Issue Date: November 12, 2012
Evolution Of The Applied Chemical Technology Professional
In 2011, the ACS Board of Directors approved a motion from council to alter the charter for the Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA). The changes, which didn’t affect the committee’s activities, were intended to recognize technicians’ evolving professional role in the society and the chemical enterprise.
The revised language used the more accurate and widely accepted term of “Applied Chemical Technology Professional” to identify this growing segment of ACS membership. In addition, recognizing the diverse nature of this community, the board also asked CTA to become an active stakeholder in the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board (D&I).
As CTA nears its 50th anniversary, now is a good time to reflect on the important contributions that the applied chemical technology professional brings to ACS and the chemical enterprise at large.
The role of technicians in ACS has changed considerably since the committee was established in 1964. Technicians have gone from being ineligible for membership to being society affiliates, then associate members, and finally full members. With the enactment of new membership categories in 2009, a large percentage of technicians in the U.S. are now eligible for full membership in ACS.
Applied chemical technology professionals serve in leadership roles throughout the society as career consultants, committee chairs, local section and division officers, and program chairs, to name just a few. Technicians are engaged in their local sections and technical divisions and contribute to programming at national and regional meetings. This diverse pool of members is now fully engaged in all aspects of ACS.
From an employment perspective, the role of technicians has also changed. No longer seen as just a “pair of hands,” technicians fill a wide range of positions. They work in testing laboratories and in pharmaceutical and basic chemical manufacturing. They work in colleges, universities, professional schools, and other R&D environments.
They design new laboratory equipment and setups, design and perform experiments, and prepare compounds. Technicians conduct trials and help develop syntheses and analytical procedures. They troubleshoot production problems and monitor commercial processes. They also test quality, performance, and composition of compounds.
Technicians collect and analyze data, author documents based on their results, and deliver presentations on their work. And they file patents; develop standard operating procedures; and contribute to overall quality, safety, and other initiatives.
In industry teams, the applied chemical technology professional brings valuable skills to the development of new products, new materials, and process methods. Technicians provide a critical link between ideas and the production of finished goods. The nature of their work requires technicians to be innovative problem solvers, to serve as active trainers and peer mentors, and to maintain influential relationships with senior team members as builders and collaborators.
Technicians often work in more than one setting and work for more than one senior chemist or engineer. They have to be able to multitask. Technicians work with their hands, think analytically, and pay attention to detail.
I have seen many of my colleagues progress in their careers from that pair of hands in the lab to leaders in ACS and industry. Certainly, these are driven individuals; however, I firmly believe that ACS played a critical role in helping define their career trajectories. Whether through leadership development and soft-skills training or through opportunities to present their scientific achievements to their peers, ACS offers a fertile environment for members to hone skills that are valued in the workplace and to build a professional network of members who share their passion and aspirations.
Applied chemical technology professionals represent a growing and diverse population and play a key role in today’s chemical workforce. CTA is proud to represent the needs of this community and to work through ACS governance channels to continue to make ACS the professional home for the technician community.
Through an active partnership with the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division to plan and promote symposia at national meetings, CTA gives applied chemical technology professionals an opportunity to share their science and promote their research within the greater chemical community.
As an invested stakeholder in D&I, CTA stands committed to inspire and educate present and future generations of diverse, innovative, and creative chemical professionals.
In addition, by recognizing professional achievement, CTA seeks to advance the careers of technicians, analysts, operators, associate chemists, associate engineers, and all other applied chemical technology professionals.
Thus, as we prepare to celebrate 50 years of technician engagement in ACS, CTA will continue to focus on its three main goals: to increase awareness of the important contributions of chemistry-based technicians to the national economy and to society as a whole, to make technicians relevant to ACS, and to make ACS relevant to technicians.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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