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Taking Stock

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
December 21, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 49

It’s that time of the year again. As the year comes to an end, we here at C&EN like to take stock. To do this, as it is now tradition, we assemble a team of editors and writers to evaluate and review the year’s biggest chemistry moments—the most stunning research reports, the most memorable headlines, and much more. After much deliberation we prepare a short list, and from there, C&EN reporters describe how each moment altered the world of chemistry. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy of the chemistry enterprise and the quality of the talent that our field attracts.

Where to start? That’s not a difficult question: 2015 was the year of the megamergers. At the end of October, we heard about the merger of two of the drug industry’s largest firms: Pfizer, maker of Viagra, and Allergan, maker of Botox. The proposed deal, worth $160 billion, would yield the world’s largest drug company. It was followed only a few weeks later by the announcement that chemical giants Dow Chemical and DuPont plan to combine in what would be the largest-ever merger in the chemical industry. DowDuPont won’t be around for long, however, as it intends to break up into three different firms. C&EN’s Alex Tullo describes the unprecedented deal on page 7.

This year was also a historic one from a policy and political science perspective. After all, 2015 is the year that saw the normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the U.S. after a more than 50-year stalemate. No doubt this historic moment will have implications for both nations in the short and long terms, and many of us are looking forward to new partnerships and an increased level of activity and cooperation in scientific fields.

It is also the year that saw global average CO2 levels rise past 400 ppm and then culminated in December in Paris with a new global agreement regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The deal involves emission controls by all participating countries. If countries keep those promises, global average temperatures are estimated to rise to close to 3 °C above preindustrial levels by 2100. C&EN’s Cheryl Hogue summarizes the agreement on page 30 and describes how it will impact chemists on page 9. If this leaves you wanting, C&EN’s full climate deal coverage is available at

This year we also covered some great science. We polled readers for what they thought was the most notable research accomplishment of the year, and of the options surveyed, the flexible electronics story on page 21 topped the list. You were obviously impressed by the ingenuity of this technique for deploying an electronic mesh into soft tissue, as that of the brain, for example, in a minimally invasive way.

Having worked with air- and moisture-sensitive reagents when I was doing my Ph.D., my favorite story describes a methodology for making protective paraffin capsules that hold premeasured amounts of the sensitive materials so that these can be handled and stored outside the glove box (see page 22). What I would have given for having access to this kind of technology, just ready to be dropped into reaction vessels as and when needed!

On the global stage, China was troubled by financial instability. To add to this, we were shocked by the news of the death of more than 170 people after a fire in a warehouse in Tianjin resulted in two enormous explosions that caused extensive damage in multiple buildings and industrial facilities of several companies operating in the area. Authorities reacted by introducing new safety checks in warehouses and chemical plants throughout the country.

The year also brought sad news, and we reported on the deaths of Yves Chauvin and Richard F. Heck. We also mourned the loss of one of chemistry’s greats: Carl Djerassi. His legacy survives him and goes beyond science into the arts with his many plays and novels as well as the work his foundation is doing to support artists. He’ll be missed.

I’ve obviously missed lots of other interesting stories, so I suggest you continue to page through and reminisce about the great chemistry that we saw in 2015.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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