Issue Date: May 3, 2004
QUEST FOR EXCELLENCE
Oftentimes, scientific meetings will target individuals at a particular stage in their careers. For instance, some meetings might be geared toward professionals, while others might focus on graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. In other cases, the focus might be on undergraduate students or even junior and senior high school students who enjoy science. But rarely does a meeting have events that actively engage the broad range of individuals.
One meeting that does involve aspiring scientists from junior and senior high school through seasoned career professionals is the annual conference of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists & Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). Held on April 12–17 in San Diego, the 31st annual conference was attended by 700 students and professionals who participated in workshops, symposia, and technical presentations related to the meeting's theme, "Continuing the Quest for Excellence in Science & Technology."
In addition to the scientific sessions, the conference offered opportunities for career building and networking at various receptions and during the day-and-a-half career fair. The conference also included a research presentation competition for undergraduates, a science bowl competition for junior and senior high school students, and a science fair competition for junior and senior high school students.
It's this mix of activities targeting individuals at all career stages that makes NOBCChE meetings unlike any other meeting. "The NOBCChE annual meeting is unique in that it includes three generations of scientists," NOBCChE President Marquita M. Qualls pointed out. "This span of attendees speaks to our commitment of training, developing, and mentoring scientists, and furthers NOBCChE's mission of 'building an eminent community of scientists.' This also allows our youth to interact with black scientists and to experience the 'celebration of science' that has long been associated with a NOBCChE meeting," she said.
According to Qualls, this career span of participants coupled with the size of the meeting helps NOBCChE to create a unique intimacy. "The size of the meeting is such that participants are able to attend a variety of technical talks, workshops, and symposia, yet also are able to engage in discussions of the science and its impact on the greater community in a much more relaxed environment," she told C&EN.
The conference's unique environment is a testament to the dedication of the NOBCChE membership. For more than 30 years, NOBCChE members have supported each other and shared the history of black chemists and chemical engineers. "The seasoned members are the evidence of our success, while the students will be among those at the forefront of shaping the future of science and technology," Qualls wrote in a conference welcoming letter.
For NOBCChE to continue to grow, Qualls noted, it is important to increase relationships with sister organizations such as the American Chemical Society. "NOBCChE and ACS endeavor to work more closely together to attain the greatest possible impact in preparing future scientists for the technical workforce," she said.
That message was echoed by ACS President Charles P. Casey, who stressed to the attendees the importance of increasing faculty diversity and the need to increase the recruitment of black students into chemistry. He pointed to one ACS initiative he is sponsoring as a way to help increase faculty diversity. The Academic Employment Initiative is designed to facilitate personal contact between faculty candidates and hiring institutions prior to campus visits, he noted (C&EN, April 19, page 45). NOBCChE cosponsored the initiative's kickoff activities at the Anaheim, Calif., ACS national meeting and plans to continue its involvement at the next ACS national meeting in Philadelphia this fall.
Attracting minority students is also important and vital to increasing the number of U.S. students studying chemistry, Casey said. For this to happen, he explained, students will need mentors whom they can look to for support--a job NOBCChE members already do well, he pointed out.
Casey was joined at the meeting by other top-ranking ACS officials, including President-Elect William F. Carroll Jr., Board of Directors Chair James D. Burke, and Executive Director Madeleine Jacobs. During the meeting, representatives from ACS met with NOBCChE officials to discuss areas for future close collaboration, including education and science policy. The group agreed to meet again in Washington, D.C., this summer for more discussion.
AS PART OF the ongoing partnership between ACS and NOBCChE, ACS sponsored several events during the weeklong meeting, as it has done in the past. For example, the ACS Northeastern Section sponsored the Henry Hill Lecture, which was given by Paula T. Hammond, associate professor of chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She shared her work on the development of new materials using directed micro- and nanofabrication of multilayer thin films (C&EN, May 6, 2002, page 44).
ACS also sponsored the ACS Distinguished Scientist. This year's speaker was Cecil B. Pickett, president of Schering-Plough Research Institute. He talked about his career path in the pharmaceutical industry, which took him from graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, to 15 years' employment at Merck & Co., to his current position.
Pickett also shared his personal reflections on the qualities that are important for success. His advice to the students in the audience included developing strong written and oral communication skills; developing problem-solving skills; publishing and presenting their work as often as possible; being a team player; working hard; and being open to all career opportunities, even if it means moving. "Aim high, set goals, work hard, and pursue your dreams," he said.
One student who was on hand to take in Pickett's remarks was Jamila R. Greene, a Purdue University graduate student and national student representative for NOBCChE's 27 active student chapters. For her, the importance of NOBCChE lies in its name. "Although 'professional advancement' is not in the acronym of NOBCChE, it is the essence of the organization," she told C&EN.
According to Greene, this fundamental role of NOBCChE carries over into the theme of this year's meeting. "Even though the theme is 'Continuing the Quest for Excellence in Science & Technology,' it's also about taking opportunities to develop our future scientists and leaders of tomorrow," she said.
