On the morning of Feb. 24, I watched the news and then joined a scientific meeting with colleagues in Europe, and the discussions turned quickly to the situation in Ukraine. The fear and concern among my European colleagues were palpable. Our hearts go out to all impacted.
We live in a world in which a few powerful people can impact the world in a negative way. Yet hundreds of thousands of scientists around the globe care for the welfare of all humankind, devoting careers to fulfilling the American Chemical Society’s vision, “Improving all people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.” With the tragedy of the crisis in Ukraine as a backdrop, we as a scientific community can use our collective scientific and technical prowess, skills, experience, intellect, influence, and strengths to make a difference.
The scientific community’s impact may seem less immediate, especially in regard to the disturbing events that we are witnessing in the world. Many challenges lie ahead: affordable and clean energy; good health and well-being; clean water and sanitation; industry, innovation, and infrastructure; and responsible consumption and production, all of which are United Nations sustainable development goals that ACS supports. And new challenges continue to emerge: disruptions to the world order can impact supplies of raw materials and other global resources, and these disruptions may have ramifications for the chemical, pharmaceutical, and technology sectors. The global scientific community can take steps to address supply chain disruptions, including through R&D and policy.
Recently, I have heard from several ACS members that ACS should just “stick with science.” As an active researcher, I understand the inclination to focus on science. However, these statements indicate to me that ACS’s footprint and generosity may not be broadly known, nor the opportunities for career development or for community at all stages, from student to retiree, across all sectors and fields. ACS is a community of people connected by the chemical sciences who strive to improve the world by gaining fundamental scientific insight, bringing global products to market, and solving global challenges. The field of chemistry has one of the biggest reaches in terms of worldwide impact, touching areas such as human health, energy, and consumer products.
Here are just a few examples:
ACS serves as an impactful voice. The society takes on important policies and topics that impact the chemistry community, including support of R&D, chemical manufacturing, chemical safety, critical materials, and chemistry education, to name only several areas.
ACS impacts students. Over the years, ACS has provided research and education opportunities to 11,200 high school students through Project SEED and 3,400 undergraduate students through ACS Scholars. Materials to aid with curriculum building and funding toward professional development are available to K–12 teachers. ACS has hundreds of student chapters, and many of them are highly engaged in public outreach, helping seed the pipeline of future scientists.
ACS impacts careers. Along the career pathway, ACS provides an amazing array of resources, such as career tips and career consultants. In 2021, ACS launched the ACS Institute, a useful platform that includes programs to enhance and build professional and technical skills and has many online offerings. The ACS Institute continues to expand, and a planned Entrepreneurship Center is targeted for launch in 2023. Not only does ACS provide substantial training and development opportunities, but the ACS network—the community—is vital. Early in my career, it was only because of connections made via my local ACS section that I returned to a chemistry-focused career from an MBA program.
ACS impacts directions. Although I am an academic, I thoroughly enjoy the weekly Zoom presentations and discussions led by the ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses on topics such as chemical safety, pathways to innovation, and a recent technical discussion led by a company with novel environmental-remediation strategies. Through this venue, I have seen collaborations form, interacted with angel investors, and have benefited from business-community insights that now are driving a new research endeavor in my academic laboratory. The discussions among chemists, from early-career innovators to retirees, make for rich brainstorming on topics such as R&D and solutions to technical challenges.
ACS provides information. ACS Publications is vital for the community, and C&EN provides weekly updates on what’s new in chemistry and chemical business, touching all sectors of the chemical sciences. This is a welcome read, as many outlets lack an understanding and appreciation of science.
ACS recognizes chemical scientists across sectors. ACS’s awards celebrate outstanding chemical scientists from small business, industry, government, and academia. For example, ACS’s Heroes of Chemistry Award recognizes industry innovations that have impacted the world.
I have gained so many career, training, and research opportunities through my ACS network, whether through local sections, divisions, online resources, and more. I encourage every student and professional whose career touches the chemical sciences to be an active part of the ACS community as we work together toward a vibrant future.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.