Newsletter for
Senior Chemists
June 25, 2012


Dear ACS Member:

We are almost there! As some of you have probably already heard, the Committee on Committees (ConC), during its report to the ACS Council at the San Diego meeting, announced plans to include on the Council agenda for the upcoming meeting in Philadelphia a motion to constitute a Senior Chemists Joint Board-Council Committee. This is a goal all of us have been working toward for the past three years.

It almost goes without saying that we hope all those reading this newsletter will actively support this motion and that in the next newsletter we will be able to announce the launch of this new com-mittee. We urge all recipients to encourage their Councilors to support the motion to form a Senior Chemist Joint Board-Council Committee in Philadelphia.

The Senior Chemists Task Force (SCTF) had a very successful meeting in San Diego. We are reaching out to other groups such as the Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) and the Women Chemists Committee (WCC) to discuss common topics and to engage in joint programming. Another topic of interest is the focus on Globalization, particularly since ACS President-Elect Marinda Wu has recently appointed a Task Force on Vision 2025. In support of this initiative, the SCTF has organized a symposium on International Aspects of Research for the Philadelphia meeting.

We continue the successful publication of this Newsletter, with articles of broad interest and very good feedback from those receiving it. The Senior Chemists Breakfasts are fully subscribed and have become a much-anticipated event at each National Meeting with first-rate reviews. We have a Silver Circle website where we post useful information such as “How to Organize Senior Functions”. In addition, numerous suggestions have been received for additional senior-based activities.

In conclusion, we are looking forward to the Philadelphia meeting with “great expectations”.  We encourage all our hard-working SCTF members to be in attendance, and we invite other interested members to attend our open meeting on Monday morning at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel. 

George E. Heinze
Chair, Senior Chemists Task Force

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


Joullié To Speak at Philadelphia Senior Chemists Breakfast

Madeleine M. Joullié, Class of 1970 Term Chair Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and former member of the ACS Board of Directors, will be the guest speaker for the Senior Chemists Breakfast at the Philadelphia ACS National Meeting.  Dr. Joullié’s topic is “The Evolution of Organic Textbooks:  Have the Changes Improved Learning?”.

Dr. Joullié was born in Paris, France, but grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  She came to the United States to study chemistry and obtained a B.S. degree in chemistry from Simmons College in Boston, MA.  She went to the University of Pennsylvania, earning a M.S. in 1950 and a PhD in 1953, under the guidance of Professor Allan R. Day.  Madeleine Joullié then joined the faculty at Penn, where she was one of the first women professors to earn tenure in chemistry in the Ivy League.  Her research interests are in the areas of heterocyclic, medicinal, and natural products chemistry.  Her laboratory has focused on the chemistry of the cyclopeptide alkaloid and didemnin families of natural products, as well as the development of compounds for the visualization of latent fingerprints as a forensic tool in law enforcement.  Professor Joullié has held several visiting professorships and been recognized by many awards.  She continues her teaching and research efforts.

The breakfast is on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel 7:30-9:30  a.m.  Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased when registering for the meeting.  There will be a limited amount of tickets available at the door.

(Photo courtesy of Madeleine Joullié)

SCTF Co-Sponsors Symposium in Philadelphia

The Senior Chemists Task Force (SCTF) will co-sponsor with the Division of Professional Relations (PROF) the “International Activities – Here’s How We Did It” symposium on Sunday, August 19, 1:30-4:30 p.m., at the Philadelphia Downtown Courtyard by Marriott Hotel.

The symposium will relate the experiences of a number of senior chemists who have been engaged in international activities and the lessons drawn from those experiences.

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:

H.N. Cheng

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 in their interactions with other elements of ACS governance, bringing awareness of their needs, fostering, collaborations, and creating synergies.



I served as a faculty member of the Macalester College Chemistry Department from 1965 to 2006. During the final four years, I participated in a unique phase-out program which was called MSFEO—Macalester Senior Faculty Employment Option.  A faculty member accepted in the program had to submit a proposal describing some aspect of  “professional work” which would be done during this period.  Participants would receive half-salary and did not need to teach nor be in local residence.  My plan included some curricular writing (the 9th edition of Chemical Principles in the Laboratory (Brooks-Cole) was prepared with my senior co-author, E.J. Slowinski, in this period), but emphasized volunteer work with my professional societies. Macalester has allowed me to maintain an “office” in the former control area of a former low-energy accelerator room—now used for storage of some radioactive materials.

