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ACS News

Working toward a safe, sustainable, and relevant chemistry enterprise

by Allison A. Campbell, ACS President-elect
September 26, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 38

Allison Campbell
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
A photo of Allison Campbell.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

Like many of you, I became fascinated with science at an early age. In my case, my parents had a formative role in my love of science. My father was a chemistry major and went on to become a pediatric surgeon, and my mother majored in biology and had a career as a medical technologist. Initially, I set my sights on a biology degree and a career in anesthesiology; however, I found that my heart was in chemistry, not in putting people to sleep.

Growing up in Oregon, I also had many opportunities to explore our country’s beautiful wilderness, and this direct experience of nature cultivated a deep appreciation of science and the preservation of our planet. In fact, when I am not working, you are likely to find me out cycling the roads in our region, fishing the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest, and spending time with my family in the outdoors.

My love of chemistry and our environment extends to my professional life. As associate laboratory director at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, I lead a fantastic research team that is working on scientific advances in the fields of climate and environmental sciences, renewable energy research, and advancing human health through early disease detection and improved therapies. I am proud to be part of a community of scientists who contribute to solving global challenges.

I am proud to be part of a community of scientists who contribute to solving global challenges.

I firmly believe that passion alone in the performance of science is not enough. It is our professional obligation to ensure that our work is accomplished safely, sustainably, and securely. Then we must go one step further and communicate and share the importance and value of our work—not only to our scientific colleagues but also to the broader public and government stakeholders. Communication of our science and its impact is vital because a well-informed and scientifically literate public and legislature will be better equipped to make informed decisions.

These passions—the health of our planet, the safe practice of science, and science literacy and advocacy—shape my vision, priorities, and symposia for my presidential year. My presidential symposia for the spring 2017 ACS national meeting in San Francisco include “Science for a Sustainable Energy Future,” which highlights scientific advances for creating and storing sustainable, low-carbon energy. A second symposium, “Holy Grails in Chemistry—Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Accounts of Chemical Research Journal,” will harken back to a 1995 issue of the journal that sought to spotlight critical areas of chemistry and will assess the progress in these areas since then.

For the fall 2017 ACS national meeting in Washington, D.C., I will be organizing a symposium on “The Chemistry of Our Planet,” focusing on understanding the role of chemistry in our atmosphere and climate, the health of our soil and terrestrial systems, and the availability of clean water. Additionally, a symposium on “Building a Safety Culture across the Chemistry Enterprise” will highlight institutional and grassroots efforts, share best practices and lessons learned, and highlight the importance of a culture of safety throughout our enterprise.

I have designed my presidential symposia to have broad appeal to ACS members and to the ACS divisions, which I am encouraging to adopt and expand the symposia themes to deepen the scientific discussions and exchanges in these areas.

In addition to the technical programming at national meetings, I have kicked off several presidential initiatives. First, I am working with ACS members across committees, divisions, and local sections to shape plans to raise awareness of the important role chemistry plays in our society to policy-makers on Capitol Hill. Second, in terms of increasing science literacy, ACS has just developed a course on communicating science to the general public. This course, in its pilot phase, will debut within the ACS Career Navigator, and plans are under way to offer it as a special module at the annual ACS Leadership Institute. I look forward to helping promote this important new ACS offering and to exploring the development of additional programs for our members.

As part of the Chemistry as a Global Enterprise Initiative, I am partnering with the Committee on International Activities to further promote collaborations between our members and other scientists around the world. Earlier this year, we had a successful workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to develop a Global Chemists’ Code of Ethics. Lastly, I am exploring a new initiative centered on innovation. It will build upon long-standing division and committee cross-cutting programming and events to link chemists to the tools and resources needed to drive chemistry innovation. With each of my initiatives, my goal is to ensure that efforts are aligned with ongoing or planned ACS activities and reach the largest possible audience.

Finally, I welcome your thoughts on my priorities and would love to hear your ideas. You will read more about me and my presidential initiatives in the Jan. 2, 2017, issue of C&EN.

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


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