Skip navigation
Melissa Kern

To have no voice

Posted by Melissa Kern Nov 20, 2012

On Thursday I woke up without a voice.  It was the first full day of the conference and we had oral presentations before lunch and the shared poster session in the evening.  It is incredibly frustrating to not be able to communicate the way that you want – especially at a professional conference.  It was impossible to keep the flow of conversation going because people constantly had to ask me to repeat myself.  I realized two things.  The first is that I talk a lot.  So maybe losing my voice, if only for a few days, is good training to improve my listening skills.  The second is that it can be isolating to be surrounded by so many people and not be able to participate in the conversation.  Words and language are how we feel connected to the people and community around us.  So maybe I got a small (minuscule) glimpse into the world of an ESL student. Fortunately, my voice was back in full force within a few days.  It probably won’t take many more days for me to forget to the feelings of annoyance and isolation of not being able to communicate effectively. 


We are very thankful that the IDSS gave a voice to the community of international students in the ACS.

Both Aruny and I found the workshops earlier this week to be very informative and interesting. I personally liked the "Engaging Colleagues in Dialogue" because I have had difficulty in the past convincing people of my point of view. This workshop has provided me with tools to facilitate respectful and fruitful discussion with people that disagree with me. I also enjoyed the career workshop. Although I have a very good idea of what I want to do after finishing graduate school (right now at least), it was helpful to learn about the other opportunities available to chemists and chemical engineers.

I (Aruny) really enjoyed this first day at the IDSS.. Or how a workshop about engaging the dialogue was a kind of ice-breaker for all of the delegates.

Language barriers, I say! So, it is sometimes difficult to communicate even if we talk the same language, imagine when 9 non native speakers with different backgrounds met 9 others american people, it is quite challenging! But the dialogue workshop  was a kind of practice for me, direct, immediate and spontaneous application of the tips from H.N.: ENGAGING colleagues to discuss!

And what about the career workshop?! WOWW, I learnt a lot of things and it helped to redefine what I am supposed to enjoy as a job in my life, revelation, I say! You never stop learning..... ( sorry for my Frenglish = French + English)

Thank you to H.N. Cheng for the leadership workshop and to Jodi Weismann for the career workshop!


-Lee and Aruny

There is a famous quote from John F. Kennedy Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country”. After spending a lot of the day to ask what ACS can do for us, it is the time to think what we can do for ACS. We can’t control what ACS does, but we can control what we can do for ourselves being in ACS.


As international students, we want to be welcomed here. Firstly, we have to prepare ourselves to be ready for the welcome, so at least, we should be open-minded, and not afraid of communicating with domestic students.

As domestic students, we probably haven’t thought about being involved in a welcome program for the international students. But as a chemist, as a scientist, we have drive to learn new things and curiosity to discover new aspects of the world. These new things and new worlds are definitely not just from academic and science area, they are everywhere in your life. The way we approach science will be similar to the way we approach our life. By developing a friendship with somebody from different culture, we can get a better understanding of the world, will know our place better in this world, and will gain some insight how other people view the world. We believe you can get the same excitement by something new about the world as the excitement of discovering something new in your lab (or just getting your reaction to finally work!)


As a member of local ACS section, we can start to think about doing something to change our own life. We can start from inspiring people around to notice more about ACS news or resources, so that what we do in ACS can affect more people. Instead of hoping ACS organize something big, we can start from organizing a small multi-culture roundtable coffee workshop in campus, bridge the culture barriers and help to minimize the challenges that international students are facing. We probably won’t be able to make some big changes, but the small step is a step. Let’s just step by step, and walk into our world friendship and create a developing and sustainable science community around us.


Learning never ends!!

Posted by WASIU LAWAL Nov 15, 2012

When i started writing this post i had initially begun describing things that we had learnt but then i felt that sharing my own personal experiences might add a different flavor to the whole thing.


Now, as a member of the National Younger Chemists Committee (YCC), i came in with a different perspective since i had some solid knowledge about the workings of the ACS. What i failed to anticipate was the fact that basically all the participants are younger chemists (below the age of 35) which means that  practically all the issues that are raised will be things that the YCC would need to look into. Even more so, i was shocked to realize that some ACS benefits that i know about and probably take for granted are practically unknown to a lot of my colleagues here even though some of these things are sorely needed and would probably make members' lives better if only they knew where find some of these things. Like many of us have been saying, the ACS does need to do more in terms of getting information into the hands of those that need it and i personally would take some of this information back to the YCC so we can decided on what role we'll be playing.