Career-long, I was active with the Minnesota Section of the ACS, the Minnesota Academy of Science, and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). After 2002, my last year of full-time service at Macalester, I increased some of my professional service.

With AAUP, I had been Macalester chapter president for a period. After receiving an award from the Minnesota State AAUP Conference in 2002, I was asked to chair the new State Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. For six years, our committee acted as a sounding board and advocate for about ten faculty members in the state who encountered tenure, contractual, or academic freedom problems—in dialogue with the national AAUP office.

With ACS, I have now been a Councilor from the Minnesota Section for 27 years. During this time I have served on a number of national committees, but particularly enjoyed serving on the Committee on Chemical Safety for nine years (2000-2009) and—my current appointment—the Committee on Analytical Reagents.  On these two committees, I have felt truly engaged in chemistry, since my background and knowledge of chemistry have been important.

Within the Minnesota ACS Section, I currently serve on the Awards committee and as the liaison to the Minnesota Academy of Science for ACS Special Awards for Regional Science Fairs and the Minnesota State Science Fair, as well as the annual Winchell Undergraduate Science Symposium. The Section presents awards at four Regional Science Fairs which fall within our territory as well as at the State Science Fair. I have judged regularly at the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair as well as at the Minnesota State Science Fair.  Part of my responsibility is to maintain contact with the directors of the four Regional Science Fairs.

From 2002-2008, I took on a “part-time” job with the Minnesota Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. One of my subspecialties was radiochemistry. As I was entering the MSFEO phase-out program, I was approached by one of the radiatiation safety specialists at the University of Minnesota, who inquired if I would be interested in working with a group of people who would be called in by the state if there should be an emergency at one of the two nuclear reactor sites in Minnesota. It sounded intriguing to me, so I began a position as a contract employee of the state as a dose-analyst and technical advisor for 30 hours/year.  This time consisted of regular training using simulated cases and performance evaluation (by specialists from the U. S. Dept. of Homeland Security and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) during 1-2 day exercises. This was a challenging experience working with radiation safety professionals from the Minnesota State Health Department, the University of Minnesota, and other organizations.  After six years, and some surgery which caused me to miss some key training activities, I decided that my time was up.

At Macalester, I have served for a number of years as the Local Arrangements Coordinator for the annual Minnesota State High School Science Bowl.  Last year, 32 teams competed in this event, organized by the Minnesota Academy of Science in cooperation with the Department of Energy, which utilized 16 classrooms. I also served as a proofreader for the question sets.

With the collaboration of a new co-author, Dr. Robert Rossi of the Macalester Chemistry Department, another edition of Chemical Principles in the Laboratory appeared in 2012.  I have not done any formal teaching since 2002, but have given occasional guest lectures or covered a general chemistry lab session when someone was out-of-town or ill within the Chemistry Department. However, I have regularly given some guest lectures on nuclear energy in two Macalester Physics courses.

I was flattered recently when my granddaughter who is doing a full International Baccalaureate (IB) program at her high school asked me if I could assist her this summer on an IB Chemistry laboratory research project. We will do this activity in and around her summer nanny job.

All of these activities have served to keep me active and connected with a number of people and projects. They could not have been managed without a supportive spouse, family, and colleagues.

Wayne C. Wolsey
Macalester College
St. Paul, MN

(Photo courtesy of Wayne Wolsey)


Older Than Dirt

I am a “Senior Chemist”, dating back to the last century.  In 1952 I enrolled at Lowell Tech, now called the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. We were required to choose a “major” so I signed on to be a chemist for life.  We survived four-hour chem labs while inhaling solvents such as benzene, chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. They were stored in glass containers – I did not see a steel safety can until I joined DuPont.

