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For District II Director: George M. Bodner

by George M. Bodner
September 6, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 36

George M. Bodner

Purdue Section. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

Academic record: State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, B.S., 1969; Indiana University, Ph.D., 1972

Honors: Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), 2010; ACS Fellow, 2009; Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, ACS, 2003; Nyholm Medal, RSC, 2003; Clifford C. Furnas Distinguished Alumni Award, SUNY Buffalo, 2003; Distinguished Professor, Transylvania University, May 1989; Catalyst Award in Chemical Education, Chemical Manufacturers Association, 1989; Distinguished Professor, Xi’an Jiaotong University, November 1985; predoctoral fellow, National Aeronautics & Space Administration,1969–72; predoctoral fellow, National Science Foundation, 1968; Sigma Xi; Phi Lambda Upsilon

Professional positions (for past 10 years): Purdue University, Arthur E. Kelly Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Education & Engineering, 1977 to date

Service in ACS national offices: Committee on Ethics, 2009–11, committee associate, 2007–08; Committee on Divisional Activities, 1987–92, committee associate, 1986; Society Committee on Education, committee associate, 1993; Committee on Publications, 2000–08, committee associate, 1999

Service in ACS offices: Member of ACS since 1969. Purdue Section: councilor, 1984–2010; chair, 1983; chair-elect, 1982; vice chair, 1981; secretary-treasurer, 1978–81. Southern Indiana Section: treasurer, 1970–71. Great Lakes Regional Meeting: chair, 1985; Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, cochair, 1988, treasurer and exhibits chair, 2006

Member: American Association for the Advancement of Science, RSC, National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Association for Science Teacher Education. ACS Division: Chemical Education

Related activities: Journal of Research in Science Teaching, associate editor, 1993–98; Chemistry Education Research & Practice, associate editor, 2004 to date; Journal of Science Teacher Education, associate editor, 2006 to date; organized and/or chaired more than 25 symposia at ACS meetings; program chair for chemical education of the 201st ACS national meeting (Atlanta, 1991), 233rd ACS national meeting (Chicago, 2007), and 241st ACS national meeting (Anaheim, Calif., 2011); published 123 papers and 20 books; presented 470 papers at technical conferences and gave more than 525 invited lectures, including almost 200 talks at ACS local section meetings

Bodner’s Statement

As Charles Dickens wrote in “A Tale of Two Cities,” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

There are clear signs that efforts to address the problems outlined 27 years ago in the report “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform” have had an impact. Consider, for example, the twofold increase in the percentage of high school students who take chemistry, from 32% in 1982 to 66% in 2005. Additional evidence for the health of chemical education can be found in a recent report from the ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT) that noted a record number of bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, an all-time high in graduate student enrollment, and remarkable progress toward gender equity, with essentially equal numbers of men and women earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees (C&EN, Nov. 23, 2009, page 38).

And yet a recent report noted that the “U.S. chemical industry lost 15,000 jobs in 2008,” that “job prospects in the chemical industry are ‘pretty lousy,’ ” and that “chemical employment peaked at 1.1 million jobs in 1981” (C&EN, Jan. 19, 2009, page 8).

There are reasons to believe that the next words in the quote from Dickens are appropriate to our age and our profession: “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.” For evidence of the age of wisdom, one need only examine the C&EN editors’ choices for “superlative achievements” in “Chemical Year in Review 2009” (C&EN, Dec. 21, 2009, page 35). And yet there is little chance of finding references to these achievements in the popular press because of the abysmal state of the public knowledge of chemistry.

Despite significant advances in helping K–12 students understand the process of inquiry at the heart of science, little if any improvement has been made in the general public’s understanding of topics such as the appropriate response to the controversy surrounding bisphenol A or societal challenges such as global warming.

It is both an honor and a privilege to be considered as a candidate for the position of District II director on the ACS Board of Directors. I would like to bring to this position a perspective developed when I had the opportunity to serve as cochair of the steering committee that oversaw the preparation of the most recent strategic plan for Purdue University. The committee was organized around the following general themes:

Preparing tomorrow’s leaders. As an academic approaching the end of his fourth decade as a university professor, it should not be surprising that I place a high priority on the preparation of the next generation of chemists and chemical engineers. This is not a problem that can or should be delegated to groups such as CPT or the Society Committee on Education. It is a problem that is central to the activities of many groups that do not appear, at first glance, to be concerned with education, such as the ACS Committee on Ethics, which was formed four years ago, and the Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs, which began a recent report to the council as follows: “In response to the current economic and workforce challenges faced by our members …”

Bridging the gap between discovery and delivery. In my first year as a visiting professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, John C. Bailar Jr., a Priestley Medal winner, provided many pieces of sage advice that had a lasting effect on my career. One of them involved recognizing the difference between research that can be done and research that should be done.

There is clearly a need for fundamental research that improves our ability to synthesize, characterize, manipulate, and study the dynamics of chemical substances. And yet far too many students graduate from our academic institutions with no understanding of how the results of the process of discovery are transformed into products that are ready for delivery. Furthermore, I sense that many of our students have made more progress than the leadership of ACS in understanding the importance of work in the chemical sciences that can address the global challenges we face.

Meeting global challenges.The importance of being competitive in the global marketplace was the focus of recent comments by my friend and colleague, Joseph S. Francisco (C&EN, Jan. 4, page 2). Being competitive, however, is not enough to meet global challenges. To what extent has ACS fostered the ability of our students, practicing members of the society, and our companies and corporations to work in a collaborative environment with individuals from other countries, other cultures, or other professions?


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