Turning Challenges Into Opportunities | May 7, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 19 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 19 | p. 34 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: May 7, 2012

Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

By Marinda Li Wu
Department: ACS News | Collection: Economy
Keywords: employment, ACS
Marinda Li Wu, 2012 ACS President-Elect
Credit: Norm Wu
Marinda Li Wu
Marinda Li Wu, 2012 ACS President-Elect
Credit: Norm Wu

It is with feelings of great anticipation and responsibility that I serve as ACS president-elect this year. I fully support President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri’s initiatives because we share a similar passion and commitment to promote R&D, science education, and science literacy. Both ACS and the U.S. are at a critical crossroads and face great challenges. I am an optimist, however, and have always believed in turning challenges into opportunities. It is now more critical than ever that ACS collaborate with others in the global chemistry enterprise to tackle common challenges.

Two areas I will focus on in my presidential year in 2013 include helping ACS members find jobs and extending our global outreach. Chemistry has always been the central science and a means to a very rewarding profession. But this holds true only if one has a good job. Unfortunately, ACS members are suffering the highest unemployment rate on record since 1972—4.6% (C&EN, March 26, page 10).

The ACS national meeting in San Diego featured both an on-site career fair and a virtual career fair. At the on-site career fair, job seekers outnumbered jobs offered by 11:1. However, thanks to the virtual career fair—where employers and job seekers who were unable to attend the national meeting could meet online—the ratio of job seekers to available positions improved to 4:1.

What more can ACS do to help members with employment and professional development? ACS cannot create jobs, but we can influence employment conditions. I am working with the ACS Office of Public Affairs, the Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs, and others regarding advocacy efforts to improve the business climate in the U.S. We can explore solutions with various ACS stakeholders such as Corporation Associates, the Small Chemical Businesses Division, the Division of Business Development & Management, and others. I welcome suggestions from all.

I am also seeking input on ways to expand our global outreach through international exchanges and strategic collaborations that will benefit ACS members and the global chemistry enterprise. A priority for ACS should be to support our domestic members, but in order to remain competitive, ACS can and should do more in the global arena.

I have appointed a task force called Vision 2025: Helping ACS Members Thrive in the Global Chemistry Enterprise. Its charge is to identify challenges and opportunities and to develop an action plan to help members thrive in light of adverse employment trends and an increase in the globalization of the chemistry enterprise.

As I urged in a previous ACS Comment titled “Ambassadors for Science, Technology & Education in the 21st Century,” we should continue to work together (C&EN, Aug. 6, 2007, page 37). The need persists worldwide to increase the public’s appreciation of the importance of chemistry and to gain the support of legislators. Improving the public image of chemistry may help encourage the passage of favorable legislation for job creation. My colleague William F. Carroll, who is chair of the ACS Board, recently raised an excellent point by noting how much work remains to be done in this area to improve the U.S. business climate (C&EN, Feb. 13, page 46).

Another way to help our job seekers is to encourage the creation of more local job clubs to facilitate networking. After all, networking is still the most effective means of finding new jobs in difficult times. Thus, when I attended our annual ACS Leadership Institute in Fort Worth in January, I challenged the 350 leaders there to consider recruiting champions to start or reinvigorate job clubs in their local sections. I know from experience that job seekers help one another, so why not try inviting a couple of job seekers to start a job club for your local section? Providing local access to the latest ACS career resources, helping with résumés and interviewing, plus providing networking opportunities can offer invaluable assistance to the record 4.6% of members who are unemployed.

During my three years in the presidential succession, I plan to visit many local sections to get input on what our members want and need. I will also work to strengthen alliances and cultivate relationships around the world. Relationship building has been cited as one of ACS’s toughest challenges overseas. I intend to build bridges for strategic collaborations and invite leaders from our sister societies to participate in a dialogue. Together we can explore opportunities and activities that can benefit the global chemistry enterprise.

I believe in the power of science diplomacy and that all of us can become better ambassadors for science. As an example, during my recent trip to China, where I attended the Chinese Chemical Society Congress, I met leaders of many sister chemical societies as well as leading scientists in different fields from Europe and Asia. The best way to achieve better multidisciplinary and international understanding is through person-to-person interactions and by developing friendships.

I am grateful for the support, suggestions, and encouraging messages I have received from members from all over the world. Many challenges face us; let’s work together to turn them into opportunities for our members to thrive in the global chemistry enterprise. I continue to welcome your suggestions at marindawu@gmail.com or m.wu@acs.org.

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Bob Buntrock (Thu May 17 10:44:47 EDT 2012)
Interesting and needed article. However, there was no mention of so-called alternative careers available for degree holding chemists (i.e., non-lab or non-professorial postions). The ACS Careers Division is making some progress in this area but I would also refer you to a relevant chapter in the Chemical Information sources Wikibook where several of these career paths are discussed (http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Chemical_Information_Sources/Careers_in_Chemistry )

Bob Buntrock
Orono, ME

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