Once again it was a very hectic winter and spring this year as the ACS GCI staff prepared for 18th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference held this past week. Conferences like this require a significant amount of work on the part of many people and it would be impossible to list all the people I’d like to thank. I think, however, that those who attended would agree that overall the conference was a great success. The conference organizers, Dr. Jim Hutchison (University of Oregon), John Frazier (Nike) and Dr. Tina Bahadori (US EPA) did a great job identifying key themes for the conference, and recruiting theme leaders to deliver a total of 30 technical sessions. Twelve of the 30 sessions were organized by the ACS GCI Roundtables and I think this is representative of the significant investment industry has made in green chemistry and engineering.

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Every year, for many years, there has been an NSF-sponsored workshop for students on the Monday before the conference begins. As was the case last year, I had the distinct pleasure and honor to judge the conference NSF Student Travel Award nominations. The worst part of this process is turning away students since there are limited funds to give out.  I’d like to fund all students with an interest in attending since these conferences are so hugely beneficial to the students and to the rest of the conference attendees. Students are able to attend the workshop, present posters, make oral presentations, network with people in the field and with like-minded students, and participate in many other events the conference has to offer. This is truly invaluable.

 

This year we had assistance with the student workshop from Dr. Marty Mulvihill of UC Berkeley, Dr. Marie Bourgeois from the University of South Florida, and Dr. Douglas Raynie from South Dakota State University. The workshop attempted to give students an idea of how to green their research and several tools were highlighted for the students to integrate into their work. To cap this day there was a wonderful event sponsored by a new student-inspired organization known as the Network of Early Career Sustainable Scientists and Engineers (NESSE). The event included an insightful panel discussion addressing the general theme of “From Bench to Big Picture” where students were given a glimpse of broader issues shaping where green chemistry is going.


There is so much that goes on at this conference it is hard to capture all of it.  Apart from the technical sessions, it is an opportune time to hold meetings of the ACS GCI Roundtables. For most of the roundtables, this is the only time that business is conducted face-to-face, and the meetings cover a lot of ground. This year the ACS GCI Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable was opened for membership and that represents a huge milestone. We are hoping this roundtable is able to add many members over the next few months and that it is able to finish identifying key goals and deliverables for the next year. 

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Another event we were especially pleased to hold again this year was the GC&E Business Plan Competition for early stage entrepreneurs. There were a total of four semi-finalist teams that made presentations on Wednesday last week and it’s very exciting to see teams working to operationalize green chemistry related ideas and bring them to commercialization.  Congratulations again to the winning Team, SioTeX, and to all the teams that participated! We are especially indebted to Dr. Dan Daly for his work with these teams prior to the conference and for helping to shepherd this event to completion. He was joined in the final judging by two other individuals intimately involved in product commercialization:  Dr. Eric Beckman from the University of Pittsburgh and Joe Indvik, Co-Founder, President, and COO of SparkFund. We are also deeply grateful for the work of two other individuals, Dr. Rui Resendes from GreenCentre Canada and Dr. Michael Lefenfeld, who helped review applications for this event, worked to raise support, and shaped the competition.


One indication of how good any conference is may perhaps be judged by the degree of enthusiasm and the volume of the discussion outside of the technical sessions at breaks, before keynotes and during lunch. Clearly, there was a tremendous amount of interaction, high interest in those companies and organizations exhibiting, and many animated discussions no matter where you looked. I think the conference was a success on many levels.


Two weeks before this conference I had the opportunity to attend the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council’s (GC3) annual meeting in Minneapolis, MN.  This meeting has a very different flavor than the GC&E Conference and serves mainly the consumer-facing end of the chemical supply chain.  The GC3 is doing some interesting work to better understand what mainstreaming green chemistry looks like, what green chemistry innovation is, and how they can advance Green Chemistry education.  They’ve established a retailer sub-group and are thinking about ways to broker conversations with companies further back in the supply chain.  This underscores a general trend in green chemistry where consumer demands are likely to force changes in formulations, materials and chemical compositions of product components.  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.


It’s been a busy month for green chemistry and that’s a good thing! As always, let me know what you think.


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