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Chemists Rev Engines In Indianapolis

ACS Meeting News: ‘Chemistry in Motion’ was conference theme

by Sophie L. Rovner
September 13, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 37

With Midwestern hospitality, Indianapolis welcomed attendees to the 246th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition last week. Stars from the worlds of science, racing, film, and television lent glamour to a swirl of activities centering around the meeting theme of “Chemistry in Motion.”

Alan Alda At #ACSIndy: The Public’s Blind Date With Science at the Newscripts blog.

Actor Alan Alda, who starred in the television series “M*A*S*H” in the 1970s and ’80s and hosted the PBS series “Scientific American Frontiers” from 1993 to 2005, delighted an overflow crowd at the ACS Board of Directors open meeting. He told amusing stories about his recent work fostering science communication, and said scientists “understand the poetry of the universe.” The board presented Alda with the ACS Award for Public Service.

Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
A science fair at the ACS national meeting draws KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory students to the Indy track.
Students at the science fair held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the ACS national meeting in Indianapolis, Sept. 2013.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
A science fair at the ACS national meeting draws KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory students to the Indy track.

Former Indianapolis 500 race car driver Stéphan Grégoire showed up at a racing chemistry symposium in full uniform, complete with racing helmet, to regale attendees with his inside-the-cockpit perspective on racing-related materials chemistry innovations.

Other speakers at this symposium addressed the chemistry of track surfaces, race car tires, biodiesel fuels, and trackside analysis of each car’s fuel to screen for illicit additives that might give an unfair advantage to individual drivers. National meeting attendees had an opportunity to experience firsthand the excitement of the auto-racing world by taking a spin around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track in an Indy 500 pace car. The event was hosted by the ACS Indiana Section, which also cohosted a public science fair at the raceway.

Chemical & Engineering News celebrated its 90th anniversary of publication during the meeting with a birthday party featuring Alton Brown, the puckish celebrity chef and television personality. Brown enthralled an enthusiastic crowd by using scientific explanations to squelch popular cooking myths, such as that searing meat seals in its juices.

By coincidence, chemist, author, and Nobel Laureate Carl Djerassi—whose pioneering synthesis of estrogen was fundamental to development of the first contraceptive pill—was feted by ACS in honor of his 90th birthday. Djerassi spoke at the celebration about “smuggling science” into popular understanding through his written works—novels, plays, short stories, and poems.

Other national meeting highlights included The Kavli Foundation lectures presented by California Institute of Technology chemistry professor Harry B. Gray and by Martin D. Burke, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

In all, more than 10,800 chemists and other visitors attended the meeting, including 2,600 students and more than 230 exposition exhibitors. The on-site ACS Career Fair hosted more than 500 job seekers and 29 employers, who had nearly 100 positions open. And the Virtual Career Fair provided more than 600 job seekers with online access to 11 employers and nearly 170 job openings.

More than 7,000 scientific papers were presented at the meeting. Symposia touched on such diverse topics as the toxicology of alternative fuels, polymers for aerospace applications, and the geochemistry of shale formations.

Along with sponsoring Alda’s lighthearted address, the ACS Board also took substantive action on such pathbreaking moves as approval for the formation within the society of a national association to provide resources and other benefits for precollege chemistry teachers.

At the ACS Council meeting, councilors narrowly defeated a Division of Colloid & Surface Chemistry request to change its name to the Division of Colloids, Surfaces & Nanomaterials.

The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety released guidelines to improve safety in research labs (see page 7). And the Committee on Budget & Finance reported that the society’s projected 2013 revenues will reach $491.8 million and net contribution from operations will total $14.5 million.


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