By Mary Kirchhoff, Ph.D., Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute
For those of you old enough to remember Bob Hope, “Thanks for the Memories” was his signature song, and the title seems appropriate as I write my last column as GCI Director. I began my 20-year career at ACS with the Green Chemistry Institute and am pleased to wrap up my time at ACS with GCI as I prepare to retire at the end of the year.
When I joined GCI in 2001, the staff consisted of Director Denny Hjeresen and me as Assistant Director. As seen in the photo (I was so much younger then!), Michele LaMerrill and Kathryn Parent soon joined Denny and me in advancing GCI’s mission. Much of our focus in the early days of GCI was on raising awareness of green chemistry as a strategy to prevent pollution at the source, rather than treat and clean up pollution at end-of-pipe. This required a lot of travel, giving presentations to local sections and student chapters, who enthusiastically embraced green chemistry. During my travels, I was fortunate to meet numerous green chemistry champions, many of whom remain friends to this day.
Early GCI Staff Picture
After spending 12 years in the ACS Education Division, I returned to the Green Chemistry Institute in 2017. GCI’s signature programs, such as the Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference and the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (a partnership with EPA), remained strong, while new initiatives had been launched during the intervening years. GCI clearly recognized the importance of engaging industry and created a set of roundtables to advance green chemistry in specific sectors: Pharmaceuticals, Formulators, Chemical Manufacturers, Hydraulic Fracturing (now Oilfield Chemistry), and Biochemical Technology. The Pharmaceutical Roundtable, established in 2005, is the largest and most active roundtable with 40 member companies and more than 20 project teams addressing chemistry challenges unique to the pharmaceutical industry. Industrial implementation of green chemistry is essential if we are to fully realize the human health and environmental benefits of greener technologies.
One of my favorite green chemistry activities is the annual Summer School on Green Chemistry & Sustainable Energy, which began in 2003 with a grant from the National Science Foundation. Spending a week with bright, talented graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are dedicated to advancing a sustainable future through green chemistry and engineering is incredibly rewarding. Education is a major focus for GCI, and the new education modules being developed for general and organic chemistry will help build the workforce needed to apply chemistry to the grand challenges of sustainability.
There is not enough space to thank all those who have been such a positive influence on my life and my career. However, my current ACS GCI colleagues – Christiana Briddell, David Constable, Dawn Holt, Jenny MacKellar, Isamir Martinez, and Stephanie Wahl – deserve special recognition for their incredible commitment to achieving a more sustainable world through green and sustainable chemistry and engineering. My sincere thanks to everyone who has touched my life over the years. I am grateful that I have had such a wonderful career, which has been enriched by all of you in the green chemistry community. Being green may not be easy, but it is the right thing to do for the future of our planet.