ACS President Charles P. Casey and American Institute of Chemical Engineers President William D. Byers were among a group of 13 scientists and educators from the U.S. attending the 5th International Congress of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, which was held in Havana, Cuba, in late October. The group joined more than 1,000 participants from 16 countries.
Some scientists from the U.S. have been able to travel to many major conferences in Cuba over the past several years--with varying degrees of difficulty in getting visas. "Perhaps the most significant aspect of the trip was that we succeeded in obtaining a license from the Treasury Department to go to Cuba, while many other professionals were stopped from going at almost the last minute," says Zafra M. Lerman, professor of science and public policy and head of the Institute for Science Education & Science Communication at Columbia College, in Chicago.
In addition to Casey, who discussed "Challenges for Chemists," two other U.S. delegates presented master lectures at the conference: Ernest L. Eliel, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who presented the "History of Stereochemistry: 1950–2004," and Luis Echegoyen, professor and chair of chemistry at Clemson University, who presented "Nanocarbon Structures: From Fullerenes to Nanocarbon Anions."
Lerman chaired a session titled "Teaching & History of Chemistry," in which she presented a paper, "Use of Multimedia and Animation To Visualize Abstract Chemical Concepts." At the end of her talk, she was honored with a plaque naming her an honorary member of the Cuban Chemical Society. In his remarks, Cuban Chemical Society President A. J. Núñez Sellés cited Lerman's continuing support of and interest in Cuba and the Cuban Chemical Society as well as her international efforts to support scientific freedom and human rights.
At ceremonies held while the conference was taking place, the University of Havana bestowed an honorary doctorate on Eliel in recognition of his extensive contributions to science and the promotion of scientific freedom and human rights throughout the world. In his remarks, Eliel showed photographs of the mentors and colleagues who profoundly affected his scientific career. Later, he reminisced about his years at the University of Havana, where he received his undergraduate degree.
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