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Martin Boland

Martin Boland a lecturer in medicinal and pharmaceutical chemistry at Charles Darwin University. Explosions, fires and things that will make you very ill were formative events in my interest in science. Since then Martin has studied at Manchester Metropolitan University (BSc Chemistry) and UMIST (PhD) and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at The University of Melbourne's School of Chemistry and then in the Department of Pathology. All that has involved making plastic stabilisers by the tonne; synthesizing research drug molecules in milligram quantities; studying protein-membrane interactions using instruments such as solid-state NMR and the Platypus neutron reflectometer at ANSTO; and various other projects related to pharmaceutical and biological chemistry.

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Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

UN inspectors will face several problems determining what happened in Damascus. EPA/STR

It’s been a little more than a week since reports surfaced of a large-scale chemical weapon attack in Syria.

UN inspectors will face several problems determining what happened in Damascus. EPA/STR

Governments in Europe and the United States have accused the Syrian government of attacking their own people, while the Assad government has pointed the finger at its opponents. The United Nations currently has inspectors in Damascus, who have been tasked with finding out if chemical weapons were used and, if so, by whom.

It’s not a simple matter to decide if a chemical attack has occurred. The inspectors will be looking for evidence to support or refute one of several possibilities: A non chemical cause, such as mass hysteria. A chemical cause not related to chemical weapons. An attack using chemical weapons, but an improvised delivery system. A military chemical weapons attack using artillery or bombs. In media interviews, former weapons inspectors have said that the symptoms are in line with a nerve agent such as sarin rather than the effects of a blistering agents such as sulphur mustard.

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