Hadi Fares, a graduate student at Florida State University, is the American Chemical Society’s newest Chemistry Champion. He edged out three other finalists during an Aug. 17 finale at the ACS national meeting in Boston.
The Chemistry Champions contest is organized by ACS’s Office of Public Affairs and aims to help younger chemists develop their communication skills. The finalists were selected from a group of eight semifinalists, who each received science communication training this past summer in Washington, D.C. (C&EN, July 13, page 33).
Fares’s three-minute presentation on the use of polyelectrolyte films for various applications won overall through multiple rounds of competition. The other finalists were Dave Farina, a chemistry educator based in Los Angeles; Erica Lewis, who recently earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Georgia State University, in Atlanta; and runner-up Tierra Range, an undergraduate student at Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport.
Three professional science communicators provided commentary after each presentation on Aug. 17. They were Julie Fooshee, coordinator of the Science Festival Alliance at the MIT Museum; Stephen Lyons, an independent science filmmaker based in Boston; and Kiki Sanford, host of the radio show “This Week in Science.”
“I learned a lot from this competition, much more than I expected,” Fares says. “I saw the reason why we should communicate chemistry, because there are a lot of misconceptions that people have.”
Fares, who is starting his third year of grad school in Joseph B. Schlenoff’s research group, says that by becoming a better science communicator, he is opening his eyes to all the different career paths available to him after graduation. “To see what you can do with a Ph.D. other than academia and industry is very exciting,” he says. “I’m excited about the future and how many more options there are than I imagined.”
As part of the grand prize, Fares will visit the ACS offices in Washington, D.C., to network with professional science communications staff and possibly attend a briefing on Capitol Hill; host an ACS Reactions video; and join the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange. In addition, he received a 3-D printed Chemistry Champions trophy.