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Mason.jpgFrom a bench scientist to a group leader, many scientists can manage the transition as their careers advance. But from a group leader to an HR manager responsible for a full range of duties that support functions of more than 500 employees, and then to a technology manager responsible for coordination between organizations with varied functions and different cultures? Thats a totally different story. However, thats precisely what Dawn Mason did. And she did it well.

 

A Natural Leader

After graduating with a PhD in inorganic chemistry from Texas A&M University, Mason started her career at E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co in 1998. After a short 3-year stint as an R&D chemist, she rose to her first management position. As a newly minted area superintendent, Mason managed a $9.6 million budget, supervised a team of 33 scientists and technicians, and managed contractor relationships in the area.

 

The suddenly increased responsibility could easily overwhelm many young scientists, but not Mason, who thrives in roles that require both great leadership skills and solid technical knowledge.

 

Masons capability to lead has been further tested and proven in a wide range of roles since joining Eastman Chemical Company in 2003. As a group leader, she successfully led technical groups in various functional areas. As a technology process manager, she managed the execution of a ~$1B technology project portfolio and assimilated needed information that helped the CTO and VPs make data-driven decisions. As an HR manager, she, in collaboration with the CIO leadership team, helped improve workplace competency, productivity, and future leader capability. And as a portfolio and special projects manager, she successfully led projects that require multi-site and multi-business coordination, and directed talent and portfolio management.

 

In her current role as a technology manager, Mason is managing a multimillion dollar technology portfolio for the performance films business, and she is also driving coordination between a number of organizations, including technology, business, legal, and manufacturing organizations.

 

It looks like that Mason is capable of managing almost any team, technical or not. The secret of her success? I have the gift of the gab and know how to make connections and catalyze others to act, says Mason, with a smile.

 

A beloved mentor

Mason spends a lot of time coaching her team members at Eastman Chemical, and her job requires her to travel. Yet she is still able to squeeze out time and energy to mentor those that are not even part of her company.

As a member of multiple ACS committees, Mason regularly speaks at national and regional ACS meetings, offering career advice to chemical professionals young and old. She also frequently visits universities across the county, speaking with aspiring young chemists face-to-face.

 

How does she find the time? Its all about priority, notes Mason. As a believer of multi-tasking, Mason is a master of using her lunch time as mentoring time. And she is also known for having walking meetings with her mentees. Movement helps you think better, walking together keeps you both on an even playing field and we both get some exercise thats a win-win! declares Mason.

 

In recognition of her managerial excellence, devotion to mentoring many scientists and significant contribution to the ACS community, the American Chemical Society named Mason an ACS Fellow in 2015.

 

Giving back

Mason attributes her career success to good teachers, good people she has worked with, and her persistence. She also credits Texas A&M for helping her build a solid foundation in science, technology, and character. Today, she still interacts with the schools undergraduate and graduate students on a regular basis. And she and her husband, David, a former Texas A&M student, have supported the schools advancement of science through their personal philanthropy.

 

I believe in investing in others, says Mason. In the grander scheme, if another persons path is easier or they are better able to move forward with their goals, then we all win.


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Yanni Wang is a principal scientific writer and the owner of International Biomedical Communications, a company dedicated to translating research data into clear messages. Yanni has a PhD in chemistry and writes about biomedical research-related topics for professional audiences and the general public.

 

ACS Industry

They Lied to Me (and You)

Posted by ACS Industry Oct 23, 2015

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I used to be the proud owner of a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI.  I still own the car, I am just not feeling proud these days.  My car failed a chemistry test.  TDI is a VW acronym that means diesel.  In case you missed it, Volkswagen has now admitted to programming diesel cars to adjust engine operation while under dynamometer testing in order to meet emissions standards for NOx.  At all other times, NOx levels exceed emission standards.  I have been driving a lie.  It is even more disconcerting because I purchased the car largely to feel good about myself.  I paid more to lower my personal environmental footprint.

 

I had a couple of criteria that led me to the Jetta diesel.  First, I wanted to be able to put a trailer hitch on the car.  I replaced a pick-up truck several years ago with a utility trailer and wasnt prepared to give that up.  Second, most of my driving was with me alone in the car, largely to-and-from work.  I wanted the best mileage I could get in an enclosed vehicle figuring that I never needed to worry about passenger comfort. I test drove the two highest mileage cars that were readily available at the time, the Jetta and the Toyota Prius. The Prius was not approved for towing and the Jetta was.  Decision made.

