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By Dan Bailey, 2020 Peter J. Dunn Award for Green Chemistry Winner


My interest in green chemistry started with a simple realization about how we do chemistry: we produce far more waste than actual products.


I joined the process chemistry group at Takeda Pharmaceuticals in 2009, the summer after I graduated from Brown University with undergraduate degrees in chemistry and anthropology. Completing a two-year independent research project as an undergraduate provided me with just enough lab experience to begin a career in process chemistry, although I still had an enormous amount to learn on the job.


My undergraduate coursework in anthropology, on the other hand, left me with an enduring interest in the human side of chemistry and the discipline’s practical societal impacts. In my first few years at Takeda, I gained a firmer understanding of the goals, methods and other technical aspects of developing pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, but I also began to think more critically about the practical effects of my work. Which brings us back to my realization about waste, a realization I would later learn is connected to the concept of systems thinking.*


It’s obvious in retrospect, and I’m not the first to point this out: nearly everything we do as chemists, each synthetic transformation, each extraction and wash, each distillation, each crystallization and filtration, produces an ever-expanding pool of waste. We’ve developed such an efficient system for removing and disposing of this waste that the problem was almost invisible as I went about my day-to-day lab work. But once I’d noticed the sheer quantity of waste we produce in our lab and, especially, in the manufacturing plants I visited, it changed the way I thought about my work as a process chemist.


Each decision I made took on new urgency. Even seemingly insignificant and arbitrary decisions – unnecessarily dilute reaction conditions or an extra wash – could ripple outward, making their way into a manufacturing process where their effects are amplified many times over.


As I began to think more carefully about efficiency and waste avoidance in my work, I began reading about green chemistry and started advocating for incorporating green chemistry approaches into our work at Takeda. Around this time, Dave Leahy, a new associate director with a background in green chemistry, joined the process chemistry group and, together, we began building a green chemistry program.


We introduced tools and resources for bench chemists. We measured and tracked the efficiency of our manufacturing processes, promoted awareness of green chemistry principles in day-to-day work and collaborated pre-competitively with likeminded chemists at other companies through the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable.


The more I learned about green chemistry, the more I became aware of the scope of the challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry. It isn’t just that we generate hundreds of kilograms of waste for every kilogram of active pharmaceutical ingredient we make. We also use solvents and reagents that pose an inherent risk to the health and safety of workers. We rely on non-renewable fossil fuels for the raw materials to make medicines, and our manufacturing processes are responsible for significant volatile organic compound and greenhouse gas emissions.


As an industry, we’re producing medicines that change people’s lives for the better, but like all chemical manufacturing industries, we’re also contributing to the greatest problem of our time – the accelerating environmental degradation of the planet.


It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, but I also find it deeply motivating. The carbon emissions associated with manufacturing a single batch of active pharmaceutical ingredient can easily exceed 100 metric tons. To offset these emissions in my personal life, I’d have to avoid taking 75 round-trip transatlantic flights or avoid driving 300,000 miles. But in my work as a process chemist, I have the opportunity to make a huge impact on carbon emissions, waste generation, and worker safety by designing safer, more efficient manufacturing processes.


Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to begin working toward a different and more sustainable future. What began as a side project evaluating chemistry-in-water methodology with two student interns evolved into a full-fledged manufacturing process conducted almost entirely in water. This work, which received this year’s Peter J. Dunn Award for Green Chemistry, established by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute® Pharmaceutical Roundtable, allowed me to glimpse a future without organic solvents. 


Viewing my work from an anthropological perspective has allowed me to see that our approach to chemistry and chemical manufacturing is not an immutable scientific fact. It’s the cumulative result of over a hundred years of human decisions, many of them anonymous and ultimately ill-considered. We can, and must, do better.


As chemists, each of us, whether we work in industry or academia, has a responsibility to rethink how we do chemistry and begin imagining a radically different and more sustainable future. A future where chemical feedstocks are renewable and organic solvents are no longer needed, where chemical products are designed with safety and non-persistence in mind, where chemistry research and chemical manufacturing are carbon neutral, and where pharmaceutical manufacturing plants no longer need holding tanks for waste.


To make this future a reality, we must place the human side of chemistry at the center of our work.


Dan Bailey is a Process Chemist at Takeda Pharmaceuticals.



* Systems thinking in chemistry involves taking a holistic approach to the products we make and considering their economic, governmental, and environmental impacts before we design the product.[1],[2] It requires thinking about the inputs we use to make a product and where we are sourcing them from. It means looking at the process used to make the product and finding ways to reduce waste safely. It also includes thinking about the safety aspects during the product lifetime and how to reuse and recycle the components at the end of the product’s life cycle.


[1] York, Sarah and Orgill, MaryKay, “ChEMIST Table: A Tool for Designing or Modifying Instruction for a Systems Thinking Approach to Chemistry Education,” Journal of Chemical Education, April 21, 2020, Page D,

[2] Talanquer, Vicente, “Some Insights into Assessing Chemical Systems Thinking,” Journal of Chemical Education, June 12, 2019, 96, 2910-2925, https:/


The 24th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering (GC&E) Virtual Conference is a wrap! Converted to a five-day virtual event due to the pandemic, the theme of the conference was “System-Inspired Design.”  As a free, first-time virtual ACS conference, almost 5,000 people from 100 countries attended the week of June 15-19, 2020.


