Editor's Note

Ending an elemental year

Comfort Dorn
Dec. 1, 2019

Readers of a certain age may remember Tom Lehrer’s song “The Elements,” in which the then-Harvard math professor and musical satirist patter-sang, a la Gilbert and Sullivan, the name of every element in the periodic table.

When I was a musical theater nerd in high school, I co-directed a musical revue in my senior year. The other directors and I thought we had the whole thing precast, but during auditions, a hitherto unremarkable singer bowled us over with her rendition of this serious tongue twister. (You can hear for yourself how impressive this was.) We borrowed a lab coat and a wall-sized copy of the periodic table from the school’s science department to hang behind her. At every performance, that song brought the house down. The big chart disappeared after closing night, and one of my fellow directors either had to pay for it or forfeit her diploma.

That was the last time I thought about the periodic table until an ASBMB Today planning meeting late last year when Quira Zeidan, the society’s education and public outreach coordinator, told us that 2019 was the 150th anniversary of the year Dmitri Mendeleev first published his tabular display of the elements.

She wasn’t just sharing science trivia. In her heart of hearts, Quira is a teacher, and she offered to write a series of articles for ASBMB Today highlighting elements of significance in the biochemical realm.

There’s nothing an editor likes better than the promise of a timely series (and guaranteed content), so I was delighted, but Quira gave us something more than that. As regular ASBMB Today readers know, she has provided a wonderfully coherent series of lessons that clearly explain everything from where the elements originate to their roles in human health. Every month, I’ve looked forward to learning something new from this series. And in this issue, with nickel and zinc, I’m sad to see it end.

This month may mark the end of the (bio)chemical elements in ASBMB Today, but plans are afoot to build educational programs around these 11 articles — complete with experiments. If this resource would be useful to you or any of your colleagues, contact Quira.

Thanks to all our readers for celebrating the International Year of the Periodic Table with us — and thank you, Quira, for being as cool a teacher as Tom Lehrer.

Comfort Dorn

Comfort Dorn is the managing editor of ASBMB Today.

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Opinions

Opinions highlights or most popular articles

Hidden talents
Editor's Note

Hidden talents

April 16, 2021

Witty drawings by ASBMB staff member Vic De Luz are a bonus feature of our April focus on science and art.

Picture this: The 2nd annual JBC Methods Madness tournament
Art

Picture this: The 2nd annual JBC Methods Madness tournament

April 15, 2021

In this version, instead of basketball teams we bring you competing scientific methods and a chance to sway the outcome with votes (and maybe some trash talk) on Twitter.

Lessons from plants: A changing environment
Books

Lessons from plants: A changing environment

April 7, 2021

Beronda Montgomery writes about plants adapt to environmental conditions in this excerpt from her new book.

Retracting publications doesn’t stop them from influencing science
News

Retracting publications doesn’t stop them from influencing science

March 28, 2021

The whole purpose of retraction — marking research as poor quality or even as fraudulent — frequently doesn't seem to affect how those papers are read and cited.

How can we recognize and reward innovation in teaching?
Essay

How can we recognize and reward innovation in teaching?

March 25, 2021

“Publications that describe curricular or pedagogical innovations are rarely cited, and their authors get little feedback about their impact.”

Life after one year of COVID-19
Member News

Life after one year of COVID-19

March 25, 2021

In March 2020, we asked ASBMB members how the pandemic is affecting them personally and professionally. We recently asked them how it has changed there lives, one year later. Here are their dispatches.