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ABCChem convenes in Marrakech

Conference gathers chemists from the Atlantic basin

by Jessica Marshall
January 20, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 3


A speaker is at the front of a conference room giving a talk with slides. Multiple round tables with seated attendees are in the foreground.
Credit: Jessica Marshall/C&EN
During the last time slot of the conference, a workshop on women in chemistry attracted a large audience.

The Atlantic Basin Conference on Chemistry (ABCChem) took place Dec. 13–16 in Marrakech, Morocco. More than 180 registrants gathered from 32 nations for the event.

It was the second ABCChem, which brings together chemists from countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The first was held in Cancún, Mexico, in 2018.

The spirit of international conferences is to remove the barriers among people, according to Mama El Rhazi of the University Hassan II Casablanca, one of the organizers and current president of the Federation of African Societies of Chemistry (FASC). “The theme is ‘Linking the World through Chemistry.’ If you can do that, there will be no war, a lot of peace, and a lot of science,” she says.

One goal of the conference is to encourage “south-south interactions” across the Atlantic—meaning connecting people from South America and Africa, says Neil Coville of the University of the Witwatersrand and part of the FASC team of organizers.

Javier García Martínez, president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and a chemist at the University of Alicante, gave opening remarks at the first plenary session. Speaking later with C&EN, he said, “Many times conferences are about very narrow subjects, and that’s good because there are difficult problems that need our best minds to think deeply about our more challenging problems.” In contrast, he added, conferences like ABCChem allow chemists to talk in “a very broad way about chemistry.” García Martínez noted that the first plenary (presented by Melanie Cooper of Michigan State University) was about chemical education. “It set the stage for that kind of thinking about our profession, about the future of our profession, the new generation. I thought that was a great opening,” he said. García Martínez is a member of C&EN’s advisory board.

Plenary sessions mirrored the topic areas for symposia throughout the conference. Kelly Chibale of the University of Cape Town presented the session on chemistry, biology, and health. Teri Odom of Northwestern University presented the plenary on materials and nanochemistry. And Márcio Weber Paixão of the Federal University of São Carlos gave the one on green chemistry.

Angela Wilson, 2022 president of the American Chemical Society and a computational chemist at Michigan State University, told C&EN that the conference united people from parts of the world who might not often get together to discuss areas that are important to humankind. “Every country comes with a little bit different perspective in terms of the challenges that they face and the solutions that they have begun to put together, so when we come together, I think the solutions are much stronger,” she said.

The organizing societies were ACS, the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC), the Brazilian Chemical Society, the Mexican Chemical Society, FASC, the South African Chemical Institute, the Latin American Federation of Chemical Societies, and the Moroccan Society of Analytical Chemistry.

ABCChem is intended to mirror the so-far much larger International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies (Pacifichem), a conference held in Honolulu every 5 years with a rotating host society. The next Pacifichem will be hosted by the CSC in 2025.


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