Each day of the conference started with a distinguished keynote speaker who gave attendees a different perspective on how advancing science can be done through green chemistry.  During the week, participants watched the presentations of Bruce Lipshutz, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara; Thomas Jaramillo, Ph.D., Stanford University; Jeannette Garcia, Ph.D., IBM Research; and Jillian Goldfarb, Ph.D., Cornell University.































On Tuesday, the recipients of the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in partnership with the American Chemical Society, were announced by EPA Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. The winners were Genomatica, Merck, Johns Manville, Vestaron and Steven Skerlos of the University of Michigan and Fusion Coolant Systems. 


On Friday, we also heard from green chemistry and engineering early-career investigators. Over 900 attendees watched as David Allen, Ph.D., led a discussion with the 3rd Annual ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Lectureship Awardees. The recipients were Jonas Baltrusaitis, Ph.D., Lehigh University; Katalin Barta, Ph.D., Karl-Franzens University of Graz and University of Groningen; and Feng Wang, Ph.D., Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics. 

A huge thanks to our gold & silver sponsors, including The ACS Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable, celebrating their 15th anniversary. During the week, exhibitors had over 4,300 views and engagements with attendees.


On the final day, a moment of silence to commemorate Juneteenth was held. That evening, a Special Session: A Conversation on Diversity, Inclusion and Respect was held with Dorothy J. Phillips, Ph.D., ACS Board of Directors, and the ACS community to continue building on the commitment to our core values.


“The ACS GC&E Conference was a phenomenal success. It provided ACS with the opportunity to share green chemistry and engineering with a global audience of almost 5,000 attendees from 100 countries," said Thomas M. Connelly, Jr., CEO, American Chemical Society. 


“The conference was a success, based on the high number of attendees and the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees,” said Mary Kirchhoff, Executive Vice President, Scientific Advancement.


The complimentary conference sessions are available to watch on demand until Friday, September 25, 2020. For first-time viewers, register now to watch the sessions. A separate email will be sent with your log-in credentials.


Next year’s conference will be held June 14-16, 2021, in Reston, VA. The theme of the conference is “Sustainable Production to Advance the Circular Economy,” the second stage in the chemical life cycle.




With the desire to advance green chemistry and engineering in the broader oil and gas industry, the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI) Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable is expanding its scope to other areas of oilfield chemistry.  The expanded roundtable, called the ACS GCI Oilfield Chemistry Roundtable, will identify opportunities to catalyze green chemistry and engineering beyond hydraulic fracturing.  Since 2014, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute and companies within the hydraulic fracturing industry have been collaborating to integrate green chemistry and engineering into their chemical supply chain. These companies include operators and companies engaged in the design, manufacture, and supply of a wide variety of chemicals to the industry, as well as those treating produced water.


The mission of the expanded roundtable is to systematically integrate green and sustainable chemistry and engineering principles and practices into the chemical supply chain for oilfield chemistry. This scientific collaboration will seek to inform decisions about those chemicals and processes commonly employed in oilfield chemistry and will work to promote the prioritized development of more sustainable chemical alternatives.


The ACS GCI is a science-based organization that convenes industrial roundtables and provides member companies the means to collaborate, prioritize research needs, and influence the research agenda to advance greener and more sustainable chemistry and engineering research.


This week the ACS GCI Oilfield Chemistry Roundtable published a paper in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels: “Grand Challenges and Opportunities for Greener Chemical Alternatives in Hydraulic Fracturing: A Perspective from the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Oilfield Chemistry Roundtable”.


In the manuscript, roundtable members describe what the hydraulic fracturing industry considers to be the greatest challenges, what is currently being done, and potential future opportunities to provide alternative chemicals that lead to a more sustainable industry. Their desire is to adopt strategies to enable a reduction in areas such as volatile organic compound emissions; toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulative chemicals; the overall volume of all chemicals and transportation distance;  and worker exposure  (see figure 1).  The oil and gas industry understands that innovation is essential and there is a need to find alternative chemistries that can reduce potential environmental, safety, and health (ESH) impacts.  This is a call from the industry to academics, chemical manufacturers, end-users and non-industry members to work together to find creative ways to greener solutions in the hydraulic fracturing arena. These solutions could be translated to other areas in oil and gas.


To learn more about this roundtable, please visit and/or contact us at


The American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) is pleased to announce the call for symposia for the 25th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. The Conference will be held June 14-16, 2021, in Reston, Virginia.


Conference Theme


Sustainable Production to Advance the Circular Economy is the 2021 conference theme. This theme directly links to U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, and reflects the role of chemistry and engineering in creating a closed-loop economy for a sustainable future. Similar to previous conferences, the Committee is interested in proposals spanning the breadth and depth of green and sustainable chemistry and engineering.


The Conference Organizing Committee seeks proposals that:

  • Provide diverse perspectives from academic, industrial and government scientists, business leaders, students and NGO representatives.
  • Deliver creatively designed sessions that are highly interactive (e.g., facilitate lively discussion, include sufficient time for Q&A, rapid-fire sessions, and workshop-based learning).
  • Provide attendees leaving each session with a clear idea of how they can leverage the outcomes professionally.
  • Describe how these outcomes will be achieved in the session and provide potential speakers or topics of presentations.


