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WCC Newsletter

23 Posts authored by: Maya Nilkant

By Christine Chow


WCC, the ACS Board Committee on Grants & Awards, and the ACS Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board organized a session focused on increasing award nominations from underrepresented groups. The panel discussion, moderated by George Bodner (Chair, Board Standing Committee on Grants & Awards) and Amber  Charlebois (WCC Chair), included Christina Bodurow (Eli Lilly), Amanda Bryant‐Friedrich (University of Toledo), Cynthia Maryannoff (Baruch S. Blumberg Institute) and Les McQuire (Novartis) as participants. An overview of the nomination and selection process was given, followed by discussions on implicit bias, how to prepare competitive nominations, reviewer criteria, and how to become award ready. Analysis of the national ACS technical awards between 1923 and 2015 revealed that women and members of underrepresented groups received very few (less than 5% of the total). Advances were made in 2017 (19% female winners), although caution should be taken when looking at numbers from a single year. Women comprise 29% of the ACS membership.


Some key recommendations for putting together successful nominations were made.  

  • Focus on specific outstanding accomplishments of the nominee and address the nomination criteria for the specific award.
  • The components of the award package should be focused and well integrated, with the entire nomination package being tailored for the specific award.
  • Focus on the significance and impact of the nominee's work (i.e., first to accomplish the highlighted work, developed best method in the field, etc.).


     Other recommendations were made to ensure that members of underrepresented groups are well positioned to be nominated and receive awards in the future. Getting more people "award ready" will require active mentoring throughout the career and greater advocacy from leaders in the field, such as former awardees and ACS leadership. Members of the audience recommended establishing rubrics for each award so that the selection criteria are transparent.


Please consider nominating an underrepresented chemist for a national technical award this November!



Charlebois, A. F. “Becoming ‘Award Ready’.Chemical & Engineering News, September 5, 2016.

Bodner, G. M.; Kuck, V. J. "Help Diversify ACS National Awards." Chemical & Engineering News, February 22, 2016.

Jacobs, M. "ACS's Work is not Done." Chemical & Engineering News, February 1, 2016.


Watch the Webinar, “Are You Award Ready?”

A webinar based on the ACS national meeting panel, “Increasing Successful Awards Nominations from Underrepresented Groups”, held on September 20, 2016:  Amanda Bryant‐Friedrich and Les McQuire discussed ways to be “award ready” at greater length.

By Amy Balija


     The 2016 Overcoming Challenges Award winner is Jherian Mitchell-Jones from College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University. Jherian grew up in a challenging environment, experiencing abuse, being surrounded by drug users, and being placed in foster care. These negative experiences impacted her education so that she was unable to read and write proficiently and she struggled in math classes. However, in 2010, she took charge of her life, dedicating herself to her studies and developing a healthy lifestyle. By the time she graduated high school, Jherian ranked third in her graduating class and had taken several advanced courses.

     Jherian was then accepted into the College of Saint Benedict’s NSF Future Chemistry Scholars S‐STEM Program (FoCuS). Although only having completed her freshman year, Jherian is known for her maturity and dedication to succeed.  Her advisor speaks to her desire to excel by being hired as a tutor to students and her preparedness to begin research.

     To celebrate her accomplishments, Jherian was presented the Overcoming Challenges Award at the WCC Luncheon. John Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Chemists With Disabilities, gave a heartwarming introduction. Jherian was then presented with a plaque and a monetary gift.  Congratulations, Jherian!

By Amy Balija


On Tuesday, August 23, WCC hosted ten WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Award winners at a poster session preceding the WCC luncheon. Ranging from just finishing undergraduate to completing post‐doctoral studies, each woman had an unique story to share. The award winners were Brittney Anderson (University of California, Davis), Brittney Armstrong (University of California, Davis), Elizabeth Cleverdon  (Syracuse University), Vedanjali  Gogineni (University of Mississippi), Laura Hawk (University of Minnesota), Sarah Johnson (Purdue University), Kayleigh McGovern (Syracuse University), Molly Vergerame (University of Rose Island), Clorissa Washington (University of South Carolina) and Lizzie White (Duke University). Their research focused on biochemistry, biotechnology, inorganic, and medicinal chemistry. The poster session was well attended with ACS governance members, Eli Lilly representatives, and other conference attendees. Following the hour long poster session, the WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Award winners were honored at the WCC luncheon.

