Newsletter for
Senior Chemists
February 28, 2012


Dear Local Section Chair:

As many of you know, one of our principal objectives has been to convert the Senior Chemists Task Force (SCTF) into an ACS committee. Perhaps we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At the Denver meeting I made a presentation to the ACS Committee on Committees (ConC) on behalf of the SCTF asking them to endorse our request to become a standing committee. ConC agreed "in principle" and asked that the SCTF prepare a brief report stating its case for committee status.
We have now, with the help of a number of the members of SCTF, prepared such a document asking to be established as a Joint Board-Council Committee. This committee status would give us more latitude with respect to membership and activities.

As I understand the process, once we submit our documents to ConC, they will review them and then, hopefully, concur and recommend to the Council that the committee be established. We will then have the opportunity to make our case to Council. If they agree, the action shifts to the Board of Directors for final action. If everything proceeds on course, this can be accomplished in 2012.

I have spoken with ACS President Bassam Shakhashiri about our request and he has assured me that he will support us. I have also spoken with Marinda Wu, our President-Elect, and she asked me to send her additional information which was sent. She agrees with our objective and has indicated her enthusiastic support. Hopefully, all of this preparation will pay off in 2012. If anyone has suggestions or questions, please contact me. I wish all of you a happy and prosperous New Year.

George E. Heinze, Chair
Senior Chemists Task Force

(Photo of George Heinze – Courtesy of Linda Wang, C&EN)


A Message From ACS President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri

It was a pleasure to address the Senior Breakfast session at the ACS National Meeting in Denver where I reconnected with several old friends and made new ones. It was refreshing to be with ACS members who greatly value their Society and are eager to further contribute to its progress and to its prosperity. One goal of such gatherings, as it is also the goal of this Newsletter, is to foster connectivity among ACS volunteers and staff and across programmatic themes and activities. ACS offers us professional opportunities, support, and assistance, and we, in turn, can participate in serving ACS and its mission: “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.”

As a learned society, ACS must carry out all its work to enrich the chemical enterprise and to serve society in a manner commensurate with its stature and with the high expectations we set for ourselves individually and collectively. ACS must show itself and the general public that the chemical sciences are major drivers of our economy and contribute hugely to prosperity, fairness and justice. Our performance as a Society is gauged by the creativity of our elected and appointed leaders and by the efficiency and productivity of our staff. The ultimate measure of everything we do is the influence we have on the vitality of the chemical enterprise and on society locally, across the Nation, and around the world.

My presidential theme for 2012 is: “Advancing Chemistry and Communicating Chemistry”. In my Presidential Statement published in the January 2, 2012 issue of C&EN , I have addressed the grand global challenges to society and to us as scientists. I welcome your support, advice, and participation on the following initiatives.

(1) This year is the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Land Grant Act which gave federal lands to states as a means to raise money to establish colleges that focus on teaching agriculture, science, and engineering in addition to liberal arts. ACS will celebrate this sesquicentennial in 2012 with a retrospective and a prospective look at chemistry. On the prospective side, this year’s ACS national meetings in San Diego and Philadelphia will feature special symposia including high-level federal officials and noted scientists and educators who will help us focus our efforts in addressing humanity’s needs in a world of finite resources. The important prospective goal is articulating the critical role of ACS as a scientific and educational society engaged in shaping the future of society as a whole.

(2) I have appointed a blue-ribbon commission chaired by electrochemist Larry R. Faulkner, former president of the University of Texas, and comprised of some of the most prominent figures in the chemical sciences, both academic and industrial, to examine the purposes of graduate education and research in the chemical sciences and the needs and aspirations of graduate students. The main charge of the commission is to address two specific questions:

Subcommittees of the Senior Chemists Task Force

Subcommittee on Senior Activities in Local Sections:

Roger Bartholomew

Michaeline Chen

Al Denio

Consulting & Mentoring Subcommittee:

Tom Beattie

William Daly

Susan Fahrenholtz

Senior Chemists Newsletter Subcommittee:

Lynn Hartshorn - Editor

Roland Hirsch

National Meeting Programming Subcommittee:

Morton Hoffman

Robert Moore

Maurice Smith

Contact Us

The Newsletter for Senior Chemists is published by the American Chemical Society's Division of Membership & Scientific Advancement.

Mission Statement:

The Senior Chemists Task Force was established in 2009 and is comprised of 21 members to function as the focal point for senior chemists over the age of 50 within the ACS and the chemistry enterprise at large. Their mission is:

  1. To encourage and serve as a conduit for senior members to volunteer and contribute their energy and talent to the ACS, including governance, education, government affairs, mentoring, and community projects;
  2. To provide useful service and information to seniors, such as retirement and estate planning, consulting and part-time opportunities, and travels/tours;
  3. To foster networking opportunities among seniors, both nationally and locally;
  4. To represent senior chemists to interact with other elements of ACS governance, bringing awareness of their needs, fostering, collaborations, and creating synergies.

