Volume 91 Issue 13 | p. 5 | Editor's Page
Issue Date: April 1, 2013

Women In Chemistry

Department: Editor's Page
Keywords: women, chemistry, podcast, career

March is Women’s History Month in the U.S. Although it’ll be April by the time you read this page, it’s never too late to celebrate women in chemistry. In fact, the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) calls attention to women in chemistry all year round through its Women in Chemistry project. In addition to collecting oral histories from women, the project recently launched two other ways to learn how women enrich and advance the chemistry enterprise.

The Catalyst Series comprises individual films about eight women: Nancy Chang, Uma Chowdhry, Mildred Cohn, Mary L. Good, Kathryn Hach-Darrow, Paula Hammond, Stephanie Kwolek, and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. These women’s chemistry careers run the gamut from research to entrepreneurship and policy-making, their journeys propelled by passionate belief in the power of chemistry to improve people’s lives. The Philadelphia public broadcast station WHYY aired a one-hour television segment based on this series on March 27.

Stories from the Field,” meanwhile, is a podcast series downloadable from iTunes or the CHF website. According to CHF, “It’s widely acknowledged that role models are essential in encouraging young women to pursue scientific professions, and ‘Stories from the Field’ will offer an online bank of reflections from successful working female scientists to serve as a starting point for career exploration.”

If you enjoy listening to people’s life stories or their deeply held convictions as told through “StoryCorps” or “This I Believe” segments aired on public radio, you will likely also enjoy hearing about the diverse experiences of women from different parts of the chemistry enterprise. The podcasts are inspiring, entertaining, and informative. Women in the early stages of their chemistry careers will find good advice and encouragement here.

“Stories from the Field” launched in October 2012 with a segment featuring Madeleine Jacobs, the chief executive officer and executive director of the American Chemical Society and former editor-in-chief of C&EN. In telling how she landed her first job at ACS, Jacobs demonstrates the importance of never taking no for an answer. As I write, the latest segment features former ACS president Nancy B. Jackson. As manager of the International Chemical Threat Reduction Department in the Global Security Center at Sandia National Laboratories, she often travels to Asia and the Middle East, where she sees women playing key roles in chemistry and science.

Many of the segments are from interviews conducted in Philadelphia at the 2012 fall ACS national meeting and the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting. The 25 interviewees so far are in various career stages, from undergraduate engineers and chemists to retirees and emerita professors. A few are executives and entrepreneurs, some are women in alternative careers, and many are researchers in academia, government, and industry.

“We ask each interviewee five open-ended questions, just to help them think about their career in chemistry,” says Neil Gussman, CHF’s strategic communications and media relations manager. Gussman and Mia Lobel, the series’ executive producer, conduct the interviews. Lobel edits the interviews to monologues that have the professional feel of a “StoryCorps” or “This I Believe” segment. That’s no accident, Gussman says, because Lobel has produced pieces for National Public Radio.

Among those featured are Maria K. Burka, a program director at the National Science Foundation; Sharon Haynie, a principal investigator at DuPont; Maria L. Maccecchini, the president and founder of QR Pharma; Mary J. Shultz, a professor of chemistry at Tufts University; Sarah Widder, a research engineer at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; June Wispelwey, the executive director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and Lesley Yellowlees, the first female president of the U.K.’s Royal Society of Chemistry.

You’ll also hear from C&EN reporters Carmen Drahl and Linda Wang, as well as me. If you want to know what we said, you’ll have to listen to the podcasts.


Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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