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The Birth of a New Community for Greener Science

New Contributor II
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On Monday, just before the opening of the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, I arrived jetlagged and exhausted into Washington DC. I was there to speak with Laura Hoch at the ‘From Bench to Big Picture’ event and to formally launch NESSE, a brand new Network for Early-career Sustainable Scientists & Engineers. After a year of setting up the network, researching other organisations, writing our constitution, scrambling to finish our website and organising the ‘From Bench to Big Picture’ event in collaboration with the ACS GCI, we were nervous, excited, and a little unsure as to how it would be received.

The event was a fantastic example in engagement and discussion. Three great speakers highlighted the importance of communication and connecting our research with bigger picture issues if we’re going to make an impact in society, vital in the area of green chemistry and sustainable science. Darcy Gentleman talked about communicating simply without dumbing down, asking us how we would describe our research using the ten hundred most common words in English (thousand isn’t in there!). Paul Chirik spoke inspiringly about his research in using more abundant elements for catalysis, highlighting just how many elements we use every day (around eighty!), and Caroline Trupp Gill talked about how important it is to communicate to policy makers WHY we’re doing green research. NESSE then led an interactive cafe-style discussion about ‘How we can get our green research out into society’. The early-career researchers raised a broad range of issues such as being better trained in toxicology, sustainability, business skills, and effective communication, as well as being connected across disciplines.


Early-career researchers discuss getting their research into society at the Bench to Big Picture Event

This is where NESSE hopes to provide an opportunity for early-career researchers working on green technologies to work together towards a green future. We want to create an interdisciplinary network, bringing together chemists, biologists, engineers and others to forge the connections, skills, and knowledge to take their research from Bench to Big Picture.

Our top priorities are to:

  1. Connect early-career researchers online and face-to-face;
  2. Support sustainable science initiatives at universities;
  3. Promote the incorporation of green science, such as green chemistry, green engineering, and sustainability, into curricula worldwide;
  4. Promote the awareness of green science amongst the public through outreach activities.

At the NESSE discussion, jetlag and exhaustion quickly vanished thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of the young researchers in the room. The discussions that started on Monday have continued throughout the GC&E conference. Several people are keen to go away and start groups at their universities, bringing speakers on green chemistry and sustainable science topics to other grad students and post-docs and building a sustainable science community together with other disciplines. NESSE will act as a support network and hub to provide resources and inspiration. We’ve also been discussing how we can act as a multiplier to bring the great work of green chemistry educators to more audiences.

We have many other plans and ideas, with the only limits being the time and enthusiasm of our members. Do join us to become part of this new community and build a greener future.

NESSE new recruits at GC&E.jpg

The new NESSE recruits at the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference 2014

We are very grateful to the ACS and ACS GCI for their support, both financially and in person, to help NESSE get off the ground. NESSE developed out the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy 2013.

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