Topics Include, But Are Not Limited To, The Following:


  • Design strategies incorporating systems and life cycle thinking and how these are used to make more sustainable, renewable and recyclable chemicals, chemistries and processes.
  • Success stories in using sustainable production strategies and methodologies in chemical design, synthesis pathways, process, and product design.
  • Designing and developing processes and products that facilitate sustainability and achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Design and development of curricula and curricular materials that infuse green and sustainable chemistry concepts (e.g., circular economy, systems thinking, LCI/A, function-based design, etc.) throughout the chemistry curriculum.
  • Design of chemicals, novel chemistries, synthetic pathways, and processes that enable a circular, more sustainable economy.
  • The design of materials that enable a closed-loop, more sustainable economy in:
    • The built environment (e.g., homes, offices, manufacturing, etc.)
    • Apparel and footwear
    • Electronics
    • Materials assembly (i.e., automotive, aerospace, etc.)
    • Packaging
  • Fundamental scientific advances that enable separation and conversion of water or by-products to valuable materials.
  • Innovative approaches to:
    • Collaborations between government, academia and industry that promote more sustainable design
    • Government policy that enables the closed-loop economy
    • Tools for process and product design and simulation
    • Green and sustainable chemistry and engineering metrics that facilitate better design-thinking
    • Assessment methodologies that enable design for the closed-loop economy
  • Topics in green chemistry and engineering unrelated to the theme are also welcome.


Proposals Should Include the Following Information:


  • A brief statement describing the rationale/need for this topic at the meeting (500 words or less).
  • A description of how the gaps in current practice will be addressed during the symposium. The description should focus on how addressing these gaps will advance green chemistry and engineering in this area.
  • A list of proposed speakers (with affiliations), anticipated topics of the presentations and the proposed mix of invited and contributed presentations.
  • Plans/methods for creating an interactive environment during the session. Workshops and panel discussions are encouraged.


Green Chemistry & Engineering Diversity, Inclusion & Respect Statement


Diversity, Inclusion & Respect are core values of the American Chemical Society and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute. We are committed to promoting an inclusive, diverse, and respectful conference for participants, organizers, and attendees. We recognize the shared responsibility needed for a safe and productive meeting environment regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, physical or mental ability, ethnicity, religion, race, or nationality.  All GC&E participants are expected to treat others with respect to facilitate open dialogue and effective discussions.

We ask that symposia coordinators be mindful of the following guidelines as they are finalizing their speaker lists for GC&E.


Aim to:

–    Include a minimum of 30% of under-represented groups (including women and People of Color)

–    Incorporate expertise from a range of geographic locations

–    Include speakers from all stages of career

–    Include diverse stakeholder perspectives from across the chemistry enterprise, where appropriate


Please submit your symposia proposal to with the subject line “2021 GC&E Symposia Proposal” by October 9, 2020. All symposia submissions will be reviewed by the Conference Organizing Committee and applicants will be notified of decisions by November 20, 2020. If you have questions, please contact us at the email address above.


We’re looking forward to creating an exciting event as we convene a diverse scientific community to advance green chemistry and engineering research, education and sustainable technologies.


Stay safe and healthy!


The ACS Green Chemistry Institute ®

If you missed any of the fantastic chemistry education sessions at the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s® 24th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Virtual Conference, it’s not too late to go back and review those sessions now.  Several of the technical sessions focused on integrating green chemistry, systems thinking and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) into the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.  Registration and content from this year’s meeting will be available for viewing through September 25, 2020  If you haven’t registered yet, you may do so here.


Educational Resource Development


Now that the 2020 GC&E Conference is behind us, ACS GCI continues to focus on the educational resource development project advancing the adoption of green chemistry principles and practices into the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. This three-year initiative is seeking to develop modules for undergraduate general and organic chemistry courses.


To guide the development and evaluation of the modules, we have been developing two foundational documents: a content evaluation rubric and a guiding principles document. The rubric is largely based on the work by the geosciences community to create a variety of modules that educators may use to raise geosciences literacy.


The ACS GCI rubric will be used to guide developers of the education modules to ensure quality and content are in line with the goals and intent of this project. The same rubric will be used to evaluate the completed modules.  The guiding principles document outlines our thoughts on the green chemistry core competencies (look for our upcoming publication on the core competencies in the ACS Journal of Chemical Education), systems thinking approaches and chemistry connections to the UN SDGs. This document is meant to serve as a reference point for module developers who may not be completely familiar with these ideas.


Community of Practice


In collaboration with Beyond Benign, we are also exploring the potential development of an online Community of Practice for chemistry educators interested in integrating green chemistry into their courses. To better understand the need for a community of practice, we are currently asking chemistry educators to please complete the survey and tell us about your chemistry curriculum. The survey will be open until July 10, 2020.


If you are interested in learning more about our educational initiatives, we will be hosting a webinar in the near future where we’ll be discussing the education resource development project in greater detail. We’ll also be recruiting module development teams in the early fall, so keep an eye out for the application.

Edward Brush, Ph.D.

Bridgewater State University


The world presents us with problems whose complexity and impact we can barely imagine but that we must solve. As educators, our mission is to prepare our students to do exactly that. The integration and scaffolding of Green and Sustainable Chemistry, Systems Thinking and the UN Sustainable Development Goals into an equitable and inclusive undergraduate curriculum can inspire all students to take ownership of their education. They can graduate with the satisfaction that their classroom knowledge has connected them to understand and contribute to solving big global problems.


The highlight of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s® 24th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Virtual Conference (GC&E) were the numerous sessions, discussions and workshops related to the emerging paradigm change in chemistry education. The broad array of topics included green and sustainable chemistry, systems thinking, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, high impact practices, career development and lab safety. These topics illustrate how chemistry educators are making a green chemistry commitment to engage students in making broader connections to knowing, understanding and solving big global problems.


