Chair’s Message, December 2016

The December Chair’s Message is typically retrospective, summarizing the year’s events in the last days of chair duty. I will follow the tradition.

The past year has been more challenging than expected, due in large part to the departure of Karl Marhenke from our leadership group.   For over two decades Karl held the position of section secretary, even expanding it to perform other services for the section. He was an incredible asset to the section that became dependent on him and his accrued knowledge for its smooth running. As with many things of great value, their absence brings about the realization of how extensive a role they played.   The Santa Clara Valley ACS owes a huge debt of gratitude to Karl for his years of selfless service.

The transition has reinforced the importance of continuously refreshing our leadership team with new talent and perspectives. The 2016 ExComm has several newcomers who, in turn, successfully recruited more newcomers, so the future is looking bright. In addition to bringing fresh energy and ideas, the newcomers reflect the broader cross-section of our local scientific community.

Of great satisfaction this past year was successfully establishing a Monterey Bay ACS subsection. Spring and autumn events each drew dozens of students, faculty, practitioners and admirers of chemistry for networking, dinner, and stimulating lectures. Where did they come from? Cabrillo College, Monterey Peninsula College, Hartnell College, Cal State University Monterey Bay, UC Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Moss Landing Marine Labs, and even the San Francisco Bay area. The kick-off event in April at Cabrillo College – The Chemistry of Beer Aroma & Battery Energy Storage – sold out at over 60 attendees. It was sponsored in part by ACS National and by NanoAndMore, a Watsonville-based nanotechnology company. October’s dinner lecture at Moss Landing Marine Labs – The Distribution and Speciation of Mercury in the California Current from Sea to Land via Fog – gathered a similar number of attendees, half of whom were students attending an ACS event for the first time. Read Rudy Wojtecki’s articles on these two events in the May and December 2016 newsletters for a sense of the enthusiasm that infuses this new endeavor. The Monterey Bay ACS subsection is fortunate to have Dr. Slava Bekker of Hartnell College now at the helm. These Monterey Bay area ACS events, though geared to serve those who live or work in the southern half of our SCVACS section from Santa Cruz to Monterey and Salinas, are open to all.

Another newly launched effort in 2016 is the Younger Chemists Committee (YCC), dormant for years in our section. Newcomer Matt Greaney organized the kick-off event at Santa Clara’s Golden State Brewery in conjunction with the SCVACS Senior Chemists Committee, making for lively intergenerational exchange between the nearly 50 attendees. YCC members Alex Klevay and Derek Popple documented the brewery tour & tasting in an article in this December newsletter .   Matt also coupled in our neighboring ACS California section YCC following his year of helping to organize their events in the East Bay. Expect widespread YCC activity between our two sections, including a YCC gathering in Livermore and multiple events at the ACS national meeting in San Francisco next April.

A wide range of topics was covered in our section’s 2016 monthly meetings, starting in the spring with an ‘aqueous phase’: a Saturday morning chemists’ tour of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center and an evening talk on The Future of Water with world-renowned water expert and founder of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick.

A ‘culinary phase’ followed with dinner lectures on The World’s Most Destructive Industry and a Solution by Impossible Foods founder and CEO, Pat Brown, and Redesigning the Interface Between Fresh Produce and the Environment for Sustainable Agriculture by Apeel Science founder and CEO, James Rogers.   Both talks came from California start-ups with environmental stewardship at the core of their missions. Pat Brown framed the many global problems created by raising animals for human food.   His Redwood City company’s edible solutions can now be sampled in Bay Area restaurants

These four examples of ACS section talks addressed several items on George Whitesides’ list of 24 societal concerns where chemistry solutions are warranted: Reengineering Chemistry – What’s Next. Take a look at the list in the February Chair’s Message.

Our year was rounded out with section traditions. National Chemistry Week, the Bay Area Science Festival Discovery Day and Tech Trek all provided hands-on chemistry for youth, thanks to diligent organization by section members. The high school Chemistry Olympiad, Synopsys Science Fair chemistry prizes, and Project SEED elevated local students. The Bubble Grant and the Community College Teacher Scholar Award celebrated selected teachers of chemistry who go beyond expectations. We toasted 50-year and 60-year ACS members at the annual July BBQ on Stanford’s campus and we conferred a host of awards for service to the chemistry community. Our scvacs.org website will soon host an outreach page where you’ll find these activities aggregated, easy to access, and inviting to your volunteering tendencies.

I depart the position of Chair with the satisfaction of seeing in our section leadership a blend of experienced veterans and a sizable number of younger members, all willing to step up and serve our local section membership and communities. With momentum from a concerted effort this past year to rejuvenate, they will reshape the ACS into a viable organization for generations to come.

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