Maya Nilkant

WCC "Just Cocktails"

Posted by Maya Nilkant Jun 6, 2017

By Kim Woznack


The WCC Open Meeting and “Just Cocktails” reception, occurred on Tuesday, August, 23, 2016. Dr. Amber Charlebois, 2016 WCC Chair, presented an overview of the Women Chemists Committee and a description of the Fall 2016 meeting programming. The recipients of WCC awards were acknowledged and celebrated. Organized by WCC, the “Just Cocktails” reception was held with support from ecosVC.

     “Just Cocktails” also featured a book signing by Dr. Marinda Li Wu, for the ACS Symposium book, Jobs, Collaborations, and Women Leaders of the Global Chemistry Enterprise.

     The book is available as an eBook directly through ACS Publications, and also available in hardcopy distributed by Oxford University Press, Inc.

By Amy Balija


On Sunday, August 21, WCC in partnership with Merck held the inaugural WCC Merck Research Award Symposium. This session featured the winners of the WCC Merck Research Award, 3rd‐ and 4th‐year graduate students who have excelled in their research. The morning symposium featured technical talks on chemical biology, polymer synthesis, computational chemistry, and organometallic chemistry. To begin the session, Sara Massey from the University of Chicago discussed her research in analytical techniques to examine biological entities. Virginia Bruce then highlighted her progress in examining modified cationic protein peripheries. Allegra Aron, from the University of California, Berkeley, discussed her progress in imagining biological iron which was followed by Lam‐Kiu Fong’s talk on computational methods to examine the melting of DNA strands on nanoparticles and Alice Chang’s preparation of novel block copolymers for novel nanostructures.

     Following the intermission, Kate Holloway, a computational scientist at Merck, gave an inspiring technical talk of how chemists work together to develop new drugs and products. The final three talks focused on synthetic topics with Suzanne Batiste’s work on preparing macromolecules from small peptide sequences, Emma Baker’s focus on nickel catalyzed C‐N formation reactions, and Melissa Lee’s study of C‐N reactions.

     To celebrate their accomplishments, the winners were honored at a luncheon immediately following the symposium. Each graduate student was paired with a current female Merck employee to help mentor the student through their careers.

By Samina Azad


WCC Luncheon Key Note Speaker Dr. Ann Weber, currently an independent consultant with biotech and pharma, retired from Merck in 2015 as Vice President, Lead Optimization Chemistry.

     Ann started her presentation with a definition of diversity and why diversity should be strategically embraced by businesses – this is a data driven approach as companies with more women in their executive committees have better financial success. There are many more organizations today with women on their boards than before but there is still significant progress to be made.

     Ann grew up in Oshkosh, WI. She found her first female role model at home – her mom Fran Weber, who would try to fix her own dishwasher before calling a repairman. Ann found another mentor at school, her chemistry teacher who got her interested in chemistry. Early on, Ann came up with her purpose statement for her life, “To use my God‐given talents to the best of my abilities to make the world a better place”.

     She went to University of Notre Dame and then to Harvard University with advisor Dave Evans. When it was time to choose a career path, she had to decide between academia and industry. She was impressed by Merck’s mission statement – “to discover, develop and provide innovative products and services that save and improve lives around the world”. It resonated with her own mission in life, so Ann went to work for Merck.

     At Merck, Ann started as a Process Chemist and worked on Discovery Chemistry. She was given an opportunity to work on a brand new project – Beta3 Adrenergic Receptor Agonists – informally called – the “obesity project”.

     From 1990 to 2000 she and her team worked on making the new compound, but the project was unsuccessful and ended in 2000. During this time, Ann was raising her three children, Dave, Dan, and Timmy. 

     Ann highlighted an important change that occurred over time. In her younger days she was afraid of failure – she experienced lots of sleepless nights whenever challenged. Later on she learned how to deal with challenges without being afraid.

     Ann joined a new research team initiated by a colleague in 1999, the DPP‐4 Inhibitor Program. The team worked on the new compound and in 2001 it went to market as JANUVIA in just 4 years! The project team worked rapidly without compromising any of the critical background work. The work of the Early Development Team led to another program, which developed a novel once weekly oral therapy for Type 2 Diabetes. This was approved in Japan in Sept 2015. 

     Although they did not get a drug out for obesity in the initial project, Ann looks at it as a "successful failure". Ann was promoted from a Research Fellow to Associate Director and then Director while working on this project. She went from being a medicinal chemist to a drug     discovery researcher as her role evolved. Ann acknowledged her manager at Merck for sponsorship and for creating some of these opportunities for her.


