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!
Jeffrey Whitford, Head of Corporate Responsibility, MilliporeSigma
Amy Cannon, Ph.D., Executive Director, Beyond Benign
Q: What motivates you to work in the green chemistry & engineering space?
A: Saskia van Bergen: I think the easier question would be “what doesn’t motivate you to work in this space?” To spare you from having to edit down a novel, here are three of the motivators:
- The principles – When I was in school, I was interested in the environment, chemistry and ceramics. I majored in chemistry and then received a Master’s from a graduate group rather than a department (agricultural and environmental chemistry, where the commonality was applied chemistry). The majority of the jobs I have held were tied to analytical chemistry. When I first learned about the principles of green chemistry, they resonated with me and enabled me to see that chemists can be proactive rather than just reactive, which was something I felt was missing: not being limited to jobs of developing methods to monitor chemicals with negative impacts on human health and the environment or analyzing actives in natural products, but innovating and designing safer chemicals and products with less material.
- The people – There are many rock stars (both individuals and teams) working in this space. It is inspirational to talk with, work with and listen to individuals in this field. If you have not attended a GC&E Conference yet, register and you will see.
- Opportunities for collaboration to advance green chemistry – They are endless.
Jeffrey Whitford: The potential for impact: I look at what we do as the ultimate potential multiplier. If we are able to get the right tools into researchers’ hands to reduce environmental impact, the scale can be amazing!
Q: In one sentence, describe the session you are organizing at GC&E.
A: The session “Breaking the Silos: Public-Private Sector Collaborations to Advance Green Chemistry” will highlight collaborative efforts from academia, industry, government and non-profits, including the added value and challenges the collaborations provided.
Q: What will attendees learn at your GC&E session? What makes it unique?
A: After hearing examples of a number of types of collaborative partnerships, attendees will learn from the presenters’ experiences how to approach various collaborations with an increased chance of success. This session is not unique, but attendees will hopefully leave with additional ideas of groups they can collaborate with to leverage efforts. This session aims to showcase these collaborations and hopefully spark the desire for more collaboration, on a bigger scale, to move the needle.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of the GC&E Conference (or what are you looking forward to)?
A: Saskia van Bergen: The energy of the conference and hearing applied examples of green chemistry.
Jeffrey Whitford: Bringing people together who have a common goal and hearing the amazing progress people are making.
Q: What are you currently focused on in your work or research?
A: Saskia van Bergen: Like most organizations, there are multiple efforts in green chemistry, but a fairly common theme is partnerships. One of the current efforts we are working on is the development of training materials in green chemistry and safer alternatives for various audiences.
Jeffrey Whitford: Expanding the availability of greener alternatives and the ability to apply quantitative analysis
Q: If you weren't a chemist, what would you be doing?
A: Saskia van Bergen: If skills and salary were not needed, I would have multiple projects that involve problem-solving and connecting efforts…. some of which are location independent that would allow me more time with my kid.
Jeffrey Whitford: Well, I am not! So exactly what I am doing today at the Head of Corporate Responsibility for MilliporeSigma
Q: When you aren't at work, how do you spend your free time?
A: Saskia van Bergen: When I am not at work, I like to hang out with my four-year-old. While I like to go kayaking, hike and garden, I am also happy to use my imagination, play hide-and-seek and sing with heart, but not talent.
Jeffrey Whitford: I just moved to Germany, so it is a lot of exploring and trying to learn German.
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