The other thing that was an eye opener to me was getting to learn about little things that actually turn out to be big issues for international students.. now I used to think that having spent a big part of my life outside the country, I should have a good idea of what international students go through in spite of my U.S Passport but the truth is that i had no clue. who knew that things such as getting a driver's license or opening a bank account could be an issue?


In addition to these experiences we also had the opportunity to learn communication skills and about possible career pathways for chemists all contributing to a total learning experience.


More thoughts later

Even though one team member hardly knows anything about (American) football and the other is a Houston Texans fan, “America’s Team” might be the major thing that draws brings attention to the City of Arlington, our home city that is often in the shadows of its more illustrious neighbor: Dallas.


We are Abolfazl ‘Zak’ Zakersalehi (International student from Tehran Iran) and Wasiu Lawal (Domestic student from Houston Texas…by way of Lagos Nigeria) and we attend the University Texas at Arlington under the guidance of Dr. Hyeok Choi, an Assistant Professor in Environmental Engineering.

SAM_1447 (1).JPG

We are also probably the most unusual team at the summit given that we don’t belong to a chemistry department even though our work very much involves chemistry given our work on developing processes for the treatment of persistent organic contaminants in water using nanomaterials.

We are very excited to be part of the IDSS and we hope to learn some valuable lessons that we can take back home to Arlington.

John Baluyut

Learning at the IDSS

Posted by John Baluyut Nov 14, 2012

Having spent two days in Raleigh, NC at the International-Domestic Student Summit of the ACS was awesome! The tips we learned on Monday from Dr. H. N. Cheng on how to communicate more effectively with our colleagues, and from Dr. Jodi Wesemann on why it is important that we start charting our career paths even as we are still many, many, many months away from finishing grad school as well as how we should go about this exciting task were eye-opening. I think everybody in this Summit will agree with me when I say that we learned skills we will all be making much use of in our careers for a very long time from these two excellent facilitators!


Yesterday's sessions focused more on challenges and difficulties international students face before, during, and even after they pursue their chemistry degrees in the different univesities and colleges in the US. The sessions also identified ways how the people around internationals can help alleviate some of the added burdens being someone from abroad adds on top of the daunting tasks of completing coursework, TAing, and of course, doing research. The morning session was facilitated by Dr. Darla Deardorff, who is quite an expert on international education, having worked, studied, and travelled across six continents. Among the more important things I learned from Dr. Deardorff is that breaking the language barrier is just the tip of the iceberg of international competence. There is so much more behind the words we speak. Even fluent speakers of English often mean different things when they speak with one another, mainly because we all come from a vast array of cultures.


The students were then divided into groups that identified steps that can be done at the local, national, and even the global levels to help internationals integrate better into the American environment. Some of these steps were actually quite simple, such as chemistry departments holding activities such as small sport events among graduate students, post-docs, faculty, and staff; colleges and universities explaining the roles international TAs play in helping educate undergraduate students, especially the freshmen; and domestic students helping their international counterparts deal with aspects of everyday life Americans take for granted such as getting a driver's license (some of the international students in the Summit said it took them THREE WEEKS of going back and forth to do this!), as well as opening bank accounts and how to avoid all the fees bank charge for every little thing one can think. I honestly think that some sort of a buddy system between an American and an international student early in their graduate careers can help the student from overseas adjust better to their new environment while at the same time giving the local student a unique opportunity to learn about life outside the US.


Other suggestions from the students may require much more organized efforts from many sectors. These include lobbying for greater transparency at the US embassies when processing visas (that's right! no one actually explains why an application for a US student visa is denied despite all the documents the university an international student intends to attend provides), making financial aid and scholarships a bit more available to international students (especially to undergrads who bring in their own money and pay two to three times as much as the in-state student does in tuition costs), and allowing more international students to pursue their careers here in the US (don't we want the best-trained people to remain in the country?).


I am really very grateful for having had the chance to be part of this Summit. I learned so much from all the facilitators and my student colleagues who also came here to Raleigh. Thanks a lot to Steven Meyers and Varsha Ramani for organizing this activity and bringing all of us together!