Ann shared her “lessons learned”:

  • SEEK out mentors and sponsor
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes
  • If it is not working, try something else
  • Figure out what’s important to you and go after it
  • For everything else just say no or hire someone
  • Mentoring and sponsoring are gifts ... give back!


     Ann emphasized that life is about making choices and you can't have it all ‐ you need to decide what is important to you and choose wisely.

WCC 90th Anniversary

By Amy DeBaillie


     The year 2017 marks the 90th Anniversary of the founding of WCC, a significant milestone in an exciting journey that began in 1927 when women made up 3.55% of the ACS membership. A number of events will commemorate the 90th Anniversary at the Spring and Fall 2017 ACS   National Meetings in San Francisco and Washington DC. 

     We will be kicking off the events with the WCC past chairs symposium titled “Celebrating 90 years of the WCC: Reflections of Past Chairs”  in San Francisco on Monday, April 3rd. We are excited to have seven WCC past chairs participating in the symposium! We will continue the theme of reflection at the WCC Open Meeting and “Just Cocktails”, an informal networking reception held on April 3rd, by highlighting WCC accomplishments over the past 90 years. 

     The celebration will resume in August in Washington DC at the WCC “Just Cocktails” reception where the theme will be focused on highlighting the successes of WCC local sections.

     Plan to join us in San Francisco and Washington DC as we celebrate the WCC’s 90th anniversary and the important roles that women play in the chemical sciences. Further updates on the celebration plans can be found throughout the year on our website and Facebook page.

Maya Nilkant

Chair's Message

Posted by Maya Nilkant Jun 6, 2017

Happy 90th Anniversary, Women Chemists Committee!


     I am wring to you as the 30th Chair of this committee. It began in August 1927 under the leadership of Mrs. Glenola B. Rose, who was tasked with the formation of a temporary committee to explore the possibility of a more formal structure around issues important to women chemists. Mrs. Rose formed the Women’s Service Committee, “for the purpose of developing the mutual interests of the women chemists and the American Chemical Society,” with Emma Perry Carr, Mt. Holyoke College; Ruth O’Brien, Department of Agriculture; Mary  E. Pennington, Independent Consultant; and Lois Woodford, Chemical Foundation.

     Five decades after the inception of this committee, the first female ACS President was elected: Professor Anna Jane Harrison of Mt. Holyoke College. The name of the committee was changed to the Women Chemists Committee in 1972 by the Chair at that time, Helen Free, who went on to become ACS President in 1993.

     There isn’t space to even begin to summarize the impactful contributions of the women and men who have served on this committee and in all of the ACS local section WCC committees. And when you add the ripple effects of those who have benefited from our service, it’s truly extraordinary. One might ask, after 90 years, is the work of this committee complete? While we have much to celebrate, challenges still exist for women chemists. Our task forces on ACS National Awards and on Non‐tenure track faculty have brought focused attention to inequities that remain and areas where the advocacy efforts can be used to the benefit of all who work in the chemical sciences. Here are some highlights of programming in the coming year:

     At the spring ACS national meeting in San Francisco, we have an exciting lineup of programming and social events. On Sunday, April 2, we will celebrate the accomplishments of Professor Judith Iriarte‐Gross, winner of the ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences, with the first half of a symposium that continues on Tuesday. On Monday, following our Women in the Chemical Enterprise Breakfast (a ticketed event), we will hear from several former WCC Chairs in a symposium on the influence of WCC in the advancement of women in the chemical sciences. In the afternoon, we are delighted to present our 2017 WCC Rising Stars Awardees in a half‐day symposium and honor them at the WCC Open meeting and ”Just Cocktails” reception, where we will also be celebrating our 90th Anniversary.

     Finally, we will be hosting WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Awardees. With the generous support of Eli Lilly, this program is in its 28th year and has provided awards to more than 500 women. You are cordially invited to their poster session on Tuesday, April 4, followed by our WCC Luncheon (a ticketed event).

     At the fall national meeting in DC, we will host WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Award and Merck Research Award winners. We are also cosponsoring the Division of History in Chemistry symposium “Ladies in Waiting for Nobel Prizes: Overlooked Accomplishments of Women Scientists” and the theatrical production, “No Belles,” featuring a few of the 16 women who have won a Nobel Prize and the work of many others who have not. And of course, we are taking the time to celebrate our accomplishments throughout the year. Please keep in touch and let us know how you are celebrating women chemists!


Laura Sremaniak

2017 Chair, Women Chemists Committee