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Like so many other baby-boomer chemists, Cynthia K. Larive traces her interest in the central science to the chemistry set she played with as a child. Despite the enjoyment she got from the set, the possibility of being a chemist didn’t even occur to her. Youngsters like her raised in Deadwood, S.D., in the 1960s and ’70s, she says, “did not grow up to be scientists.”
Then as a teen, Larive landed a summer job at the nearby Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, S.D., which was once the largest gold mines in the Western Hemisphere. In one area of the mine, astrophysicists were collecting neutrinos emitted from the sun. Larive had the opportunity to talk with a scientist wearing a white lab coat who was involved in the neutrino experiment. “It was the first time I realized that being a scientist was a job,” she says. The experience shifted her outlook, and Larive set her sights on a career in science.
She earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from South Dakota State University, then a master’s degree in inorganic chemistry at Purdue University. After working for a few years and starting a family, she moved to the University of California, Riverside, to garner a doctorate in analytical chemistry. At 57, Larive is now divisional dean for chemistry, mathematics, physics, and astronomy at UC Riverside, where she’s been a chemistry professor since 2005.
Larive began volunteering with ACS after she started her academic career at the University of Kansas in the 1990s. She started out in her local section as a Carnival of Chemistry volunteer. She eventually became president of the University of Kansas Local Section (now the Wakarusa Valley Local Section).
Next came national service. For years, she has been active with the ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry, serving on its Education Committee for a decade and chairing the committee for four years. She chaired the division in 2013, during its 75th anniversary, pouring substantial time and energy into this celebration, points out Roland F. Hirsch, councilor and Web editor of the division.
Larive has also chaired the ACS Committee on Professional Training. “There are very few ACS committees that require the amount of commitment that one does,” Hirsch says.
In addition, Larive is editor-in-chief of the Analytical Sciences Digital Library, a National Science Foundation-funded effort. She’s held that post since 2004. The constantly expanding library “is playing an important role in providing materials that people can use for research as well as the teaching of the subject,” points out George S. Wilson, emeritus professor of chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Kansas.
Also, Larive served on the ACS Graduate Education Advisory Board and helped organize ACS meetings, symposia, and workshops. Wilson says Larive’s volunteer record indicates “a very high level of commitment to chemistry and to the education of professionals.”
Larive urges her fellow chemists to lend a hand to the society’s work. “ACS is a big organization, so sometimes people get the feeling that it’s impersonal. But it really is chemists working together for the betterment of chemistry. There are so many different aspects in which people can become involved.” She adds, “Anything we can do to share chemistry with the world is a good thing.”
Larive will present her award address during the ACS ChemLuminary Awards at the fall national meeting in Boston.