Editor's Note

Ending an elemental year

Comfort Dorn
December 01, 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

This week’s staff picks
Stroopwafels

This week’s staff picks

January 18, 2020

Ice-fishing huts. Music and neuroscience. Sleep studies in the Antarctic. That's just a few of the topics ASBMB staff members are reading about.

‘The five love languages’ in science mentoring
Wellness

‘The five love languages’
in science mentoring

January 17, 2020

The five love languages helped Scott Aoki become a better, more present husband and father. He thinks they can also help researchers in academia.

Taking the measure of my treadmill
Wellness

Taking the measure of my treadmill

January 16, 2020

"As I approached age 58 in 2010, I realized I was entering a zone full of health dangers. I decided to take matters into my own hands and start exercising more frequently and more rigorously."

How volunteering enriched my life as a Ph.D. student
Wellness

How volunteering enriched my life as a Ph.D. student

January 15, 2020

"From failed experiments to weak presentations, I sometimes doubt myself as a researcher. Science outreach boosts my spirits in these times of self-doubt."

Being a mother of young children while having a career in academia
What I Wish People Understood

Being a mother of young children while having a career in academia

January 14, 2020

"I got pregnant with twins during the last part of my postdoctoral training. The pregnancy was planned, but the two-for-one special was a shock and wreaked havoc on my detailed financial and career plans."

When the going gets tough, I go to the gym
Wellness

When the going gets tough,
I go to the gym

January 13, 2020

"I needed something to ease my mind — something that I could do for myself every single day that would relieve some of the pressure."