contestants and audience left with some sweet, sweet prizes. Stephanie Holland, Kierra Tobiere, and Ed Rather were super clutch there.

There are also a ton of people at ACS who work tirelessly, trying to make these national meetings great experiences for everyone, not just live podcasters. But we do want to give a special thanks to Shayla Phillips and Brianna Ortiz, who were just amazing to work with on this.

Finally, a huge thanks to the entire staff at C&EN for all it does to cover and publish news about the chemical enterprise. Check out this podcast’s description for a link to all of our coverage from the national meeting.

To close out, I did want to give a special shout-out to Bethany Halford and Melody Bomgardner for helping write the quiz, as well as Cheryl Hogue, Cici Zhang, and Dorea Reeser for helping Kerri and I work out bugs before the live event.

And it’s been really, really cool for me working on this live podcast because it’s had support from the top from the very beginning. Some of C&EN’s top brass including Amanda Yarnell, Lauren Wolf, and our editor-in-chief, Bibiana Campos-Seijo, have been huge advocates for this project. What that means for you, if you’re still listening, is that we would totally love to do this again at upcoming meetings.

So if you want to join us for some live podcasting at a national meeting, let us know. And we’d love to hear how we can make it even more fun the next time around. Email us your comments at, or just tweet at me @MrMattDavenport or Kerri @absoluteKerri.

The music you’re listening to now is “Beach Wedding Dance” by Role Music. And our quiz show music was “60’s Quiz Show” by Podington Bear. And that funky percussion loop you heard toward the beginning is by eshar.

Thanks for listening.


Beach Wedding Dance” by Rolemusic is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

“60’s Quiz Show” by Podington Bear is licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0.

The “Funky perc” loop is by eshar.



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