The New Faces of Crystal Growth & Design - ACS Axial | ACS Publications
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The New Faces of Crystal Growth & Design

Earlier this year, Jonathan W. Steed was named the new Editor-in-Chief of Crystal Growth & Design. Alongside Steed, the journal has welcomed several new editors to the team as well. New editors bring new experiences, perspectives, and ideas to the journal. Get to know some of the latest new Crystal Growth & Design team members.

This year, the journal added five new Topic Editors and one new Associate Editor. Learn about the differences between the two roles and meet new faces leading the journal in the interviews below.


TOPIC EDITORS

Topic Editors are paired together with Associate Editors, and the pairs work together to manage manuscripts. The Topic-Associate Editor pair allows topic editors to learn the intricacies of the editorial review process.


Dr. Doris E. Braun

Doris E. Braun is a Senior Scientist at the Universität Innsbruck, Institute of Pharmacy in Austria. Dr. Doris started her two-year Topic Editor term this January.

What is your research focus? What initially attracted you to your field?

The “Preformulation and Polymorphism group” at the University of Innsbruck focuses on scientific and applied problems related to solid-state properties of pharmaceuticals and other small organic molecules of high industrial relevance. We develop methods, strategies, and guidelines for the production and characterization of solid-state forms. Based on our systematic explorations of structure-property relationships, we work toward understanding the factors leading to multiple crystal forms, including polymorphs, hydrates, solvates, co-crystals.

Particularly, my research focuses on:

1)the role of computational chemistry for (pharmaceutical) solid form screening and characterization: how to implement crystal structure prediction into solid form screening and characterization programs

2) thermodynamic relations in solid forms: how to derive the thermodynamic stability order of different solid-state forms

3)the important solid form class of hydrates (water adducts): prediction, characterization and practical consequences of hydrate formation

As an undergraduate student, I became familiar with solid-state problems of organic/drug compounds, and the phenomenon of polymorphism fascinated me. My high interest in this research area made me decide to proceed scientifically in this field.

What do you hope to bring to your journal?

Materials properties and their applicability have always been the driving force in my research. This is due to my university training in pharmacy and time working on projects focusing on basic research and industrial problems. Furthermore, as a scientist, I have taken the role of an experimentalist among world-leading theoretical chemists, and am now applying computational chemistry in an otherwise experimentally focused research group. Hence, my scientific path shaped me to address problems by complementing theoretical and experimental approaches and combining different research areas. Therefore, I am hoping that my experience will further strengthen the excellent team of CG&D and that together we can promote out of the box thinking of scientists and engineers working in the field and foster new young talents.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Over the last decade, there have been ground-breaking changes in the research field of “polymorphism.” Computational chemistry can be used to predict feasible crystal structures of small pharmaceuticals from the molecular geometry alone as a starting point. Experimental techniques have advanced that intermediate solid forms can be detected and even structurally characterized. High-resolution data collections allow us to get insights into the structural behavior and interrelations of solid-state forms. Thus, the challenges we have to overcome in our field are often not related to the science but are linked to the accessibility of the (newest) techniques, the time we can spend working on a compound, and the funding opportunities available.

What do you think is the most interesting and/or important unsolved problem in your field?

Despite the ground-breaking advances in the field and the efforts undertaken by scientists in academia and industry worldwide, we are still not able to predict if a molecule will crystallize, let alone in what forms or under which conditions. The required breakthrough is probably understanding nucleation and growth in practically relevant systems. The ultimate goal is then to design and produce the assembly of new materials with targeted properties.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Inconvenient Truths about Solid Form Landscapes Revealed in the Polymorphs and Hydrates of Gandotinib
Cryst. Growth Des. 2019, 19, 5, 2947–2962
DOI: 10.1021/acs.cgd.9b00162

The extensive experimental and computational study highlights the current state of the art in the solid-state characterization of crystal forms of a flexible drug molecule. It also reveals many inconvenient truths about solid form landscapes and the effort that is sometimes required to identify solid forms, characterize their properties, and determine when it is appropriate to discontinue solid form screening. This understanding of drug molecules’ solid-state landscape was only achieved through the efforts of experimentalists and theoreticians working in industry and academia.

Professor Peter Crowley

Professor Peter Crowley of the National University of Ireland – Galway started his two-year Topic Editor term this January. His research focus is protein assembly, and he hopes to bring a new focus on proteins to the journal. “Currently, only about 15 % of the material in Crystal Growth & Design is concerned with proteins. There is an interesting interface between the fields of supramolecular chemistry and protein science. The Crystal Growth & Design community can contribute greatly to this space,” he says.

What is your research focus?

What initially attracted you to your field? Our main focus is protein assembly. We use macrocycles such as calixarenes and cucurbiturils to direct protein assembly and crystallization. Our initial interest was to characterize protein surface recognition by macrocycles. It turned out that calixarenes are rather effective mediators of assembly or “molecular glues”.

What do you hope to bring to your journal?

