ACS Publications is pleased to introduce Prof. Stefanie Dehnen as the new Editor-in-Chief of Inorganic Chemistry. She is the first European-based and first female Editor-in-Chief for the journal. Prof. Dehnen is the executive director of the Institute of Nanotechnology and a full professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany.
Prof. Dehnen received her Diploma in Chemistry from KIT in 1993 and her Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from KIT in 1996 under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Dieter Fenske. She served as a researcher and lecturer at KIT from 1998 to 2005 and subsequently from 2006 as Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Philipps-Universität Marburg, where she also had roles as the executive director of the Scientific Center of Materials Science and dean of the Department of Chemistry. In September 2022, Prof. Dehnen returned to KIT as Professor in Information-Based Materials Design and Nanoscience and the Executive Director of the Institute of Nanotechnology.
Prof. Dehnen’s research focuses on inorganic and organoelement cluster syntheses, characterization by X-ray diffraction/spectroscopy/mass spectrometry, in situ analysis of cluster formation mechanisms, and molecular quantum chemistry.
Prof. Dehnen has approximately 300 research articles and editorials to her credit. She previously served as associate editor of Inorganic Chemistry from 2018 to 2022 and was a member of the editorial advisory board for the journal from 2017 to 2018.
In 2020, Prof. Dehnen was the recipient of the German Chemical Society’s Alfred-Stock Memorial Award and Philipps-Universität Marburg’s Promotion of Women in Science award. In 2022, she was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation and an ERC Advanced Grant from the European Research Council.
She is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences & Humanities, the Göttingen Academy of Science and Humanities, the Academy of Science and Literature Mainz, and the European Academy of Sciences.
“Inorganic Chemistry has always played a key role in my scientific life—my first publication in Inorganic Chemistry in 2004 was the beginning of a close interaction with the journal, and it has become the home of some of my group’s most important work. So it is a special honor for me to lead this journal,” says Prof. Dehnen.
“Thanks to previous Editor-in-Chief Prof. Bill Tolman and a very dedicated team of great Associate Editors with wide expertise, Inorganic Chemistry is currently experiencing a steep upward trajectory in submissions and published articles with an ever-broader scope from a more diverse set of authors, and my vision is to help ensure that this trend continues. We will provide our authors with the platform they need and desire to rapidly publish their cutting-edge results in all aspects of science that touch on inorganic chemistry.”
I had the pleasure of connecting with Prof. Dehnen in this recent interview. Learn more about her research, visions for the journal, and more below.
What excites you about your current research?
My great scientific love belongs to novel elemental combinations that we realize in multinary and multimetallic cluster compounds. In this way, we create compounds with unusual electronic properties that not only prove to be extraordinarily instructive in terms of previously unknown types of metal-metal bonds but also exhibit application-related properties—such as extreme nonlinear optical properties or the potential for bond activation. I am always looking for a good balance between curiosity-driven, basic research and the real usefulness of the compounds we develop, which is what our combinatorial approach enables.
What elements have been most central to your scientific career, and why?
Tin and bismuth. Tin forms the bridge between the various cluster families we study—from the early days of my independent academic career to the present. Starting with clusters of tin and group 16 elements, we have gotten our hands on most of the element combinations within the p-block until today.
The other element, bismuth, is not only an exceptional element in its own right—combining the property of being the heaviest (essentially) nonradioactive metal with a remarkably low toxicity—but is currently a central element in many areas of chemical research, including the field of Zintl cluster chemistry and materials based on such species. During my studies, I was taught that bismuth, as the most metallic—or least semimetallic—pnictogen, would not behave like its congeners and would, for instance, show little tendency to form polyanionic molecules. In the meantime, we and others proved otherwise, laying the foundation for a new branch of cluster and materials chemistry.
What do you think is the most interesting or important unsolved problem in chemistry?
As for fundamental research, one of the big challenges is the development of an inorganic retrosynthesis, which is based on the understanding of inorganic molecule formation and helps in the design and controlled generation of such compounds. More generally, chemists have to solve various similarly serious problems. One of them is the harvesting and production of drinking water. Another one is the generation and storage of renewable energy and its conversion.
The third—and most urgent—is our contribution to preventing the emission of greenhouse gases by effectively capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. Without us chemists, these problems cannot be mastered. For this reason, I am working as an ambassador to improve the public image of chemistry: instead of being seen as part of the problems, chemistry and chemists must be recognized as an essential part of their solution!
What do you hope to bring to the journal as Editor-in-Chief?
Thanks to the excellent leadership of Prof. Tolman, Inorganic Chemistry is currently doing very well, so my first hope is to continue this trend. I want to ensure that the journal is the first choice for high-level publications by chemists of all facets of inorganic chemistry. This includes both the typical topics such as advanced catalysts and ligands, unique main-group compounds, and high-value solid-state chemistry, as well as the newer branches that extend to the nanoworld, sophisticated functional materials, and biological and medical applications of inorganic compounds. What unites all our articles is that inorganic chemistry is needed for answering the central question of the respective study.
As the first female Editor-in-Chief, and the first one from outside the U.S., I would like to emphasize that in addition to our openness to topics at the interface of neighboring disciplines, a key focus and responsibility is our openness to the diversity of the scientists involved. I envision to continue and increase our efforts to ensure that all authors have the opportunity to publish with us—both the established and the more inexperienced, whom we are happy to help get started in publishing. And we are always reviewing and refining our Author Guidelines, and most important, our Ethical Guidelines—of course, quality comes first, but it is not quality alone that makes a manuscript worthy of publication.
What challenges did you have to overcome on your path to becoming who you are today?
The biggest challenge was certainly the combination of a large biological family (four children) and a large academic family combined with many other tasks in and for the community. But since ‘combination’ is an integral part of my scientific and nonscientific life, it has worked out perfectly—and has also given me inspiration and strength.
What would you say to someone considering a career in inorganic chemistry?
Brilliant choice! The entire Periodic Table is yours!
What advice would you give to young scientists today?
Do not look at statistical numbers to decide which scientific path you will take, but simply follow the advice of your heart and choose the direction that fascinates you the most. This will be the field in which you will perform best and which will allow you to achieve your personal career goals. By the way, inorganic chemistry is always a very good choice.
And: Be sure to pursue a nonchemical hobby to let your mind wander from time to time! This is incredibly helpful for getting new inspiration!
Apart from chemistry, what are you passionate about?
I love my family and our outdoor activities together, I am passionate about reading good (historical) crime stories, and—another facet of the combination of different activities—I actively make music, as the concertmaster of a very good university orchestra.