Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why do I LOVE inorganic chemistry?

This might be my first "personal" post. But, I think it is worth trying. Everyone in my life (including facebook and twitter) know that I enjoy studying inorganic chemistry and I like to learn more about the role of transition metals in life. I think I should explain why it is so.
Before taking any chemistry course, I had always thought that "chemistry" was all about organic molecules and I believe most people think so. I had no idea how far chemistry goes and honestly, I didn't imagine metals having anything to do with chemistry. To me they were the subject of materials science. During my general chemistry courses, this didn't really change at all. I learned that chemistry is more than "organic chemistry." But, there were still no metals involved. They were right in the middle of the periodic table, but was "forbidden" to talk about. We would draw Lewis Dot Structures of any organic molecule, but never metal compounds. They were so forgotten that nobody would even ask anything about them. When I took my first inorganic chemistry course, I discovered that metals (transition metals here) are at least as important as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen etc. I kind of thought that they are neglected and decided to learn more about them. With my limited understanding and knowledge of chemistry, I started to read inorganic chemistry research papers and my inorganic chemistry textbook. The more I read, the more amazed I was and I still am. They not only play an important role in material science, space exploration, communication, catalysis but also are responsible for many crucial reactions in organisms. There are several metalloproteins and metalloenzymes that contain a specific metal such as hemoglobin, plastocyanin etc. In fact, although you might think that metals are "poisons" and harmful, the metal concentration in brain for example is more than "normal" levels. [1] Luckily, I was accepted to an inorganic research group and I was able to have a closer look at the world of metals. Then came the symmetry and group theory. I am not obsessed with symmetry in my daily life, but how beautiful it is, right? Ever looked at a waste basket and saw the point group of it? I did. I like to find the point groups of objects around me now. I think it is better than sudoku. So, I strongly suggest anyone to learn symmetry and point group theory. I started to think that nothing new could make me more excited than this little game of mine. But, I was wrong. The day I started to learn molecular orbital theory, I was once more enchanted with inorganic chemistry's beauty. Isn't it art?

Everyone believes that transition metals mean "color" and I think they are right. Isn't this beautiful?

When somebody says "drug," the vast majority of people think of organic molecules. But, there are tens of metallodrugs out there if not hundreds.[2]  Some of them are still on trial and some of them are widely used. Probably the most famous chemotherapy drug cisplatin, is a platinum based drug.
Chemistry supplies answers to many questions and problems. It helps us to understand of the world, body, universe and how they work. It's a collaboration of several branches (physical, organic, inorganic, analytical chemistry etc.). They are all of equal importance. But, people have emotions and beauty is relative. It is in the eye of the beholder and I find inorganic chemistry beautiful.
[1] Bush, A. "Metals and neuroscience." Current Opinion in Chemical Biology. 2000, 4:184–191
[2] Barry, N.; Sadler, P. "Exploration of the medical periodic table: towards new targets" 

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