It was not at all surprising to hear several presentations related to equity, inclusion and environmental justice. These topics have been a regular part of GC&E education sessions since the 2016 conference in Portland, Oregon, and have been some of the highest attended sessions. Following the GC&E networking event on Inclusion, Diversity and Respect, led by Dr. Dorothy Phillips, it is now crystal clear that equity and inclusion will be an integral part of this paradigm shift in chemistry education. Chemistry students will know how to use their content knowledge to understand complex, real-world problems and to effectively collaborate with others from a range of disciplines in addressing them.


It is essential that these transdisciplinary teams bring together people with diverse perspectives and life experiences to understand the challenges facing the world in the 21st century, and with the skills needed to help solve them. These students will graduate with a desire to build a more just and sustainable world, a deeper knowledge they can apply to real-world problems, skill in collaboration, and the ability to articulate what they’ve learned and how they can adapt it in new contexts. These are the skills employers need and the world needs.


Green chemistry educators are committed to taking action through virtual discussions continuing this summer, into the fall of 2020 and beyond. Educators will outline a general, adaptable curriculum with guiding principles, scaffolded learning outcomes and development of innovative pedagogical approaches - all under the umbrella of an Inclusive Curriculum designed for equity, engagement and accessibility. If you did not sign the participant form at the GC&E Virtual Conference, you can add your name and email at this virtual sign-in sheet.


Thanks to all those who joined the ACS Green Chemistry Institute for our first virtual conference the week of June 15!  It was an amazing week spent sharing green chemistry and engineering research and education, making new connections, and reconnecting with colleagues across the globe.  The keynote speakers – Bruce Lipshutz, Tom Jaramillo, Jamie Garcia, and Jillian Goldfarb – delivered compelling presentations on their research.  We were honored to partner with ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering on the journal’s 2020 Lectureship Awards, recognizing the accomplishments of Jonas Baltrusaitis, Katalin Barta, and Feng Wang.  And our sincere thanks to EPA Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dunn for joining the conference to announce the 2020 recipients of the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards.  ACS congratulates Genomatica, Merck, Johns Manville, Professor Steven Skerlos, and Vestaron on their award-winning technologies!


One of the biggest benefits of the virtual conference was its global reach:  Almost 5,000 individuals from 100 countries logged onto the meeting platform during the week of the conference!  The online format coupled with no registration fee and no travel costs made the meeting content accessible to a much broader audience than the traditional in-person meeting.  I sincerely hope that greater awareness of and access to green chemistry and engineering content will accelerate implementation of greener technologies across the globe.


Transitioning from an in-person to a virtual conference was not trivial, and I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of the conference.  Conference Co-Chairs Meg Sobkowicz-Kline and Rafa Luque provided outstanding leadership in organizing a program focused on the theme of “Systems-Inspired Design,” with the support of the advisory committee and symposium organizers.  My phenomenal colleagues in the ACS Green Chemistry Institute, the ACS Meetings Department, and the Scientific Advancement Division spent countless hours learning how to navigate the Chime platform while “Zooming” in with conference presenters and attendees.  You have my deep appreciation for learning so many new skills in ensuring the success of the conference.


My thanks to the sponsors and exhibitors who continued their support as we moved to a virtual meeting, especially to our gold sponsor, the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable.  The generous support of all sponsors and exhibitors greatly contributed to the success of the conference.


Finally, we sincerely hope that conditions will allow us to meet in person in Reston, Virginia for next year’s conference, June 14-16, 2021.  Please consider submitting a symposium proposal to the 2021 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference.


Stay safe and healthy!


By Nakisha Mark, 2020 Heh-Won Chang Ph.D. Fellowship in Green Chemistry Winner


My passion towards chemistry began with my ingrained curiosity for cosmetic formulation and fertilizer production. This curiosity was amplified when I realized that many of the aforementioned products were composed of non-environmentally friendly ingredients. My dream, therefore, was to provide a more environmental and sustainable approach to chemistry as it relates to making those said products.


During the pursuit of my undergraduate degree at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine Campus, I developed a keen interest in catalysis and decided, during an inorganic chemistry course, I would conduct graduate research in green catalysis. My dream did not come without challenges. During that period, my university did not have experts in the field. As such, I decided to enter the world of work while still keeping a keen interest in the current literature of catalysis research.


While working as a research assistant on an agriculture-based project at UWI, I was exposed to the vast amount of unused agricultural waste. It is during this tenure the idea of creating a link between the energy and agriculture sectors in the Caribbean region became important to me.


Graduate Research Focus


With my passion for catalysis at my core and the opportunity to utilize agricultural waste, I began exploring along these lines.  I soon initiated a Ph.D. in Chemistry at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, in the Forde Research Group. My research aims at using novel heterogeneous materials to convert biomass-derived compounds into fuel and fuel precursors whilst utilizing the 12 principles of green chemistry.  


The multidisciplinarity of green chemistry has allowed me to work intensely across various sectors such as chemistry, agriculture and economics. This demonstrates green chemistry’s demands of lateral thinking and has given me transferrable skills that I currently used under one umbrella in my research.  


Despite being in such an advantageous position, there are obstacles.  I am most likely the first student pursuing research in green heterogeneous catalysis in the English-speaking Caribbean. This is a challenge as the required foundation and facilities are lacking, especially with respect to catalyst characterization. Regardless of such challenges, my supervisor, Dr. Forde, and I have been fortunate in accessing several global opportunities.


