Chair’s Message, June 2016

June is an apt midpoint to take stock of the year’s SCVACS activity. Let’s summarize what we have been doing, a good opportunity to query you on what works well for you and what we might do differently.

Have you noted changes in the activity of the section?   Have you participated in local section activity in the past year?  What would lead you to take part?

Our monthly events have included:

  • A tour for chemists of Silicon Valley’s Advanced Water Purification Center [March 2016]
  • “The Future of Water” seminar by world-renowned water expert and founder of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick [April 2016]
  • “The World’s Most Destructive Industry (cattle-raising for food) and a Solution” seminar by Impossible Foods founder and CEO, Pat Brown [May 2016]
  • “The Story of Light and Single Molecules” seminar by Nobel Laureate W.E. Moerner [October 2015]

Many of these monthly event topics reckon back to George Whitesides’ “Reengineering Chemistry – What’s Next” – a list of 24 societal concerns where chemistry solutions are warranted that was featured in the February 2016 Chair’s Message.

We have partnered with the Golden Gate Polymer Forum in hosting a joint dinner seminar, co-mingling the two related communities. The popularity of the joint format on its first occasion in June 2015 led to making it an annual event with another this month, June 2016. The joint June 2015 meeting featured “Materials for Enabling Nanomanufacturing” by Al Nelson (U. Washington & IBM). The joint June 2016 meeting, “Redesigning the Interface Between Fresh Produce and the Environment for Sustainable Agriculture”, showcases Apeel Sciences, a start-up in Santa Barbara that extracts hydrogels from unused plant parts for coating fruits and vegetables to prolong lifetimes. That meeting’s information and registration link is in the June 2016 entry of our website’s Events page.  We would like to foster this format of bringing together the memberships of related organizations in shared events and welcome your suggestions of compatible partners.

We have ‘discovered’ the delightful venue of Michael’s at Shoreline for our dinner seminar meetings, located in a nature preserve by the San Francisco Bay in Mountain View.   The networking hour that precedes the dinner and lecture spills out onto the scenic terrace when lit by daylight.

Our website has been redesigned and now offers greater access to ACS resources. For example, the new page for posting past events will include the information-laden presentations of our monthly speakers (when available). Our webmaster actively seeks an assistant in continuing to update the section’s website – contact us if you have or want to develop web skills.

The debut of Monterey Bay area ACS activity in April was catalyzed by an ACS Innovation Grant. With six colleges and universities, several marine research labs, and strong agricultural interests, this southern part of SCVACS territory covering Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties held a lot of potential for supporting chemistry-related events. That potential turned into action with a kick-off networking/dinner/lecture event on April 14th at Cabrillo College. Registration was so robust it had to be capped due to space limitations in Cabrillo’s Sesnon House. A heartening one-third of the attendees were students from the area’s colleges. Plans are underway for additional ACS gatherings in the Monterey Bay area, with local business sponsorship and a local organizing group. Let us know if you would like to be in on the ground floor of a Monterey Bay area ACS subsection.

In K-12 education, our recent efforts have been only modestly successful in generating interest among educators in joining the newly formed ACS American Association for Chemistry Teachers (AACT), a local campaign supported with an ACS nano grant. We surmise teachers are too strapped for time to explore these options, despite cash incentives. Our participation in the ACS Science Coaches program successfully earned an east San Jose high school $500 for classroom supplies. If you are positioned in the educational community to communicate our offers of support to teachers and community educators, please get in touch with us. Meanwhile, our annual SCVACS Teach-the-Teachers workshop with RAFT (Resource Area for Teachers) for hands-on science continues to draw a strong turnout.

Another area with less impact than hoped is programming to support small chemistry-related businesses. In two networking seminars in 2015 – Creating a Safety Culture and Protecting Your IP – turnout was low, leading us to conclude that small businesses are also too strapped for time to indulge in such extracurriculars. A different approach is being considered of partnering with established small business organizations where a subsection for chemistry-related businesses is provided by our local ACS sections. ACS National Industry Member Programs is supportive of this approach, and we particularly welcome your input positioned from local industry.

The section continues traditions such as our annual July picnic and wine-tasting at Stanford where we honor and enjoy the stories of ACS 50- and 60-year members. Saturday, July 9th, is the date of this year’s family-friendly picnic. Community response to our annual hands-on children’s activity during National Chemistry Week in San Jose’s Martin Luther King Library and at the Bay Area Science Festival in AT&T Park has been strong, and we cherish our volunteers who make them happen.  The US National and  International Chemistry Olympiads have strong representation from SF Bay area high schools, thanks in part to long-standing, dedicated SCVACS leadership.

This summary reveals we have indeed enjoyed a good deal of a positive and varied activity.  Nonetheless – we relish your fresh ideas and energy.

Get in touch!


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