After surviving my first year of grad school at the University of New Hampshire, I did two really smart things – I married Val and joined ACS in 1959, both for the long haul. My wife was a social worker in Wilmington – I suspect that she took me on as a Rehab Project. That project is ongoing!

I returned to DuPont’s Experimental Station in 1962 where their safety culture became further ingrained.  In 1964, I took the vow of poverty and became an Assistant Prof at what is now the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. My DuPont history immediately won me the job of  Safety Chairman of the Chem Department. This eventually led to the title of Chemical Hygiene Officer.

After many years of supporting ACS, I became Chair of the Central Wisconsin Section in 1994. We had about 105 members from industry, education and the medical community. Driving 90 minutes to a meeting was common.

Retirement occurred in 1996.  After two more years of shoveling snow, we moved back to Delaware for shorter and milder winters.  I returned to teaching for three more semesters at the University of  Delaware. I quickly joined the Delaware Section of ACS and served two terms as a Director and two more as a Councilor.  It was gratifying that these young members would support an old geezer from Wisconsin.

I also discovered the famous “Chem Vets” and enjoyed returning to my first DuPont work site called Chestnut Run for their meetings.  At one of these early events I joined an old guy at lunch. It must have been about December 7th because he recalled working that day (a Sunday) at DuPont’s Chambers Works across the Delaware River in New Jersey. Pearl Harbor Day was still fresh in his mind.  I did the math and realized that some of these Chem Vets were truly “Senior Chemists.”

Two University of Delaware friends of my vintage continue to teach and inspire students. Burnaby Munson, a native Texan, is famous for his “in costume” Halloween Lecture which draws a crowd.  His Help Sessions include snacks and soft drinks (a little caffeine helps stimulate the brain). Every February he hosts a birthday party in the department to celebrate J. Willard Gibbs.

John Burmeister, Associate Chair of the Department for a gazillion years, is also a dedicated teacher.  His classes are always filled to capacity, and his ability to recall former students by name is uncanny. Each summer he produces the annual “Blue Hen Chemist”, a summary of faculty, staff and student awards, comings and goings, departmental events, grants and a most impressive section on alumni news.  This publication results in a significant inflow of donations every year.

My point is that Senior Chemists can and do continue to make significant contributions to the chemical community. We need to encourage and support them. I do not still have all the body parts that I was born with. I also contain three polymeric additions from the past several years. While I had to give up running five years ago, I hope to continue my ACS activities for years to come!

Al Denio
Delaware Local Section

(Photo courtesy of Al Denio)


You’re retired. Now what?

Welcome to the Retiree Club. You’ve spent your younger life working toward this day. You should enjoy it. But, bear in mind, you’re still alive and life now still is more than just hobbies and travel. Having gained a lot of experience and knowledge firsthand, it’s time to pass some of this on, especially as a retired chemist. We’ve contributed a lot to the world in our work life, for better or worse.  Now is the time to give something back.

There are many opportunities to pass on your love of science to the next generation. Consider volunteering at a local science museum or school.  The ACS has its “Chemical Ambassador” program that can guide you to appropriate opportunities. Our school children need to see the excitement of science. No matter how high-powered the area you were working in at the end of your career, you started down this path because something simple sparked your interest.  Think back to that day long ago when the question first entered your young mind, “What makes the bubbles occur when you pour a soft drink over ice?” Or, like former ACS President Dr. Bill Carroll wondered as a young boy, “How do stripes get onto tooth paste?”  Simple acid-base color changes, that you take for granted, are amazing to children.  Take the time to show and explain this to them.  With Dr. Bassam Shakhashiri as ACS President this year, we have a man who has spent his life showing how science can be fun. A check of our website or a simple Google search can lead to a number of safe and interesting activities you can do to amaze and enlighten young people.

Another area where you can make a world of difference is by speaking up on science related topics that are poorly understood by the general public. Chemists get criticized for the perceived harm we have done to our world, while being ignored for the contributions we’ve made to make this a better place to live.  Dr. Attila Pavlath, another former ACS President, pulled together a list of contributions we’ve made over the years [Life without chemistry? We would be back to the stone age!]. We need to remind people of this.