Jessica Reed

Finding your Pathway

Posted by Jessica Reed Nov 14, 2012

What do you want to do after you graduate? What career plans do you have? If you're like me, sometimes these questions can be quite daunting because I'm really not sure what is in store for me. I have a lot of interests and enjoy doing many different types of work, so how can I choose just one career path?


On Monday, we had the opportunity to participate in an ACS workshop entitled "Finding Your Pathway." Dr. Jodi Wesemann led our group through a series of exercises and discussions that highlighted career paths in various sectors.


First, we had to write a job objective for our ideal job. Take a moment to try this yourself. Now, reflect on your objective. Is it so specific that you appear inflexible or so broad that you appear you don't really know what you want to do? Having a clear, yet not too specific, job objective is key to start the journey of finding your pathway.


Next, we had to rank our values for a career and our strengths from a list of options. I found that I value a challenge in the workplace, balance between career and personal life, and autonomy. My strengths are leading and teaching individuals, and my lesser strengths (note that they are not "weaknesses!") are creating and managing budgets/resources. What are your values and strengths in terms of a career?


We discussed several different job sectors that chemists traditionally work within. Industry, academia, government, and self-employed markets were all highlighted. We took time to imagine ourselves working within each job sector and to envision how are strengths and values aligned with that sector. Have you thought about or imagined working in any of these job sectors?


I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were job possibilities for me in areas I had not thought about. For example, I have always envisioned myself in academia, but now I realize that I take my skills and start a consulting company to be self-employed if I so choose. It's also important to note that these pathways are not mutually exclusive, and that you can move between them to find the job that is right for you. Happy path-finding!

Xin Su

Breaking the iceberg of culture

Posted by Xin Su Nov 14, 2012

After getting warmed up from yesterday's two workshops, the entire IDSS group really hit our prime today! The overall two-day agenda was indeed perfectly designed since the workshops allowed us to sharpen our communication skills which were indispensable prerequisites for a successful discussion, as well as to get to know better about each other. On the other hand, today's discussion provided us with a great opportunity to put everything we’ve just learned into practice, serving as a timely reflection.


The entire summit has been a call to the alarming fact that a great percentage of international students in the professional society are living in the US and leaving without having close American friends. With these statistics in mind and Domestic-International student teams in hand we set out on a full day of discussion groups.


Dr. Darla Deardorff, an expert in international education from Duke University, oversaw the prelude to the formal discussion. We were exposed to the idea that differences that we can see between cultures is only the tip of an iceberg and that there is often much more below the surface to explain the disconnection. While getting impressed by the “iceberg” analogy for cultures, my mind for a second temporarily flew back to the moment when I was at the Titanic exhibition, and an image flashed by, where I clearly remembered seeing a giant ship moving full ahead. That ship reminded me of today’s chemistry, which, as the central science, has been growing at an ever increasing rate. However, it also faces challenges that might slow it down, for example, the iceberg of culture.


After that we moved on to breakout discussions, where Justin and I were assigned to focus groups on the professional society and global scientific network levels, respectively, addressing issues in mutual understanding between international and domestic student. Since our previous experience in promoting international-domestic interactions was mostly within Dartmouth, this was an invaluable chance for both of us to think about the same question in a larger picture and to broaden our horizon by exchanging with our peers.


Following three group presentations on their own topics, all of us came back to a round table setting and exhausting our thoughts and ideas to make every effort to complete the group list of recommendations for this issue that all of us care about. In our team perspective, we think that the ACS will play a pivotal role towards a better community for all chemists, in conjunction with the universities, local sections and global players, and will furthermore affect the greater international and domestic student populations in general. Oceanic icebergs are intractable even for the most advanced icebreakers, however, the iceberg of culture, formidable as it might seem, can be easy to break with the right minds, and the right tools.

Liping Zhu

Moments of Self Reflection

Posted by Liping Zhu Nov 13, 2012

For two Colorado students, starting at 7:30 am, 5:30 am in Mountain Time was a struggle.  Fortunately H.N. CHEN caught our focus and kept us interacting. The time difference maybe takes a couple days to adjust, but the people difference you probably need to spend your whole life to figure it out. H.N. Chen mentioned his uncle, who was a successful salesman, can recognize and define people’s personality in 30 sec, which is pretty awesome and can make sales much easier. But we found that it is even hard for us to define ourselves.  When we were working on our evaluation form, for most of questions, we don’t know which level we are in. We believe there are gaps between what we wish we were, what we think we are, and what we actually we are. This workshop reminds us to think about these gaps and try to find our strengths and weaknesses. Once we know ourselves better, we can learn the best ways to articulate ourselves and engage others in dialogue.


