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ACS Meeting News

ACS national meetings are a celebration of chemistry and its people

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
August 30, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 34


I just came back from the American Chemical Society Fall 2019 National Meeting in San Diego. I was thinking of how to eloquently express how I feel about these events, but the University of California, Los Angeles’s Alex Spokoyny (of C&EN’s Talented 12 class of 2016) said it better than I could have. As the meeting was drawing to a close, he tweeted:.

“Attending every ACS meeting reminds me that we have an amazing community of super talented and amazing individuals and cherishing and celebrating everyone’s personal/professional successes in this community keeps me going.”

ACS national meetings are a celebration of chemistry and its people. Everybody in the community is welcome, and no matter what field of chemistry you work in, there is always something for you. Many memories were made in San Diego, but I wanted to highlight talks by two exceptional people you will all know: Sir Martyn Poliakoff from the University of Nottingham and Paula Hammond from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Poliakoff was the subject of a symposium as the recipient of the James T. Grady–James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. Poliakoff collaborated with filmmaker Brady Haran on the production of Periodic Videos, a collection of more than 600 YouTube videos about all aspects of chemistry, including videos for all 118 elements.

This choice is very fitting, not only because Poliakoff is an excellent communicator, but also because we are currently celebrating the International Year of the Periodic Table. His videos of the elements have contributed tremendously to the popularization of the periodic table. Poliakoff recently wrote an essay for us in which he shares how making these videos has changed his life. Poliakoff’s symposium culminated in a Q&A with C&EN’s deputy editorial director, Lauren Wolf, that was broadcast via Facebook Live. If you haven’t watched it yet, you can do so at

The Q&A covered many topics, but it was particularly interesting to hear Poliakoff’s views on green chemistry. As one of the pioneers in the field, he talked about how he initially didn’t like the idea of green chemistry being considered a separate subject. “It’d be wonderful when all of chemistry becomes green and the term disappears,” he said. “The disappearance of green chemistry—I’d see it as a triumph, provided that everybody is following the pioneering footsteps of people like Paul Anastas,” who participated in the symposium in Poliakoff’s honor.

Paula Hammond, the head of the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT, has been donating her time to C&EN behind the scenes since the launch of the Talented 12 program. As part of C&EN’s advisory board, she has nominated scientists and ensured the C&EN team understands their contributions to science. It was appropriate that she delivered the keynote speech at this year’s C&EN Talented 12 symposium.

Hammond shared her career path as an independent researcher; for example, she has designed materials to help wounded soldiers and people with cancer. Hammond also talked about the things that have been key in enabling her success: her family, friends, and colleagues; the opportunities she encountered; and her philosophy. Throughout her talk, she emphasized the importance of keeping a good work-life balance, and she reflected on how it influenced her choice of advisers. She was drawn to those who “talked not just about the science but also about the importance of the rest of your life.”

We also broadcast her presentation, and you can find it at

Read C&EN’s coverage of the meeting in this issue and at

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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