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Partners For Progress And Prosperity

by Marinda Li Wu
January 7, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 1

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Marinda Wu
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography


“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

As I begin my year as ACS president, I am grateful for all the wonderful support received from colleagues everywhere, whether we have known each other for 40 years or whether we have just met. My presidential theme for 2013—“Partners for Progress and Prosperity”—captures what I believe with all my heart.

While the responsibilities of the ACS president are many and varied, my efforts will focus on the following areas to bring more progress and prosperity to our members:

• Concentrating on members’ needs and interests
• Collaborating to enhance the global chemistry enterprise
• Communicating the value and benefits of chemistry to society
• Celebrating diversity and inclusivity

Representing the more than 164,000 members of the American Chemical Society as president is a responsibility I undertake with great honor, optimism, and enthusiasm. Honor, because ACS is the world’s largest scientific professional society. We’ve grown by serving our members’ needs, but we can do better. Optimism, because I believe we should—and can—turn the many challenges our profession faces into real opportunities. Enthusiasm, because I’ve always been proud to be a chemist and have a passion for making a difference.

To be inclusive, ACS should broadly serve chemists and other professionals pursuing any of the diverse career paths related to chemistry, chemical engineering, and allied sciences. We should work together with all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals to increase our impact. Let’s partner for progress and prosperity!


My top priority remains serving our members’ needs and interests. For many of our members today, the most pressing needs are job opportunities and career satisfaction. Turn on the evening news or pick up a newspaper, and you’ll find stories about the lingering U.S. national unemployment problem. Chemists continue to fare better than the general populace. However, in recent years, mass layoffs in the chemical industry and, in particular, the pharmaceutical industry, have resulted in record levels of unemployment and underemployment for many of our members. That’s why one of my first acts after election was to commission a special presidential task force—Vision 2025: Helping ACS Members To Thrive in the Global Chemistry Enterprise.

Members of the Vision 2025 Task Force worked to identify opportunities and challenges related to the global chemistry enterprise with respect to job growth, collaboration, education, and advocacy with a goal of developing specific and actionable recommendations for ACS. The task force is composed of two groups: Jobs & Advocacy and Globalization Opportunities. It has completed an environmental scan of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; explored external trends and leading indicators affecting the global chemistry enterprise; and reviewed pertinent existing and planned ACS activities, consulting with ACS committees, divisions, and other key stakeholders.

We must learn to view globalization—the movement of research, manufacturing, and consumption around the world—more as an opportunity than a threat. Globalization is here to stay and, indeed, it is accelerating.

The task force recommendations were presented to the ACS Board of Directors in December to show how ACS can help connect members with more employment opportunities and thrive in an increasingly global environment. After incorporating the board’s feedback, action steps will be finalized and shared broadly with ACS leaders and members to facilitate implementation during the course of this year and beyond.

For example, we are launching a new International Employment Initiative (IEI) at the April 2013 ACS national meeting in New Orleans at Sci-Mix. Employers with overseas job opportunities will be able to connect with job seekers. IEI will be part of the ACS Career Fair and also the virtual career fair. In addition, a Presidential Career Advancement Symposium highlighting numerous successful career paths including entrepreneurship will be featured at the September 2013 ACS national meeting in Indianapolis.

ACS has established a strategic goal to “empower an inclusive community of members with networks, opportunities, resources, and skills to thrive in the global economy.” We must partner to take action, so join me in exploring new opportunities to build a better Vision 2025 for all of us!


Collaboration helps drive science and technology in the 21st century. Collaboration drives research; it drives development; and it drives business. No matter where you live and work in the world, you can build on ideas, inspiration, and solutions by partnering with others.

ABOUT MARINDAA Portrait Of The Wu Family

Credit: Katie Zirkel
The Wu family in Sonoma wine country. From left: Lori, Evan, Marinda, Norm, and Will.
Credit: Katie Zirkel
The Wu family in Sonoma wine country. From left: Lori, Evan, Marinda, Norm, and Will.



Born in Pasadena, Calif., Marinda Li Wu lives near Berkeley with her husband of 35-plus years, Norm, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of an exciting start-up. Their two children, Lori, 31—married to Stanford classmate Evan—and Will, 23, recently moved back to work in the San Francisco Bay Area after earning their Ph.D. and B.S. degrees, respectively.

Marinda’s mother, Tsun Hwei Li, is now 92 years old and still enjoys playing tennis. “Mom has always been one of my greatest inspirations,” she says. Marinda remains the only chemist in her family. Like her late father, her two sisters and brother are all successful university professors in their own fields.

Given their close proximity to Sonoma wine country and Napa Valley, Marinda and Norm enjoy visiting different wineries to sample the many varieties of fine wines available in the region.

As a strong advocate for science and engineering, ACS should lead the way in exploring how we can best help both domestic and overseas members address opportunities and challenges presented by globalization. We should establish closer ties with scientific societies around the world so that we can become better partners for progress and prosperity.

For my part, I will continue to work on forging partnerships along several fronts. By building bridges with others—be they our sister chemical societies overseas; other scientific and engineering disciplines; or academia, government, industry, and other sectors—together we can lay the foundations for mutually beneficial ­collaborations.

In this increasingly global chemistry enterprise, job opportunities—whether in teaching, research, manufacturing, marketing, or sales—can be found anywhere in the world. Since today’s job opportunities are global, empowering all our members to participate in this global enterprise can be transforming. Indeed, over 25,000 of our 164,000 members live overseas (, and many members now living in the U.S. came from other countries to study or work. The Vision 2025 Task Force has made recommendations that acknowledge and leverage this globalization of the chemistry enterprise to turn challenges into opportunities.

