You likely never envisioned defending your thesis at your kitchen table, graduating with fellow classmates on Zoom, or masking up in the lab as an essential worker. While 2020 may not be what we expected, younger chemists are still proceeding, persevering, and achieving. The skills that younger chemists are developing in this unprecedented environment will shape who we become as leaders.
The vision of the American Chemical Society Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) is for younger leaders to transform the world through chemistry. In reflecting on the experiences that younger chemists have had this year, I think we are well positioned to realize this vision.
I’d like to highlight some ways that YCC is supporting rising chemists through our strategic plan goals and share several resources for you to explore:
Advocating for younger chemists’ needs, concerns, and contributions. YCC, along with ACS, condemns the systemic racism and discrimination that pervade our society. We are committed to listening to, supporting, and amplifying voices of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) constituents and increasing diversity in our organization. YCC is evaluating its award applications and scoring rubrics to ensure diverse selection of candidates and opportunities for younger chemists from underrepresented groups. We encourage local section YCCs to do the same and consider selecting diverse speakers for upcoming events to elevate different perspectives. Some resources to check out are the websites Diversify STEM Conferences, Diversify Chemistry, and the Committee on Minority Affairs’ Speaker Directory.
We also acknowledge concerns regarding changes to in-person education due to the pandemic and limitations on workforce and student visas. YCC has and will continue to partner with other ACS committees and divisions, as well as the Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect Advisory Board, to foster dialogue around these issues and take action. I encourage all members to participate in YCC’s Catalyze the Vote initiative, which provides a forum for younger chemists to engage in ACS national elections. In October, YCC will host a town hall webinar featuring the ACS President-Elect candidates. The national YCC serves as your representative, and we welcome your thoughts and feedback to build a more inclusive ACS.
Providing tools and support to younger chemists for diverse career opportunities and development. In the age of virtual interviews, canceled internships, and layoffs, resources for and access to career development tools are paramount. In June, YCC collaborated with Career Navigator LIVE! to host the first virtual career day designed for recent graduates and early career chemists. This free event featured interactive workshops and networking sessions with ACS career consultants. Register for virtual office hours or personal consultations with career consultants to receive tailored advice on topics of interest to you. Another great member benefit is the ACS Leadership Development System, which offers free professional development courses.
YCC recently announced the application for the Younger Chemist Leadership Development Award. Recipients of this award attend the ACS Leadership Institute and learn tools to develop their leadership skills within ACS and the workplace. I received this award in 2012, and the experience initiated a wonderful journey of volunteerism, mentorship, and advocacy opportunities for which I am beyond grateful. Please consider applying!
Fostering and connecting communities of younger chemists around the world. YCC seeks to strengthen connections between younger chemists at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Every ACS member is part of a local section based on geography or choice, and there are over 55 local section YCCs globally. Getting involved in a local section YCC is a great way to connect with younger chemists in your area and explore leadership opportunities within ACS. During the pandemic, many local section YCCs have maintained momentum and collaborated with other local sections to broaden their reach, and I am consistently impressed with the innovative programming they develop.
The national YCC continues to award grants to start or revitalize a local section YCC or provide financial support for programming. In addition, the national YCC is planning a virtual symposium on Aug. 26 with the International Younger Chemists Network, which will feature early career innovators highlighting sustainable bench-to-market technologies. We encourage younger chemists to continue thinking outside the box for unique programming and networking opportunities.
At the heart of what we do in the YCC is celebrate younger chemists. I encourage all younger chemists to recognize your milestones and achievements. In spite of the circumstances, you’ve passed your preliminary exam, defended your thesis, and started a new job, and these events deserve respect and major kudos! YCC and younger chemists around the world support you and celebrate with you (virtually, for now).
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.