• What are the purposes of graduate education in the chemical sciences?
• What steps should be taken to ensure that important societal issues as well as the needs and aspirations of students are addressed in graduate schools?

The commission will develop actionable recommendations that can be adopted or adapted by a variety of graduate educational institutions, federal and state funding agencies, and business and industry. The recommendations are to propose radical changes that will help find ways to best use our country’s vast educational, industrial, and government resources to successfully prepare students for their professional careers to face changing human needs over the next 50 years. 

(3) I have appointed a working group on climate science, chaired by science educator Jerry A. Bell. I have given this working group two tasks. One is to develop a tool kit that deals with the science of climate change that can used by every ACS member. It will be designed to equip ACS members with the information and other resources necessary to develop a robust intellectual structure that can be the basis for their discussions with others. What is a greenhouse gas? How does the heating mechanism work? How does the vibrational energy from molecules change into translational kinetic energy? These are just a few examples of the questions whose answers must be understood before we try to share the science of our climate with the public.

The second task for the working group is to articulate strategies for members to use the tool kit in disseminating climate science information to schoolteachers, college and university faculty, industrial scientists and business leaders, civic and religious groups, professional science and educational organizations, and elected public officials at all levels and in all branches of government. These strategies should be aimed to enrich and expand on the ACS position statement on climate change and related ACS programs and activities.

(4) I plan to explore an ACS fellowship program whose goal would be to substantially increase the number of highly qualified high school chemistry teachers. The program will give undergraduate students fellowships in their junior and senior years of college. They would be enrolled at colleges and universities where the curriculum and pedagogical training in preparation for chemistry teaching will be offered by the chemistry department working collaboratively with education faculty. A major theme of this program is connectivity. Upon graduation, the fellows would be placed in public schools in the immediate vicinity of the institution from which they graduated. The graduating institution would be responsible for their continuing education and professional development for a period of three years. Fellows remain connected to their graduating institution, to other professionals in chemistry and education, and to each other as their “class” of fellows at each institution interacts with and learns from each other. Likewise, the institution is connected to the needs of the local community by partnering with a school district. This connectedness will help ensure success—for the program, for the institution, for the fellows, and for their future high school students.

The above initiatives, as well as our current highly-valued programs and activities, will benefit from your advice and from your support. Please take a moment to reflect on the long term benefits to our Society, to its members, and to society at large. Your intellectual support is as important as your financial support to ACS. Please let us hear from you; I can be reached at Your participation will be much appreciated and will greatly help ACS live its mission: “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.”

Thank you and best wishes,


Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D.      
2012 ACS President
Professor of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison

(Photo of Bassam Shakhashiri – Courtesy of Bryce Richter)


An Interview with Dr. Roald Hoffmann

The second in our series of articles about well-known senior chemists

Dr. Roald Hoffmann gave an inspiring talk at the Senior Chemists Breakfast in Boston in 2010. The topic of his talk was “Ethics and Science, A Marriage of Necessity and Choice for the New Millennium.”   This topic brought to life one aspect of the wide range of interests of Professor Hoffmann—not only is he a Nobel Prize winning chemist but he has written poetry and plays, and was the presenter in a TV series called “The World of Chemistry.”  He has described himself as “a teacher, and proud of it.”

Dr. Hoffmann was born in 1937 in Zloczow, Poland, now Ukraine, to a Jewish family and survived the Holocaust with the help of his Ukrainian neighbors. He attended New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, Columbia University, and then Harvard where he gained his PhD in 1962.

While at Harvard, he worked with W. N. Lipscomb and L. L. Lohr using computers, which were just coming into use.   They eventually programmed what was called the extended Huckel method that uses molecular orbital theory to calculate sigma and pi electronic structure of molecules and can predict molecular conformations.  After receiving his PhD, Dr. Hoffmann began work with R. B. Woodward using ideas of symmetry and bonding in the analysis of concerted reactions, the basic principle being that orbital symmetry is conserved in concerted reactions. In 1965, Dr. Hoffmann moved to Cornell where he is currently the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters Emeritus, and continues to do work that he describes as applied theoretical chemistry studying both organic and inorganic molecules, and also solid-state reactions and reactions on surfaces.  Dr. Hoffmann was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981 jointly with Kenichi Fukui.  Their theories, developed independently, concerned the course of chemical reactions.