 

There were a couple of minor points that also favored the Jetta. First was the innovative NOx trap technology. I spent most of my career working in catalysis.  I loved the idea that inventive scientists had discovered a way to trap and react nitrogen oxides on an inorganic matrix using only fuel.  It appealed to me as a catalyst chemist.  Some have termed the Prius conspicuous environmentalism. I actually liked that the Jetta was super-efficient, but NOT conspicuous.  It is identical to the gasoline Jetta with the exception of a TDI emblem on the rear.  It made me feel better that my environmentalism wasnt for show.

 

I purchased the Jetta knowing full well that it was a bad investment.  I had done a number of analyses, even developing a nomograph that allows the calculation of potential cost savings by mileage, fuel cost and miles driven.  Fuel economy would never make up for the higher sticker.  I paid approximately $7,000 more for the car.  That was the full difference between the base Jetta with gasoline engine and the base TDI.  It was environmental performance I wanted and I paid for it.  Using my nomograph, one of my former bosses sent me a teasing email stating that I only had to drive 190,000 miles to break even.  Driving approximately 9,000 mile per year as I do,  I dont think I am likely to reach the 190,000 mile mark.

 

The Jetta exceeded my expectations.  Unlike other cars that I had purchased that never reached the EPA estimated mileage, the Jetta proved to be as efficient as advertised.  If I drive sanely, I get 500 miles on a tank and the pleasure of only visiting the pump once a month.

 

Fuel economy, comfort, performance and even the number of cup holders are observables used in the car buying decision. They are immediately verifiable.  I purchased the car, in part to reduce my personal CO2 footprint.  That footprint correlates directly with fuel use, something I measure every time I fill up.  NOx emissions are not so easily observed.  I cant come up with a practical way that I could even measure them.  I have to trust VW and the EPA to conduct the chemical testing confirming the cars emissions fall within the acceptable range.  The VW debacle draws attention to the importance of trust in our modern society and how difficult it is to verify performance.  My safety in the car, in the food that I buy, the pharmaceuticals I take, the chemicals in the paint I use, the websites I visit, the appliances I usethe list truly goes on and on.  Like a chain, our ability to trust any company is a matter of the weakest link.  We have rules and we have laws to prevent individual weakness causing poor decisions.  The unthinkable has been realized.  Rules and laws will be tightened and trust will slowly be restored. I am still driving my car.  It is the same fuel efficient car that I bought. I knew before I purchased the car that diesel engines generate more NOx than gasoline powered engines.  I also knew that Europe had elevated fuel economy over NOx, a compromise aimed at reducing the long range threat of climate change over the more immediate concern over NOx. There is no perfect solution.  I always strive to use data to inform my decisions.  The data available indicates that my car may be exceeding the EPA mandated NOx emissions by up to 40 times.  This still represents a significant reduction relative to the cars I have driven over my life, equal to the emissions standard set in 1977.  I am not happy about it, but I am hardly pillaging the environment.  The actual level is well below allowable levels for heavy trucks that drive far more than I do, creating a far larger environmental burden.  The actual amount I generate in a year is far less than the NOx produced by burning a cord of wood, natural as that is.

 

Living more sustainably is about compromise.  The NOx issue with my car is just an unthinkable compromise I didnt see coming.

 

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Mark Jones is Executive External Strategy and Communications Fellow at Dow Chemical since September 2011. He spent most of his career developing catalytic processes after joining Dow in 1990. He received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of Colorado-Boulder doing research unlikely to lead to an industrial career and totally unrelated to his current responsibilities.

2,900 delegates basked in Berlin’s autumnal sunshine earlier this month at the annual European Petrochemical Association meeting.  But in the meeting rooms and in the corridors, all the talk was of the “China chill.”  Everyone, no matter their industry or country, was already feeling the effect of China’s new economic direction.

 

As Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Prize, Daniel Yergin, observed in a plenary session: “In the past, we have assumed that the U.S. is the locomotive for the global economy.  But are we now seeing a new model appearing, where China’s change of economic policy means this is no longer true?  Could China’s slowdown have a greater impact on global growth prospects than a possible U.S. recovery?”

 

Chemical company delegates from around the world all confirmed that China’s slowdown was having a critical impact on their businesses.  They also saw the main impact from the U.S. as being more focused on the supply side than on demand.  The shale revolution means that the U.S. has taken over OPEC’s role as the swing supplier in oil markets, and there are growing signs that it is taking the same role in global Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) markets.

