The Sceptical Chymist | Essay competition: In your element


You may have noticed that the last page of the journal each month is filled with a somewhat informal article in which someone writes about a particular element (you need a subscription to access these articles). To join in with the activities surrounding the International Year of Chemistry, we’re launching an essay competition based on this feature — we’re inviting you to write an ‘In Your Element’-style essay about one of the following elements: helium, nitrogen, sodium, copper, bromine, indium or plutonium. The winners of the competition will see their essay published in Nature Chemistry, and will receive a year-long subscription to the journal.

Each essay must be written by a single author, and each entrant can only submit a single essay (so choose wisely which one of the seven available elements you write about). We’d particularly like to receive plenty of entries from younger writers and we encourage undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs to enter the competition, but it is also open to those slightly further on in their careers. To submit an essay, however, it must be no more than 5 years since the author has completed their final training appointment (Ph.D. or postdoctoral position) as of the 1 August 2011.

The essays should make some mention of current research involving the chosen element, but should go beyond a simple ‘catalogue’, or summary, of such uses. We’re looking for essays that stand out from the crowd, perhaps by including interesting stories about an element’s discovery and/or history, or by highlighting unusual aspects of an element’s chemistry or some crucial relevance to our everyday lives beyond simply academic or industrial research. Essays should be written in an informal and entertaining manner that would appeal to a wide audience of chemists. As an example, the ‘In Your Element’ article on boron published in our first issue can be freely accessed here.

The Nature Chemistry editors, with the help of an independent judge, will read the submitted essays with an eye for engaging and informative prose, as well as originality. This last point is very important — of course there are only so many ways you can say the usual things about a given element, but we don’t want to see any essays that have a striking resemblance to any relevant Wikipedia pages or other published material (online or print).

Entries must be received by 1 August 2011. Terms and conditions for the competition can be found in full here. Any questions, please just ask (at or in the comments on this post or on Twitter – we’re @NatureChemistry). Good luck to all — send us your great essays, we’re hoping to be spoilt for choice!

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