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Prof. Margaret Brimble: Organic and Medicinal Chemist and Seeker of the Beautiful and Difficult Molecules

Pr.Margaret Brimble, New Zealand. Laureate 2007 For Women in Science Award, L'Oreal-UNESCO, Asia/Pacific. "For her contributions to the synthesis of complex natural products, especially shellfish toxins."
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Prof. Margaret Brimble. © 2007 The University of Auckland


Prof. Margaret Brimble, Chair of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Auckland, has a desire to create beautiful and difficult molecules:

Today, the creative process Margaret Brimble uses to build molecules may be compared to a game of chess: “In what we call ‘molecular chess’, we have this beautiful molecule and we have to work out how to make it.  We set our strategy, but inevitably things go wrong. You move backward, you go forward, you change to get around problems. Eventually, you do have your molecule, as you capture your king in the game of chess.”(interview with Anne Bougel)

She has worked with shellfish toxins, extremely complex molecules, identifying ways to use them in fighting ovarian, renal and breast cancers, as well as treatment for hypertension, epilepsy and pain.  I found her work just after reading Michelle Francl‘s fascinating article on beautiful molecules in the March 2012 issue of Nature Chemistry.  She defines elegelant molecules as ones which are “. . .symmetric; unexpected; revelatory of unseen mysteries; have a touch of sabi, a patina of  history; a rich set of associations that stimulates our imaginations; useful; logically simple; sometimes whimsical — and sometimes profoundly graceful.”  As an artist, I resonate with this lyrical description of beauty, whether of molecules or mosaic, and love that Margaret Brimble sees beauty in the molecules she seeks.

For those who are curious, among Michelle Francl’s top 10 beautiful molecules are ethanol(the wonders of Belgian beer), insulin, and snoutane(with its wonderfully apt name.) For the rest, check out her post The Most Zen of Molecules.


More Margarets at my Margarets Pinterest Board.


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