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Chemists Rock Denver

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
April 6, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 14

The 249th ACS national meeting took place in Denver at the end of March. It was my first as ACS staff, and it was a superb experience. A lot of interesting science was discussed and many scientists—approximately 14,000—from all over the world were in attendance. Over the past couple of weeks, online and in print, C&EN has been covering some outstanding science presented at the meeting. In addition, in this issue, you can find a selection of interesting images of the meeting on pages 30 and 31.

Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Photo of a mole at the 249th ACS meeting in Denver.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

One of the most high-profile events of the meeting was the launch of ACS Central Science, the society’s first open access journal. To commemorate this milestone, meeting attendees, including Editor-in-Chief Carolyn Bertozzi, were challenged to ascend a rock-climbing wall that had been set up on the exhibition floor. Bertozzi also had the opportunity—from the safety of a tall chair at ground level—to share her vision during a Q&A at the ACS booth, where she was joined by the University of Oxford’s Ben Davis, one of the members of the multidisciplinary journal’s advisory board.

A highlight for me was the opportunity to meet 2015 Priestley Medalist Jackie Barton. The March 23 issue of C&EN, published the week of the meeting, dedicated the cover to her and included a feature about her life, career, and achievements. C&EN organized an event at the ACS booth for her to sign copies of the magazine; it was very well attended, with many young scientists queuing up to meet, congratulate, and draw inspiration from her.

I also had the opportunity to attend the ACS Awards Dinner and see Barton receive the Priestley Medal from ACS President Diane Grob Schmidt and President-Elect Donna J. Nelson. Barton delivered a great acceptance speech—humorous, emotional, and insightful. It was inspiring. You can see if you agree with me because Barton’s Priestley address is also part of the March 23 C&EN cover package.

But the meeting event that had the biggest impact on me was the Committee on Minority Affairs Luncheon. The keynote speaker was Dorothy J. Phillips, a member of the ACS Board of Directors, and she had many of us close to tears during her presentation, “Crossing the Road: Risk and Opportunity.”

She shared with us her life story. While growing up in a house of 12 in the segregated South, her ambition as a little girl was “to become a lawyer and then the President of the United States.” In the socially and politically tumultuous time, she chose—as had her father, a Baptist minister and her role model—to “cross the road” of segregation and make a change. She was determined to become a leader and the best chemist she could be. Her mantra of “You must want to be the best” drove her to graduate as the first African American woman to receive a college degree from Vanderbilt University and then the first to get a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati. That was in 1974, and after a 30-plus-year career in industry, one could say that Phillips has crossed (and continues to cross) many a road.

During the meeting C&EN ran a social media campaign, asking attendees to describe their job in one word, which we live tweeted at #cenoneword. It was fun and positive, and we invite you to share your one-word description of your job. Just go to and join the conversation. For inspiration, you can find posts from others including ACS CEO Tom Connelly and ACS President Grob Schmidt at

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


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