It’s that time of year again. As the end of August approaches, chemists from the world over head to the American Chemical Society national meeting, which this year takes place in San Diego on Aug. 25–29. As I write this editorial, I am en route, excited to have the opportunity to meet with members firsthand and energized by the prospect of receiving feedback and discussing new ideas and projects.
The fall meeting is an important one because it is when we announce the newest class of C&EN’s Talented 12 and host a symposium in their honor. The program, which receives underwriting support from Thermo Fisher Scientific, is now in its fifth year, and I’m proud to say it keeps going from strength to strength.
On Sunday evening of the meeting, we host a big reveal, where attendees can meet the new class for the first time. The reveal is broadcast through Facebook Live, so head to C&EN’s Facebook page if you want to watch it from afar or after the event.
On Monday morning, we host a half-day symposium, with the Talented 12 delivering TED-style talks after a keynote by a notable chemist. This year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineer Paula T. Hammond will be kicking things off. Hammond’s talk will also be broadcast live and available for posterity on our Facebook page. The Talented 12’s presentations will be recorded, and they will be released on cen.acs.org in September. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to learn when they are available to watch.
The Talented 12 program has become very competitive and recognized internationally. Along the way, we have highlighted a diverse group of individuals from the standpoint of gender, place of birth, age, current location, field of work, and job type (in academia or industry, for example). And they’ve gone on to do remarkable things; take Talented 12 alums Hosea Nelson and Corinna Schindler, who are among the 2020 ACS National Award winners.
The theme of this year’s fall meeting is “Chemistry and Water.” You may remember I dedicated the editorial of the July 1 issue to this topic, so I went back and read it again. That editorial mentions the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, of which clean water and sanitation is one of 17. For years, I’ve heard leaders in our community stating that chemistry will be key to solving the challenges our world faces as encapsulated by the UN goals. I believe that this is true but have been pessimistic about our ability to achieve the goals and the timescales required to solve some of these challenges, which in some cases have reached crisis level.
But the Talented 12 give me hope. The more I read about the work they are doing and the more I learn about their personalities, drive, and motivation, the more I am convinced that the world is in safe hands.
It’ll be up to the Talented 12 and other leaders of their generation to solve these challenges, and they are already making progress. Consider the zero-hunger goal: Markita Landry is developing tools to insert DNA into plants to give them new traits, such as drought or pest resistance. Think responsible consumption and production: Frank Leibfarth is in the process of figuring out a way to tweak the synthesis of a family of polymers so that they are easier to break down. When it comes to good health and well-being, Michelle Lynn Hall is developing computational tools that will help scientists turn messenger RNA into powerful medicines to treat infection, cancer, and rare diseases. When you consider climate action, note that Cora Young is doggedly tracking trace chemicals that affect climate and air quality so we can understand and change the way they travel and deposit in the environment. And this is just a snapshot. I invite you to read their profiles and stay tuned for the videos of the symposium.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.