Editor’s Desk: ACS in the Big Easy

In our next post from C&EN's editor-in-chief, Bibiana looks back at the recent ACS National Meeting held in New Orleans.

By Bibiana Campos Seijo

Reading Time: 3 minutes

At the end of March, ACS hosted its 255th National Meeting in New Orleans, LA. It was a pleasure to spend time talking chemistry in the Big Easy even when for many of us our return home was delayed due to a snow storm. But I’m not complaining: I can think of worse places than NOLA to get stuck in.

This edition of the meeting beat a record: the largest number of attendees that NOLA has ever seen as a host city for ACS. By March 21st‘s latest count attendance was at 16,690 individuals. There was a fantastic buzz in the convention center and hotels hosting symposia around the city. The exhibition floor and career fair felt busier than ever.

For C&EN one of the meeting highlights was the sexual harassment symposium that we organized in partnership with Women Chemists Committee. The one-and-a-half-day event took place on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 March and brought together a number of speakers who covered the sociology and psychology of sexual harassment, and discussed what academic institutions and other scientific organizations are doing to combat harassment in the sciences. We also hosted a half-day workshop on bystander training. But perhaps the most powerful part of the symposium were the presentations delivered by survivors of harassment Sanda Sun and Maria Dulay. You can watch their address here.

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Among many other activities C&EN also: organized another symposium, this time in partnership with the Younger Chemists Committee on the chemistry of cocktails; held a Q&A with Priestley Medalist Geraldine Richmond; celebrated the launch of C&EN’s Stereo Chemistry podcast; and broadcasted a selection of events via Facebook Live. For first time, we also created a daily pop-up newsletter designed to give both attendees and the chemists who could not make it to NOLA a flavor of what was going on at the show.

Each day, our reporters on the ground delivered their picks of the program and round-ups of the most interesting talks and events. Given the success of this first attempt to offer this service to the community, we plan to continue to offer this newsletter in forthcoming ACS – and other – meetings so folks can stay on top of the science emerging from these big scientific symposia.

Beyond that, the meeting was, as always, a showcase of fascinating science from the four corners of the world. With more than 8,000 presentations, symposia and events it is impossible for C&EN to cover it all, but you can enjoy some highlights here.

The Kavli lectures are always an impressive display of scientific prowess and this edition of the meeting did not disappoint. Emily Cranston of McMaster University kicked the event off by presenting The Kavli Foundation Emerging Leader in Chemistry Lecture, which covered her research on developing hybrid cellulose nanocrystal materials for emulsions, injectable hydrogels, and cross-linked aerogels. She was followed by MIT’s Angela Belcher, who delivered The Fred Kavli Innovations in Chemistry Lecture on using “nature and biomaterials as inspiration to design biological hybrid multidimensional materials”. Ahead of the meeting, C&EN interviewed her to learn more about this field of research.

The gala awards ceremony on Tuesday 20 March (or, as we call it, the Oscars of Chemistry) was also spectacular. The ACS national awards program reflects the breadth of disciplines and sectors within the chemical sciences today and the who’s who of our science was in attendance. The program is ‘designed to encourage the advancement of chemistry in all its branches, to support research in chemical science and industry, and to promote the careers of chemists’ and so more than 70 awardees were recognized in this edition.

The event culminated with an address by Priestley medalist Geri Richmond who delivered a passionate and impactful speech that recognized that the deepest fulfillment in her career has come from human interactions with mentors, colleagues, students and postdocs. That ‘our human connections are crucial to making great science’. We think the ACS national meetings are the perfect culmination of that mantra, and we’re looking forward to the next one!

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Bibiana Campos Seijo

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