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Being prepared for my presidential year

by Peter Dorhout, ACS President Elect
September 25, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 38

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Peter Dorhout
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

The Boy Scouts movement was started in January 1908 by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, who created the phrase “Be prepared,” in reference to being ready to act and to do the right thing at the right moment. “Be prepared” is not just a Scout motto; it has been my motto since long before I earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 1977, and it’s a motto that is vital to us chemical professionals. I am planning to be prepared for my presidential year in 2018.

How can I be prepared to build on the legacies of the ACS leaders who preceded me, and how will I be prepared to hand off the baton to sustain the momentum with the next ACS president? Let’s create some things that will last, that have meaning, and that will build talent within our society.

Preparing future chemists to be successful in the ever-changing career landscape requires an integrated approach to education. I’ve heard from ACS members in companies large and small who are seeking and promoting employees who are not only well-grounded in the fundamentals but who are also flexible, who possess a philosophy of safety and ethics, and who embrace collaboration and diversity. ACS is positioned to promote these approaches through ongoing work in our local sections, divisions, and committees.

Let’s create some things that will last, that have meaning, and that will build talent within our society.

If you are like me, your passion for chemistry probably emerged from successes in problem solving or explorations that were very focused. Yet you’ve never lost the excitement of learning something new. Lifelong learning, whether through journals, meetings, webinars, or short courses, is critical to continued professional growth; ACS has been my source, and it should be yours as well. As members, we should be working with ACS to continually create and refresh professional development offerings to enable members to be prepared for a dynamic employment environment and to incentivize industry to employ our members because they are best aligned to advance their collective successes.

In the coming year, I will highlight and promote a new program to advance the philosophy and “RAMP” up the practice of safety among our members, particularly students, using the following four principles: recognize, assess, minimize, and prepare ( Through a collaboration of Corporation Associates, industry, the Division of Chemical Health & Safety, and the Committee on Chemical Safety, ACS will launch online training modules that teach best practices in safety, supplementing the training that our students receive and enabling members to be prepared to operate responsibly in a quality laboratory environment, whether in academics, industry, or government laboratories.

Ethical conduct of research and practice of chemistry significantly enhance the credibility and public trust of the profession and go hand in hand with safety. Communicating safe and responsible research practices is a critical component of communicating chemistry to the public. Communication involves not only helping people understand complex concepts but also building trust. Through events such as National Chemistry Week and other public outreach activities such as Science Cafés, we can communicate the broader public value of basic and applied research, chemical industry, and science.

To be prepared for the future careers in chemistry, members will need to operate in a global environment, which will require us to recognize and embrace different perspectives to solve increasingly complex problems. Successful teams will include chemical and other science professionals from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, experiences, identities, and viewpoints. The richness of our solutions depends on the wealth of diversity of our inputs. Enhance your international perspectives through building teams around the globe, seek out collaborations and experiences, and connect with our members in international chapters—see for resources.

I invite you to be prepared to celebrate diversity with me in 2018 ( We will realize 50 years of advancing young people through Project SEED, and I will highlight the successes of another historic pipeline of talent as I share exemplars from our ACS Scholars Program and cheer on our 300th Ph.D. graduate, whomever she or he may be. I hope you will join me in being a benefactor of these two highly successful programs.

You will have an opportunity to learn more about me, my passions, and my programs for 2018 in the Jan. 1, 2018, issue of C&EN. I will be complementing our national meeting themes of Food, Energy & Water (spring in New Orleans) and Nano­technology (fall in Boston), connecting careers in chemistry, promoting safety, and embracing diversity throughout these and our regional meetings. I hope you will be prepared to join me.

As always, please share your thoughts and perspectives on how we may work together on these initiatives for 2018. I can be reached at or on Twitter @PeterDorhoutACS.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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