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Movers And Shakers

CTA: Supporting the increasingly vital chemical technician

by Kara Allen, Chair, Committee on Technician Affairs
February 6, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 6

Kara Allen
Credit: Courtesy of Kara Allen
Photo of Kara Allen.
Credit: Courtesy of Kara Allen

The American Chemical Society has long supported chemical technicians; it established the Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA) in 1964 to advance the increasingly professional role of technicians in the workplace. Over the years, the chemical technician—once seen as a “pair of hands” capable of handling primarily rote or less-specialized tasks—has tackled increasingly important tasks in industry and academia.

Today, chemical technicians are valued as an integral part of our field; they play vital roles in production, quality control, and research laboratories. Consequently, the education and skills required for these roles have continued to change over the years. Traditionally, technicians were defined as those who held an associate’s degree, but today, some who identify as technicians have also earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Technicians hold a range of titles, including process operator, laboratory analyst, technologist, and research associate.

Not surprisingly, one of CTA’s major challenges is understanding the makeup and requirements of its increasingly accomplished and diverse constituency. In November 2016, the committee participated in a strategic planning retreat aimed at reevaluating its activities to ensure that they align with the professional needs of today’s successful chemical technician. CTA crafted ambitious new mission, vision, and goal statements, as well as key strategies to support them. Here’s what we hammered out:

▸ Mission: Support and advance the chemical technical professional through career development and recognition.

▸ Vision: To be the essential resource for chemical technical professionals

▸ Goal 1: Increase communication within CTA and ACS at large and outside ACS. Specifically, the committee hopes to leverage social media, websites, and other tools as part of a communications strategy that it will update annually.

▸ Goal 2: Highlight chemical technician accomplishments by providing established awards and travel grants and evaluating additional opportunities to improve their visibility to employers and ACS. The committee hopes to further formalize, expand, and publicize awards programs aimed at honoring chemical technicians.

▸ Goal 3: Increase professional development resources available to chemical technicians over the next three years. CTA aims to compile and promote a listing of available resources and create and share a job search road map specifically geared for chemical technicians.

As part of its commitment to professional development, CTA supports the Leadership Development Award, which it cosponsors with the Younger Chemists Committee. The award provides funding for ACS members who are less than 35 years of age to travel to and participate in the annual ACS Leadership Institute. The award helps recipients develop leadership skills, gain knowledge, and share best practices through networking with other ACS leaders, governance, and staff members.

Perhaps the most visible of CTA’s programs is its National Chemical Technician Award (NCTA). Established in 1989, this annual award honors excellence and professionalism among technicians, operators, analysts, and other applied chemical technology professionals.

NCTA recipients exemplify the important and impactful roles that chemical technicians play in their organizations today. The 2014 NCTA recipient, Diana Deese, then an R&D reliability/analytical technician for Kelly Services at Dow Chemical, developed polishing, cleaning, and analytical techniques and processes related to the emerging silicon-carbide wafer business. She is also credited with developing more than 30 trade-secret processes.

The 2015 winner, Jeffrey Seifferly, a principal science and technology technician at Dow Corning, has worked with semiconductor materials, electronics, and thin-film technology and has been involved with high-voltage insulator development, plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition development, and nanosilicon technology development.

Last year’s NCTA recipient, Brian McCauley, is an associate investigator in the Corporate Center for Analytical Sciences at DuPont Science & Innovation. McCauley has provided polymer analysis to address business needs throughout the value chain, from early-stage R&D to manufacturing support. He has also provided product troubleshooting and competitor analysis for many DuPont businesses. In addition, McCauley has developed and implemented various novel size-exclusion-based liquid chromatography methods and provided interaction-based separations analysis to numerous biopolymer research projects.

If you are a chemical technician or a technician enthusiast within or outside an ACS committee or division, we welcome your support. CTA seeks to increase its visibility and collaboration with others across the society and the chemical enterprise.

Please consider attending the 2017 NCTA luncheon and award presentation, a ticketed event, which will be held on Sunday, April 2, at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel during the 253rd ACS National Meeting this spring.

For more information about CTA or to inquire about working with or serving on the committee, visit our website at or contact us at

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


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