We like to pretend that the extraordinary young scientists profiled in the following pages gather regularly in a secret lair to plot how they’ll fight global scourges such as climate change and human disease.
Editors can dream, right? Although the CO2 Wrangler and the Mind Mapper, as we’ve dubbed them, don’t actually belong to a circle of superheroes (at least that we know of), they nevertheless strive each day to make the planet a better place.
Welcome to C&EN’s first annual Talented 12 issue, in which we highlight path-paving young researchers and entrepreneurs who are using chemistry to solve global problems. Among other things, this impressive group is seeking ways to synthesize molecules in a more environmentally friendly way, developing methods to curb global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the air, and investigating the biochemical underpinnings of diseases to help find cures.
We selected 12 of them as a nod toward their chemical roots: The International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry defines the mole—a fundamental unit of measure for chemists—with respect to the number of atoms in 12 g of carbon-12.
Selecting the Talented 12 and putting together this package took months of effort. We called upon a diverse panel of esteemed advisers to recommend nominees. We asked that nominees be chemical scientists who are under the age of 42, are on the verge of becoming leaders, and are challenging the conventional wisdom in their fields. We also sifted through past nominees for the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry, a national prize given each year to an outstanding graduate student by the American Chemical Society. Then we researched our pool of candidates, interviewed their colleagues, and finally, chose our finalists during an intense evaluation session.
You might not recognize the names of the dozen chemists on our list. Their research might not yet be on your radar. But we’re convinced that if we hadn’t put the spotlight on them, their secret identities would have eventually been revealed through their undeniable scientific feats.