 

These two developments are creating a sense of chaos in energy and feedstock markets.  On the supply side, we have seen a 50 percent collapse in oil prices over the past year.  On the demand side, the “China chill” means that over-capacity is looming in a number of major value chains.  U.S. spot ethylene prices, for example, have already fallen by two-thirds over the same timeframe.  One highly-experienced olefins business manager told me he expected to see ethylene selling soon at cost plus 5c/lb – “It’s happened before, and it’s going to happen again” was his summary.

 

Many delegates shared his fears that energy and petrochemical companies had all rushed to invest at the peak of the cycle.  And now the downturn is looming, with the added complication that the “China chill” is not only reducing demand for all commodities – but also taking demand patterns in new directions.  As another delegate put it to me, “We have been operating on the basis of supply-led models, where demand could be forecasted on the basis on a GDP forecast from the IMF.  Today, it seems we are moving back to a demand-driven world, where over-capacity exists for almost every molecule.  Finding a customer is becoming far more important than having low-cost supply, as everyone has the same economics when over-capacity exists.”

 

This paradigm shift is certainly starting to look more and more plausible.  Former boom economies, such as Brazil and Russia, are now deep in recession caused in part by the collapse in China’s demand for their commodity exports.  Even the U.S. Federal Reserve postponed September’s planned interest rate rise due to worries over the “China chill”.  But every challenge also brings with it an opportunity.

 

Thus, many delegates were starting to argue that the real growth story for coming decades is no longer going to be based on wishful thinking about growing numbers of middle class people in Asia.  Instead, it will be built on supplying the growing numbers of people entering the 55+ generation.  1 in 5 of the world’s population will be in this cohort by 2030.

 

Even a century ago, life expectancy in the developed world was only 50 years, and just half this in the rest of the world.  Today, thanks mainly to the chemical and pharma industries, those aged 65 in the developed world can expect to live another 20 years, and 15 years if they live elsewhere.  This dramatic change will create a paradigm shift in demand patterns over time, and a new set of megatrends for the future.

 

These will be based on needs rather than wants, as those in this New Old 55+ generation already own most of what they need, and incomes decline as they move into retirement.  As companies left Berlin at the end of the event, many were starting to think seriously about redesigning current business models to focus on such new megatrends as affordable food, water, shelter, health and mobility.

 

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Paul Hodges is chairman of International eChem (www.iec.eu.com), trusted advisers to the chemical industry and its investment community. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Industrial Council on chemicals, advanced materials and biotechnology, and presents the ACS ‘Chemistry & the Economy’ webinars. 

Schmidt Official 2015 Photo.jpgWhen I took the helm as ACS president in January, one of the areas I promised to focus on was bolstering ACS’s role within industry. Over the past nine months, I have worked to communicate with chemical industry leaders about the value ACS brings to their employees, and ultimately their operations. Because I have been on both sides of the fence--both as a senior scientist and section head with Procter & Gamble and a 10-year veteran of the ACS Board of Directors--I know ACS has a lot to offer industry.


And over the past months, I’ve supported the development of additional programs and resources to help ACS become an even more highly valued asset for its industrial members.

 

Working with ACS Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Tom Connelly, I helped to organize a Chemical Sciences Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Summit to facilitate the exchange of views among CTOs on precompetitive subjects. It took place Sept. 23-24. Tom and I also kicked off a series of visits with CEOs and CTOs at several companies ranging from large to small, including DuPont, Eli Lilly, P&G, Arkema, Chemtura, and Nova Biomedical. Our aim: to listen and better understand the challenges facing chemical industry CEOs and CTOs and explore how ACS can help address those challenges.


Next year, I will continue to work to ensure that the issues addressed by the CTOs that will benefit our members are put into place. Now that the inaugural CTO Summit has concluded, we are looking to implement new offerings that improve the career paths of our industrial members.


Recognizing the important role the chemical enterprise plays in driving U.S. innovation, job creation, and economic growth, I have encouraged ACS to partner with other organizations—including the American Chemistry Council--to find common areas of interest in the advocacy arena.


Immediate Past President Tom Barton and I established a Presidential Task Force on Addressing Workforce Needs through Industry/Two-Year College Partnerships. The Task Force is examining the workforce needs of the chemical industry and the capabilities of two-year colleges to meet those needs.  The Task Force is identifying  successful programs where partnerships between local industry and two-year institutions have produced an increasing number of  graduates with the skills needed to meet the workforce demands of local industry.  By December 31, 2015, the Task Force will produce a concise report that summarizes the workforce development issues addressed and articulates the strategies needed to create partnerships that will better meet the workforce needs of the chemical industry at the two-year college level.  The Task Force will make recommendations for action by an Implementation Task Force in 2016.


