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Annual Report

June 26, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 26

We need to set up a system that allows people with bachelor's degrees to participate. We need to remove the necessity to publish all the time with a requirement to teach all the time. Make no mistake about it: The administrations of our major educational institutions are at fault here, too. They want their professors to publish and to innovate because that is what brings prestige and money to the institution. But at the beginning level, we just need to inspire students.

I earned my B.S. degree in chemistry in 1968 and my J.D. in 1990. I have worked somewhere in the chemical industry since I was 18 years old. As I approach retirement, I hope to be able to teach beginning classes at one of the local colleges, universities, or even the local high school. I would love to inspire budding chemists to have a career in chemistry, a career that has been rewarding for me and one I have been lucky enough to have had.

Stephen J. Smith
Anderson, Ind.

Pamela Zurer's editorial only hints at one of the causes of the lack of ability of university chemistry departments−and indeed most science and math departments at universities in the U.S.−to attract and retain undergraduate students. The editorial describes a student who dropped introductory chemistry due in part to being "frustrated by a demanding course and teaching assistants who speak English so poorly he was unable to get the help he needed." Given the high cost of a university education, students should expect to be taught by professors and teaching assistants who can clearly communicate the concepts of the course material. General chemistry is demanding enough for most students without the added burden of a language barrier. But given the shortage of graduate students at most universities, chemistry departments have no other viable options available.

Changing courses to inquiry-based models may retain more students, but what are we giving up in course content? In my current position I have encountered situations where the first impulse to solve a problem is to spend a few days with sophisticated instrumental analysis instead of a few hours or even minutes with basic chemistry, simply because the fundamental concepts and knowledge are no longer taught in the chemistry curriculum.

Mark Carpenter
New London, Mo.

Zurer's editorial should be required reading for every chemistry professor in the U.S. Both of my children loved chemistry in high school but hated the subject in college, and their experience is all too typical. I have known many other undergraduates who have been turned off either by professors who did not care about teaching chemistry or by lab instructors who could barely speak English.

The importance of chemistry for solving the problems we face is irrefutable. Yet, as the editorial recognizes, "those kids who sign up for freshman chemistry because they are premeds or engineering students or budding environmental scientists" are also potential chemists. Only by ensuring a richly populated field of practicing chemists will our society have the deep knowledge base needed to provide practical solutions to medical, engineering, and environmental challenges. Future generations will suffer if the current trend of turning bright kids away from chemistry continues. Parents of undergraduates should also be involved because, properly educated, they will help ensure that we reach the next generation.

Madan Kwatra
Durham, N.C.

I went to college expecting to study history, which was my favorite subject in high school. Chemistry won me over. I, too, was attracted to the problem solving and I loved the hands-on aspect of working in a lab. So here I am more than 40 years later still at it. I am still in touch with the chemistry department at my college (they like the occasional donation after all), so I will bring up the subject of attracting undergraduates to chemistry. I will also look into the inquiry-based models you mention.

Gary Hedden
Palo Alto, Calif.

Dues Increase

ACS membership dues are slated to increase from $127 to $132 in 2007 consistent with council action this spring in Atlanta (C&EN, April 17, page 43). In addition, as authorized by the ACS Board of Directors, a $4.00 fee will be added to support increased funding for divisions and local sections. Reduced from $5.00 in 2006 and 50% of the $8.00 fee originally planned for 2007, this temporary special assessment started in 2004 following ACS Constitution and Bylaws amendments that increased division and local section allotments from member dues. The special assessment is slated to end with the 2007 dues cycle. The fee is prorated for membership categories paying less than full dues.

It is an opportunity for ACS members to use the transforming power of chemists to leave a national meeting city better than we found it!

Annual Report

The 2005 American Chemical Society Annual Report is now available online. To access it, visit the ACS home page at and click on the link to the Annual Report. For print copies, please send an e-mail including your name and mailing address to Doug Dollemore at


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