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For president-elect: John C. Warner

by John C. Warner
September 10, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 33

A photo of John C. Warner
Credit: Courtesy of Zymergen, Inc.
John C. Warner

Northeastern Section. Zymergen, Emeryville, California.

Academic record: University of Massachusetts Boston, BS, 1984; Princeton University, PhD, chemistry, 1988.

Honors: ACS Fellow, 2012; Harry and Carol Mosher Award, ACS Silicon Valley Section, 2016; University of Bath, sustainability global chair, 2020; Doris and Kenneth Kolb Chemistry Lectureship, Bradley University, 2019; The John Warner Center for Green Chemistry Startups, German Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Technical University of Berlin, 2017; American Association for the Advancement of Science, Lemelson Invention Ambassador, 2016; SCI Perkin Medal, Science History Institute, 2014; One of the “25 Visionaries Changing the World” Utne Reader, 2012; Environmental Merit Award, US Environmental Protection Agency, 2011; International Career Institute, “One of the Most Influential People Impacting the Chemical Industries and Sciences,” 2008; Outstanding Leadership Award, Council of Science Society Presidents, 2008; Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, National Science Foundation, 2004; Distinguished Chemist of the Year, American Institute of Chemists, New England Chapter, 2002; Reinventing Government, National Performance Review, US Vice President Al Gore, 1997.

Professional positions (for past 10 years): Zymergen, senior vice president, Chemistry and Distinguished Research Fellow, 2020–; Monash University, Distinguished Professor of Green Chemistry, 2019–; Beyond Benign, cofounder, 2007–; Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, cofounder, 2007–.

Service in ACS national offices: Governing Board for the ACS Green Chemistry Institute, 2005–10; Editorial Board, Crystal Growth and Design.

Member: Member of ACS since 1984. ACS Divisions: Chemical Education; Chemical Health and Safety; Chemical Toxicology; Environmental Chemistry; Industrial and Engineering Chemistry; Medicinal Chemistry; Organic Chemistry; Polymer Chemistry; Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering; Small Chemical Businesses.

Related activities: National meetings, chaired or cochaired 10–12 sessions; ACS regional and national meetings, presenter or co-presenter of over 100 papers; National Awards Selection Committees; ACS Diversity; ACS Global Chemistry; Newsletter for Senior Chemists; Nexus Newsletters; nearly 300 patents; over 100 publications in noncovalent derivatization, polymer photochemistry, metal oxide semiconductors and synthetic organic chemistry; coauthored the defining text of and articulated the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.

Warner’s statement

In 1983, I spoke at the ACS National Meeting. At 20 years old, I realized that I not only liked chemistry, I loved chemistry. I was a first-generation college student from a blue-collar family. And among the thousands of people wearing their ACS name tags, I felt at home. ACS provides this environment for people with unique backgrounds and perspectives to give them the tools and resources to pursue their passions.

Over my 40-year career, I’ve worn many lab coats. As an industrial chemist, I received the Perkin Medal for work that I began at the Polaroid Corporation on noncovalent derivatization and green chemistry. As an academic, I received the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President George W. Bush and the National Science Foundation while a full professor of chemistry and plastics engineering at the University of Massachusetts. As an entrepreneur, I was named a Lemelson Invention Ambassador for my almost 300 patents and the six new companies created based on my work and inventions. I am engaged in government policy, having served on chemicals policy initiatives in the US, Europe and Australia.

This broad chemistry experience has given me a perspective on how chemists and society view the way we do, teach, invent, and manage chemistry. The world is facing serious problems that need solutions. Countless women and men at hoods and benches have prepared us for this moment. Many in society applaud chemistry’s accomplishments: vaccines to free us from a global pandemic, molecules in computer chips that allow spacecraft to take off and return to earth with amazing precision, and agricultural technologies that feed the world’s hungry are powerful examples. But there are also those that see chemistry as a cause of climate change and environmental damage and as insidious components in everyday products may cause cancer, birth defects and other diseases. Despite all the benefits, chemists still face the dual challenge of low public awareness and skepticism.

In an era of increasing science denialism, chemists aren’t alone in facing these challenges. But I believe chemistry is uniquely capable of bridging disciplines and moving society away from doubt and back toward belief in science discovery. While the issues facing society are complex and the solutions require perspectives from everyone, we in chemistry have an opportunity to be more proactive in sharing our perspective—to help shift perception not only by telling, but by showing the path to a better future.

If I am given the honor of serving as president of ACS, I will help bring the various groups of our broader culture—both from inside and outside the ACS—together. My three main goals will be focused around this unifying theme:

Diversity and inclusion: There are significant systemic issues in our professional community and the broader society that require new eyes and new ideas. We must improve how we think about and address issues of inclusion and diversity, and open the door to a broader spectrum of people.

Education: I coauthored the book Green Chemistry Theory and Practice that established the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry. Integrating concepts of sustainability and green chemistry into the K–12 and university curricula is an important part of bringing us closer to the society we serve. The ACS Education Division and the Green Chemistry Institute have done amazing things. I look forward to helping to evolve their reach and integration inside and outside the ACS.

Multidisciplinarity: The worlds of physics, biology and chemistry are changing quickly, and the boundaries are blurring further. We must not lose sight of the fact that chemistry is central to the design and understanding of the transformations of matter, whether it happens inside an organism, in stainless-steel reactors or industrial fermentation tanks. We must continue to bring the various subdisciplines together and use our collective spirit of innovation to drive positive change for society at large.

Like many chemists in the field today, I owe my career to the services and opportunities that ACS provides. ACS insights helped me submit my patent applications. ACS supported me in the 1990s when we started the world’s first green chemistry PhD program at UMass. ACS’s intellectual ecosystem helped create the companies to commercialize my inventions. And ACS, through the Green Chemistry Institute, continues to advance one of my greatest passions. ACS has many capable people to choose from for the next president, and I am honored to be considered. I will work tirelessly to advance the ACS mission if I am given the opportunity to serve.

Candidates will not be notified of comments left on this web page. To contact this candidate directly, email John.warner@zymergen.


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