I am working closely with the ACS Office of Public Affairs to search for ways to develop, introduce, and support congressional and executive branch actions based on effective, commonsense principles that support and advance U.S. innovation. I encourage all members to help advance the ACS agenda on Capitol Hill by advocating on behalf of our priorities.


On another front, I applaud the Committee on Corporation Associates (CA) and its chair, Dawn Mason, in implementing CA’s new two-year strategic plan. CA’s mission is to influence ACS programs, products, and services to meet the needs of chemistry-based companies and provide a business and corporate voice to the ACS Board of Directors and across ACS.

 

Acting on the results of recent studies and surveys of industry members, we have been working to focus on items most important to industry members: topics related to their current job, training that provides new information and boosts productivity, resources for networking and collaboration, and ways of improving company processes.


Together, we have been working with ACS staff to tackle many projects, including building a new website for industry at www.acs.org/industry, revamping the Industry Insights newsletter, and creating this Industry Voices blog to provide timely information and stories related to life in industry. We encourage you to contribute to the conversation.


To help industry members get more out of national meetings, CA has hosted additional networking events, developed industry-relevant programming and symposia, urged ACS staff to better publicize specialized content, and continued to honor industry teams through the Heroes of Chemistry gala event.


Throughout the year, I have worked with the ACS Webinars team along with the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists to produce the 2015 Drug Design & Delivery Symposium for industrial chemists.  In addition, in partnership with the divisions on Professional Relations, Small Chemical Business, and Business Management & Development, as well as the Committee on Chemical Health & Safety, we launched the ACS Program in a Box webinar series for industry. And we have teamed up with the Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs and our Career Consultants to present ACS Career Pathways workshops, professional training courses, and leadership courses for all members through the ACS Career Navigator.


Staying true to the theme of my presidency, “Inspiring and Innovating for Tomorrow,” I am proud to be a champion for the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, which ACS launched roughly a year ago. I’m also proud to be a strong proponent of the ACS Scholars program , which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. These programs both help to grow a strong pipeline of future chemists who will be needed to solve the challenges of sustainability and many other global problems going forward.


I’ve also continued to highlight and support ACS programs that help chemists bond better with the public. Those include the Chemistry Ambassadors initiative, the “Reactions” online video series, and the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program.


It’s been a busy year so far, but we’re not done yet. In the remaining months of my presidency and beyond, I’m continuing to work with so many others to ensure that ACS will become an even more highly valued asset for its industrial members and the entire chemistry enterprise in the years to come.


If you have feedback or suggestions, I encourage you to share them with me at president@acs.org.


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Diane Grob Schmidt is President of the American Chemical Society 2015.  Diane is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She received an M.S. from the University of Tennessee, and a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.  She received her Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati in Organic Chemistry.  Immediately after finishing her Ph.D., she joined the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), where she served as Section Head with responsibility for safety and regulatory affairs before retiring in 2014.

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During her distinguished career, Cynthia A. Maryanoff has blazed new trails in the field of process chemistry. And at the same time, Maryanoff, who is a strong supporter of American Chemical Society programs, has worked to give back to industry and the science community. Not surprisingly, she has received countless accolades that highlight her commitment and achievements.


And last week, Maryanoff, Foundation Distinguished Professor at the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute in Doylestown, Pa., accepted the 2015 Perkin Medal, one of the chemical industry’s most prestigious awards. It is bestowed annually by the Society of the Chemical Industry (SCI) in honor of outstanding work in applied chemistry in the U.S.


The honor recognizes Maryanoff’s exceptional work in process organic chemistry leading to drugs for treatment of epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disorders, AIDS, tuberculosis, and type 2 diabetes. She received the medal at a dinner in her honor on Oct. 6 at the Hilton Penns Landing Hotel in Philadelphia.

 

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“Dr. Maryanoff is the rare chemist who has not only demonstrated a mastery of science through her work in chemical synthesis, but also in her keen understanding and application of scale-up and commercialization,” said Mike Graff, chairman and chief executive officer of American Air Liquide Holdings and chairman of SCI America. “Throughout her distinguished career, she has been instrumental in developing an astounding number of life-changing medicines in use today.”


