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Irish chemistry thrives on spin

Irish chemistryPeace talks and an IRA ceasefire were only dreamed of the last time I visited the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland and the Queen’s University. Indeed, at the time there were still a few grey armoured vehicles on the streets and the city centre was still gated. There were British soldiers patrolling outlying villages and on the day I departed there was a major bomb scare at an unopened shopping centre, which meant a long-winded taxi diversion back to the airport. Times have changed.

Beyond the snazzy new university logos, truncated Qs, and mission statements lies a thriving department at Queen’s University Belfast that has attracted to its membership several high-performing researchers from some prestigious international laboratories. Among them are such rising stars as Frederic Meunier who has worked with pioneering catalytic chemist Marc Ledoux at Strasbourg, Raman spectroscopist and Innovative Molecular Materials scientist Steven Bell, and Joe Vyle an alumnus of the laboratory of Marv Caruthers in Boulder, Colorado, who invented the chemistry used during the past 20 years for synthesising DNA on machines. And, of course, AP de Silva whose pioneering work in molecular logic has already led to multimillion dollar sensor technologies and is making inroads into the world of combinatorial chemistry through the development of molecular computational identification (MCID)

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