Is the American Chemical Society your professional network, or is it your social network? For me, the line between my professional and personal contacts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn has blurred. This is partly because my professional contacts have become friends, and social media friends have become colleagues.
But the line has also blurred because my professional contacts often communicate their chemistry to me through social media. That doesn’t mean I will necessarily listen—which is why the brick-and-mortar part of ACS is so crucial. That is, I am more likely to interact with people on social media whom I recognize as chemists from my ACS interactions, and I then look for them at my next ACS national meeting.
A professional network like ACS can serve as your local coffee shop if you interact with it through your student chapter or your local section. Just like at a coffee shop, the regulars are there waiting to talk with you, and you are missed when you are not there. Much like a global coffee chain, ACS can also offer you opportunities to network beyond your neighborhood through local section meetings, regional meetings, and national meetings.
What do you and I lose when members don’t engage with the society at any level? And what do you and I get by remaining engaged in a professional network, and ACS in particular? I’ll answer by sharing examples from my interactions with ACS and my fellow members.
My first substantive exposure to the society took place when I was a graduate student attending an ACS national meeting. There I was awash in lectures at the forefront of my field of physical chemistry, and I could simply walk over to some of the giants of the field and learn firsthand what they were working on.
Through ACS’s networking and publishing channels, my access to the latest information about the chemical enterprise went well beyond the national meeting. C&EN, for example, produces content and analysis of chemical advances, innovation, and industrial practice and highlights the people and organizations behind those advances. Our journals attract and publish the best chemical science and technology research in no small part because they are associated with our society. Our members not only publish in our journals but also play a critical role in reviewing and editing publications to maintain the high quality of information that has made our journals best in class.
My second substantive exposure took place when I needed to find a position after completing my postdoc. I scoured the job ads in C&EN for months and sent out my applications to many universities. I was lucky enough to win the academic job lottery, and that was partly because ACS was there to provide mentoring and guidance about what I needed to do to get a job.
Through ACS’s professional development offerings, we have access to job openings around the world and across the entire chemical science and technology field. We’re also offered guidance on optimizing résumés and interview skills and the necessary content to shift career directions.
My third substantive interaction with ACS started in my first year as an assistant professor. Tom Netzel, then chair of the Georgia Local Section and future recipient of the ACS Award for Volunteer Service, found me in the hallway of the chemistry building and convinced me to run for chair of the section. His enthusiasm for giving back to our profession was contagious.
Through our local sections, we share the wonder of chemical science with people of all ages, including elementary students at our National Chemistry Week and Chemists Celebrate Earth Week outreach activities, high school students preparing for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad, midcareer professionals learning new safety practices at a local section meeting, and congressional staffers learning about how chemistry is crucial to their district’s economy. Whatever your passion for advancing chemistry in our world, ACS has volunteer opportunities for you to advance it. Moreover, if you identify an unmet need, we have the flexibility to follow your lead.
I have found that the true power of ACS lies in its members. We have in common the way we think about using chemistry and chemical solutions to address problems of any kind. Whether you’re practicing chemistry in a high school, in a chemical plant, in a surgery room, in a boardroom, in a courtroom, on the trading floor, or at a university, as I am, you are still a chemist.
ACS is stronger because we are linked through our network, whether I see you at an ACS meeting or hear your voice on social media. The key is that we can stand together like this only as long as you and I both remain members.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.