Contributed by Jesse Vanderveen, Undergraduate, Queens University
This year I had the privilege of attending the 20th ACS Green Chemistry and Engineering conference and the honour of receiving the Kenneth G. Hancock memorial award. Although this was my first time at a GC&E conference, I could tell this year’s conference was something special. For the first time, it was held in Portland, Oregon. It was the most-attended GC&E conference to date. Finally, it was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of green chemistry.
I’ve attended conferences before, but never one focused on green chemistry, my field of study. Because of the focus on this subject, I had the wonderful problem of having too many interesting options. Each symposium topic was either appealing, directly relevant to my studies, or both. Unfortunately, you can’t be everywhere at once. In the end I spent my time learning about CO2 utilization, green separations technology, predictive toxicology, and design strategies to maximize benefit (where I presented some of my work as well). The experience of hearing the men and women at the forefront of green technology discussing a variety of problems and proposing solutions was eye opening. Such an opportunity is invaluable for students such as myself. Being able to present my work to them was also a good way to get new perspectives on my research and ponder next steps in my project.
And, of course, there were the keynote speakers. This year we were treated to presentations from Drs. Paul Anastas from Yale, Jin-Quan Yu from the Scripps Institute, and Nate Lewis from Caltech. Paul gave an overview of how far green chemistry has come in the last 25 years and where it will go in the future. Jin-Quan presented his work on C-H activation using weak coordination catalysis. Nate presented his idea for an ideal solar cell to provide energy for fuel-forming reactions.
The conference wasn’t all presentations. There were plenty of opportunities to make new friends and meet old friends over breakfast, coffee, or drinks. These networking events are the perfect opportunity to incubate ideas and dream of a future you can help create. During the downtimes you could browse some exhibition booths as well. I had a lengthy discussion with the folks from InKemia on how to design green solvents and overcome the barriers preventing them from being implemented in a process or product. Finally, if meet and greets don’t interest you, there were even some fun and games! This year featured events such as the Thursday morning fun run and the “green chemistry on tap” pub crawl.
This year’s Green Chemistry and Engineering conference was a fantastic experience. It featured presentations from some of the best and brightest in both green chemistry and green engineering. The focus of the conference on these fields made it an invaluable experience for myself, as it would for any young chemist or engineer working on green technologies. The Portland conference was my first GC&E experience, but I certainly hope it won’t be my last!
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