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Comment: Senior chemists giving back

by Robert A. Yokley, chair, ACS Senior Chemists Committee

October 15, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 37


A photo of Robert Yokley.
Credit: Phyllis Yokley
Robert Yokley

The American Chemical Society’s Senior Chemists Committee (SCC) conducted a number of events and activities at the ACS Fall 2022 meeting in Chicago, held Aug. 21–25, including the first in-person Senior Chemists Breakfast since ACS Fall 2019.

Attendees at that event enjoyed a full breakfast as current members were recognized, past members honored, and Lara Kadylak, manager of Annual Giving at the ACS Office of Philanthropy, spoke about the Legacy Leaders program. Our guest speaker, Jacob L. Bean, a professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, then presented his talk, “The Atmospheres of Extrasolar Planets as Revealed by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).” Bean discussed the history and development of the JWST, how its 18 gold-plated mirrors were aligned and focused, and some preliminary atmospheric data for an extrasolar planet (a planet revolving around a star other than our sun) that have already been collected by the telescope. It was evident from Bean’s presentation that the JWST is generating exciting data that will take a long time to analyze and interpret.

The SCC also cosponsored a symposium at ACS Fall 2022 honoring the first three chairs of the SCC: Eli Pearce, George Heinze, and Thomas Beattie. The other co-sponsors were the Divisions of Small Chemical Businesses, Professional Relations, Business Development and Management, and the History of Chemistry. This symposium revealed interesting but perhaps little-known facts about all three trailblazers.

The SCC hosted a booth in the exhibition hall on Monday, Aug. 22. This was an excellent opportunity for chemists age 50 and over who are interested in starting a senior chemist’s group in their local section to gather information—and to pick up a tote bag and candy.

An SCC strategic planning retreat immediately followed the ACS Fall 2022 meeting. At the retreat, we updated SCC’s vision and mission statements, respectively, to “Senior chemists giving back” and “Serving people through senior chemists’ knowledge and experience.”

Senior chemists continue to give back using their knowledge and experience to help other communities.

Reaching out to early-​career chemists

On Sept. 18, SCC and the Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) cosponsored a virtual SCC-YCC networking event. Young professional chemists and students had the opportunity to ask retired as well as working senior chemists about their careers. Participating senior chemists represented academia, industry, government, and small businesses. Future networking SCC-YCC events will be held in person at the ACS Spring meetings and virtually during the ACS Fall meetings.

Additionally, The SCC and YCC have been conducting a comentoring activity since May 2021 that pairs YCC and SCC members. The pairings are based on mutual scientific interests, and each pair typically meets virtually once a month. This project has been rewarding for the vast majority of participants and is expected to continue well beyond 2022.

Advice for starting a senior chemists group

To help ACS members interested in forming a senior chemists group within their local section, you can find a manual, “The Local Section Senior Chemists Group and Activity Starter Kit,” on the SCC web page. This document is a valuable source of guidance and helpful information. The SCC web page also has some how to use Zoom guides. We urge you to identify a champion in your local section and organize a senior chemists group.The

SCC continues to fund minigrants to assist local sections in conducting activities that encourage and involve senior chemists. In addition, SCC diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect (DEIR) grants are awarded to entities other than local sections that engage and involve senior chemists and students from underrepresented communities. Three SCC DEIR awards were bestowed in 2022.

Senior chemists continue to give back using their knowledge and experience to help other communities. If you have questions or comments for SCC, please contact me at or

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


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