I hope to bring a new focus on proteins. Currently, only about 15 % of the material in Crystal Growth and Design is concerned with proteins. There is an interesting interface between the fields of supramolecular chemistry and protein science. The Crystal Growth and Design community can contribute greatly to this space.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

The major challenge is the lack of resources, particularly funding opportunities for Ph. D. and postdoctoral researchers. Specific to the field – controlled protein assembly remains an outstanding question. There are many approaches, but often these are specific to a given system/protein. Another major issue is the cost barrier to the manufacture of protein-based materials.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Tuning Protein Frameworks via Auxiliary Supramolecular Interactions
ACS Nano 2019, 13, 9, 10343–10350
DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.9b04115

I wish to highlight our recent work in ACS Nano. In this paper, we showed how “classical” supramolecular chemistry can be used to modulate porous protein assemblies or frameworks.

Professor Shuang-Quan Zang

Professor Shuang-Quan Zang of Zhengzhou University began his two-year Topic Editor term this January.

What is your research focus? What initially attracted you to your field?

Metal clusters, Metal-organic framework, Crystal engineering. The fascinating crystal color and morphology attracted me.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I want to expand the journal’s influence in Asia, especially among Chinese researchers.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

The major challenge in metal clusters may be the functionalization and application.

What do you think is the most interesting and/or important unsolved problem in your field?

The most interesting may be the chirality of metal clusters.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Assembly of Atomically Precise Silver Nanoclusters into Nanocluster-Based Frameworks
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 24, 9585–9592
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b02486

Metal cluster-assembled materials are a main research field.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

My ORCID is here. I would like readers to know more about the College of Chemistry at Zhengzhou University.

Dr. Xin Zhang

Dr. Xin Zhang is a chemist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

What is your research focus?

Crystal growth, surface science, and material synthesis for the environment, energy, and catalysis. Building nanostructures have been widely embraced as a strategy to control the chemical and physical properties of materials, which attracted me to work in this field.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

Encourage researchers to publish high-quality papers and attract more audiences.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Major challenges include:

  • Imaging the solution, ion, and surface structures that create the forces to drive the cluster/particle aggregation.
  • Size, shape and facet-controlled synthesis of nanocrystals via additive-free methods
  • Design and develop novel nanomaterials via machine learning coupled high throughput experimentation
  • Directly imaging the nucleation at the atomic level
  • Directly imaging the crystallization in extreme environments, such as high temperature, high pressure, radiation, and ultra-low/high pH

What do you think is the most interesting and/or important unsolved problem in your field?

The solution, ion, and surface structures that create the forces that drive the cluster/particle aggregation.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Cr(III) Adsorption by Cluster Formation on Boehmite Nanoplates in Highly Alkaline Solution
Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019, 53, 18, 11043–11055
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b02693

Professor Hai-Bo Yang

Professor Hai-Bo Yang of East China Normal University started his two-year Topic Editor term this January.

What is your research focus? What initially attracted you to your field?

My research interests focus on supramolecular chemistry, especially supramolecular self-assembly, supramolecular polymers, and rotaxane dendrimers. I am always fascinated by the beauty of the biological self-assembly in Nature, and I am very curious whether we can use the great power of chemical self-assembly towards the construction of complex matters with intriguing properties and wide applications.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I hope that some concepts and approaches in supramolecular self-assembly will appear in Crystal Growth & Design. Actually, in some cases, the crystal growth and design are inspired by non-covalent interactions in supramolecular self-assembly.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Although supramolecular self-assembly has developed well during the past few decades, there are still many challenges in this field. For example, it is still very difficult to realize well-controlled self-assembly towards complex matters in the lab. Moreover, it is still challenging to set up a bridge between the fundamental research and practical applications of supramolecular self-assembly.

What do you think is the most interesting and/or important unsolved problem in your field?

How to realize the hierarchical self-assembly towards the controllable and programable construction of complex matters with predicted properties and functions at different scales.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Cation–Anion Arrangement Patterns in Self-Assembled Pd2L4 and Pd4L8 Coordination Cages
Acc. Chem. Res. 2017, 50, 9, 2233–2243
DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.7b00231

Recently, my group has published an account in Accounts of Chemical Research, in which we summarized our expedition in the construction of stimuli-responsive functional materials via hierarchical self-assembly involving coordination interactions.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

I like listening to some Chinese traditional music in my spare time. Moreover, I enjoy learning about cultures from different places in the world when I travel abroad.

Professor Helena J. Shepherd

Professor Helena J. Shepherd of the University of Kent is the journal’s newest Topic Editor, joining the CGD team just last month.

What is your research focus? What initially attracted you to your field?

My research group at the University of Kent, U.K., focuses on stimuli-responsive molecular materials in the solid-state. We are interested in a range of systems, from organometallic complexes that switch their spin state in response to changes in temperature, pressure, light, etc. to organic photoswitches that undergo dramatic changes in color and structure. I have group members working on many different aspects of these materials, including synthesis and scale-up processes, detailed structure-property correlations, and the development of new applications. I think what attracts me to these materials is the huge capacity for atomic and molecular motion, even in the solid-state. The ability to gain a fundamental understanding of these dynamic processes is vital to their development, but exploiting them for real-world applications is the next big challenge that keeps me coming back to these beautiful materials.

