View from the Program Chair, Irv Levy, Fall 2016

The fall meeting in Philadelphia will be a special meeting to me for a number of reasons.

First, at this meeting we will host a special symposium titled “Reflections of Perkin Medalists” as part of the theme Chemistry of the People, By the People, For the People. The Perkin Medal is an award given annually to a scientist for an "innovation in applied chemistry resulting in outstanding commercial development." It is considered the highest honor given in the US chemical industry. We are honored to have a full day symposium of these award-winning chemists in our division and I hope many will plan to attend some or all of these lectures. The efforts of Perkin Medalist, and true friend of chemical education, John Warner, made this symposium possible.

Next, we will once again host a “pan-Society” symposium as speakers from almost every ACS technical division will speak from the perspective of their division on the topic of Chemistry of the People, By the People, For the People. Many thanks to lead organizer Rudy Baum along with Cathy Middlecamp for working with me to make this happen.

Also, this meeting will mark the end of my term as Program Chair. I would be remiss if I failed to thank the Division for the honor of serving in this role for the past six years. This has been a remarkably enjoyable experience as I have had the opportunity to work with countless people across the nation and beyond, a number of whom have become dear friends.

There have been some rough spots. For example, my first meeting as Program Chair (Anaheim) was also the first to use the terribly flawed PACS abstract submission system. Boy, was that fun! I was pleased to serve on the Abstract Replacement System Advisory Group that dumped PACS and selected MAPS for our membership. As of the current meeting, it appears that MAPS has finally had almost all of the bugs worked out. While no system is perfect I think we can fairly say that we are in a stable situation now.

The Division still has challenges as far as placement in venues at the meeting. We make an impassioned plea prior to every meeting explaining why we should be in the Convention Center (or at least adjacent) and we have made headway but it continues to be a meeting-to-meeting nail biter. If we don’t end up in the Convention Center in San Francisco, don’t hold it against your new Program Chair, Tyson Miller. We’re really trying!

And Thursday. Oh Thursday. How we struggle to program on Thursday. We now try to show our Thursday presenters that they are not unloved by providing hospitality for the Thursday sessions. We have also begun to invite select Thursday presenters to participate in Sci-Mix, giving them a wider audience. These all seem to help but unless ACS changes its programming policies we will still have unhappy authors who must present to small rooms on Thursday.

There have also been very positive and exciting activities in “programming world” during these past six years.  For example, the Division has improved funding to support meeting co-chairs, making it easier for the right folks to step forward to work on our behalf.

We have taken great strides in our support of pre-college educators as we have lobbied ACS to provide funding for the High School/College Luncheon, removing a fund-raising burden from our High School Program organizers. We have now added a regular workshop-style session for pre-college teachers, thanks to our Polymer Ambassador, Sherri Rukes.

Green chemistry and sustainability have become regular topics for sessions in our Division’s program with both oral and poster sessions at every meeting.

We are welcoming our undergraduates to participate at a higher level with the oral Undergraduate Research Papers sessions that have become part of the regular program.

We have improved the visibility of our Division by hosting two pan-society symposia that bring presenters from all of the other technical divisions into the CHED program. And, recently we have begun to dabble with State-of-the-Art symposia in our program, essentially providing tutorial sessions in areas of broad interest.

All of this is possible only because of the work of countless volunteers who are dedicated members of the Division willing to commit an enormous number of hours of their professional life to national meeting programming. Thank you thank you thank you to the meeting co-chairs who have worked with me these past years: MaryKay Orgill, George Bodner, Wayne Jones, Joe March, Bill Harwood, Amy Cannon, Paul Rillema, Steve Fleming, Carmen Gauthier, Nicole Snyder, Julie Smist, Tyson Miller, Christine Jaworek-Lopes, Beatriz Rios-McKee, Cathy Middlecamp, Andy Marsh, Iona Black, Denyce Wicht, and Patrick Daubenmire. You are not just entries on a list. You have all become valued colleagues and friends. Thank you!

While the list above provides many reasons for me to smile and recall fun times with these colleagues, there is also profound sadness as I reflect on the loss of Christine Jaworek-Lopes who passed away at a very young age. Her life ended this spring after a valiant battle against an aggressive cancer. She was an amazingly positive person and tireless in her support of outreach in chemical education and as a volunteer in our division. In fact, even while battling cancer she continued to attend our meetings and to plan to serve as a future meeting co-chair for the division. In Chris’ honor we will host a special symposium in San Francisco “Celebrating Chemistry Through Outreach: Honoring the Legacy of Christine Jaworek-Lopes”. I encourage you to submit an abstract and attend this memorial symposium.

I enjoy numbers and I recently realized that during these years I have worked with these meeting chairs and hundreds of symposium organizers, and thousands of presenters. In fact, during the past 12 meetings, from Anaheim to this meeting in Philly, we have accepted and scheduled 13,138 presentations (papers and posters)! And I’ve traveled 43,212 miles from Boston to our various venues as I’ve served as the Program Chair.

What a long, strange trip it’s been…  THANK YOU!

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