Finding your path is a little bit different from what I have thought before. We thought we don’t know what we can do before, but after this we realized that it is not really about what you can do.  It is really about what you want to do, which is a question that nobody else answer for you. We should decide for ourselves, and once we decided, we just need to do it. H.N. Chen said it is never too late to make changes and don’t be afraid to make changes. At this stage, we do need that kind of inspiration.  Life depends on choices we are making, we can decide what kind of life we want and try to make it happen.  We just have to learn how to balance what we have and what we want. Reality may not always our desire, but we always have something to work towards.

Hello from Raleigh everyone!


We have had a great time thus far, arriving last night with no problems everyone on the IDSS team met and went out to dinner for the first time at the Big Easy which is located right down the street from our hotel. The food was amazing as well as the company, it seems like a really good group has been selected for the summit. We all talked for hours of our experiences in research, our respective schools and future career goals. 


Today was a very busy day full of discussions and workshops to our enhance communication skills and career goals. We would like to thank the enthusiastic facilitators of the workshops: Dr. HN Cheng and Dr. Jodi Wesemann for leading the all day events.


At the very start of the first workshop: engaging colleagues, we were able assess the strengths and weaknesses of our own dialogue styles and from then were engaged in groups to practice the different dialogue styles. It was simply through practicing and role playing that we were able to discover more effective ways for communication and the different situations where they can be most effective.


Our group from the very beginning was great. We were very impressed that everyone was engaged in the topics the entire day. It seemed like everyone had something to learn from this.


The most impressive and exciting part of this workshop was visualizing our communication profiles by using a “kite” scheme. It displayed our own communication skills in such a straightforward and clear way that we were able to identify both the strengths and weaknesses as soon as we sketched it out. We really appreciated the idea of perceiving quantitative evaluations in a dynamic contrasting manner. Feeling like the kite engraved in our brains, we have found it so easy to remind ourselves which skills we need to improve at any time.


It was a very full day of discussions and meetings which were very productive. This was only a warm up to the actual summit tomorrow which we are looking forward to.

Hello from the cornfields of central Illinois! Champaign-Urbana, Illinois is a paradoxical microcosm that blends a hi-tech and exceedingly international micro-urban area with the farmland and football-loving Midwest.  The University of Illinois graduate science and engineering programs, among a few other programs, enroll the most international students and the sense of cultural diversity is ubiquitous across our campus. More specifically, in the chemistry department, there is roughly a fifty-fifty split between international and domestic students making cross-cultural interaction a necessity for international and domestic students alike.


Since joining the same group last fall, we have collaborated on several projects, with Sarah focusing on synthesis and ensemble measurements of semiconductor and oxide nanocrystals and Mayank specializing in single particle imaging measurements. Outside of chemistry, we share similar core beliefs: the idea that coffee is the elixir of life and that Bill Maher is annoying.  We also competed on an almost-champion volleyball team together. (We lost in the final round to a group of burly-looking mechanical engineers.) Of course we disagree about many things as well. (Mayank thinks he’s a good driver. Sarah doesn't.)

We are very excited to participate in the International-Domestic Student Summit.  We hope to better our understanding of the presence of international students on other campuses throughout the country and share our strong opinions on the matter.  Since coming to UIUC, we’ve experienced, first-hand, the importance of an academic talent pool that extends beyond the borders of the U.S.  More importantly, we feel that an environment like UIUC teaches us how to behave in an international setting, which will undoubtedly be necessary when we graduate and pursue careers in a field that places increasing weight on global collaboration and interconnectedness.

Hi Everyone!