When I asked Dr. Hoffmann in an email interview what he considered to be his most important work, he did not refer to any specific aspects of the research described above, but said that he thinks his most important contribution is to “teach generations of chemists how to use molecular orbitals qualitatively to form explanations.”  He regards himself as a teacher, and has taught mainly undergraduates, including many years spent teaching first year general chemistry, and courses to non-scientists. His work in the TV series “The World of Chemistry” shows his commitment to teaching the public about chemistry.

Dr. Hoffmann has also achieved success in a completely different field — he has published several books of poetry and many essays. He co-authored the play “Oxygen” with fellow chemist Carl Djerassi that has been performed many times.  He has written two plays since  — “Should’ve” which has had several workshop productions since 2006,  and ”Something that Belongs to You” which had its first workshop production in 2009.

I asked Dr. Hoffmann if he intends to retire to a less demanding life style and he responded that this is something that is very difficult to do for scientists who enjoy the stimulation of research. He admitted that he has not yet figured out how to ease into a situation where he does less but at the same time is content with what he is doing. He did say, however, that he plans to cut down on his lecturing!

His advice to senior chemists is to keep intellectually alive and not to think that all science has been done before.  He also said that seniors could contribute their experience in various forms of outreach for example by doing demonstrations in local science museums and by writing columns for local newspapers.

For further information about Dr. Hoffmann, including references and descriptions of his scientific and literary work, see:

Lynn G. Hartshorn
Senior Chemists Task Force

(Photo of Dr. Roald Hoffmann)


Senior Chemists Breakfast in San Diego

Duane J. Roth, Chief Executive Officer of CONNECT, is the guest speaker for the Senior Chemists Breakfast at the San Diego ACS National Meeting.   CONNECT is the globally recognized public benefits organization fostering entrepreneurship in the San Diego region by assisting new business formation of technology and life sciences companies.  CONNECT has been directly involved with over 3,000 companies since its inception in 1985 and these companies have secured over $10 billion in funding.

Prior to joining CONNECT, Mr. Roth founded Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp., where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board.  Prior to Alliance, he held senior management positions at Johnson & Johnson and Wyeth operating companies.  He has served as a member of the Board of Directors and executive committees of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the California Healthcare Institute (CHI) and BIOCOM (past Chair).

The event is on Tuesday, March 27, 7:30 a.m.,  at the San Diego Marriott Marquis Hotel.  Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased when registering for the meeting.

Tom R. Beattie
Senior Chemists Task Force

(Photo of Duane J. Roth)


Starting a Silver Circle Group in your Local Section

A Silver Circle Group is a special group for senior members of a local section.1 This newsletter contains a variety of articles about activities that would interest members of a Local Section. A “one-off” event can of course be planned using the existing local section governance. However, a continuing series of events will work best when there is a more permanent Silver Circle group to handle the planning. What is the best way to set up such a group?
The first step is to identify a core group of potential members within the section.  Talk with fellow members whom you think might be interested in participating. Hold an informal get-together, perhaps in conjunction with a section meeting. Tell the Chair of the section about your interest and see if he or she can attend. Read the ACS Silver Circle Starter Kit2  for ideas to bring up at this initial meeting. Contact the ACS Senior Chemists Task Force at for advice and information on new activities taking place in other parts of the country.

The meeting should have a simple agenda:  to identify two or three long-term goals, and two or three objectives that would be starting points toward these goals. Have members attending the meeting volunteer to follow up on specific activities or tasks, for example arranging a more formal kick-off meeting, or contacting a group with which the Silver Circle might collaborate such as a local science fair or chemistry tutoring group.

Once you have brought together a core group and have started planning an initial event you need to set up communications with potential participants. Ask the Secretary of the local section to send a message (mail or email) to all members who might have an interest in joining the Silver Circle. Offer to provide a short report at the next meeting of the section's Executive Committee and prepare posters inviting interest in the group for use at section activities as well as other chemistry-related events in the area.

At this point, the “start-up” phase of your Silver Circle group has been completed. The Silver Circle Starter Kit mentioned earlier offers many ideas for developing the organization’s plans and infrastructure. The Kit contains a wide range of suggestions, including examples based on the experiences of existing groups. You can look at recommendations about, for example, how to promote a new group effectively, how frequently a successful group might meet in a year, how to tie in with National Chemistry Week and other annual events, working with Regional Meetings and other ACS and outside organizations, and ways to obtain funding to support the group’s activities.

You and your colleagues will need to select from among many possible themes and activities for the group, while avoiding becoming more ambitious than the resources of the group will allow.

Feel free at any time to call on the national Senior Chemists Task Force for help. We wish you well in developing a Silver Circle that is meaningful for the people in your Local Section!

Roland Hirsch
Senior Chemists Task Force


1 A single Local Section is referred to throughout this article, but the Silver Circle group could equally well be established through cooperation of two or more Local Sections that are conveniently located to each other.
2 Available at

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