Leading up to the GC&E Conference we will be posting interviews with our 2017 GC&E Conference organizers to learn a little more about them and the excellent sessions you can look forward to at this year’s conference!
Michael Kirschner, Design Chain Associates, LLC, ACS GCI Governing Board
Q: What motivates you to work in the green chemistry & engineering space?
A: Leo Kenny: As a chemist working in the semiconductor industry for more than two decades, I have had the opportunity to be involved directly with the unique, forward-looking environmental systems that have been developed in this industry segment over many decades. From the use of novel materials, highly capital-intensive process equipment, and increasingly complex process development challenges for each successive device generation, these have driven proven strategies to design for the environment. I believe these learnings can be proliferated across the technology life cycle from R&D, the supply chain (materials and equipment), and downstream to the electronics industry to drive better decisions and mitigate risk in materials selections.
Michael Kirschner: Nearly all chemical and product design since the dawn of the industrial revolution has been done with little to no consideration of environmental and human health impact or constraints. When we humans are given product design goals and related constraints, we compete, improve and excel. I think product environmental/human health performance in general (not just in electronics) has enough headroom to improve dramatically, in a Moore’s Law-like fashion, because of this. And that is good, because the planet is giving us indications that this change in our approach is necessary.
Q: In one sentence, describe the session you are organizing at GC&E.
A: Given the increasing complexities (materials, supply chain, regulatory, product diversity) of the semiconductor and electronics industries, a holistic life cycle approach is critical for chemical and material selections as they apply to product development.
Q: What will attendees learn at your GC&E session? What makes it unique?
A: The challenges and issues the electronics industry faces in dealing with chemistry, which is not a primary consideration to the brand owners in the electronics industry. We have presentations from a variety of perspectives on, for instance, how to implement alternatives assessment. This is a concept that is very well understood and is part of the design process in nearly all other areas of product design, but applying it to chemical selection has been challenging.
We also will have a couple of presentations on green chemistry successes and applications in the electronics supply chain.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of the GC&E Conference (or what are you looking forward to)?
A: Leo Kenny: The people who attend! There is an intangible and very special quality I associate with ACS members and certainly those involved with GC&E. Over the years, I have been challenged to adequately describe what makes ACS and GC&E unique, but I have consistently appreciated the welcoming, positive and forward-looking outlook among folks who come to these conferences. This love of science and learning, and the importance of viewing the advancement of new discoveries in a broader context is always a compelling reason to participate in the GC&E Conference. I can think of no organization better suited to address our big global challenges (especially in the environmental, materials and sustainability space) than ACS and its GC&E Conference.
Michael Kirschner: I love going to other sessions and hearing how other industries and thought leaders are addressing parallel challenges. The cross-fertilization possibility is exciting: All of our supply chains overlap upstream. I truly enjoy connecting with people who are interesting and thoughtful as well as catching up with folks I have not seen in a year!
Q: What are you currently focused on in your work or research?
A: Leo Kenny: After voluntarily leaving my role as an advanced materials technologist for a large semiconductor manufacturer, I have been working on a variety of technical engagements. These include industry level engagements (in the chemical, semiconductor, sensor, MEMS and electronics industries) in smart city and infrastructure, green chemistry & engineering, and environmental development, as well as consulting with companies on developing strategies, systems and processes in these areas.
Michael Kirschner: I focus on helping manufacturers understand and ensure that their products comply with customer and environmental regulatory requirements that impact their products. Some have significant pressure and opportunity to innovate in green chemistry areas even though they are not chemists or toxicologists and they do not really think of chemicals when they think of their products. Getting past these issues can be challenging, but the draw of being able to improve performance areas where others are not even paying attention can be a significant competitive advantage.
Q: If you weren't a chemist, what would you be doing?
A: Leo Kenny: A writer! Though I occasionally dabble in writing, it is really not viable to do it professionally, unless one does it on a full-time basis. I think I would enjoy pursuing it if I had the time.
Michael Kirschner: Since I am not a chemist (I am an electrical engineer), I am doing it! So maybe the better question is, “If you were a chemist, what would you be doing?” My thought process tends to analyze a specific issue back to its source, which leads me to work on more holistic approaches to solving them. For instance, clients ask me to help them comply with a specific regulation that restricts the presence of six substances in their products. The fact is, there are many more regulations that restrict or require the disclosure of hundreds more substances in their products (and more are always expected), so rather than repeat the compliance process when they suddenly become concerned with the next regulation in the next market they target, I help them define their compliance process broadly enough to address all existing and future (knowable) requirements.
Given that, to answer the question, one of the more fundamental issues I see in chemistry right now that I am entirely unqualified to address is the application of toxicology during the design of molecules; I would probably be focused on something to do with that. Or maybe I would just be bagging groceries for a living… hard to really know.
Q: When you aren't at work, how do you spend your free time?
A: Leo Kenny: Typically I spend my free time with my family and friends. I like hiking, reading, traveling (especially to state and national parks), watching sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey), camping, amateur radio and volunteering for various community groups.
Michael Kirschner: I used to do lots of rock & roll concert photography when I was just out of college. I have gotten back into that as well as street and event photography over the past six or seven years. Some of my old photos were used in the new Martin Scorsese/Amir Bar-Lev movie about the Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia called “Long Strange Trip,” and that was very exciting. My street photography work has been featured in a couple shows here in San Francisco recently, and some protest photos of mine were published in “San Francisco Magazine” – that has been energizing as well. My involvement with the local photography community brings me into contact with a very wide and creative range of people I would otherwise never have had the chance to meet. My photo website is mikek.photography.
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