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Bringing ACS local sections together virtually

by W. Matthew Reichert
August 29, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 33


Photo of W. Matthew Reichert.
Credit: Courtesy of W. Matthew Reichert
W. Matthew Reichert

In-person events that provide networking, professional development, and outreach for members and the public are a primary focus of ACS’s local sections. However, the need for social distancing, along with restrictions on public gatherings, is compelling leaders to think creatively, which is opening the door for new opportunities and expansion beyond our traditional local section borders.

The April 27 issue of C&EN featured an article on how ACS local sections are supporting their communities during COVID-19, and the July 13 issue of C&EN featured a virtual Chemists Celebrate Earth Week celebration. As chair of the Committee on Local Section Activities (LSAC), I’d like to highlight other areas and activities that local sections support.

Professional development. The Younger Chemists Committees of the St. Louis, Chicago, and Nashville local sections hosted a free 3-week, cross-sectional professional development series. Running from mid-May to early June this year, the series brought together chemistry professionals from each representative local section to lead workshops on job application preparation, interviewing, negotiating, and onboarding.

The California Section conducted a series of diversity, inclusion, and respect presentations and panel discussions, including “The Case for Diversity and Inclusion,” “Chemistry Career Panel—Making the Transition from Academia to Industry,” and “Successful STEM Women of Color Must Network Differently.”

The Portland Local Section, in conjunction with the Oregon Science Startup Forum, transitioned its annual, daylong event to five events livestreamed over a week. Topics included funding your start-up, practicing your pitch, and how to go from an idea to a business.

Student member activities and networking. The New Haven Local Section hosted a Student Research Symposium, a daylong event with two oral sessions and a poster session, both of which were livestreamed on YouTube. Prior to the event, the section conducted a live Q&A session for interested participants.

The New York Local Section hosted two discussions of online and remote laboratory course instruction and is planning additional events over the summer. The first discussion focused on unpacking the spring 2020 semester and showing different instruction modalities. The second discussion centered on the ACS Committee on Professional Training guidelines for distance learning instruction, as well as an informative talk titled “Assessing the Efficacy of Virtual Laboratory Experiments in General Chemistry.”

Several local sections have hosted weekly networking socials, trivia nights, and happy hours. For example, the Philadelphia Section hosted a virtual beer tasting with samples available for pickup from a local brewery.

Public outreach and education. The Brazosport Local Section is hosting the 2020 ACS Brazoria County Crystal Growing Competition for students to see who can grow the largest, highest-quality crystal. The section provided free starter kits to local students and teachers. This contest will run from September through November to allow ample time for growing crystals.

I encourage all local sections to think creatively about how to virtually engage our members and the public.

Section leadership. The Greater Houston Section launched a new video series, “Meet Your ACS GHS Local Section Leaders.” Members of the local section’s executive board offer insights into the various career paths available to chemists in the Houston area, as well as the impact that ACS can have on its members both personally and professionally.

To support the further development of virtual resources, LSAC is offering local sections the following resources:

METT Grants. In response to COVID-19, LSAC has made two cycles (June and October) of the Members Engaging Through Technology (METT) Grant available in 2020. These grants help local sections achieve their goals through grant support for virtual events. The METT Grant program assists local sections in using technology to more fully engage their current membership in the section’s goals and activities and to enhance their member-recruitment efforts. Grant proposals may be submitted for the purchase of software and hardware to enable remote local section meetings and events, enhancements to web presence, and development of online content. The next round of METT Grants will open in mid-September with an Oct. 15 deadline for submissions. Additional details for the METT Grant can be found under the What’s Important Now section on

Zoom accounts for local sections. For a limited time, ACS is extending its Zoom meeting account to provide individual Zoom Enterprise licenses to all interested ACS local sections. The Zoom license can be used to conduct executive committee meetings, monthly meetings, interactive networking events, and other virtual activities to engage your local section. Contact for more information about securing a Zoom account for your local section.

As we continue to face uncertainty about when it will be safe to resume in-person events, I encourage all local sections to think creatively about how to virtually engage our members and the public. LSAC will continue to collect and share examples of such activities with all local sections. For more information, or to share your ideas, email

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



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