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Comment: Inspiring, empowering, and engaging ACS international leaders

by Sergio Nanita, chair, ACS Committee on International Activities
September 17, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 33


Sergio Nanita.
Credit: Christine Schmidt
Sergio Nanita

There are many thought-​provoking and inspiring events throughout one’s life. Some are short lived, thrilling moments, while others have such a profound impact that new interests emerge and more fulfilling pathways open up. Let me share an inspiring event that, long ago, helped shape the professional that I am today. As an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico, I participated in my first international congress: the American Chemical Society Pan-American Conference held in San Juan in June 2000. This event brought together about 150 students from 16 countries across the Americas. I remember how interested the participants were in learning from one another—not only about chemistry but also about our scientific interests, universities, countries, and cultures. This was a profound experience that sparked my interest in global affairs and reaffirmed my volunteerism at ACS.

Twenty-two years later, I now have the pleasure of helping ACS engage with its global community of members through the Committee on International Activities (IAC) and the 26 ACS International Chemical Science Chapters (ICSCs). I believe that outreach efforts to our global membership and international events organized by ACS are essential to inspire, engage, and develop leaders for ACS and the chemistry community worldwide.

Through engagement and inspiration, ACS can empower its international volunteers to lead with enthusiasm and a clear mission.

The IAC and ICSCs have intensified their presence in events around the world this year. In May, the ACS Qatar Chapter organized and hosted the inaugural ACS Research Conference: Chemistry and Chemical Engineering for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in Doha. It was attended by more than 400 participants from over a dozen countries. An ICSC Leadership Summit took place concurrently with this conference, organized and moderated by ACS staff members Christopher LaPrade and Christina McCoy and IAC member Tim Hanks. ICSC Leadership Summits are based on the ACS Leadership Institute that occurs every year in the US. The summits provide professional development sessions for ACS leaders abroad, allowing participants to share their experiences, learn from ACS chapters in neighboring countries, establish connections, and spark collaborations. The summit in Doha was attended by 42 ACS leaders from countries including Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. The participants were highly involved throughout the summit and generated excellent ideas and feedback for ACS.

Hosting ICSC Leadership Summits before, concurrently, or after international conferences provides attendees the additional benefit of participating in a major international chemistry congress. Therefore, it is no surprise that the next leadership summit will take place ahead of the Latin American Congress of Chemistry (CLAQ). This summit will provide the opportunity for leaders from ACS International Student Chapters and ICSCs from the Americas to get together in Rio de Janeiro from Nov. 11 to 13.

These 2022 ICSC Leadership Summits mark the return of these valuable events after 2 years of travel disruptions because of the pandemic. Discussions are currently underway about organizing a summit in 2023 for Asia and the Pacific basin.

In addition to leadership summits, the IAC holds programming at selected international conferences. Our next symposium, titled “Innovations in Chemical Education across the Atlantic Basin,” will take place at the Atlantic Basin Conference on Chemistry (ABCChem) in Marrakech, Morocco, Dec. 13–16.

Next month, IAC members will also participate in the Southeastern Regional Meeting of ACS (SERMACS 2022) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A significant presence of international attendees is expected, thanks to the wonderful efforts by the event organizers, including IAC members Hanks and Jorge Colón, and Ingrid Montes, IAC consultant and a former member of the ACS Board of Directors.

It is difficult to predict the impact of an event such as an international conference or leadership summit on a single participant. But, speaking from personal experience, the impact can be profound. I strongly believe that ACS’s investment to engage and develop our international leaders at the aforementioned events will bring fulfilling and pathway-opening moments for many, and the overall effect on the audiences and ACS will be net positive.

Through engagement and inspiration, ACS can empower its international volunteers to lead with enthusiasm and a clear mission, making ACS a better society for all. IAC is interested in partnering with ACS committees and divisions for the benefit of the society and its entire membership. I welcome your comments and ideas on the topics covered herein, or on anything else that can improve our society. Feel free to reach out to IAC at

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



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