We are Evijola (Evi) from Albania and Milana from US. We are both undergraduate chemistry majors here at St. John’s University. Our paths crossed two years ago in our Quant Class. Since our first encounter, we have worked on lab experiments, problem sets, projects, community service, and many others. Chemistry brought us together and gave rise to a sincere friendship to blossom. We believe that communication is the key to success in teamwork.  The cultural differences if not understood and respected can create barriers in communication. However, if they all well known and learned upon, they are great bridges of collaboration. We are looking forward to IDSS to learn more on improving the intercultural collaborations and making the lab experience even a more interesting one. We enjoy what we are doing and we would like to share our passion and views about chemistry, our teamwork experience, as well as our cultural backgrounds with our peers. The IDSS will be a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about multicultural challenges and networking.  In addition, through this involvement, we hope to gain new perspectives of the scientific research world that we daily engage in.

What do you think the society should do to minimize cultural barriers of communications? How can we encourage and facilitate international collaborations?

Looking forward to your comments and suggestions!

John came to Ames, Iowa from the very busy and bustling city of Manila, Philippines, halfway across the globe. "Anything below 70 is too cold for us," he always says. Jessica, on the other hand, hails from central Illinois, and is no stranger to cold weather. Despite all of their differences, culturally and otherwise, they found themselves sharing a common interest and passion for exploring how students learn chemistry, and what educators can do (and maybe should do) to encourage more students to take an interest in all of the chemical processes that go on in their everyday lives. They do this by trying to find new ways to measure how much students actually learn from their professors and TAs, discover patterns with which such learning occurs, and design new interventions chemistry educators can use to increase student understanding of the many chemical concepts they encounter in the classroom and laboratory.



2012-11-09 15.06.44-1.jpg

They are excited to represent Iowa State University and the Ames Local Section at the Summit. While participating in this year's IDSS, John and Jessica aim to share their experiences in chemical education with practitioners from the more traditional disciplines of chemistry. They also hope to impart some cool tips on how to make learning chemistry less of a bitter pill the common undergrad student must swallow, and more of an adventure that brings some new excitement into their college lives.


They need your help to make the IDSS experience a success! Have you experienced a cool program or event at your school or in your community that helped to foster interactions and friendships between international and domestic peers? Do you have an idea for  such a program or an event?  Leave a comment below and they'll discuss it at the summit. Thanks for your feedback!

This is Ann from China and Adam from the US, both currently studying at Kansas State University. We are excited to participate in IDSS, as it is a great opportunity. As scientific research has become very collaborative, we want to learn as much as possible in order to increase our collaboration and communication skills. We believe these skills are the most important when trying to bridge cultural barriers. So we look forward to hearing all the views and ideas put forth by other students.


A key to good collaborations is contact with a diverse group of people. This is crucially important for universities, who need a diverse student population that can come up with various problem solving approaches. Even when a diverse group is present, there can still be challenges in expressing or agreeing on ideas. This is when understanding good communication skills becomes important. We hope to better these skills for ourselves at the summit, and then help in increasing communication between others in our local section.


What strengths do a collaborative team have over an individual? What kind of advantages do you think are unique to culturally diverse research groups?


SHB Lab.jpg

The Jankowiak lab

     We are Kathleen (Lee) from the US and Aruny from France and we are both students at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and work at Sandia National Laboratories’ Advanced Materials Laboratory (AML), located in Albuquerque, NM.

     We have very different interests when it comes to chemistry. Lee prefers physical chemistry and Aruny prefers inorganic chemistry, so you might wonder why our paths crossed at all. The unique collaborative nature of the AML ultimately made that possible. We actually met because of our shared chemical education outreach experiences sponsored by the AML. Through this tie, we talked aboutpix.jpg the successes and limitations of not only the educational outreach we had participated in, but also began to talk a little about our research work. Because of this, we understand how good communication and understanding between people is essential for a well functioning field of study.

     Today, international collaboration between different research groups around the world in chemistry is limitless. Distinctive groups across the globe share knowledge and skills to solve chemical challenges. However, we learned that comprehendible exchange of skills between people of different cultures is sometimes difficult. We were happy to learn that we could share our experiences and try to improve this delicate exchange of skills during the ACS International-Domestic Student Summit 2012. Also, we were interested to learn more about possibilities to improve international student welcoming to the US. We hope that attending the Summit will help us find ways to make this transition easier and receive ideas to expand welcoming events in our university to include a special event for international chemistry students. We hope to include our local ACS section in order to involve not only UNM, but also other universities and industries in our area.

International or domestic student in a research group? Any ideas for a successful and solid collaboration? Please, comment and share your experience with us! We hope to hear from you!