Field of Science

Phil Baran is a man of style. We, of course, knew that for a while.

Thanks to @ChemicalBiology I just came to know about a piece of news that may simultaneously help resurrect chemistry's moribund public image and disintegrate multiple damsel hearts as efficiently as heterolytic bond fission:

Phil Baran may be a seriously hotshot scientist—the recent winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, in fact—but he’s also a bit of a wise guy. The proof? The pinky ring he wears even while working in his synthetic chemistry lab at La Jolla’s internationally acclaimed Scripps Research Institute. “I really love The Sopranos,” says Baran, whose wit is nearly as impressive as his CV. The affable scientist earned his Ph.D. at 24 and trained with a Nobel laureate at Harvard. At SRI, Baran’s team finds cutting-edge and cost-effective ways to produce important pharmaceutical components. And, yes, he’s a Breaking Bad fan. “But instead of making meth, we make something useful,” laughs the resoundingly modest brainiac. His first reaction when he heard about the so-called Genius grant? “It was a vote of confidence for all the people I’ve worked with,” says Baran, who credits regular workouts and twice-weekly boxing sessions for his fit body and mind. “The blood flows to your brain, and you do better science.” Also stimulating: trips to the zoo with his two kids. “They see wonder in everything!” At home in Carmel Valley, his Spanish-born wife—a chemist who’s expecting the couple’s third child this summer—often gives him fashion tips. “She’s converted me into a human,” Baran says. “I’d be happy in a pink potato sack. But I do have style and artistry in my chemistry.”

I wish this were a triumph for the public image of chemistry and chemists, but really, I think it's just Phil Baran. Once again Phil has set up impossible standards for the rest of us.

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