For most people, the flowers, grasses and vegetable plants growing in their garden have very little to do with chemicals produced in the laboratories of both universities and the chemical industry. Indeed, many worry about the dangers and pollution which might emanate from chemical production sites and consider these a polar opposite of domestic gardening for food and flowers.
For most chemists, the distinction between nature and chemistry disappears early on in their training as they marvel at the molecules produced by plants, insects and animals, often more efficiently and cleanly than they would know how to. Making these “Natural Products” in the laboratory becomes a challenge and interactions with the world around us an inspiration to become better chemists. In addition, laboratories become exciting and aesthetically pleasing places once you understand their function, as well as any possible dangers.
By bringing beautiful and interesting plants and flowers into the laboratory setting and then explaining what some of the molecules produced naturally mean to chemists, we are hoping to challenge the familiar divide between nature and laboratory. Both are, in their own ways, full of beautiful and interesting molecules and stories, and we want to show some examples and so stimulate discussion about whether there is any divide at all.
Main Contributors: Jenny Slaughter (photography, ideas, words, editing), Natalie Fey (pictures, words, editing, tea)