There is a real need for people to learn to think analytically. We have too many individuals who simply forward on emails without even considering whether the information is true or not.  Issues like global warming, pollution, alternative fuel sources, nanotechnology – these are all topics that are not being addressed in the most logical manner.  Becoming involved can mean writing letters, speaking to civic organizations – the list goes on.

The main thing is – DO SOMETHING.

Bill Trammell

(Bill Trammell is a retired Owens-Corning Product Engineer, a 50-year ACS member, and a community volunteer whose efforts earned him the 2011 Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach.)


An Interview with Professor Mildred Dresselhaus

Our interview for this edition of the Senior Chemists Newsletter is with a senior scientist as usual—but this time with an internationally recognized physicist.

Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus is Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, and the Emerita Institute Professor at MIT.  She received her undergraduate education at Hunter College, where she was encouraged to go to graduate school in science by one of her professors in college, the future Nobel Prize winner Rosalyn Yalow. Mildred Dresselhaus became a Fulbright Fellow in 1951 at Newnham College, Cambridge, and went on to earn a master’s degree in physics from Radcliffe College in 1953 and a PhD in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1958.  Her research over the years, mostly at MIT, has covered a wide range of topics in Condensed Matter and Materials Physics.  She is best known for her work on carbon structures and carbon nanostructures, and is one of the people responsible for the resurgence of thermoelectric research.  She has co-authored more than 1400 publications including books, book chapters, review articles and peer reviewed journal articles.  She is the recipient of 28 honorary degrees, most recently receiving one from Cambridge University in 2011.  She has advised over 60 graduate students.

Professor Dresselhaus was one of a very few women in physics and engineering when she began her work at the male–dominated Lincoln Lab at MIT; and, she encountered some problems with her male colleagues who were not understanding when she had to arrive late or leave early because of looking after her children.  She stuck it out, when other women became discouraged, and became one of the few female professors at MIT at a time when the MIT student body was only 2% female.  Later on in her career she spent time encouraging other women to go into science, and mentoring young women and men in the sciences.  She received recognition for this work in 2007 when she was awarded the 2007 Women in Science Award from UNESCO.  When we discussed the problem that some women still have in science careers, particularly the low numbers of females in physics and engineering, she commented that women can certainly do the same work as men but may do it over a slightly different time frame.  She said that the small number of women in these fields gives fewer role models, and that as the numbers of women increase it will become easier for women.

Dr. Dresselhaus has received many prestigious awards, and is grateful for all of them, and for the recognition they have given to her and her research.  When I asked her which awards she most appreciated, she mentioned the honor of receiving the US National Medal of Science, which she said made a wonderful 60th birthday gift.  She was awarded this for her work on the electronic properties of materials, as well as for expanding the opportunities of women in science and engineering.  She also named the Olive E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize, which she received in 2008 (when she was the sole recipient).  She especially appreciates this one because it recognizes her long-term contributions to her field.  Another award that was very meaningful to her was the Enrico Fermi Award that was announced by President Obama in January 2012.  She received this award jointly with Dr. Burton Richter, a physicist well known for his work in accelerator physics and particle physics.  Dr. Dresselhaus particularly appreciated this award because she worked with Fermi at the University of Chicago during the last year of his career.

Dr. Dresselhaus is one of the foremost experts in the study of carbon science.  She has lectured around the world, and occupied several prominent leadership roles, including Director of the Office of Science at the U.S Department of Energy during the Clinton administration.  She points out that one of the problems still to be solved by scientists and engineers is that of finding reliable, environmentally acceptable, energy sources.

I asked Dr. Dresselhaus if she plans to retire.  She said that at age 75 she stopped teaching undergraduate classes, but continues to be involved with everything else.  She still works closely with graduate students, and one of the things she really enjoys is when she and a student work to make a discovery together.  She has time for her interests, which include spending time with her family, (she has four children), and playing music with friends (she plays the violin).  She said, “I am no longer working for money or recognition.  I am busy and having fun and don’t see any reason to change.  I love what I am doing!” 