The Percy L. Julian Award is one example of how NOBCChE encourages both cutting-edge research and professional development among black chemical professionals. Given for significant contributions in pure and/or applied research in science or engineering, the Julian Award is the most prestigious award presented by NOBCChE. This year's recipient is Gregory H. Robinson, chemistry professor at the University of Georgia.
In his award symposium, Robinson discussed the synthesis of a three-membered gallium ring that is aromatic (C&EN, Sept. 24, 2001, page 39) and a gallium-gallium triple bond complex with a trans-bent geometry (C&EN, March 16, 1998, page 31). He discussed the controversy surrounding these compounds and the literature reports that support his claims.
Also presenting their work were more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students, who took part in a poster session where they were evaluated by sponsoring company representatives. This event gave students one-on-one contact with potential employers.
Undergraduate students also had an opportunity to present their work during the Rohm and Haas Undergraduate Research Competition. Six students gave oral presentations based on research they are involved in. Janine K. Nunes from Morgan State University, in Baltimore, was selected as this year's winner for her talk titled "Characterization of the Epoxy Polymerization Process."
The conference also included a day-and-a-half-long national science bowl, in which 130 students in grades seven to nine (junior division) and grades 10 to 12 (senior division) participated. The double elimination competition pits a team of four students against two other teams in a "toss-up/bonus" format.
This year's senior division national champion was the Timbuktu Academy Blue team from Baton Rouge, La. Alberta Lawson and LaDeta Crawley coached Nicholas Crawley-Brown, Yonas T. Yemane, Brittani Ware, and Leisa Lawson to victory for the second year in a row--a feat only accomplished by one other team in the 16-year history of the competition.?
The junior division champion was the Cincinnati Alliance II team from Cincinnati. The three-student team of Oluseye Akomolede, KaMariea Magette, and Kayode Omoyosi was coached by Ike Ononye and Kim D. Jackson.
Sixteen junior and senior high school students also took part in the annual national science fair. This year's senior division first-place winner was Krystina Daniels of Milpitas High School, San Jose, Calif., and the first-place winner in the junior division was Aaron Gebrelul of Timbuktu Academy.
As NOBCChE continues its quest for excellence, it will remain a beacon for young and seasoned black scientists alike. The next meeting will be held in March 2005 in Orlando, Fla.
2004 Competition Winners
NOBCChE Rohm and Haas Co. Undergraduate Research Award Competition
1st Place—Janine Nunes, Morgan State University, for her presentation titled “Characterization of the Epoxy Polymerization Process.”
2nd Place—Olusegun Williams, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for his presentation titled “Initial Stages of Amyloid--Aggregation Revealed by Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.”
Science Bowl Winners
1st Place—Timbuktu Academy Blue from Baton Rouge, La. Team members Nicholas Crawley-Brown, Yonas T. Yemane, Brittani Ware, and Leisa Lawson. Coaches: Alberta Lawson and LaDeta Crawley.
2nd Place—Renaissance I from Detroit, Mich. Team members: Temperance L. Carter, Arthur Edge III, Daryl Currie, Johnathan Hartsfield, and Luke Rosier. Coach: Cynthia Bridges.
3rd Place—Milby High from Houston, Texas. Team members: John Harris, Isaac Muniz, Nkechiamaka Nwosu, and Tri M. Nguyen. Coach: Shakir M. Ahmed.
1st Place—Cincinnati Alliance II team from Cincinnati. Team members: Oluseye Akomolede, KaMariea Magette, and Kayode Omoyosi. Coaches: Ike Ononye and Kim D. Jackson.
2nd Place—Cincinnati Alliance I team from Cincinnati. Team members: Olufemi Taiwo, Oli Ononye, Itse Charles, Chris Agomuo, and Aloysius Ononye. Coach: Kim D. Jackson.
3rd Place—Timbuktu Academy Blue from Baton Rouge, La. Team members: Jillian M. Crawley-Foster, Kristoff L. Gager, Justin M. Paul, Ashley White, and Aaron Gebrelul. Coaches: Cathy Duncan and George Ware.
Science Fair Winners
1st Place—Krystina Daniels of Milpitas High School, San Jose, Calif., for “Protein Sequence and The Tree of Life.” Her adviser is Gloria Whitaker-Daniels.
2nd Place—Faith Brown of Saginaw Arts & Science Academy, Saginaw, Mich., for “Keeping Drivers Alert.” Her adviser is Keith Conerly.
3rd Place—Quintisha Walker of Saginaw Arts & Science Academy for “The Effects of the Tittabawassee River Water on Eucidaris.” Her adviser is Keith Conerly.
1st Place—Aaron Gebrelul of Timbuktu Academy, Baton Rouge, La., for “From Waste to Gold.” His adviser is George Ware.
2nd Place—Kathryn Daniels of Milpitas High School, San Jose, Calif., for “Odor Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Her adviser is Gloria Whitaker-Daniels.
3rd Place—Aaron Rhetta of Los Peseos School, San Jose, Calif., for “Do Water Sanitizers Works?” His adviser is Millicent Rhetta.
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