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Challenges, Opportunities, And Hope

by Marinda Li Wu, Director-at-Large
February 16, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 7

Credit: Photo by Norm Wu
Credit: Photo by Norm Wu

AS WE CELEBRATE the new year with the new Obama Administration, Americans are hopeful and expecting change. We, as members of the American Chemical Society, are hopeful as Americans, scientists, and chemical professionals. Many challenges facing our nation are unprecedented and complex. Our new President, however, remains undaunted by the enormity of his responsibilities. Since his election, President Barack Obama has wasted no time in appointing a capable Cabinet and team from whom he invites debate and diverse views.

In particular, we scientists are thrilled that the President has appointed some renowned scientists and Nobel Laureates including John P. Holdren and Steven Chu as a science adviser and energy secretary, respectively. The rest of Obama's science team includes other well-respected scientists: Harold E. Varmus, Eric S. Lander, and Jane Lubchenco (C&EN, Jan. 5, page 9).

However, it is President Obama's own words delivered in a radio address on Dec. 17, 2008, to roll out his new science team that offer ACS members the most hope for a brighter future:

"... Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and work to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology. ... I am confident that if we recommit ourselves to discovery; if we support science education to create the next generation of scientists and engineers right here in America; if we have the vision to believe and invest in things unseen, then we can lead the world into a new future of peace and prosperity."

(For the entire address visit

In many respects, like our nation, ACS faces complex challenges in 2009 and beyond.

In many respects, like our nation, ACS faces complex challenges in 2009 and beyond. In response to the severe economic downturn, the ACS Board of Directors at its December 2008 meeting took steps to ensure financial sustainability through various cost-cutting measures. Member services will remain intact for the most part, although a hiring freeze and tighter budgets are evident at both the national and local levels. All of us should do our part this year to save where we can. In this spirit, I chose not to attend this year's ACS Leadership Conference and New Officers Reception to save some travel costs.

Obama set an example the day before his inauguration by pitching in to help the homeless and others with community service. Likewise, we, as ACS members, should reach out and help others in need. With repeated news of more layoffs from chemical and pharmaceutical companies, large and small, now, more than ever, ACS needs to help its unemployed members transition to new careers and opportunities. Please visit for some of the latest resources and tools for job seekers (including online courses from Harvard Business School and much more).

I thank those who supported my reelection last fall to the board. This gives me the opportunity to continue serving ACS members and the society as we face today's enormous challenges. Times are indeed tough. Challenges are great, but as 2009 ACS President Thomas H. Lane said in the Jan. 5 issue of C&EN, "We're all in this together!" I have always believed that with challenges come opportunities.

More Online

From time to time, ACS committee chairs and national officers write comments for C&EN. Society members who wish to read more comments can find them on the Web on C&EN Online, ACS Comments are archived back to 1998.

The Obama Administration has ushered in a new era for change. His Cabinet and advisers are encouraged to voice diverse viewpoints and operate with transparency and a new ethics code. We at ACS should follow this example. I have long felt the personal need to give back to my profession and help advance the economic and professional status of all chemical professionals and scientists. There has been no greater need than now to help and to advance the importance and status of science and technology in the world.

I, like many, greet the new year with a renewed sense of hope for a better future. Let's work together and each individually do our small part in 2009. If you have not yet joined the ACS Legislative Action Network, please do by visiting is no easier way to e-mail your congressional representatives regarding issues of concern to our members such as funding research and science education. If you have ideas or suggestions for how ACS can help, please e-mail me at Happy 2009 to all!

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


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