I have conducted experimental work at renowned facilities such as Brookhaven National Laboratory in the U.S., University of Guelph, in the Schlaf Research Group, in Canada and Cardiff Catalysis Institute, in the U.K. I have also attended foundational courses at the University of the French Antilles in Guadeloupe and the University of Liverpool in the U.K. It is therefore paramount to create a SMART* plan that will allow one to attain a level to implement green chemistry.


Career Advice


The advice for anyone beginning a career in chemistry or any other field is “Dare to Dream!” It is important for all pursuing careers in chemistry to be honest with themselves and determine what they want to achieve, and specifically how it can be achieved.


Furthermore, we must remember to celebrate the small accomplishments as they lead us to fulfilling our goals, as each individual career path is unique to him or her. For those embarking in graduate research, it is imperative that you maintain a healthy balance: spiritually, mentally, physically and academically so that at the end of the graduate experience you would have grown ten-fold.


Most importantly, as graduates, we must not let our research environments define what we can accomplish as there are many organizations such as the American Chemical Society providing support to all of us without prejudice. Therefore, I encourage all undergraduates, graduates and non-students to become members of a chemical society!


Nakisha Mark is a doctoral candidate in the department of chemistry at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.


*A SMART plan is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.


By Heather LeClerc, 2020 Heh-Won Chang Ph.D. Fellowship in Green Chemistry Winner


With the current pandemic upon us, I have had time to sit back and think about my journey towards becoming a chemical engineering Ph.D. student. As I sit here and write this in my childhood home, I am reminded of why I became passionate about green chemistry in the first place.


I grew up in Connecticut, and oddly enough, my backyard is full of life. I realized my passion for chemistry in high school when I took my first chemistry class and fell in love. But it wasn’t for another year until I needed a class and settled on environmental science that I truly discovered what I wanted to do - find the bridge between the chemistry I already loved and the new-found love of environmental science. This led me to earn a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Chemistry from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.


Growing up, I was the person who knew what they wanted and always said that I wanted to work in renewable energy; yet my path to get here was not linear. During my senior year, after spending months writing up and submitting applications for chemistry Ph.D. programs, I began to doubt if it would lead me towards my dream. All the projects I saw didn’t excite me as much as I thought they would. So, on a whim, after most deadlines had passed, I decided to apply for the master’s program in chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, MA.


 I was overjoyed to find out that I had been accepted but worried about choosing a program I had to pay for and would put me into debt over one of the fully funded programs I was accepted into. Upon speaking with professors at WPI, however, I learned of a partially funded master’s project in the pharmaceutical area and accepted.


Graduate Research Focus


I learned more than I could have ever hoped from this project, and it served to catch me up to speed on a lot of the chemical engineering principles I lacked, but it did not excite me the way that renewable energy always has. So, when I was asked if I would like to become a Ph.D. student with the opportunity to switch to a project converting waste to energy, I jumped at the chance and haven’t looked back!


Now, I have the chance to take a common waste and understand the chemistry necessary to convert it into usable, high-quality energy products. I am constantly learning something new, collaborating with new people and loving what I do. 


Career Advice


My advice to you is to follow your dreams and not get discouraged if things do not go as planned. Every person’s journey looks different. Do not be afraid to ask for help. College and graduate school are different in many ways and you should not be scared to reach out for assistance whether it is for classes or mental health.


For me, this difficult journey has been extremely worth-while and I am so thankful for everyone along the way who continues to help make it happen. No matter the major or path you choose, you will end up where you are supposed to be. Thank you to the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute® for the opportunity to write this as well as share my passion at this year’s Green Chemistry & Engineering Virtual Conference.


Heather LeClerc is a doctoral candidate at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA.


Due to COVID-19, the Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW) campaign has gone fully digital with instructions for organizing virtual events and an updated suite of educational resources.



Find a Virtual CCEW Event to participate or learn how to plan your own Virtual Demo Event and Digital Illustrated Poem Contest for K-12 audiences, and Virtual Teach-In for higher education and adult audiences. Amplify the campaign on social media using the hashtags #CCEW, #EarthDay2020, and #chemistry. Help show collective action by adding your virtual events to Facebook and submitting your photos, videos, and screenshots to the CCEW 2020 Photo Album.






If you don’t have time to plan events, you can still utilize and share digital educational resources with teachers in need! Check out the:

Celebrating Chemistry Coloring Book (grades K-2)

Endangered Elements Color by Numbers (PDF) (grades 3-6)

ChemCatcher (PDF) (grades 9-12, undergraduate)

Earth Day 50th Anniversary Timeline (PDF) (grades 9-12, undergraduate)

and more educational resources organized by age group.








Contact your local CCEW Coordinator to see what opportunities exist in your area. Visit the CCEW website at or contact for more information.

 By David Constable Science Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute


Over the past few months we’ve highlighted the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), showing just a few of the many ways in which chemistry plays an enormous part in achieving the goal.  This month we turn our attention to SDG 3, Good Health and Well-Being. The table below contains three targets under this goal that perhaps have the most obvious connections to chemistry and its allied professions.  


3.3  By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.

3.9  By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.

3.B  Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and noncommunicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines….


With the advent of COVID-19, it’s hard to imagine anyone who would not see the relevance and singular importance of this particular SDG.  Disease, of one kind or another, is an unavoidable part of every living organism’s existence and has clearly exacted a heavy toll on human society throughout our comparatively brief history.   We don’t need a pandemic to remind us of this fact, although many in the developed world are largely shielded from most of the diseases that impact billions in other parts of the world.


