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For President-Elect: Thomas J. Barton

September 10, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 37

Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Barton
Photo of Thomas Barton.
Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Barton

Ames Section. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Academic record: Lamar University, B.S. (chemistry), 1962; University of Florida, Ph.D. (organic chemistry), 1967; Ohio State University, NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1967

Honors: Visiting Professor in Global Chemistry Program of Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok), 2012; first recipient of ISU Award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa, 2010; Federal Laboratory Consortium Laboratory Director of the Year for Technology Transfer, 2003; ACS Midwest Award, 1995; Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment in Materials Chemistry (DOE Materials Sciences Division), 1989; Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1988; MASUA Honor Lecturer, 1984; Royal Chemical Society (England) Research Fellow, 1983; second recipient of Iowa Governor’s Science Teaching Medal, 1983; CNRS professeur d’echange (Université de Montpellier), 1983; Outstanding Teacher Award (Iowa State University), 1982; Frederic Stanley Kipping Award in Organosilicon Chemistry, ACS, 1982; Japan Society for Promotion of Science sponsored lecture tour of Japan, 1981; NATO Collaborative Scientist in France, 1976; National Academy of Sciences exchange scientist to Soviet Union, 1975; Wilkinson Departmental Teaching Award, 1975

Professional positions (for past 10 years): Iowa State University, Distinguished Professor, 1984– ; Ames Laboratory (Department of Energy), director, 1988–2007; Institute for Physical Research & Technology, director, 1998–2007; Iowa Energy Center, interim director, 2009

Service in ACS national offices:Ames Section: chair, 1972

Member: Member of ACS since 1963. ACS Divisions: Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry

Related activities: Spanish Language Institute, El Quinto Nivel de Español, Puebla, Mexico, 2007; Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) National Advisors Group, 1999–2007; American Chemical Society Interactive Presidential Colloquium, 1994; Ames Daily Tribune Unsung Hero Award, 1994; Clark Atlanta University External Advisory Board for High Performance Polymers & Ceramics Center (HiPPAC), 1992–96; member of DOE Council on Materials Sciences, 1992–96; Advisory Board for International Organosilicon Chemistry Symposia, member, 1990– ; Advancing Science Excellence in North Dakota Review Panel, 1990; National Academy of Sciences Review Panel for AFOSR Proposals, 1987–90; Materials Chemistry, DOE Ames Laboratory, program director, 1986–88. Numerous presentations to civic organizations, economic development groups, various engineering societies and legislative committees; 180 publications, one textbook, 13 patents, and 293 presented papers and seminars


Why do I want to be ACS president?

Chemistry faces a very difficult situation. Jobs are being outsourced, unemployment among chemists is at an all-time high, adequate funding for research is uncertain in the forthcoming days of budget cutting, and chemistry seems less appealing to our youth. ACS has spent considerable effort in identifying proper goals for the society in addressing these problems and in developing strategies to accomplish them in the “Strategic Plan for 2012 and Beyond.” However, plans remain only words unless there is leadership who passionately believes in our mission and has the background, talents, capabilities, and time available to lead the effort to carry out these strategies; to sell these strategies; and to energize the membership of ACS to carry them out with zeal. I want to repay something to the profession that has given me so much by addressing the following crucial problems.

Education. Despite decades of warnings and suggestions by various elite commissions, the quality of the product of America’s K–12 science educational efforts continues to decline. Our nation simply can’t afford this performance, and it is essential that ACS be a major partner in a committed effort to reverse this trend. I believe that this can only be accomplished by enhancing the rigor of our education (yes, this includes longer school years!) and increasing the quality of teaching and teachers (yes, greater selectivity and better pay). My long history of developing such efforts as middle school and high school science bowls, grades 8–12 minority science education programs, and 45 years in chemistry education will serve me well in this arena.

Public appreciation of chemistry. It seems the media only finds the negative side of chemistry to be newsworthy and fails to celebrate the numerous contributions benefiting our lives. We must do a better job of changing this situation. The education of the nonscientific public of the fundamental importance of chemistry is essential. There won’t be new, more powerful drugs for pancreatic cancer without chemical research. There won’t be better catalysts for conversion of biomass to fuels, or plants and animals becoming the chemical factories of the world, or a solar-activated catalyst for the conversion of water to hydrogen and oxygen to solve this planet’s energy crisis without chemical research. The ever-increasingly complex problems which face our world are sometimes those in which we have had a part in the making, but far more often they are ones in which it is essential that we are a part of the solutions. Ours is an enabling science, and the world depends upon our success far more than is commonly recognized.

Employment and globalization. ACS absolutely must continue to be a world leader for chemistry, but at the same time we must be concerned about the effect globalization has on the domestic job market. I have considerable experience in assisting entrepreneurship in technological enterprises and would focus on this and innovation as our best hope of reducing the continuing loss of chemistry jobs to foreign lands. I strongly back the recent plan of the ACS blue-ribbon task force in this arena.

My experience? I worked 45 years as a research scientist and teacher of chemistry, 18 years as director of a national laboratory, 10 years as director of a federation of campus-based research centers collaborating strongly with U.S. industry, and one year as interim director of the Iowa Energy Center. I also have years of experience advocating for scientific enterprises to legislative groups and public service organizations and am eager to be a passionate spokesman for chemistry. I am now retired and am both willing and able to devote my entire efforts to this cause.

What can I do? While the ACS president is only one person, an energetic, experienced president can lead by coordinating the effort of 165,000 bright, well-educated members and their collective wisdom to take us into the future. I will continue to probe the entire spectrum of our membership to ensure that we are filling their actual needs. I will seek your ideas, and you can start sending them now ( I pledge to listen to those from all corners of our profession. I would relentlessly urge you to become a member of our Legislative Action Network and join the less than 10% of your fellow members who write letters to legislative members in support of vital ACS priority issues. The concerted voice of a truly engaged 165,000 scientists could pack a powerful wallop!

Please visit my candidate website for more information at www.bartonforacs​


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