After receiving a B.S. in chemistry from Drexel University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University, Maryanoff joined Smith, Kline & French Laboratories. She then moved to McNeil Pharmaceutical, a Johnson & Johnson company.  After taking on a series of roles with increasing responsibilities at J&J, she was named a distinguished research fellow and in 2000 was named head of the ChemPharm Department  with responsibility for 150 employees in the U.S., Belgium, and Switzerland.  In 2013, she retired from J&J and continues her scientific career at the Blumberg Institute. Maryanoff  is credited with 67 U.S./European patents and has published more than 100 scientific papers.

 

Throughout her career as an industrial process chemist, Maryanoff has consistently demonstrated scientific excellence in taking products from the laboratory to commercial manufacture. Moreover, her focus on early process research emphasized a green-chemistry approach.  She has influenced or directed the development of nearly 1,000 drug candidates in the fields of antipsychotic and antiepileptic treatments, strong analgesics with transdermal delivery, pulmonary surfactants, cardiovascular disease, endocrine function, and antiviral agents. She played a major role in the development of  Topamax, an anti-epileptic drug; Ultram,  an atypical analgesic used to treat moderate to severely moderate pain; and Cypher, a drug-eluting stent /medical device.


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At the same time, Maryanoff has remained active in ACS, serving on the Executive Committee of the ACS Organic Chemistry Division for 27 years. She is also involved with the Governing Board for Publishing (2015-2019); the Committee on International Activities (2013-2017), the ACS Development Advisory Board (2011-2016); and the ACS Petroleum Research Fund TEVA Scholars Program. She has organized and chaired 25 award symposia at ACS national meetings.


She and her husband and lifelong colleague, Bruce, currently fund a scholarship for the ACS Scholars Program. Their intent: to support students who are excited about the chemical sciences so that they can enjoy their studies and contribute to the future.

 

In recognition of her commitment to her work and the scientific community, Maryanoff received the ACS Garvin-Olin Medal in 1999, the ACS Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management in 2005, the ACS Henry F. Whalen award for Business Development in 2007, and the American Women in Science Elizabeth Bingham Award in 2010.

 

She was named an ACS fellow in 2009 and a fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1991.


“Cynthia combines many talents, said Madeleine M. Joullié, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, in a recent Chemical & Engineering News article . “She is a top-notch researcher, a creative administrator, and an inspiration and support to women, minorities, and education. She is a true humanist.”


Images from top to bottom: Cynthia A. Maryanoff displaying her Perkin medal; Cynthia with ACS President Diane Grob Schmidt; Cynthia with Dave Harwell, Assistant Director for Industry Member Programs at the ACS.


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Susan Ainsworth is the Manager of Industry Member Programs at the American Chemical Society.

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Do sports and wine go together? Many people may say no. But if you ask Katherine Glasgow, a self-described sports fanatic, shell half jokingly say, “Wine pairs well with everything!"

 

Glasgows appreciation for wine partly comes from her eight years of work experience in the wine industry, however, when Glasgow was studying the reactivity of tungsten complexes in graduate school, she didnt know that she would end up working with winemakers one day. But since graduating from Indiana University with a PhD in chemistry, her expertise in tungsten has led her to an amazing career path, crossing multiple seemingly unrelated industries including the plastics industry and the wine industry.

 

Thanks to her curiosity and drive for getting things done, she has made positive contributions to every position she has held.  And, she has managed to have fun along the way. 

 

Studying the reactivity of tungsten complexes


Raised by scientific-minded parents in North Carolina, Glasgow knew from early on that she wanted to pursue a scientific career. But it wasnt until her college years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that she found her true love for chemistry and research. Following her newly found passion, Glasgow worked for 2 years in Professor Holden Thorps lab as an undergraduate researcher, studying electro-catalytic oxidation of DNA by ruthenium complexes.

 

After graduating from UNC with highest honors in chemistry, Glasgow visited a number of graduate schools, searching for a PhD program that would match her interest and early research experience. Her fascination with catalysts eventually led her to Professor Malcolm Chisholms lab at Indiana University, where she built a solid foundation in understanding and utilizing the catalytic powers of tungsten complexes.

 

Making polycarbonate


Upon her graduation from Indiana University in 2000, Glasgow went to work for GE Plastics (now SABIC), where she used her expertise in catalysis to develop better alkylation catalysts for making Bisphenol-A, a building block of polycarbonate. 

