She is going to develop a crystal ball – University of Copenhagen

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07 January 2011

She is going to develop a crystal ball

When a chemical compound crystallises it is of some importance what shape the crystal assumes. If the crystal is part of a drug it might even be a question of life or death. So it would be valuable to be able to predict what shape a crystallising compound will take.

By Jes Andersen

Thanks to a grant from Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk the Master Student Nanna Wahlberg of the Department of Chemistry will now be able to focus on theoretical models that might allow predictions into crystal shapes. The task will require work in the lab as well as at the computer. And combining synthesis with theory is important says Wahlberg.

“My big dream is to develop a theoretical model. But it will have to utilize a mix of classical and quantum mechanics because the systems are so large. And if I don’t succeed, I just have to hope to have a sufficient number of experiments to be able to extrapolate a trend from these. You know: Advanced trial and error”, she smiles.

The field of crystal polymorphy is rather young. This means that Wahlberg has a shot at discovering something that is totally new. But being in the field also means you have to stay on top of the game.

“You need to be quick. Otherwise someone else will do the easy things first”, explains Wahlberg who is very proud to have been chosen by Novo. “Of course the money is nice. But it is also a fantastic recognition to see that someone felt that my work is worth supporting. And let’s not forget. It looks great on my résumé”, concludes Nanna Wahlberg.