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Message from the Director: The Year Ahead

Valued Contributor III
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Mary Kirchhoff, Ph.D.Mary Kirchhoff, Ph.D.By Mary Kirchhoff, Ph.D., Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

In my last column, I reflected on the challenges we all faced in 2020, along with the unexpected opportunities presented by the pandemic.  As we wrap up the first month of 2021, I am optimistic that the new year will bring an increased focus on, and appreciation for, the role of green chemistry in achieving a sustainable future.

Mass vaccinations promise a return to activities more closely resembling our pre-pandemic lives.  As scientists and engineers, we are justifiably proud of the development of effective vaccines in record time.  The herd immunity required to safely gather again will not be realized by summer, however, hence our decision to virtually deliver the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference from June 14-18.  We have a stellar lineup of keynote speakers, including Frank Gupton (Virginia Commonwealth University), Eunice Heath (The Dow Chemical Company), Gregg Beckham (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), and the winners of the ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering lectureship awards:  Jun Huang (The University of Sydney), Jeremy Luterbacher (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne), and Meagan Mauter (Stanford University). There is still time to submit your abstract by the February 15 deadline at  You don’t want to miss the silver anniversary of the premier conference dedicated to green chemistry and engineering!

I was thrilled that the Sustainable Chemistry Research & Development Act became law on January 1!  For more than a decade, ACS has supported this bill, and I am most grateful to my colleagues in the ACS Government Affairs Office for their leadership in advocating passage of this bill.  Under this new law, the Director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) is charged with convening “an interagency entity…under the National Science and Technology Council with the responsibility to coordinate federal programs and activities in support of sustainable chemistry…”  The outstanding scientists who will be leading OSTP bode well for meaningful implementation of sustainable chemistry across the research enterprise.  The ACS Green Chemistry Institute looks forward to collaborating with our federal partners in developing the strategic plan for sustainable chemistry.

On the education front, we just held our kickoff workshop with the module development teams who will be developing classroom resources that integrate green chemistry and systems thinking into general and organic courses, with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals providing context.  In addition, ACS GCI is proud to be collaborating with Beyond Benign to establish the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community, which will build an online teaching and learning platform to support a green chemistry community of practice.  Both of these initiatives recognize the importance of reimagining chemistry education in order to prepare the workforce of the future.

You can see why I am optimistic about the future of green and sustainable chemistry and engineering!  The new year is bringing fresh opportunities to engage with partners in government, industry and academia to accelerate the implementation of greener and more sustainable technologies and practices.  We welcome your engagement with the ACS Green Chemistry Institute in achieving a more sustainable future.  Stay safe and healthy!