Scientists to focus on personal and planetary health problems at inaugural Systems Chemistry Symposium

Nearly 1,000 international scientists from over 40 countries and six continents will gather for three days in cyberspace beginning Monday, May 18, 2020, for the inaugural Systems Chemistry Symposium, where they will explore molecular principles of living systems as models for discoveries designed to address human and planetary health challenges.

Hosted by five organizations (The Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center, CUNY (CUNY ASRC); Ben-Gurion University of Negev; Weizman Institute of Science; Emory University; University of Groningen and Johns Hopkins University), the interdisciplinary symposium will offer interactive talks by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Ben Feringa, a professor at the University of Groningen; molecular biophysicist Petra Schwille, director of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry; biochemist Jen Heemstra, a professor at Emory University; and others. The event will also include a Twitter-based poster session.

After learning about the cancellation of some of our favorite conferences, several of my colleagues across the globe began discussing how to bring our scientific community together during this difficult time.

We thought that an event like this would be a great way keep the community engaged and to really push forward this new field of chemistry that could lead to innovative solutions to personal and planetary health problems -- many of which have become more exacerbated during the current pandemic. We were delighted with the level of interest, as we initially expected 100 or so participants, but more than 1,000 have registered."

said Rein Ulijn, Founding Director of the CUNY ASRC's Nanoscience Initiative, and one of the symposium's organizers

Systems chemistry represents a paradigm shift that could move chemistry-based science away from focusing on the study of molecules in isolation to considering the behavior of complex and dynamic mixtures of molecules that provide new ways to design and understand chemical properties.

Progress in this area requires close interdisciplinary collaboration between experimentalists and theorists, and the symposium will bring together researchers with shared interests who view this science from very different perspectives, including origins of life, supramolecular chemistry, analytical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, and biophysics.

The fast-growing field of study holds significant promise for leapfrog discoveries that can advance solutions for a number of intractable problems by providing foundations for therapies and technologies inspired by living systems.

Potential advances include the development of self-directing medical interventions that detect and correct metabolic imbalances and the design of more energy-efficient and sustainable chemical processes and materials manufacturing.

The symposium will facilitate participants' collective review of the current systems chemistry landscape, and it will explore how chemists can pursue holistic science that connects their specific discipline with other areas of study in order to advance new technologies and therapies that address global challenges. The event has been uniquely designed for researchers to successfully share and learn in an online format.

Short talks will focus the activities on discussion and interaction between the attendees and allow sufficient time for leading systems chemistry researchers to engage the next generation of scientists in the discipline. The final day of the symposium has been entirely organized by postdoctoral researchers and will feature a Twitter poster session.

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