• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com 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!
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.
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