The easiest target for the green and sustainable chemistry community to bridge to is, of course, 3.9.  Arguably this target has been the major focus of much of green chemistry over the past 25 years or so and while there has been significant progress towards this goal, the world has a long way to go to achieve this target.  I have often made the point that the bulk of the chemistry enterprise continues to rely on highly reactive and hazardous chemicals as chemical building blocks, almost all of which is unsustainably sourced.  An additional impact comes from its extensive use of energy, the overwhelming majority of which comes from fossil carbon.   Each of these, in their own way, contribute to the production of hazardous chemicals and pollution.


The discovery and development of novel medicines and therapies is the focus of many people’s attention and considerable amounts of research dollars are spent each year in the public and private sector to develop novel medicines and therapies to treat a vast array of communicable and non-communicable diseases.  While the bulk of research goes towards diseases of the developed world, there are a few diseases afflicting the developing world that significant effort has been made to eradicate. Two past examples that come readily to mind are Merck’s efforts to eradicate river blindness, and GSK’s efforts to eradicate elephantiasis filariasis, diseases that affect billions in equatorial regions of the world, both of which exact a heavy price on those regions and their economies. Two diseases that continue to afflict the developing world, diarrhea and malaria, affect millions and are especially cruel, with diarrhea being the cause of several million infant deaths each year.  Vaccines play an incredibly important role also, with many diseases like polio, hepatitis A and B, and small pox, now largely preventable.


Preventing many diseases is directly dependent upon achieving progress in the other SDGs like clean water, good nutrition, and clean air. The bottom line is that these goals are not achievable in the absence of progress under several different goals, and progress will be enabled through chemistry and its allied professions. ;


Thankfully, the Pharmaceutical industry is a strong believer in, and supporter of, the advancement of green and sustainable chemistry. This is an important point that clearly demonstrates that the means to an end; i.e., the manufacture, distribution and sale of pharmaceuticals, is seen as being an important part of what it means to be a sustainable company. As the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable (PRT) has demonstrated over the past 15 years, the ways in which the pharmaceutical industry makes medicines should be accomplished in a manner that is green and sustainable. The PRT has invested over $2M in targeted research grants to investigate the grand challenges of green and sustainable chemistry in the Pharmaceutical industry, has developed tools to help scientists and engineers make better decisions about the solvents they use, the synthetic routes they develop, and the processes they optimize. As the industry has moved towards a greater number of larger molecules (biopharmaceuticals like monoclonal antibodies and other engineered proteins, oligonucleotides and polypeptides), the PRT has continued to investigate ways to make their processes greener and more sustainable


There is no doubt that good health and well-being is a goal worth striving for, and thankfully, it is a goal against which it is possible to see good progress being made over time.  We should, therefore, have reasonable hope of continued progress.  However, we should also be under no illusions; it is a goal which remains largely unattainable for large segments of the world’s population.  There is no lack of work to do, let’s just work to make good health and well-being as green and sustainable as possible!

By Ian Mallov, Research Chemist, Inkbox Ink


Ding, Y.; Harvey, D.; Wang, N.-W. L. Green Chem., 2020, Advance Article. DOI: Reproduction by permission of The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Mountain Pass is a tiny, unincorporated scatter of flat-roofed buildings at the eastern edge of San Bernardino County, California – the largest county by area in the United States. The sole reason for any habitation in this desolate, dun-coloured outpost just shy of the Nevada border was the Mountain Pass Mine, the only rare earth metal mine in America.


Here, from the 1950’s to the 2000’s, ores of the mineral family bastnäsite were extracted from a 1.4 billion-year-old Precambrian deposit. The ores – primarily bastnäsite, hydroxyl bastnäsite-(Ce) and hydroxylbastnäsite-(Nd) – underwent comminution, or crushing to a small particle size, then separation by flotation from other accompanying minerals. Hydrochloric acid leaching, and a process of sequential precipitations, separated cerium, europium, gadolinium, samarium, lanthanum, praseodymium, and neodymium, pure or as oxides.


With the rapid expansion of the periodic table over the last 150 years, scientists widened the buffet of elements from which technology may choose. Rare earth elements (REE), defined as the lanthanide series plus yttrium and scandium, augment the workhorse elements of the Industrial Revolution, copper, zinc and lead.


In the late 1990s, the Mountain Pass Mine, once the world’s top producer, struggled to remain a viable mine and was over taken by China as the world’s top producer of rare earth elements. By 2002, it ceased production. Attempts to revive it have lead to changes in ownership, a bankruptcy filing by then-owner Molycorp in 2014, and another closure in 2015. Reopened in 2018, the Mountain Pass Mine was renamed MP Materials. The joint venture between US and Chinese investors is focused on revitalizing the U.S. rare earth elements industry. While the US mine competes with China, which controls 80% of global suppliesof REE, refining of those metalscontinues to be done in China.


But prospecting for precious metals remains part of the romance of the old west. The famous gold rushes of 1848-55 in California, and the late 1890’s in the Canadian Klondike, the writing of Jack London and Robert Service, and the hardy, tough, risk-taking men and women of the frontier lend themselves to an old and incomplete North American narrative – glossing over, of course, the destruction of habitat and the indigenous populations on whom the influx of white prospectors often took a terrible toll.