For more information about Mildred Dresselhaus, and lists of her activities and publications, see for example: and then search under “Dresselhaus”

Lynn G. Hartshorn
Senior Chemists Task Force

(Photo credit to Ed Quinn)


Best Practices for ACS Local Section Senior Groups

Local section senior best practices that were reported in the 2011 Annual Reports have been posted to the ACS website so that they can be shared with other sections.  Please click on the link provided above for ideas of activities you can do locally.


Tauriplumium, the Newly Discovered Element in Sea Salt

Editor’s note:  Senior chemists have a lot of experience and knowledge. One way that they can use this is to educate the general public who often show a lack of knowledge of science, and can be fooled by claims about products or food that are in fact not true. The article below by Don Matteson is an example of the kind of scientific education for the general public that senior chemists can help provide.    

An old chemist wonders whether to be alarmed, appalled, or amused by the general public's ignorance of science, especially chemistry.  Too alarmed or appalled might accelerate my admission to medical school, well, to the anatomy lab, and only after I am totally over my aversion to formaldehyde, so I can wait. I will choose to be amused.

One of the best sources of amusement is the current fad for “natural” or “organic” foods.  Among the most mysterious of these is the current mania for “sea salt”. Anyone who has flown into San Francisco has seen the Morton Salt Company's evaporation ponds at the south end of San Francisco Bay, and might wonder why what Morton sells in my local supermarket for 89 cents a pound isn’t sea salt. Morton sells the same size box labeled “sea salt”, no anti-caking agent, for $2.59.

To find out what the benefits are, I did a Google search for “sea salt”.  Ignoring the sites that provide boring scientifically accurate information, I learned that table salt is too refined and contains the chemical additives potassium iodide, glucose (to prevent discoloration from iodide oxidation), and the current anti-caking agent, calcium silicate, so that, "When it rains, it pours".  Ooh, poison.  And they took out all the natural minerals, so the nutritional value is lost.

One of the more entertaining sites is  Did you know that “Unrefined sea salt contains [sic] 98.0 % NaCl… ” and “over 100 minerals composed of 80 chemical elements”? ... “Composition of crystal of ocean salt is so complicated that no laboratory in the world can produce it from its basic 80 chemical elements.  Nature is still a better chemist than people.”

The ultimate is “Himalayan sea salt”, I didn’t know there was a Himalayan Sea, but it turns out they mine it. You can get 500 g for $7.97. Some of the statements made for this salt include: “There are enormous differences between the standard, refined table and cooking salt most of you are accustomed to using and natural health-promoting salt.  …If you want your body to function properly, you need holistic salt complete with all-natural elements. Today’s common table salt has nothing in common with natural salt…  What remains after typical salt is ‘chemically cleaned’ is sodium chloride – an unnatural chemical form of salt that your body recognizes as something completely foreign.  Containing all of the 84 elements found in your body…”

Lying awake at night, it struck me that the missing element has been familiar ever since prehistoric times. It is so common it is known by several vulgar names, but I like the late comedian Pat Paulsen’s “Bullfeathers!” For scientific dignity, it can be Latinized to “tauriplumium,” chemical symbol Tp, atomic number i, the square root of –1. The atomic weight is (e^ + 1), which is a fancy way to write cos(180°) + 1, or the value of x if x = 2x. Its atomic weight has to be described with the aid of Tp.

Tauriplumium can never be isolated, since in the Schroedinger equation it yields no eigenvalues. It is three elements in one, each of which is three more elements, etc., take whatever you need to total 84.

Tauriplumium can form cations with any number of charges. For used car sales, it is Tp++, claims for organic foods range from Tp3+ to Tp47+, acupuncture comes in around Tp67+, and homeopathy ranks Tp6X10^23+.  Anionic Tp corresponds to paranoia, such as fear of unnamed “pesticides”.   ~Tp3–, or fear that the United Nations is going to land the black helicopters in Idaho, Tp79–.  Complexes of Tp0 are also well known, such as stories from the Burlington Liars’ Club – or the present essay.  Politics and religion are especially rich in tauriplumium, and disputes over tauriplumium have caused numerous wars.  Not wanting to start one, I will let you find your own favorite examples.

Don Matteson
Department of Chemistry
Washington State University

(Photo courtesy of  Don Matteson)

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