Issue Date: September 13, 2010
Chemistry Ambassadors Go Global
The importance of spreading the word about the benefits that chemistry brings to society is a global issue shared by professionals around the world who are associated with the chemistry enterprise. The 27th Chinese Chemical Society (CCS) Congress, held on June 20–23 on the beautiful campus of Xiamen University, attracted more than 3,500 attendees from not only various countries in Asia but also from Europe, Australia, and the U.S.
Xiamen, known as “a gate of China,” is a scenic city on the southeast coast directly across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan. Attending the CCS Congress provided new perspectives on the importance of international outreach and the Chemistry Ambassadors program. It was also wonderful to witness ACS Immediate Past-President Thomas H. Lane and CCS President Chunli Bai signing an alliance between ACS and CCS to increase collaborations between chemists in the U.S. and China (C&EN, July 5, page 69).
The idea for my invited talk at the CCS Congress on “Public Outreach Programs of the American Chemical Society” arose two years ago when deans from leading Chinese universities toured several top U.S. universities, an event I described in my ACS Comment titled “Global Collaboration & Challenges,” (C&EN, Feb. 18, 2008, page 41). During that visit, which was organized by the ACS International Activities Office, we learned that chemists in the U.S. have more in common with chemists on the other side of the world than we thought. The Chinese deans expressed a desire to raise public awareness in China of the benefits that chemistry brings to society and learn more about how ACS celebrates National Chemistry Week. Believe it or not, many students now choose to study business over chemistry in China. Surprising, because we did not think this American problem extended to China!
Many thanks go to my most generous host, Pei-Qiang Huang, dean of the College of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering at Xiamen University, and to both Ziling (Ben) Xue, a chemistry professor at the University of Tennessee, and Tao Guo, president of the Chemistry Graduate Program-Doering Foundation, for their help and support of my travel. This foundation has the “purpose of advancing the education, research, and communication in chemistry, and promoting the scientific exchange between chemistry educators, scholars, and researchers from both the U.S. and China.” You can learn more about the CGP-Doering Foundation online at cgp-doering.org and in the C&EN article titled “Opening Doors in China” (Oct. 27, 2008, page 37).
I discussed the ever-increasing importance of public outreach and the shared need for Chemistry Ambassadors around the world to improve the public perception of chemistry in my ACS Comment titled “Ambassadors for Science, Technology & Education in the 21st Century,” (C&EN, Aug. 6, 2007, page 37).
At Xiamen, in both a presentation and a poster session, I shared with an international audience personal experiences that related the importance of National Chemistry Week, Science Cafés, Chemistry Ambassadors, the International Year of Chemistry 2011, and the ACS Network. In particular, we encourage all chemists to join the many celebrations around the world during the International Year of Chemistry (IYC) in 2011.
Positive interactions and stimulating conversations with hundreds of excited and curious international students and their professors during the afternoon poster session revealed that we share goals and interests as chemists whether we are in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. Chemistry Ambassador bookmarks and stickers—250 of each—were a huge hit with the students, who proudly wore the stickers after they heard what a Chemistry Ambassador is in very simple Chinese. All chemists can become Chemistry Ambassadors and help talk to nonchemists about the wonderful things that chemistry brings to the world. IYC 2011 pins, NCW literature, periodic table cards, and even ACS vision and goals cards were quite popular with the crowds. The excitement over a few NCW and IYC 2011 T-shirts raffled off after students completed an IYC 2011 survey of three questions in English was amazing. Students were asked for ideas on how to make IYC 2011 celebrations a success, what chemists can do to improve the public’s appreciation of chemistry, and where the greatest opportunities are for cooperation between China and the U.S. in chemistry.
It was delightful to find this international audience so enthusiastic about learning how to help spread the word about the benefits of chemistry to nonchemists. “Make people feel good about chemistry,” and “Tell the public the contribution of chemistry in our lives” were just two of the great thoughts gleaned from the IYC 2011 surveys. (You can find more details at www.acs.org/international.) Indeed, as chemists around the world, we can all join the newly improved ACS Network at no cost and work together as global partners and Chemistry Ambassadors. All chemical professionals should help spread the word that chemistry brings great benefits to the world and can help solve global challenges.
Make a difference. Become a Chemistry Ambassador!
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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