The coupling of ab initio calculations with vibrational spectroscopy to solve the puzzle of solvation effects in biomass conversion is illustrated on the front cover of issue 1/2014, and highlights the research of Tsilomelekis et al. at the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation in the University of Delaware. The economic viability of prospective bio-refineries lies in maximizing the yield of key intermediates such as 5-hydroxyl-methylfurfural (HMF), formed by hexose dehydration. Although it is known that use of organic co-solvents can suppress HMF degradation and humin formation, the underlying reasons remain elusive. The authors show that solvents like DMSO preferentially coordinate around the HMF carbonyl group whereas water selectively solvates the hydroxyl group. This explains the enhanced HMF stability in DMSO/water mixtures observed experimentally. More detail is given in the Full Paper by Tsilomelekis et al. on page 117, while more information about the research group is available in the Cover Profile (DOI: 10.1002/cssc.201301221).