The human and environmental costs of mining remain, and environmental stewardship depends on the policies of the countries where mines are located. Mining displaces plants and topsoil and often risks contaminating groundwater; tailings ponds left behind must be remediated. The refinement process of the ores generates large amounts of strong acid and organic solvent wastes, some of which is also radioactive. Considering treatment, production of one ton of rare earth oxides generates an average of 30 tons of wastewater released into the environment.


Might we envision recycling metals from end-of-life human-made materials as a more sustainable, alternative “mining” for the Anthropocene?


If we can, researchers such as Professor Nien-Hwa Linda Wang of Purdue University might represent the new frontier’s men and women.  In March, Professor Wang, along with her graduate students Yi Ding and David Harvey, reported a significant advance in REE recovery. In the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) journal Green Chemistry, they detail an improved, scalable, commercially viable method for recovering high-purity REE’s from magnets.


How much might be recovered from magnets, you ask? Actually, a huge amount. Neodymium magnets, made of a neodymium-iron-boron alloy which forms a Nd2Fe14B crystalline repeating unit, are the most widely used type of rare earth magnet. They account for an astonishing 30% by mass of REE use – the single largest application.


First reported in simultaneous papers by Sumitomo Special Metals and General Motors in the Journal of Applied Physics in 1984, NdFeB magnets represented a significant step forward from the samarium-based magnets then widely in use. A generation of rapid technological progress, particularly in information systems and energy storage, has for now entrenched dependence on them. They remain the strongest type of commercially-available permanent magnet, effecting the requisite magnetic force for applications in hard drives, electric motors, and wind turbine generators.


More esoterically, at the border where neuroprosthetics melds with science fiction, the idea of a “magnetic 6th sense” is occasionally resurrectedthrough the idea of fingertip implants of powerful magnets. We may yet see NdFeB magnet-equipped cyborgs.


But recent trade instability with China, and the dim prospects of the Mountain Pass Mine bode poorly for price and supply-chain stability for manufacturers of wind turbines or cyborgs.


And recovering REE’s is not easy. Typical methods for recovery from end-of-life magnets or other industrial junk are often similar to those used for extraction from ore. The challenge is, of course, in the separation, first of the REE’s from bulk materials, and second, of REE’s with often similar chemical properties from each other. Comminution, oxidation to the metal oxides, dissolution in strong acids, and solvent extraction are involved. Professor Wang highlights other methods reported in the research literature, including conversion of REEs to soluble chlorides via roasting with ammonium chloride under inert atmospheres, chlorination with chlorine gas, or chlorination with the molten salts of other metal chlorides. As one can imagine, these have their own safety, waste and energy drawbacks.


Wang’s group took a different tack. Ligand-assisted displacement (LAD) chromatography incorporates chelating ligands in the mobile phase (in this case the classic EDTA) to enhance separation of metals. This is an idea dating to the 1950’s, but it hasn’t gained traction industrially – partly, as the researchers note, because there was “no general theory for predicting the formation of a constant pattern in LAD until 2018.” That year, they reported a method for predicting the conditions under which so-called “displacement trains” – the areas of pure substance which traverse the displacement chromatographic column and ultimately elute – can be predicted. Building on this achievement, they have now shown on a mixture of Nd, Pr, and Dy how two-zone LAD chromatography radically improves the productivity of neodymium, dysprosium, and praseodymium recycling at high purities. By isolating the metals at 99% purity from the first zone, then loading less pure bands onto a second zone for further separation, they recover 99% of the metals at 99% purity. Chelants such as EDTA and Cu2+ salts are used, and 95% of these can be recovered. Although a full life cycle assessment is not presented, the authors’ thorough economic models demonstrate the potential for this method to be profitable, and scalable.


Prospecting for rare earth metals today may not have the allure of a 19th century gold rush, but instead – to recycle a figure of speech – the new frontiers are electronic waste facilities and laboratories such as Professor Wang’s.

By Carl Maxwell, Manager, Government Affairs, Office of External Affairs and Communication


Following on the heels of last year’s House Science Committee hearing on sustainable chemistry, the ACS Office of External Affairs worked closely with Congressional champions to pass broad sustainable chemistry legislation. The bill also ensured green chemistry was incorporated into energy research and emissions reduction legislation.  


On October 17, the House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee passed H.R. 2051, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act. This legislation, drafted at the behest of the American Chemical Society, would create an interagency task force to coordinate green and sustainable chemistry research across the federal enterprise, as well as authorize research programs and public-private partnerships.  Congressional champions such as Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) worked directly with ACS staff to include a provision on improving STEM education, identifying roadblocks to improving the sustainability of the chemistry enterprise, and strengthening provisions on federal research.  The legislation subsequently passed the House of Representatives in December of 2019. Companion legislation, S.999, passed the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee also in December, after ACS worked directly with the staff to modify and eliminate problematic provisions limiting the scope of the bill.


Additionally, ACS worked with Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), and the House SST Committee to modify H.R. 3597, the Solar Energy Research and Development Act, to include sustainable chemistry as a research focus for future solar energy investigation.   The ACS sponsored language was added by amendment by Rep. Lipinski during mark up.  Companion legislation introduced by Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) also included the language in the original text. 


Finally, as a party of broad industrial emissions reduction legislation, S. 2300, the Clean Industrial Technology Act, ACS and the American Chemistry Council worked together to ensure the legislation would incorporate green chemistry techniques, practices, and methodologies.  Language was added at the behest of Senate Chemistry Caucus leader Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and included in similar House- passed legislation.  It was subsequently included at ACS’ request as part of the American Energy Innovation Act, a major energy authorization bill currently under negotiations.

