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For District VI director: Richard V. Williams

by Richard V. Williams, candidate for District VI director
September 8, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 30


This is a photo of Richard V. Williams.
Credit: Courtesy of Richard V. Williams
Richard V. Williams

Washington-Idaho Border Section. University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho.

Academic record: University of Leeds, BSc, 1975; University of Cambridge, PhD, 1978.

Honors: ACS Fellow, 2012; Royal Society of Chemistry Fellow, 2017.

Professional positions (for the past 10 years): University of Idaho, professor, 1997–.

Service in ACS national offices: Committee on Publications, 2011–21, 1997–98; Committee on Chemical Abstracts Service, 2003–09.

Service in ACS offices: Washington-Idaho Border Section: councilor, 1996–2017, chair, 1992–94, chair-elect, 1993, 1991, National Chemistry Week, local section activities chair, 1993, 1991. Regional meetings: 52nd Northwest Regional Meeting, chair, 1996; 65th Northwest–22nd Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting, organic program chair, 2010; Memphis Section: Executive Committee, 1986–89, Nominating Committee, 1987; National Chemistry Week Local Section Activities, chair; 1987.

Member: Member of ACS since 1981. Royal Society of Chemistry. ACS Division: Organic Chemistry.

Related activities: Special issue of the Canadian Journal of Chemistry honoring Reg Mitchell, guest editor, 2016; Symposium in Honor of Reg Mitchell, co-organizer, 2010; Central Queensland University, Centre for Molecular Architecture, visiting senior research fellow, 1998; NATO Collaborative Travel Grant, co-recipient, 1998, 1986; 5th Chemical Congress of North America, symposium organizer, 1997; 7th International Symposium on Novel Aromatic Compounds,, symposium editor, 1992; University of Idaho Student Affiliates of ACS, faculty adviser, 1991–95; Memphis State University Student Affiliates of ACS, faculty adviser, 1984–89. More than 75 publications in international refereed journals. Numerous presentations at regional, national, and international meetings.

Williams’s statement

I joined the American Chemical Society when I first arrived in the US to take up a postdoctoral research fellowship at Ohio State University in 1981. My passion, in terms of ACS, is ACS Publications, CAS, and student engagement.

While I was a councilor for the Washington-Idaho Border Section, I was fortunate to serve on the Joint Board Council Committees on Chemical Abstracts Service and the Joint Board Council Committees on Publications. I thoroughly enjoyed these appointments and felt that I was being of service to the chemistry community.

I also served as the long-term faculty adviser to the ACS student affiliates groups at two different institutions. Again, I enjoyed serving in these offices and felt I was helping our students progress to a fulfilling career in chemistry. Recently, in conversations with some of our students, I have been made aware of disturbing developments in the way students now perceive ACS. Their experiences at spring and fall ACS meetings were very negative. They felt that they were not made to feel particularly welcome. As student members, they were unable to attend certain functions and felt ignored. Of even greater concern, they think ACS membership is a waste of money—they get nothing of value from ACS. One student commented that ACS takes their money and all they get in return is constant spam from ACS (and associated organizations) that fill up their inboxes. They complain that they do not even get access to C&EN. In the past, I always advised students to join their professional society and told them that it offered them many benefits and opportunities for professional advancement. These students are ACS’s future, and alienating them now is a huge mistake. Students are the future of our society, and we should be doing everything possible to nurture, recruit, and retain them by offering the services they want. This is something I would like to work on if elected as the District VI director.

I have spent my entire career in academia and was impressed with the vital role ACS played in education and research. I would like to see a full return to ACS facilitating the development and success of our students at all levels. ACS accreditation of bachelor’s degrees assure that standards are met and that graduates from these approved programs begin their professional careers with an excellent foundation. Notably, the ACS “curriculum” is kept current and relevant. The ACS standardized examinations in the subdisciplines allow a benchmarking of individual courses against national norms with the obvious advantage that students can show potential employers or graduate schools how they performed on a national level. Similarly, ACS sponsorship of the student affiliate program allowed students to take advantage of ACS membership early in their careers. ACS encourages undergraduate research, which is truly the route to excite undergraduates to continue in our profession (these opportunities must be enhanced by ensuring the availability of funds to support undergraduate research) and provides venues for undergraduates to present their research at ACS meetings. This early participation in professional meetings used to provide invaluable experiences and opportunities for students as they embarked on their professional careers. We need to return to this prior model for ACS meetings. The career fairs at ACS meetings afford students and other job seekers the opportunity to meet with a variety of potential employers. I strongly support these and other educational opportunities. See the caveat above—many students feel that they are ignored by ACS. If elected, I would make it a priority to offer services of value to them.

The concerning precipitous decline in the availability of research funding impacts the quality and quantity of tomorrow’s chemists. While ACS does a good job of lobbying for improved research funding, I would like to see even more effort put into this area. Perhaps working with other professional organizations both domestically (such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Council, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Sigma Xi) and internationally (such as the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker) who share an interest in expanding the funding for chemistry and related disciplines.

I would like to see an expansion in ACS international collaborations. I have lived in five different countries and won NATO grants to facilitate collaborations with colleagues in NATO countries. I am a firm believer in “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and actively engage in collaborative research with colleagues domestically and throughout the world. My international perspective could be of value to our society.

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