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A monumental year for international activities

by Jens Breffke, Chair, ACS Committee on International Activities
June 28, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 26


Photo of Jens Breffke.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

It’s a monumental year for the global chemistry enterprise. The United Nations designated 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019). This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC100). As chair of the American Chemical Society Committee on International Activities (IAC), I encourage members of ACS and our sister scientific societies to celebrate throughout 2019 and beyond.

IAC is a joint board-council committee that assists scientists and engineers worldwide “to communicate and collaborate for the good of the chemical and chemically related sciences, chemical engineering, and their practitioners.” A key part of achieving this objective is to encourage ACS members to participate in events by our sister societies, as well as in activities of our international chapters and student chapters. This year, such activities include IYPT2019 and IUPAC100.

In December 2017, the UN General Assembly approved a proposal to proclaim 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The UN views IYPT2019 as an opportunity to “highlight the contributions of chemistry and other basic sciences to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” This celebratory year will build on previously successful science-based international years, such as the International Year of Chemistry in 2011, which included several successful events by ACS and IUPAC to celebrate chemistry’s contributions to society.

ACS has already participated in many activities celebrating IYPT2019. In events like the IUPAC-organized Global Women’s Breakfast in February and a periodic table–themed Program-in-a-Box that had thousands of online participants, ACS groups have found myriad ways of honoring the periodic table and spreading their love for chemistry. Beginning with Puerto Rico, many state legislatures have passed resolutions honoring IYPT2019; IAC is hopeful that the US Congress will soon follow with a resolution of its own. Throughout the rest of the year there will be additional events organized by ACS members and entities.

IAC has supported several IYPT2019 initiatives this year. In cooperation with IUPAC colleagues, we have issued nine IYPT Challenge Grants to ACS international chapters, international student chapters, and US-based local sections to support periodic table–related activities. Additionally, several of the highly attended IAC international welcome receptions at ACS national meetings have been cobranded with the IYPT2019 theme. Activities included a photo booth with periodic table props and posters featuring information on a variety of elements produced by graduate students affiliated with the ACS international chapter in Hungary. I encourage everyone to visit to log information on your ACS IYPT2019 activities, find resources on the periodic table, and discover periodic table items from the ACS Store. Before

the UN declaration, 2019 was already going to be an exciting year for chemistry because of the 100th anniversary of IUPAC. This organization fills a vital role in the chemical sciences by bringing together the premier chemical science societies from around the world on a variety of topics, including the naming of new chemical elements. With IUPAC as the official organizing group recognized by the UN for the celebration of IYPT2019, there is all the more reason to celebrate the great contributions of IUPAC to the chemical sciences as well as the importance of the periodic table.

I encourage everyone to visit to log information on your ACS IYPT2019 activities.

IYPT2019 will be celebrated in full at the upcoming IUPAC congress and general assembly, scheduled to be held in Paris July 5–12. The 50th General Assembly and 47th World Chemistry Congress will bring together scientists from around the world to connect, collaborate, and celebrate the great work of this influential organization. ACS will have a robust presence, including a booth in the exposition, cosponsorship of several symposia and events, and two interactive workshops on outreach events and policy and the chemical sciences.

A vital part of ACS support for IUPAC is fostering the development of younger scientists through our support of the International Younger Chemists Network. This group was newly formed at the previous IUPAC meeting in Brazil in 2017, and I am proud to see that it is continuing its great work with a variety of events through the IUPAC congress, including a poster session and networking reception that is sponsored in part by ACS. If you are an ACS member planning to attend the IUPAC congress, I encourage you to sign up for a reception on July 10 with ACS president-elect Luis Echegoyen by emailing See the full schedule and venue information, and register to attend, at

These two important events in the chemical sciences, IYPT2019 and IUPAC100, serve to not only gather chemists, chemical engineers, and allied professionals from around the world around common themes but also catalyze new collaborations and activities. I welcome the opportunity to celebrate these events with you in 2019 and beyond.

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



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