Spotlight on Chemistry: RNA Vaccines

RNA vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were amongst the first vaccines approved for emergency use in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The following graphic created by Andy Brunning for Chemical & Engineering News looks at how the vaccines are made:

Want to learn more about what the COVID-19 RNA vaccines really are? Or the Oxford University & AstraZeneca viral vector vaccines? Visit Brunning’s website, Compound Interest, for infographics about these topics and more.

Spotlight on Chemistry: Pumpkins

Nothing says fall quite like a pumpkin. From Jack O’ Lanterns and coffee flavors, to center pieces for your Thanksgiving table, this seasonal squash is an autumn staple. Let’s take a look at the chemistry that has us falling for pumpkins year after year.

Wait, so my pumpkin spice treat isn’t really pumpkin?

Pumpkin spice Twinkies, Cheerioes, lattes, beer, cinnamon rolls, and Oreos. Nope! And your pumpkin pie probably isn’t either. The “pumpkin” used in your pie is actually a specially bred sweet squash that is less watery and fibrous than your typical carving pumpkin. Both pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice flavored foods rely more on their blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove than the gourd itself for their flavor. Since natural spices don’t produce consistent flavoring in large-scale commercial food production, the molecules that produce the flavor in these spices (cinnamaldehyde & pinene are among these) are often added instead.

You can read more about the flavor chemistry of your favorite fall treats in this Chemical & Engineering News article.