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From Chicago To Israel

by Rudy M. Baum, Editor-in-chief
March 5, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 10

Every issue of C&EN brings its readers a broad range of unique information regarding the chemistry enterprise. This week's issue is no different, just a little more so than usual.

Let's start with its heft. At 240 pages, this will be one of the two largest issues of 2007. The bulk of those pages are devoted to the technical program for the 233rd American Chemical Society national meeting that will be held in Chicago later this month (see page 71). It is a very large meeting. The ACS president, 28 technical divisions, one secretariat, and three committees will host programming in 682 half-day oral sessions and 96 poster sessions. More than 9,400 papers will be presented.

An overarching theme of the meeting, selected by ACS President Katie Hunt and the Committee on Divisional Activities, is "Sustainability of Energy, Food, and Water." The program consists of 47 sessions contributed by numerous divisions. They cover a wide range of important topics, with symposia titles such as "Modern Nuclear Reactors: Improvements of Existing Technology & Generation IV Developments," "Greenhouse Gas Capture & Sequestration," "Nanoscience-Fostered Advances in Sustainability," and "Realizing the Full Potential of Solar Energy Conversion through Basic Research in Chemistry & Biochemistry." In a very short time, sustainability concepts have become a primary driver for chemists, and it is heartening that ACS is featuring sustainability so prominently in Chicago.

On a C&EN-centric note about Chicago, the magazine is hosting Harvard University chemist and this year's Priestley Medal winner George Whitesides at the C&EN booth at the Exposition in McCormick Place on Tuesday, March 27, from 12:30 to 2 PM. Whitesides will be signing copies of the March 26 issue of C&EN, which will feature a profile of him and the text of his Priestley Medal address. (The ad on page 45 of this week's issue has the correct time for this event, which had to be changed from that in an earlier ad because of a scheduling conflict.)

This week's cover story on chemistry in Israel by Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby continues C&EN's long tradition of profiling chemical activities in countries around the world (see page 15). Jacoby visited Israel in November 2006 and spent several days interviewing chemists in 30 research groups at three prominent Israeli institutions: Weizmann Institute, Tel Aviv University, and Technion. In many ways, Jacoby writes, chemistry in Israel is much like chemistry in any Western nation. On the other hand, he points out, "unlike other countries that are widely known for scientific productivity, Israel is tiny. The country is smaller than the state of New Jersey and hosts a population of only some 6 million people. Furthermore, Israel is located in the Middle East, far from the Western countries with which it is aligned politically, socially, and academically. And it's surrounded by several hostile neighbors, some of which have declared publicly the desire to wipe the Jewish state off the map."

Jacoby paints a compelling portrait of talented chemists pursuing cutting-edge research despite limited resources and the realities of living in a highly unstable part of the world. Most of the chemists Jacoby talked to express an admirable stoicism about their situation. As Jacoby writes, "The odds of developing a successful chemical research program in such a place and under such circumstances might seem slim, and the task may be daunting. Yet Israeli chemists don't seem particularly fazed by the challenge. 'Kacha zeh ba'aretz,' they say in a matter-of-fact way. 'That's just the way things are in Israel.' "

For a more personal take on Jacoby's whirlwind tour of Israel and the chemistry enterprise there, turn to his "Reporter's Notebook," exclusively on C&EN Online ( Jacoby details his flight to Israel via London, his conversations with people from cabbies to chemists, and his travels from Rehovot to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Haifa. In addition to being a fine reporter, Jacoby is an accomplished photographer, and his online notebook features galleries of photographs taken during his travels in Israel.

Thanks for reading.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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