Picture it…



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Echinops, awaiting its turn.

Well, this is it. After developing the ideas for this blog for almost a whole year (more off than on, admittedly), we are making this blog public.

Since Jenny and I are both keen amateur gardeners, our first series of posts will be about “Plants in the Lab“, covering flowers, fruit, vegetables and foliage plants. To collate these posts, we have raided our gardens for plant material at different times of the year (late August and twice in June, so far) and brought this into the teaching labs of the School of Chemistry, University of Bristol. We wanted to contrast our harvest with the paraphernalia of the laboratory, creating photographs interesting to scientists, but also people who perhaps didn’t enjoy science and maths, but are interested in the world around them. Both before and after the “photoshoot” (and let me tell you, keeping the plants looking good for any length of time is not straightforward), we have also done some research, collecting all kinds of weird and wonderful information about the molecules contained in plants, which we hope you’ll find as fascinating as we do. Finally, I have used computational chemistry to generate representations of these molecules, and we have combined them with the photographs to generate the images for each post.

Natalie, trying to take pictures of lilac

Natalie, trying to take pictures of lilac.

As explained in the About pages, the information is presented at three different levels: a very general introductory level, a bit more general scientific background, and then some details for chemists. We wanted there to be something for everyone, and the length to be about right to read with a sandwich or a cup of tea. There are links to additional webpages and research papers, if you would like to find out more, but you should think of these posts as tasty morsels, rather than a comprehensive exploration of the chemistry of each plants – those posts would have been epic and stretched to several volumes, after all. All mistakes are of course our own, and nothing to do with the School of Chemistry or the University of Bristol.

Jenny and the rhubarb. An epic story of avoiding plug sockets.

Jenny and the rhubarb. An epic story of avoiding plug sockets.

We hope to recruit additional contributors, initially from among our colleagues and students here at Bristol, and to start on other topics; any suggestions, either via comments on pages and posts, or via email to pictureit.chemistry”at”gmail.com are welcome. We are also on Twitter (@PictureItChem) and Facebook (PictureItChemistry), if you want to follow us. We hope to turn this into an exhibition in the long run, but for that we’ll need to find funding so we can devote some of our time to developing more material, and to get help with the photography and image composition. Babysteps! In the meantime, we are aiming for a post every 7 to 14 days and ask you to be patient with us while we develop new content and add links and information. More importantly, though, we hope that you’ll enjoy this blog.

Natalie (for Picture It… Chemistry)

P.S. You didn’t catch us out. We took the pictures when no lab work was going on and no hazardous chemicals were in use, so we didn’t need to wear lab specs and lab coats for all the shoots. We did for some, though.

Plant material.

Plant material.

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