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ACS Committee on Science: At the frontiers of chemistry

by Martin G. Kociolek, Chair, ACS Committee on Science
August 18, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 30


A photo of Martin G. Kociolek.
Credit: John Fontecchio
Martin G. Kociolek

A fundamental component of the mission of the American Chemical Society Committee on Science (ComSci) is to “engage the global chemistry enterprise to build a better tomorrow by identifying new frontiers of chemistry.”

Merriam-Webster lists two definitions of frontier that are applicable in the context of this mission: “the farthermost limits of knowledge or achievement in a particular subject” and “a new field for exploitative or developmental activity.” The last 18 months have reinforced the critical need for scientists to continually push the boundaries of those limits of knowledge. The pandemic has provided a vast array of information in the quest for new vaccines and therapeutics, and the consequences will be felt long into the future as this knowledge is applied to other diseases and disorders. It is imperative that scientists continue to look forward and identify areas that may significantly impact society and the world around us.

Promoting new frontiers of chemistry has been a major focus of ComSci-sponsored programming throughout 2021 as the committee has organized several virtual events on cutting-edge research topics.

ComSci took advantage of the macromolecular chemistry theme of the ACS Spring 2021 meeting to help organize a presidential symposium titled “Chemistry and the Future of Plastics.” Following the symposium, the committee offered the webinar “Solving the Plastics Problem through Chemistry: Federal Research and Technology Programs.” The session was moderated by ACS president-elect Angela Wilson and featured speakers from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A total of 648 attendees joined the live session, reflecting the considerable interest among the chemistry community in applying chemistry to the challenges of plastics in the environment.

As we look ahead and wonder where the next frontiers will be, those with the creativity, ingenuity, and drive to explore will lead the way.

ComSci was thrilled to partner with ACS president H. N. Cheng on a three-part interactive webinar series titled “Frontier Fridays” in May and June. Professor Zhenan Bao of Stanford University began the series with the presentation “Skin-Inspired Organic Electronics.” Amy Prieto, a professor at Colorado State University and founder of Prieto Battery, gave a talk titled “Lithium-ion Batteries: The Road to Sustainable Energy Storage.” The series wrapped up with a presentation by Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart titled “Artificial Molecular Machines: Going from Solution to Surfaces.” Collectively, over 1,700 people attended the three webinars. The presentations are available at

The Committee on Science is also organizing a multi-part virtual symposium titled “New Frontiers and Opportunities for Chemistry” at this month’s ACS national meeting. The symposium will run Aug. 22–24 and will cover varied topics such as nanotechnology, therapeutics and diagnostics, and sustainability. In addition, the committee is organizing a virtual session titled “Innovation: The Chemical Professional’s Response to the Global Pandemic” on Aug. 22. Please visit to view the full technical program.

Beyond advancing the frontiers of science, ComSci actively contributes to the development of ACS public policy statements relevant to the committee’s mission. This year, ComSci members are providing feedback on the energy policy statement. The statement currently identifies four core objectives for US energy policy and use. These objectives include providing a stable and sustainable supply of energy from multiple sources; continuing development and use of renewable and carbon-free technologies; modernizing energy generation, distribution, storage, efficiency, and security infrastructure; and supporting responsible land use and environment protection. These objectives also provide opportunities for exploring the frontiers of energy research. ComSci—along with the Committees on Chemistry and Public Affairs, Environmental Improvement, and Corporation Associates—will finalize the statement in August for consideration by the ACS Board of Directors in December.

As part of its primary mission, ComSci recommends to the ACS Board of Directors candidates for national and international chemistry awards. These include the National Medal of Science, the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the Dreyfus Prize in Chemistry, the Grand Prix de la Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie, and the King Faisal Prize. The Committee welcomes suggestions for other chemistry prizes to which ACS could submit outstanding nominees.

As we look ahead and wonder where the next frontiers will be, those with the creativity, ingenuity, and drive to explore will lead the way. To quote noted engineer Charles F. Kettering, “There will always be a frontier where there is an open mind and a willing hand.”

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



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