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Senior chemists on the move and paying it forward

by Arlene A. Garrison, Chair, ACS Senior Chemists Committee
July 14, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 28


Photo of Arlene Garrison.
Credit: Oak Ridge Associated Universities

“Pay it forward” is the overarching theme of the American Chemical Society Senior Chemists Committee (SCC), with a particular focus on outreach to the next generation interested in the chemical sciences.

So how do we pay it forward as a committee?

Our 26 members and associates are experienced chemists from a broad range of backgrounds, and they are carrying out SCC’s vision of engaging more senior chemists and providing mentoring for undergraduates and younger chemists. I have the privilege of chairing this committee, and I’m delighted to share details of our activities.

Let’s review the ACS national meeting in Orlando, Florida, this spring. We started the year abuzz with our ACS Network community, “Senior Chemists on the Move!” We shared announcements of special events for Orlando and hosted robust conversations. The ACS Network platform allows readers to comment on issues and opportunities. Recent discussions included fairness in college admissions and citizen science. Please join the conversations or post your own discussion items at

In addition, at the national meeting in Orlando, the committee hosted a booth in the expo hall with information on how local sections can start a senior group. ACS local section senior groups can use any name and have any kind of programming. The booth was also a good place to pick up copies of the latest issue of the Newsletter for Senior Chemists. This publication, released three times a year, includes articles about different postretirement activities of chemists, as well as great places to travel and other adventures. The newsletter was released just before the Orlando meeting. If you would like to review past issues, check out the SCC website at If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter or have any questions about SCC, please email

At the national meeting, our programming highlight, “Career Stories,” was held in collaboration with the ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses. Panelists shared insights from their careers and advice for achieving success.

Looking to San Diego, the committee is planning for another great meeting.

The committee also hosted a networking event for experienced chemists, younger chemists, and students. More than 200 attendees learned about jobs in academia, industry, government, small businesses, and the nonprofit sectors. The students and postdocs asked questions of experienced chemists who were placed at tables according to their work sector. Students were encouraged to change tables frequently. The event had many similarities to a speed-dating event. Ice cream was served, which provided energy for dynamic conversations. The event will be repeated in San Diego, and we’re looking forward to another wonderful time with more experienced chemists, younger chemists, and students participating.

In Orlando, we hosted an exciting senior breakfast with Peter Hancock, Provost Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida, who provided a wonderful lecture titled “Sleights of Mind: Mysteries and Myths of Cognitive Deception.” His talk showed how hoaxes and our own minds can deceive us. The breakfast was cosponsored by the ACS Development office and was a sellout as usual.

Looking to San Diego, the committee is planning for another great meeting with programming focused on advancing SCC’s strategic goals and its mission to “address community needs and ambitions by utilizing senior chemists’ knowledge and experience.”

The SCC booth in the expo hall will again be a great place to learn how to start a local section senior group and to catch up with colleagues. The networking session will be held on Sunday afternoon. The breakfast speaker on Tuesday will be Ralph Keeling, professor of geochemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. You may recognize his last name. His father, Charles Keeling, was the creator of the famous Keeling Curve.

The national meeting in San Diego will also feature a special symposium titled “Gerry Meyer: The First 100 Years.” The symposium will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 27, and will conclude with cake and ice cream. Yes, the oldest member of SCC, Gerry Meyer, turns 100 this year, and you are invited to the party! Be on the lookout for promotions for this special program. You can read more about Gerry in the November 2018 newsletter. We hope to see you at the celebration.

Come join us for all our special events, help us pay it forward, and see if you can keep up with senior chemists on the move!

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



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