Chair’s message, January 2016

Welcome to 2016’s Santa Clara Valley ACS.

As the 2016 chair of this ACS section, I will author this Chair’s Message each month in the Silicon Valley Chemist newsletter. Have an idea for the column? Write me or be a guest author!

A brief background: most of my career as a research chemist has been at the IBM Research labs above Almaden Valley in San Jose.  There I have been involved in the evolution of instrumentation that observes and manipulates materials on the nanometer scale, AKA scanning probes, AFM (atomic force microscopy), STM (scanning tunneling microscopy). My interest is primarily in organic materials and extends to hybrids such as core-shell magnetic nanoparticles and DNA origami. Stepping further back in time – following a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry from Caltech (Bob Bergman), I entered the then nascent field of organic conducting polymers at the Allied Corporation (now Honeywell).  That field of materials research set my pattern of working in the solid state as the chemist beside physicists and engineers that persists until today. Also over the years I have held teaching positions with the University of Sao Paulo electrical engineering and chemistry departments and the Physics Institute of the University of Basel, and long-term collaborations with the Tokyo Institute of Technology, University of Washington, University of Alabama, SJSU, UC Davis, and the IBM Research Millipede team in Zurich. You can read more here:
I am a relative newcomer to the local ACS section and still asking about the mission of a local section.  In querying colleagues about the role of the ACS in their careers, frequently heard are words like ‘irrelevant’ and ‘disconnected’.  Rather than dismiss these negative descriptors, they motivate to become more relevant, for which we need your input. We have a varied and stimulating series of dinner speakers, from last October’s Nobel Laureate W.E.Moerner to next April’s Peter Gleick, an authority in the politics and science of water resources. The monthly dinner meetings are a good networking milieu you can use to meet up with colleagues and to make unpredicted connections with new acquaintances.

While the ACS mission aims to support chemists in their careers, it also provides a local venue to reach nonchemists.   The real-life phenomena of chemistry are ideal for bridging the gap to the nonscientific community.  How ‘irrelevant’ is a better informed society from which we all benefit, chemists and nonchemists?
To this end, the ACS offers a wide range of resources to be implemented on the local level.  For example, funds and materials to support teacher-chemist partnerships are provided in the Science Coach and Bubble programs, membership fees in the American Association of Chemistry Teachers are subsidized (for anyone, not just chemistry teachers), and summer research internships for high school students are awarded through the RISE and Project SEED programs.  The resources are available, awaiting the good will of implementation. By you, by me, by us.

What would you like to see as a purpose of our local ACS section?  Come to a monthly ExComm meeting or dinner lecture and let’s figure out your answer together.

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