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Message from the Director

Valued Contributor II
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When I last wrote, we were gearing up for the 20th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, I mentioned the LAUNCH Big Think and the HESI workshop on Alternatives Assessment; it seems like years ago.  While I had hoped to write something last month about just how awesome the GC&E Conference was, I simply did not have the time. The Conference week was a blur, starting with the student workshop on Monday and ending with the Green Chemistry Education Roadmap workshop on Saturday. That Sunday, I went to Colorado for the Summer School on Sustainable Energy and Green Chemistry and that was followed by a trip to Alaska to speak at the ACS Northwest Regional meeting. I managed to squeeze in a little down time in Alaska before our Separation Alternatives to Distillation workshop held last week in Maryland, and it has certainly been a challenge to keep all these initiatives going. In case you didn’t know it, the ACS GCI staff is incredible and I’m amazed and grateful for how the team has continued to deliver on all these events and initiatives!

IMG_8857.jpgThe 20th Annual GC&E was, in my opinion, a resounding success. The conference had 534 registrants and that is a record over the 20-year history of the conference. There were, as there inevitably are, a few blips, but none of those rose to the level of anything more than a temporary inconvenience thanks to the timely intervention the ACS GCI team. Thanks to the program and session chairs, the technical programming was outstanding and all the extra events throughout the week ensured that a high level of energy, enthusiasm and engagement was maintained.  I’d like to say once again that we owe a debt of gratitude to all the volunteers and the tireless efforts of the ACS GCI team that made this conference such a success. We are looking to build on the success of this year as we develop our 2017 conference around green chemistry and engineering in making or manufacturing things; stay tuned but be sure to participate in the call for symposia that is now open.

The Education Roadmap Workshop brought together about 25 educators and industrial participants for an intensive 1 and half day workshop. It was a bit daunting to hold this workshop the same week as the GC&E Conference, but the workshop succeeded in expanding and focusing the work that was started in the Fall Visioning workshop. Participants were asked to think about what kinds of skills and competencies chemists should have when they graduate with a degree in chemistry.  As a result of engaging with a wide diversity of educators and industry people, we are rethinking and reframing some of the thoughts that came out of the Visioning Workshop. It is clear that this is a process and a long-term initiative and we are grateful for the strong commitment we obtained from the workshop participants to see this initiative through its next steps.  I’ll have more to say about this effort in the future, so stay tuned.

The ACS Summer School on Sustainable Energy and Green Chemistry is always a high point of the summer. Dr. Mary Kirchhoff assembles a great line-up of faculty to speak and the students are always fully engaged with some challenging content. There was an abundance of applicants to the school this year and Mary certainly was challenged in choosing those who ultimately attend.  This is an event that participants talk about and remain connected with each other for years as a result of being there.  Thankfully, many past participants have continued to be active in green chemistry and engineering. We are very grateful to the Petroleum Research Fund for supporting this work over many years, and to the Colorado School of Mines for being such great hosts.

I was grateful for the opportunity to speak at the ACS Northwest Regional Meeting. Alaska is a very different state compared to the lower 48, and a place of incomparable beauty.  I was there shortly after the summer solstice, so seeing light for the better part of 24 hours was certainly strange.  There were a collection of interesting sessions and it was a great opportunity to hear about the unique chemistry and chemical processes that occur in the environment at extremely low temperatures and northern latitudes; not something I’m usually exposed to and speaks to the diversity of chemistry that is all part of the ACS.

The ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable has been working very hard on the AltSep technology roadmap; a roadmap for separation alternatives to distillation.  The workshop held last week brought together about 34 outstanding people, predominantly academic, to discuss research needs that will allow us to exploit different molecular properties for separating complex mixtures. Distillation is such an entrenched, robust and well-understood separation technology that is difficult to imagine using other separation approaches that can compete on cost and performance. The Achilles heel of distillation is, of course, energy, and in that there is considerable opportunity.  We look forward to a third workshop in about three weeks that will further expand the roadmap into process simulation and design.  Like the education roadmap effort, this effort lays the groundwork for what are hopefully some truly transformational outcomes.

Overall, I’m very excited and energized by these activities and how they are progressing.  I hope we might continue to engage an ever-widening circle of chemists and engineers to move these initiatives forward.  Please do think about how you might get involved; we need everyone to be a part to succeed. As always, please do let me know what you think.


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