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The ACS Academic Employment Initiative

March 28, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 13

Recruiting beginning faculty members is crucial to the future of chemistry departments that seek a diverse faculty capable of addressing the challenges posed by 21st-century chemistry. Our current hiring schemes, which have been largely unchanged over the past several decades, are not tailored to meet present needs. From my experience, I see two problems: First, candidates need to become aware of the nature of the recruiting process at an earlier stage in their careers, and, second, the earliest stages of the recruiting process are based solely on paper applications--personal contact comes too late in the process. Both of these problems particularly affect the recruitment of a diverse faculty.

When I began my three-year progression through the ACS presidency in 2003, I discussed these dilemmas with colleagues in the profession and within the ACS staff. I wanted to find out what role ACS might play in giving colleges and universities exposure to a larger pool of candidates for faculty positions than is possible through current recruitment practices, and in giving candidates the opportunity to convey their teaching and research goals to a wider audience.

As ACS president in 2004, I announced the ACS Academic Employment Initiative (AEI), aimed at broadening the process by which universities and colleges recruit faculty. The intent was to enhance our current system by better informing candidates about the hiring process and by providing a forum for personal interaction between candidates and hiring departments before invitations for campus visits have been issued. The intent of AEI is to help create a more inclusive system of faculty recruitment that will ultimately strengthen research and teaching in the chemical sciences. With support from the National Science Foundation, ACS embarked on a two-year test of AEI.

AEI carries out two main activities: a symposium at the spring ACS national meeting, in the format of a panel/audience discussion of the academic hiring process, and a Sci-Mix poster session at the fall ACS national meeting for prospective faculty candidates to meet departmental representatives. These activities were described in C&EN (April 19, 2004, page 45, and Aug. 30, 2004, page 7) as well as in an article in the Journal of Chemical Education (2004, 81, 1697). Experience from our first year has informed modifications for this year. The symposium titled "Academic Recruitment: How Do You Get the Job?" recently held at the ACS national meeting in San Diego, included senior and junior faculty from a wider range of institutions who reflected on their experiences with the academic hiring process. In addition, it was structured to encourage and provide more time for audience participation and lively discussion.

The centerpiece of the AEI program is the Sci-Mix poster session at the fall ACS meeting. Here, candidates for academic positions present a poster describing the results of their research, their plans for future research, and/or their experience with and plans for teaching. Faculty from departments that plan to hire new faculty are able to meet and talk with several prospective candidates in an informal setting. The advantage for both candidate and recruiter is a face-to-face conversation to supplement and reinforce paper credentials. Thus, each side could learn more about the other, doing so without the cost of a recruiting visit or the pressure of a formal interview.

We learned at the first AEI poster session in Philadelphia that recruiters met more candidates than they could begin to afford to bring to their campuses for interviews. This wider net increased the opportunities for greater diversity among candidates for consideration and a better match of talents between candidates and institutions. Candidates reported that they learned about opportunities at colleges and universities that they had not previously considered but that matched well with their career goals.

With more than 120 candidates and at least 80 faculty recruiters at the first AEI Sci-Mix poster session last year, we believe that AEI got off to an excellent start. Now we wish to follow this success with an even better event at the ACS meeting in Washington, D.C., this August. You can help us achieve this goal by spreading the word about AEI objectives and the Sci-Mix poster session.

To make the AEI poster session a success, a large number of candidates and members of faculty-hiring committees will need to come together to take advantage of this opportunity to get to know one another better. How else can a candidate get exposure to so many institutions? Where else can a department meet such a wide range of candidates-- without the costs and confines of a recruiting trip?

To participate in the poster session, submit an abstract for the AEI Sci-Mix poster session; the submission deadline is April 30. Information on how to submit an AEI Sci-Mix poster abstract is available at The abstract itself must be submitted through (the online ACS abstract submission system). AEI continues to evolve. I welcome your suggestions regarding the program at all times (send e-mail to


ACS Comments, which appear in C&EN from time to time, are written by society officers and committee chairs. They are available on C&EN Online at . Comments are archived back to 2000.




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