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Life cycle of a fact

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​Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes

​​​​​

Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UD, co-directs the Chemistry-Biology Interface Program, a graduate-level initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health that applies chemistry to critical biological and biomedical problems. 

“When I teach biochemistry, I often challenge my students to think about the people who made the facts in their textbooks possible,” said Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Delaware.

“People. Real people made these facts possible, probably dedicating much of their research careers to discover these things. However, as we go through time, those facts can be added to and the plot can thicken and/or change.”​

For a while, back in the Middle Ages, some people thought you could turn any kind of metal into gold. They dreamed up many kinds of methods and made wild claims, but they kept their work — which was called “alchemy” — secret, as magicians do.

Real chemists share their ideas and questions, the precise processes they use to test and/or measure things, what happens when they combine this with that, how things change if you shake things up or just add water. And they tell other chemists all about it. Sometimes those chemists will say “you forgot about this” or “this didn’t happen when we tried it” or “there is a fundamental problem with this part of your experiment that invalidates your conclusion.”

Those debates and exchanges can be quite uncomfortable. But they help to move science forward, as we’ve seen in this past year of pandemic.

Read the full story from​ the UD Research magazine​​. 

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