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Start Your Engines

by A. Maureen Rouhi
September 2, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 35

The pace is getting frenetic at the American Chemical Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., as the countdown to the national meeting in Indianapolis begins. As always, C&EN reporters will be crisscrossing the host city, covering the latest exciting developments reported in meetings in the convention center and other venues. This time, however, C&EN itself will also be a center of attention as we celebrate the publication’s 90th anniversary.

Our celebration, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, has a theme of understanding science as applied to food. Festivities kick off at 11 AM EDT with the webinar “Food Fraud: How Scientists Detect It & What You Should Know.” Sign up to join online, or come to the ACS booth in the meeting exposition to learn about the many ways we are cheated by what we eat.

Celebrity chef and author Alton Brown will headline the main event of C&EN’s 90th anniversary celebration in the convention center at 5 PM. As Brown entertains us, I hope we will all get some clues about how to make science understandable to our parents, children, neighbors, and members of Congress. Beyond the top-notch fun, we will have door prizes and refreshments before and after the performance. Make sure you bring your ticket.

Attendees are in for a blast with the many other special programs slated. On Sunday, Sept. 8, the ACS Indiana Local Section is hosting a public outreach activity at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In addition, motorcar enthusiasts can ride a lap around the Indy 500 track in an Indy 500 pace car with a professional race car driver, or take a lap on the Formula 1 road course in a sports car driven by a professional race car driver. Be sure you have tickets before you head for the speedway.

Another familiar face from television will be in attendance: Actor and science enthusiast Alan Alda will address the open meeting of the ACS Board of Directors in the convention center on Sunday at noon. His talk, “Helping the Public Get Beyond a Blind Date with Science,” also focuses on communicating science to the public. I expect a big crowd, so I’ll grab a seat early.

Also on Sunday, at 1:30 PM in the convention center, is a celebration of Carl Djerassi’s 90th birthday. Best-known for his pioneering work on oral contraceptives, Djerassi is also a prolific novelist, poet, and playwright. At this event, Djerassi will reflect on his literary career over the past 25 years in his talk, “Beyond Chemistry: Drama, Fiction, Poetry, Short Story & Autobiography.” His latest work of fiction, “How I Beat Coca-Cola and Other Tales of One-Upmanship,” is “fun, fun, and more delectable fun,” according to a book review in C&EN (Aug. 19, page 30). Arrive early for a chance to receive an autographed copy of “How I Beat Coca-Cola” or another book by Djerassi.

On my Monday schedule are two must-attend talks: The Kavli Foundation lectures of Martin D. Burke and Harry B. Gray. Burke is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I first met him when I hosted a C&EN webinar sponsored by Sigma-Aldrich featuring his work on iterative cross-couplings using haloboronic acids. I was so impressed with Burke’s ability to communicate the excitement and promise of the chemistry he developed that I have featured him as a person to emulate when I give talks about communicating science.

Gray is the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and founding director of the Beckman Institute at California Institute of Technology. I’m excited because I’ve heard that he gives amazing lectures. I’m especially keen to see how many chemical equations he will feature in his talk, “Powering the Planet with Solar Fuel.” If what I’ve heard is true, he will show only two: 2H2O → O2 + 4H+ + 4e- and O2 + 4H+ + 4e- → 2H2O.

I have many other items on my to-do list, but I’m running out of space. If you’re still making up your mind about what sessions to attend, consider the recommendations by C&EN reporters on video monitors in meeting venues.

I’m revved up for Indy. Are you?


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