 

Designing different polymer structures, and figuring out their potential usage in device fields, including food contact, medical devices, aircraft interiors, and automotive lighting, Glasgow enjoyed her work. In the following years, she worked on more than a dozen polymer materials, earned multiple prestigious awards, and received more than 15 US patents. With her outstanding job performance, Glasgows career at GE Plastics flourished.

 

 

Diving into the wine industry


There is no doubt that Glasgows career at GE would have continued to grow if she had stayed. GEs CEO, Jeff Immelt, once told Glasgow that she was perfect for her job. But after years away from her homeland in North Carolina, the desire to move back to the South was growing strong. So in 2007, after thriving at GE Plastics for seven years, Glasgow and her family moved back to North Carolina. 

 

Glasgows rich experience at GE opened many doors. A few large companies in North Carolina showed interest in hiring her, but Glasgow wanted to join a smaller company in order to learn how to grow a business. After working on applications involving multiple industries, she also wanted to focus on just one area for a while, and the wine industry appeared fascinating. So in 2007, she joined Nomacorc LLC, a small company providing high-quality corks to worldwide winemakers. 

 

At Nomacorc (now part of Vinventions), Glasgows role quickly evolved from a senior material scientist to a global director of product management.  Today, as a vice president, she is responsible for global product research and development, and having accumulated more than 20 patents so far in her career, she is also responsible for the companys patent strategy. Because she speaks Spanish, she helps Nomacorcs factory in Argentina as well. 

 

Wine is a fun topic, says Glasgow, and it translates much better to discussions with wider groups of people about what I do.

 

And the fun part of working at a small company? Its easier to make a substantial impact and to implement ideas.

 

Glasgow credits her success to excellent organizational skills, effective communication, and her attention-to-detail, but her no bull, just get it done motto inspired by her high school AP English teacher has also undoubtedly played a huge role in her achievements.


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Yanni Wang is a principal scientific writer and the owner of International Biomedical Communications, a company dedicated to translating research data into clear messages. Yanni has a PhD in chemistry and writes about biomedical research-related topics for professional audiences and the general public.

Growing up in West Texas, my Dad insisted on a Monday evening ritual that was all but sacred in our household.  When Gunsmoke came on TV, no one was allowed to speak, or to interfere with the broadcast.  Marshall Matt Dillon was in session and he had a very important lesson to teach us all about being a better person.

 

Marshall Dillon was a big man who carried a gun and a badge.  By all rights, he had authority due to his elected position in the community and also through a perceived threat of force, but he seldom used either to settle a dispute. His method of choice was to listen and learn before taking decisive action.  He would listen to both parties in the dispute, talk to any witnesses, and then discuss any discrepancies over a beverage with his tried counsel, Doc and Festus, down at Miss Kitty’s Saloon.  Throughout the course of each episode, Dillon would uncover the facts, test assumptions, and expose any untruths.  He was careful in his deliberations, because his reputation depended upon it, and in the Old West, all that mattered was the goodness of your name.

 

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Clockwise from top: Ken Curtis(Festus), James Arness (Matt),

Amanda Blake (Kitty), and Milburn Stone (Doc) in 1968

Photo by CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back)

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


Today, there is great societal pressure to make snap decisions about the motives of others, and there are few repercussions for jumping to wrong conclusions, at least for the person making the jump.  For people being accused of a falsehood, the outcomes can be very different.  Social media norms have shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.  Anonymous posts to a website can do significant damage, and leave victims with little recourse.

 

On the other hand, sniping is commonplace, and we have become numb to the barrage of insults, accusations, and catch phrases launched by people who perceive an injustice.

 

If Marshall Dillon were here today, I think he would call up a posse to track down any masked bandits, and then question their motives while sharing a beverage next to a roaring campfire. In the rules of the show, he would find out their troubling truths before they did any real damage, and he would facilitate an agreement between the affected parties down at Miss Kitty’s Saloon.

Sure, Matt Dillon and the other characters of Gunsmoke were fictional characters, but the foundational social principles they represented in the show were sound.  Taking the time to understand both sides of the story, and observing the actions taken by the parties involved leads to better outcomes than shooting first and asking questions later.

 

Years later, I was reminded of Dillon in my first science class.  That day, we learned to observe, form a hypothesis, and test the hypothesis. This process was repeated in an iterative fashion until consistent results were observed.  On that day, I realized that the methodology of science was not that different from Marshall Dillon’s, but I do think it would have been better with a beverage.

 

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David Harwell is the Assistant Director for Industry Member Programs at the American Chemical Society.