Issue Date: September 8, 2014 | Web Date: September 7, 2014
For President-Elect: Donna J. Nelson
Oklahoma Section. University of Oklahoma, Norman, Okla.
Academic record: University of Oklahoma, B.S. (chemistry), 1974; University of Texas, Austin, Ph.D., 1980; Purdue University, postdoc, 1980–83
Honors: Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, 2013; ACS Henry Hill Award for Professionalism, 2013; ACS Oklahoma Chemist Award, 2012; ACS Southwest Regional Meeting, E. Ann Nalley Regional Award for Volunteer Service, 2011; ACS Southwest Regional Meeting, Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences, 2011; ACS Fellow, 2010; Massachusetts Institute of Technology MLK Fellow, 2010; Chemical Heritage Foundation Oral History Award, 2008; Fulbright Scholar, 2007; National Science Foundation-American Association of State Colleges & Universities Millennium Leadership Initiative Intern with President Freeman Hrabowski, 2007; ADVANCE Leadership Award, 2006; Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science Distinguished Scientist of the Year, 2006; Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, 2006; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, 2005; National Organization for Women, Woman of Courage Award, 2004; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel Award, 2003; Ford Foundation Fellow, 2003; Guggenheim Fellow, 2003; NSF Creativity Extension, 1989; University of Texas, Austin, Postdoc Fellow, 1980; University of Texas, Austin, Robert A. Welch Predoc Fellow, 1977–79
Professional positions (for past 10 years): University of Oklahoma, professor, 1983– ; University of Texas, Austin, visiting professor, 2010–11; University of California, San Diego, visiting professor, 2010; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, visiting professor, 2010, 2003
Service in ACS national offices: Committee on Public Relations & Communications, committee associate, 2013–14; Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs, committee associate, 2012; Committee on International Activities, committee associate, 2011; Committee on Corporation Associates, 2009–10; ComSci, program chair, 2006–08, committee associate, 2005; ACS Board Task Force To Address Problems Facing the Chemical Academic Community with Regard to the Paucity of Native Underrepresented Minority Faculty, 2002; ACS Board Task Force To Explore the Role of ACS Collection & Dissemination of Data on Women Employed in the Chemical Sciences, 2001; Women Chemists Committee, 1988–93
Service in ACS offices:Division of Analytical Chemistry: councilor-elect, 2015–18; alternate councilor, 2012–14. Division of Inorganic Chemistry Nanoscience Subdivision: chair, 2010; program officer, 2007–09. Division of Petroleum Chemistry: Multidisciplinary Program Planning Group representative, 2007–08. Division of Polymer Chemistry: nanoscience program officer, 2009–11. Oklahoma Section: chair and program chair, 2012; chair-elect, 2011; alternate councilor, 2010–11. ACS Presidential Symposium: organizer and moderator, 2011 spring national meeting, “Hollywood Chemistry”; 2011 fall national meeting, “Science on the Silver Screen”; 2006 spring national meeting, “Memorial Symposium for Nobel Laureate Rick Smalley”
Member: Member of ACS since 1976. American Association for the Advancement of Science; American Institute of Chemical Engineers; Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science; American Indian Science & Engineering Society; Sigma Xi; Phi Kappa Phi; Iota Sigma Pi; Alpha Chi Sigma; Phi Lambda Upsilon
Related activities: Science adviser for the television show “Breaking Bad,” 2008–13; Dow Chemical, advisory board, 2008–09; University of Oklahoma, provost’s faculty fellow, 1989–90; authored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, articles, book chapters, and books
INSPIRING PUBLIC APPRECIATION TO ADVANCE JOBS AND CAREERS
A difficult time for chemistry. At the Dallas ACS meeting, it was reported that 16% of young chemists remain unemployed six months after graduation. In industry, many chemists have experienced employment problems for years. ACS can’t directly create new jobs to solve these problems, but we ACS members can deduce and address factors that destabilize STEM employment.
The balance between STEM jobs and job candidates is out of equilibrium for multiple reasons. First, in the Sputnik years of the 1960s, there were too few chemists. We met the challenge but later ignored the fact that mergers and outsourcing decreased jobs. Second, the media influenced public opinion against STEM, causing a decrease in STEM funding and ultimately its available jobs. Third, chemistry is increasingly a global community and enjoys drawing the best and brightest from across the world. The impact of all of these must be addressed now.
From understanding to appreciation. The declining public image of chemistry and increasing government regulations led companies to reduce chemical research and outsource jobs to more favorable business climates. We want Congress to strengthen industry, and public support will be needed for this. In the past, our goal was for the public to understand science, but that achieves neither their acknowledging the benefits of science nor supporting our efforts. Our goal must now be for the public to appreciate science, in order to obtain their support. This has been and will continue to be my top priority.
Advocacy to strengthen chemical industry, education, and research. Increasing public appreciation for science will improve the congressional disposition for more favorable regulations and increased funding for research. But this will require effort from us all. The public must be made aware of the benefits they enjoy, which science and scientists have brought to them. Each person who is made aware becomes a potential ambassador for science to other members, to the public, and to Congress.
Building bridges. There are many ways ACS members can foster appreciation. Grassroots efforts can incorporate community college and high school teachers in our research and help them teach their students. Touring each other’s workplaces will reveal our needs and strengths for collaboration and cooperation opportunities. Easy opportunities to bridge to nonscientists could include assisting local parent-teacher associations, chambers of commerce, and other public entities. Visits to university labs and industrial sites would make laypeople more comfortable with us and our work.
Bolder science-strengthening activities can require more initial effort and lead time, such as shepherding the image of science and scientists through those in control of media and on to the public. People who influence our image greatly range widely from Hollywood producers and actors to high school and undergrad science groupies who start blogs. We may be less familiar with networking with these people. But whatever the method and whoever the gatekeepers, we should build bridges and recognize each communication as an opportunity to influence messages about our chemistry community. I will be delighted to lead these activities to ensure that chemistry and chemists are appreciated in the future.
Our common cause. The ACS president is only one person, but the most visible leader of the society. The president has an opportunity to rally members behind a common cause—currently, the cause must be inspiring public appreciation for chemistry and chemists, in order to advance jobs and careers. The cause and methods are essential, inspiring, and doable; I will work diligently to achieve this with your help.
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