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ACS Comment: Raising the visibility of chemical technical professionals

by Erin Dotlich, chair, ACS Committee on Technician Affairs
July 23, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 26


Erin Dotlich
Credit: Bass Photo
Erin Dotlich

Ten years ago, I moved into a role in which, for the first time, I had the opportunity to lead chemical technical professionals (CTPs). We were working to complete quality control registration activities for a new portfolio molecule. A dedicated CTP—Sabina—was assigned to assist me with this project, and she was given, and successfully executed, studies rarely conducted in quality control testing labs. Much of the data that I went on to present to the chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC) committee and the company leadership were collected by Sabina. Then, when the company was ready to recognize our efforts, she was left out of the acknowledgements and not invited to a celebratory event. It wasn’t until I was at this event that I noticed Sabina had been inadvertently excluded. I was horrified when I realized her efforts had gone unrecognized, and this remains one of my more cringeworthy professional experiences.

This is not an isolated case when it comes to forgetting to acknowledge the efforts of CTPs. And it is one of the reasons why the work of the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA) is so important. We support CTPs, like Sabina, and also their managers and colleagues. Our mission is to “support, advance, and recognize the CTP,” and our vision is to be “the advocate and essential resource for CTPs.” According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 350,000 CTPs are in the US workforce.

Your—often unseen—work has a real and significant impact.

In April, during the CTA’s strategic planning retreat, we put together a roadmap of goals and strategies. Over the next 1–3 years, we will focus on three goals:

Create, identify, and disseminate tools for professional development.

Highlight the accomplishments of CTPs through awards and other means of recognition.

Reach out to stakeholders inside and outside ACS.

Our first goal will be championed by the CTA’s Professional Development Subcommittee. This subcommittee will work alongside other ACS committees to plan for future professional development programs and events. It will also identify and advertise existing professional development tools and create packets for mentors and mentees. A recently completed Mentee Playbook will be published on the ACS website soon.

The CTA’s Awards Subcommittee will champion our second goal. While only 3% of chemists hold a PhD, most recognition programs and awards are presented to those at the PhD level. This is something this subcommittee is looking to address. It is currently developing a pilot regional CTP award and working to disseminate details about existing CTA awards and recipients through more platforms. The existing awards processes will also be simplified and improved by the end of 2022. The CTA Awards Subcommittee currently coordinates two established awards:

The CTA/Younger Chemists Committee Leadership Development Award provides funding for ACS members under 35 years of age to travel to, and participate in, the annual ACS Leadership Institute. Here, recipients develop leadership skills, gain knowledge, and share best practices through networking with other ACS leaders, governance, and staff members.

The National Chemical Technician Award honors excellence and professionalism among technicians, operators, analysts, and other applied chemical technology professionals.

The CTA’s Stakeholder Outreach Subcommittee will support our third goal. It is currently collecting and processing our member demographic data to enable more data-driven decisions for professional development events and programming. It is also working toward a new branding campaign to boost the CTA’s visibility and developing templates for local section outreach activities to help them create nomination-worthy events for the CTA’s ChemLuminary Award for Best Event or Activity Organized by, or Benefiting, the Applied Chemical Technology Professional Community.

I look forward to providing further updates on the CTA’s strategic plan in our committee meeting at the ACS Fall 2022 meeting on Aug. 21. The committee meeting is open and everyone is welcome. You are also invited to attend our ticketed luncheon (a shared effort with the Committee on Corporation Associates) on Aug. 22.

Let me take a moment to thank each CTP across industry, academia, and government. You understand the day-to-day lab operations better than anyone else and consistently produce meaningful results to support a wide range of products in use worldwide. Your—often unseen—work has a real and significant impact on the daily lives of every single person.

For anyone looking to serve the CTP community, please join the CTA and help us achieve our vision and our mission. You can indicate that you want to volunteer using the ACS online committee preference form. For more information on the CTA, please visit our website at, join our LinkedIn group “ACS Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA)”, or follow us on Twitter at @cta_acs.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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