By Jenny MacKellar, Program Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute ®


In the last couple of Nexus newsletters, we have shared information about ACS GCI’s efforts to draw connections between Systems Thinking and Chemistry Education, as well as our efforts to develop resources for chemistry educators to help integrate these concepts into the classroom. Although the current COVID-19 pandemic has slightly altered our plans for 2020, we are continuing to march on with advancing our goal of “chemistry education that equips and inspires chemists to solve the grand challenges of sustainability.”


As the December post mentions, we are in the process of developing education modules for undergraduate general and organic chemistry courses that connect green and sustainable chemistry to the chemistry curriculum using a systems thinking lens. Since the project got underway in January, we have been working with collaborators from the InTeGrate Leadership Team, to develop an evaluation rubric for the modules. The InTeGrate team pursued a similar effort to build systems thinking modules for the geosciences.  The goal of the module evaluation rubric is to create a transparent, consistent evaluation tool for module developers to aid in the production of high quality education resources that reinforce the goals of the project.


The rubric evaluates the following areas of the education modules:

  • . Guiding principles of green and sustainable chemistry, systems thinking, and chemistry principles
  • . Learning objectives and goals for each module
  • . Assessment and measurement of student learning
  • . Resources and materials for instructional use
  • . Instructional strategies appropriateness and quality
  • . Alignment of module elements to one another

We are currently in the process of identifying topics for modules that are aligned with the green and sustainable chemistry core competencies that were developed through the education roadmap initiative. The goal is to apply green chemistry principles and systems thinking to topics in the general and organic chemistry curricula in creating new teaching resources.


In the coming months we will begin recruiting module development teams. The groups will be comprised of representatives from a wide variety of institutions and will be supported by experts in pedagogy, systems thinking and green and sustainable chemistry.


Become a Part of the Team!

Whether you are an educator, student or industry scientist, if you are interested in getting involved to shape this endeavor, please contact to discuss ways you can contribute. 

By Cindy Gilbert, M.S., M.Ed., Senior Program Officer, VentureWell


Graphic Created by VentureWell in Partnership with The Lemelson Foundation

Collectively, we are facing unprecedented planetary-scale environmental challenges that are inextricably linked to human activities with significant social and economic implications. We believe that chemists and chemical engineers are some of the very people who will be creating the innovations and ventures that will help to solve the systemic challenges we face. 

Mobilized by The Lemelson Foundation and VentureWell and in collaboration with hundreds of stakeholders across diverse disciplines and sectors, we have been working over the past few years to better understand the needs, opportunities, and barriers to integrating principles of environmental responsibility into engineering education across the US and around the world. We have a dedicated Environmentally Responsible Engineering (ERE) webpage that serves as a one-stop shop for how our efforts have expanded, deepened, and developed over the years in partnership with our stakeholders. 

In particular, we are thrilled to share the recent launch of the Engineering for One Planet: The ERE definition and framework (ERE Framework) that outlines the core and advanced student learning outcomes that all engineers—including chemical engineers—should acquire during their education to become sustainability-focused professionals. The ERE Framework was drafted over the course of six months with over 1,000 direct contributions from over 90 stakeholders from academia, industry, government, non-profits, and professional societies. We encourage you to download and test out the ERE Framework. 

The ERE Framework is grounded in systems thinking and highlights the core technical skills of design (e.g., design thinking), materials choice (e.g., supply chain, life-cycle thinking), and environmental impact measurement (e.g., life-cycle analysis, eco-labelling). We hope that the ACS GCI community will explore the potential application of the ERE Framework to catalyze change in the chemical engineering and chemistry fields within the important context of educating for a systems-inspired and sustainable future. 

We would love to garner your feedback and comments for the next iteration of the ERE Framework and to add your name to the growing list of collaborators. Please use this form to share your comments about the ERE Framework or your ideas of how you would integrate the ERE Framework into the chemical engineering curriculum. We’d love to hear from you!

Before I sign off, I would like to also connect you to a plethora of free online resources that VentureWell has created to support your sustainability-focused curricular change efforts including: 

  • Tools for Design & Sustainability which is a collection of sustainability-focused classroom exercises, videos (including the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop video series), and examples of student work on a range of sustainability topics, including cycle analysis (LCA), whole system mapping, greener materials selection, measuring impacts, etc.
  • Inventing Green: A Toolkit for Sustainable Design which is both a tool for students and a resource for instructors to help early-stage inventors understand how the lifecycle of their products will affect the environment. The toolkit includes a video series and several resources that can be used together, a la carte, or within short workshops, multi-day accelerators, or as part of a university-level engineering or design course.

About VentureWell

VentureWell is a non-profit that supports the creation of solutions and ventures from an emerging generation of science and technology inventors driven to solve global challenges and create lasting impact, and supports the faculty and innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems that are critical to their success. Since its founding nearly 25 years ago, VentureWell has supported and trained more than 7,500 science and technology inventors and innovators, and thousands of their startups are reaching millions of people around the globe. VentureWell actively supports faculty in developing courses and programs to transform I&E education through grants, workshops, training, and an annual conference called OPEN. To date, VentureWell has provided over $12M in faculty grants to over 1,000 schools that have led to the creation of more than 500 new or improved courses and programs at higher educational institutions across the country and engaging thousands of students. Learn more about VentureWell at:

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