What do you hope to bring to your journal?

I have a background in structural chemistry but have used a lot of different techniques not only to understand the link between structure and properties but also in efforts to control it. I would like to use this opportunity at Crystal Growth and Design to demonstrate just how active – and exciting – molecular materials can be.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Anisotropy in molecular materials makes understanding cooperative processes such as phase transitions very difficult – properties arise as a complex combination of both intramolecular bonding and intermolecular interactions. Furthermore, we are increasingly finding that useful properties often arise not from the bulk of a material, but from surfaces, defects, and dynamic processes that occur at very small length scales. It is very difficult to see beyond the bulk using traditional structural techniques, and so these fundamentally important details are lost. I think these major challenges are inherently linked to huge opportunities – developments in traditional experimental hardware and advances in techniques such as electron diffraction mean we are no longer restricted to observation of the average structure of a material. I look forward to seeing how far we can go in understanding the world – in all its complexity – down to the atomic scale

What do you think is the most interesting and/or important unsolved problem in your field?

Designing new responsive molecular materials with specific properties tuned to any given technological application and operating conditions.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Complete Set of Elastic Moduli of a Spin-Crossover Solid: Spin-State Dependence and Mechanical Actuation
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 28, 8970–8979
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b05347

Understanding anisotropic mechanical properties and processes will be increasingly important as we employ more molecular materials in advanced technologies. This paper is the result of a large collaboration between chemists, physicists, and materials scientists seeking to understand the mechanical properties of spin-crossover systems, led by colleagues at the LCC-CNRS in Toulouse, France. By combining nuclear inelastic scattering, high-pressure single-crystal X-ray diffraction, and micromechanical resonance experiments, we were able to obtain a complete characterization of the elastic properties of the molecular compound. These measurements reveal a relatively stiff molecular lattice, which displays a pronounced, anisotropic softening upon the transition from low- to high-spin. These different characteristics are correlated with the strong cooperativity (of elastic origin) observed in some spin crossover materials and also allowed for the assessment of the actuating performance of thin films of such materials. As such, this work paves the way for the effective integration of spin crossover complexes into mechanical actuators and also provides a better understanding of the electron−lattice coupling, which to a large extent governs the spin crossover properties.


ASSOCIATE EDITORS

Associate Editors focus on a broader range of topics when handling manuscripts.


Dr. Len Barbour

Dr. Len Barbour is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Stellenbosch.

What is your research focus? What initially attracted you to the field?

I am interested in all aspects of solid-state supramolecular chemistry, but particularly with regard to shedding light on structure-property relationships. My main focus is on the characterization of porous crystalline materials. I am attracted to this area because porosity at the molecular level is an unusual, even counterintuitive phenomenon. Molecules prefer to pack efficiently, which leaves little space for accommodating small guest species. However, we are learning how to overcome close-packing tendencies, thereby creating a vast library of new porous materials that can be tuned for various applications involving molecular recognition.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

Crystal Growth and Design is arguably already the top journal in the rapidly-growing field of crystal engineering. I hope to play an integral part in maintaining the high standards of the journal, also helping to attract articles that explore new and exciting directions in the area.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

I am certainly an advocate of exploratory research aimed at bettering our understanding of how and why materials behave the way that they do – i.e., relating structure and function. In fact, most of my own research is focused on exploring molecular space without necessarily having a commercial application in mind every time. However, one of the most difficult leaps in any field is to recognize how an intellectually interesting phenomenon might be put to good use. I believe that the biggest challenge in the field of crystal engineering is to take the next step by translating tuneable properties into useful devices. This requires imagination that transcends the rigorous training that scientists usually receive.

What do you think is the most important and/or interesting unsolved problem in your field? Crystal structure prediction has come a long way in the past two decades. I believe that we are heading towards a future where structures and their properties will be predicted as a matter of routine.

Do you have a recent paper from an ACS journal that you would like to highlight?

Record-Setting Selectivity for p-Xylene by an Intrinsically Porous Zero-Dimensional Metallocycle
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142, 10, 4529–4533
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b11314

We have been exploring discrete dinuclear metallocycles as the building blocks of porous materials for the past 15 years. These are conceptually donut-shaped metal complexes that are capable of stacking in the solid-state such that their ‘holes’ line up to form channels. Sometimes these channels aren’t continuous, but the concerted motion of the flexible metallocycles can cause neighboring holes to merge fleetingly, thus creating transient pores. The structural flexibility of the material allows the pores to adapt to small guest molecules according to their size and shape, with the possibility of recognizing one isomer in a mixture. We demonstrated that one of our metallocycles exhibits record-setting selectivity for the commercially important para-xylene from a mixture of the three xylene isomers. In fact, the material is even capable of removing para-xylene from commercially pure (>99%) ortho-xylene.

Anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

Had I not become a chemist, I would probably have been an engineer. I am deeply interested in woodwork, metalwork, electronics, and software development. In addition to being satisfying hobbies, these interests have been immensely helpful in developing new research tools to facilitate my work.

Meet the entire Crystal Growth & Design team.

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