Virginia Tech Chemistry Student Invited To 53rd Meeting Of The Nobel Laureates For Individual Interaction With Great Minds

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 27, 2003 – Jason W. Jones expects a "surreal" experience when he and 25 other students from around the world spend a week in Lindau, Germany, with several Nobel Laureates in biology, medicine, and chemistry.

Jones, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at Virginia Tech, received a travel award to attend the 53rd Meeting of the Nobel Laureates June 30-July 4. "I will be able to travel to Germany to meet with leaders of my profession," Jones said. "Nobel Laureates. It will be a surreal experience to interact with them, have lunches and human conversations with them. We have the opportunity to interact with them on a personal level, and that's a rare thing. It sounds like the laureates really want to attend this meeting strictly for the young scientists, which is awesome."

Each year since 1951, Nobel Prize winners in the fields of physiology and medicine, physics, or chemistry have convened in Lindau to meet with students from around the world about issues in their disciplines. This year's overall theme is biochemistry. The days consist of seminars at which the Nobel Laureates discuss various subjects and roundtable discussions with multiple Nobel Prize winners. One-on-one lunches allow the students personal time with the Nobel Laureates. Other U.S. students who will attend include those from the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Harvard, MIT, and Penn State.

Jones is sponsored by the Department of Energy Office of Science. He holds an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education fellowship for his graduate studies in supramolecular chemistry. Working with Harry W. Gibson, professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech, Jones does work concerning "fundamental studies of inclusion complexation processes involving ionic guests and crown ether hosts, the basis of many self-assembly processes used in supramolecular chemistry," Gibson said. Using experimental techniques such as nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectroscopy, microcalorimetry, viscometry, and x-ray crystallography, Jones has worked with both small molecules and macromolecules in various combinations, Gibson said.

Jones is working in particular with the supramolecular interaction of pseudorotaxanes and like complexes, which consist of two mechanically linked components. "One component looks like a donut and the other a long toothpick," he said. "The two components interact with each other in such a way that the toothpick threads through the hole of the donut, much like a wheel and axle. We're trying to understand that basic process and apply it to other supramolecular systems."

Jones's work with the Department of Energy uses this type of interaction to extract dangerous metal ions from nuclear waste. "Instead of a linear guest, the metal atoms behave more like charged balls, which the donut-shaped hosts recognize and pull into their cavity," Jones said. "It's akin to fishing, where we literally yank out the toxic metal ions from the otherwise benign waste. The isolated radioactive material can then be safely contained and buried."

"Jason is a very meticulous experimentalist, and his work has been published in high-quality journals such as the Journal of the American Chemical Society," Gibson said. "Jason's selection for attendance at this prestigious meeting, which will focus on biochemistry, I think, was based on his broad general interests and his experience with a number of techniques relevant to biochemistry, even though he is not currently doing biochemical research."

Schools and universities nominate students to attend the Meeting of the Nobel Laureates. Jones credits James Blair, associate provost for research and interdisciplinary programs, and Gibson, his advisor, with his winning a seat at the Nobel Laureates meeting.

"I am very pleased and proud that Jason was selected," Gibson said. "I believe that this meeting will be an influential keystone of his young scientific career."

Besides being in the company of some of the world's greatest minds, Jones also looks forward to seeing the area--Lake Constance, the Swiss Alps, and the Bernadotte castle, home of Count Lennart Bernadotte, originator of the Meeting of the Nobel Laureates, and his wife, Countess Sonja, president of the committee that arranges the meetings.

Jones's father recently retired from the Army, "so my hometown is where I happen to be living at the time." He is the son of Samuel H. and Valerie L. Jones III, currently of Richmond.