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For President-Elect: Luis A. Echegoyen

by Luis A. Echegoyen
September 6, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 36


Luis A. Echegoyen

Rio Grande Valley Section. University of Texas, El Paso

Academic record: University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, B.S., 1971, Ph.D., 1974

Honors: Herty Medal, ACS Georgia Section, 2007; ACS Florida Section Award, 1996; fellow, International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry, 2009–10; Alumni Research Award, Clemson University, 2007; Clemson University’s College of Engineering & Science Award for Faculty Achievement in the Sciences, 2004; fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2003; Fogarty Senior International Fellow, 1990, 1997; University of Miami Provost’s Scholarly Activity Award, 1997; Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award, 1968

Professional positions (for past 10 years): University of Texas, El Paso, Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry, 2010– ; Clemson University, professor, 2002–10, chair of chemistry department, 2002–06; National Science Foundation, director of Chemistry Division, 2006–10; University of Miami, professor, 1983–2002

Service in ACS national offices: Committee on Science, 2005–08, committee associate, 2003–05

Service in ACS offices: Member of ACS since 1973. Chicago Section: Gibbs Medal Jury, 2008–12

Member: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Electrochemical Society

Related activities: Related activities: University of Wisconsin, Madison, postdoctoral fellow, 1975; Union Carbide, chemist I, 1975–77; University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, associate professor, 1980–83, assistant professor, 1977–80; NSF, Chemistry Division, program officer, 1982–83, Chemistry Division Advisory Committee, member, 1986–89; sabbatical at Louis Pasteur University with Jean-Marie Lehn (as Fogarty Senior International Fellow), 1990; sabbatical at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, with François Diederich (as Fogarty Senior International Fellow), 1997–98; NSF, Mathematical & Physical Sciences Advisory Committee, member, 2003–06, Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science & Engineering, member, 2003–06; Journal of the Mexican Chemical Society, editorial board member, 2005 to date; Fullerenes, Nanotubes & Carbon Nanostructures, editorial board member, 2006 to date; Gordon Research Conference on Physical Organic Chemistry, vice chair, 2009, chair, 2011; Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies—Nanoscience, Board of Trustees, member, 2008 to date; Council for Chemical Research, Governing Board, member, 2008 to date; Physical Chemistry of Solid Surfaces Institute, China, International Advisory Board, member, 2009 to date; Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, distinguished guest professor, 2009 to date; Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry, editor-in-chief, as of 2011; published 282 journal articles and 39 book chapters and gave 293 invited lectures

Echegoyen’s Statement

Chemists almost unanimously agree about the centrality of their discipline among the sciences and its crucial role in providing solutions to the grand-challenge problems, which include sustainability, health, and security. However, the biggest challenge that we face is to convince other scientists, government officials, and the public of this centrality and importance. If we want to be effective in convincing others about the importance of chemistry, we need specific and realistic plans to effect change.

Although change is the only element of life that is constant, effecting change is difficult and requires strong leadership based on conviction and experience. Eric Hoffer, author of “The Ordeal of Change,” wrote, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” I strongly believe that change is essential for advancement. As president of ACS, I would do the following:

Promote Inter- and Multidisciplinary Education and Research. Educating future generations to succeed in an increasingly diverse, complex, and multidisciplinary world necessitates creative approaches in the classroom and in laboratories. Although we promote inter- and multidisciplinary education, curriculum changes have been incremental at best, partly because of structural constraints and inertia. Through the Committee on Professional Training I would evaluate curriculum alternatives that best exploit our rich diversity and reflect the ways in which chemical research is conducted in industry and academic institutions. Real changes are needed if we are to continue thriving intellectually and if our discipline is to remain vibrant.

Advocate Strongly for Increases in Research Funding. Using my academic and industrial experience, scientific expertise, and knowledge acquired at the National Science Foundation, I would make it my top priority to work closely with the ACS Office of Public Affairs (OPA) to educate and convince Congress that investing in basic chemical research is essential for the health of the U.S.’s innovation engine and the long-range competitiveness and prosperity of the country. Investments in our field have been shown to yield substantial returns, both intellectually and economically. The past four years in Washington, D.C., have given me a very broad and unique perspective that will be crucial to articulate a powerful and convincing case on behalf of our community.

Promote Closer Ties between Industry and Academic Institutions. Our discipline is the only science with an associated industry that bears the same name. In order for the U.S. to retain a privileged position in worldwide science and innovation, the research and development enterprise in chemistry must demand closer ties between industrial and academic sectors and must require a delicate balance between public and private funds. Industry can no longer expect all of the basic research and education of future generations to be exclusively supported with public funds, and academic institutions cannot plan to function as industrial centers. ACS has a key role to play in bringing these sectors closer together and in helping to catalyze a positive and synergistic interaction for the collective good. Intellectual property issues have to be addressed and resolved, and as president, I would make this one of my top priorities.

Increase International Partnerships. Defining the fine dynamic balance between collaboration and competition at the international level is crucial to set the right path for the success of the U.S. International partnerships need to start at early educational stages via student exchanges and extend into cooperation in fundamental and applied research that addresses grand-challenge issues. ACS should encourage these interactions through the expansion of some of its existing programs in the Division of Education, the Office of International Activities, and the Green Chemistry Institute and should create new programs and cooperative funding mechanisms. To this end, I would strengthen and establish new partnerships with other professional societies in the U.S. and around the world.

Optimize Efficiency at National Meetings. I plan to work closely with ACS’s divisions, local sections, and committees to find ways to maximize efficiency, minimize duplication, and achieve increased attendance at presentations and symposia.

In summary, if elected president of ACS, I would concentrate my efforts in catalyzing change at many levels, encouraging multidisciplinary education, advocating on behalf of the profession, promoting closer university-industry ties, enhancing international partnerships, and optimizing efficiency at national meetings. If elected, I would be president-elect in 2011, the International Year of Chemistry, an ideal opportunity to disseminate our message to the world. I look forward to taking on these challenges for the benefit of our community and to convincing others of the centrality and importance of our discipline.


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