The upcoming April 2013 ACS national meeting in New Orleans ( features an exciting Presidential Globalization Symposium and Global Collaboration Roundtable discussion on April 8–9. Presidents of chemical societies representing Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas have accepted my invitation to speak and discuss common challenges we face and how we can work together to address them. Top thought leaders from academia, industry, government, and small business will also share their views and ideas. Our goal is to develop solutions based on a diverse set of perspectives from around the globe. Proceedings will be shared with scientific communities everywhere through an ACS Symposium Series book.


As a child, I dreamed of someday becoming a scientist. By high school, I also contemplated becoming an ambassador. It’s quite rewarding for me now to realize that I have been able to combine both aspirations.

After graduate school, I enjoyed working many years at Dow Chemical. I started in basic and applied research and was later recruited to marketing for Dow Plastics during the height of the paper versus plastics debate. As one of three inaugural environmental advisers for Dow Plastics, I was privileged to help launch Partners for Environmental Progress. I am told that was a precursor for today’s sustainability efforts. To address growing environmental concerns, I helped create multistakeholder alliances and partnerships and set up the first community plastics recycling pilot program in the nation. Forming such stakeholder alliances is a strategy I strongly believe in and still practice to this day.

As president-elect, I enjoyed meeting leaders of chemistry societies around the world and discovered that we face many common challenges and we can benefit immensely from sharing best practices. For example, while attending the Leadership Forum at the Chinese Chemical Society Congress in Chengdu, China, in April 2012, the presidents of several Asian and European chemical societies all cited the same issue—the persistent misperceptions and negative image associated with the chemical industry. We know it is no different here in the U.S. Without better education and outreach, the general public and policymakers still tend to focus on problems created by chemicals rather than on how chemistry makes our daily lives better in many ways.

ACS has several programs aimed at spreading general awareness about the vital role that chemistry plays in addressing the world’s challenges. One such program is Chemistry Ambassadors. It offers many resources and tips designed to help chemists teach nonscientists the importance of chemistry and its role in improving our quality of life.

As another example, science cafés—which originated in Europe—have proven to be quite popular with the general public. I have shared such public outreach programs throughout my travels. I encourage chemists everywhere to be proactive in becoming ambassadors for not only chemistry, but for all science and technology. If we don’t take the time to explain the value of science to others, who will?

The public misperceptions will only persist unless we act to change them. We scientists need to take responsibility for showing nonscientists how important a role science plays in our lives. As ACS president and beyond, I will continue to be a passionate global ambassador for chemistry and for science literacy. Will you join me? Visit


Just as collaboration results in better ideas, inspiration, and solutions, so do diversity and inclusivity. If we are to continue to grow as a society serving members’ needs, appreciating different perspectives is important. Including different perspectives in developing strategies and recommendations is even more important.

The chemistry enterprise has come a long way in terms of diversity and inclusivity. I find it indeed heartwarming and exciting how much things have changed. When I was a student 40 years ago, there were few women majoring in chemistry or the STEM fields and even fewer pursuing a Ph.D. In 2001, I was only the third woman in a hundred years to chair the ACS California Section, and my tenure coincided with the section’s centennial celebration. I find it thrilling to be the eighth woman and the first Asian American to serve as ACS president in 137 years.

ACS has been a steadfast leader in programs promoting diversity and inclusion. Visit and you’ll see that we have numerous diversity awards and recognition initiatives, a biweekly “ACS Diversity” e-briefnewsletter, and an ACS Women Chemists of Color program. We have a number of ACS committees and subcommittees whose primary focus is promoting diversity and inclusion. In addition, we have ongoing collaborative partnerships with several minority-based science organizations.

The society also offers scholarships through its ACS Scholars Program ( for underrepresented minorities and the ACS Project SEED Program ( for economically disadvantaged students. At the September 2013 ACS national meeting in Indianapolis, the Diversity & Inclusivity Advisory Board is organizing a Presidential Symposium highlighting diversity of many kinds.

Still, we need to think of what more we can do. It’s increasingly important to listen to different perspectives and new ideas. I’ve always maintained that the best way to understand other people and their cultures is to get to know them face-to-face.

Thus, I hope to promote overseas exchanges and internships. When one spends a few months in another country, one better understands differences in cultures and perspectives. I’ve tested interest in such exchange programs with various companies and universities, both in the U.S. and abroad. Response has always been quite favorable. ACS is exploring ways to connect you with such programs.


I appreciate the opportunity to highlight my major areas of focus in 2013. They fall under an overarching theme: “Partners for Progress and Prosperity.” We must embrace globalization and explore the opportunities it creates. Many traditional chemistry jobs have changed or are in the process of changing. Some have disappeared and are not returning. We need to adapt, think outside the box, and innovate.


As chemists, we still need to improve our public image. We must advocate for science. It’s up to us to promote science literacy, education, and innovation. We have the responsibility to help the general public and our policymakers better understand the many contributions from chemistry and science. This is critical if we are to maintain U.S. competitiveness. We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and play catch-up; nor can we afford to go it alone. The time is ripe for developing new alliances and partnerships to confront common challenges.

I find it immensely rewarding to meet and talk with students and members of the entire science and technology community. Serving members’ interests is my top priority. I will visit members, both domestic and overseas, to hear your suggestions and ideas. I welcome your input at .

In keeping with the advice of my favorite philosopher, Confucius, wherever I go on your behalf, I will go with all my heart. Let’s partner for progress and prosperity!


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