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by K. M. REESE
March 8, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 10

Rosalind Franklin University

Finch University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School is changing its name to Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science. Franklin was the enigmatic crystallographer whose key "photo 51" X-ray diffraction image and accompanying data led James D. Watson and Francis H. C. Crick to propose the DNA double-helix structure.

How the name change has come about is an interesting tale, according to D. Eric Walters, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Finch. Walters read a C&EN book review of a recent Franklin biography titled "Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA" (C&EN, May 19, 2003, page 56). He then read the book and passed it on to his department colleague David M. Mueller, who developed the idea and moved it forward to the university's president. Coincidentally, a consulting firm hired by the university to help choose a name to match its new strategic plan and increase its awareness in the medical community also zeroed in on Franklin. The ideas converged, and the university decided it would be fitting to honor Franklin's accomplishments with the namesake.

Franklin was not properly credited for her work during her lifetime. She died from ovarian cancer in 1958 at the age of 37, so she was not eligible to share in Watson and Crick's 1962 Nobel Prize. She probably never realized the magnitude of her contributions.

In January, the university held "a very moving dedication event with some of Rosalind Franklin's family and former colleagues in attendance," Walters says. The name change becomes official on July 1.

The proof is in the pudding

A recent book review of "What's Cooking in Chemistry?" (C&EN, Jan. 26, page 50) mentions a simple recipe for dulce de leche. All one has to do is simmer an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water. The recipe, submitted by K. Peter C. Vollhardt, includes a warning to carefully watch the can for signs of expansion. If the can starts to expand, it should immediately be removed from the heat.

This recipe and warning brought back memories of an incident involving sweetened condensed milk to reader Clifton F. Bennett of Zillah, Wash. Bennett was fond of dulce de leche during his days in graduate school, and he and his roommates used the same method described by Vollhardt to make the treat. They did not always follow the same precautions, however, and received their just dessert.

Once, Bennett and his roommates failed to keep an eye on an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk left in a pot of boiling water. Disaster ensued. The water evaporated, the can exploded, and the pudding was spattered all over the kitchen. "Luckily," says Bennett, "no one was present at the time."

Bennett's tactic for avoiding future explosions was to heat the can of milk in a steam bath at the lab. He claims the can would not overheat and didn't require as much supervision. "The result," he says, "was a delicious caramel pudding."

Polaroid stirred by shaking

In response to grammy winner outkast's catchy dance directive to "shake it like a Polaroid picture," the maker of instant film is telling its customers to stop shaking it--the film, that is.

"Shaking or waving can actually damage the image," Polaroid writes on its website. Apparently, the photo flailing phenomenon "originated during the early days of peel-apart film. After peeling the negative, the image needed to dry before it could be handled, so waving the photo helped it to dry more quickly."

Now, a plastic window protects the film during the developing process, "so shaking or waving has no effect," according to the company, adding that shaking can make the film's components separate prematurely, causing "blobs" to appear in the snapshots.

Instead, Polaroid offers this less rhythmic but more practical advice: "The best way to ensure a perfectly developed image is to simply lay the picture on a flat surface immediately after it exits the camera."

Ken is away. This week's items were contributed by Steve Ritter, Rachel Pepling, and Bethany Halford.


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