Issue Date: January 31, 2010
Themes Shape ACS National Meetings
“The Chemistry of Natural Resources” is the theme of this spring’s American Chemical Society national meeting, to be held on March 27–31 in Anaheim, Calif. (see page 75). “Within this theme, emphasis will be on the various aspects of understanding, creating, and using the chemicals of nature,” says Ann-Christine Albertsson, thematic program chair for the meeting. Subthemes include biomacromolecules, natural products from land and sea, polysaccharides, geothermal energy, coal, wood, sustainable mining, and biofuels.
“My hope is that this thematic program will contribute to an increased understanding of the crucial role chemistry is going to play in the near and far future,” Albertsson adds.
First introduced in 2006, themes have become an important part of national meeting programming, according to David J. Lohse. Lohse chairs the Multidisciplinary Program Planning Group (MPPG), which consists of representatives of each ACS technical division and several of the society’s committees, including Meetings & Expositions, Divisional Activities, and the Committee on Science. MPPG serves as the forum for the technical divisions to select the theme for each national meeting.
Themes serve a dual purpose, he notes. They enable better program coordination among the 33 divisions, and they provide a framework for presenting symposia on topics that lie at the boundaries between the traditional disciplines represented by those divisions. Such symposia “make the program stronger in these new areas and also help the society grow” by attracting new members who work in interdisciplinary fields, Lohse adds.
Thematic programming often encompasses events sponsored by ACS presidents, including blockbuster plenary sessions and keynote speeches by distinguished scientists, politicians, or business leaders. Examples include Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Angela Belcher, who addressed the nanoscience theme in Salt Lake City in spring 2009, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Paul T. Anastas, whose talk was related to the sustainability theme of last spring’s meeting in San Francisco. Beginning with Anaheim, each meeting’s theme-related presidential programming will also feature The Kavli Foundation Innovations in Chemistry Lecture (C&EN, July 19, 2010, page 42).
The potential scope of thematic programming isn’t limited to traditional speeches and technical presentations, Lohse says. Other options include hosting a theme-related event for youth at a local museum or reaching out to local media to let them know that interesting speakers will be in town.
ACS members who would like to have a say in selection of future themes or want to help out with theme-related programs can get in touch with their local sections. They can also speak with their MPPG technical division representatives.
During each national meeting, MPPG meets to plan themes for future meetings. MPPG sends the proposals to the ACS divisions for comment. Once the divisions sign off on a given theme, MPPG chooses a thematic program chair. That selection is key to the success of the program, Lohse says. The chair needs to be well connected and well respected, knowledgeable about how ACS works, and a good organizer. That sketch happens to describe editors of ACS journals, and in fact a number of them have served as thematic program chairs—including Albertsson, who is editor of Biomacromolecules and a professor in polymer technology at the Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm.
For ACS’s fall 2011 meeting, to be held in Denver, the chair will be Ronald C. Cohen, professor of chemistry and of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center. The theme for that meeting will be “The Chemistry of Air, Space & Water.” Subthemes will focus on the chemistry of oceans, chemistry in the universe, chemistry of surface waters, astrobiology, food in space, sustainable freshwater supply, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental consultant Ruth A. Hathaway served as the first thematic program chair, pulling together a program centered on “Collaboration in Chemistry: Recovery from & Prevention of Natural Disasters” for the fall 2006 meeting in San Francisco. For that meeting, just a handful of symposia related to the theme. Every meeting since then has featured a theme, and Lohse says currently 10–20% of national meeting programming is related to the theme in some way.
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