Friday, October 16, 2020

SCHB's Q&A with the ACS 2021 President-Elect Candidates: Mary K. Carroll and Angela K. Wilson

Mary K. Carroll, Candidate, 2021 ACS President-Elect 

Responses to SCHB Questions

1. Discuss how your interests are aligned with the interests of industrial chemists and the  chemical business community. 

Broadly speaking, my interests are in advancing the chemical enterprise as a whole.  Although I have spent the majority of my professional career in academia, my professional  community has always included industrial chemists and chemical professionals. As Councilor I represent a local section (Eastern New York) that, in its professional diversity,  is a microcosm of the ACS. The ENY ACS membership includes academics (from  universities, 2- and 4-year undergraduate colleges and K-12 schools), industrial chemists  (from large international companies to one-person start-ups), government scientists (New  York State forensic and health laboratories), as well as professionals whose jobs don’t fit  neatly into any of those categories. 

For our Society to have the most influence and impact, ACS needs to nurture and maintain  an engaged and diverse membership, capable of taking a multi-pronged approach: 

Leading in evidence-based scientific education; 

Providing venues and journals for the dissemination of pure and applied research to  the scientific community; 

Emphasizing the value to society of ethically conducted pure and applied research  (and describing that research in terms that can be understood by members of the  public); 

Encouraging ACS units and individual members to engage in public outreach  activities; 

Enhancing advocacy for policies based on sound science;  

Working to ensure that our community welcomes, includes, respects and encourages  all members. 

The expertise and perspectives contributed by industrial chemists and those working in the  broader chemical business community assist ACS in achieving its vision: “improving  people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.” 

2. What do you see as the importance of small businesses (sole proprietor, start-up/early stage,  and spin-outs from academic labs or larger corporations) to the American Chemical Society? 

In my opinion, the importance of small businesses to ACS has been increasing steadily. As  SCHB members are well aware, small science- and technology-related companies represent a real growth area within the US (and global) economy. Small chemical businesses employ  

a significant and increasing number of ACS members. And it’s important to emphasize that  initiating and sustaining a small business requires agility and resourcefulness, in addition 

to domain knowledge and technical acumen. ACS is well-served by volunteer leaders who  have these traits.  

My own recent experiences with entrepreneurship have been both invigorating and  humbling. As a faculty member, I co-direct the Union College Aerogel Laboratory, a vibrant  interdisciplinary research group of undergraduate students and faculty members. I also serve as the Chief Science Officer of Sunthru LLC, a start-up company that is  commercializing aerogel window technology developed and patented at Union. Co-founding  a company was, to be honest, somewhat outside my comfort zone (that’s one reason I joined  SCHB) and I have found it personally and professionally rewarding. 

3. Are you planning to launch/initiate projects/positions within the ACS to help start-up, early  stage small and growing chemical businesses? If yes, what are they? If no, why not, and how  can SCHB help? 

Through my involvement in various ACS committees, working groups and task forces, I  have had the opportunity to work closely with, and therefore observe, several ACS  Presidents. In my experience, the most effective ACS Presidents have worked  within the governance structure to effect change, acting in collaboration with  and amplifying the work of committees, local sections and divisions, rather than  attempting to start new ‘presidential’ initiatives from scratch. 

If elected, I would make it a priority to coordinate efforts within and between ACS units:  divisions, such as SCHB, as well as local sections, committees, international chemical  sciences chapters and student chapters. And I will engage with these ACS units and with  the other members of the presidential succession (H.N. Cheng and Luis Echegoyen) to learn  about their ongoing initiatives, while keeping in mind two overarching questions: 

What is ACS uniquely positioned to do? That is, where can our collective expertise and  efforts have the most significant impact? I believe we must focus our efforts there.  


How best can ACS engage the talents of all its members to do those things?  

As SCHB is well aware, the number of ACS members involved in start-up and other early stage companies is growing. It is important for ACS to support these members through  appropriately tailored professional development programs and to provide opportunities for  them to apply their expertise to advancing ACS efforts. 

4. With membership in the ACS dwindling, what plans do you have to engage younger  scientists and provide added value to what they consider is important to their careers and  professional development, as a means to rebuild ACS membership among this critically  important segment of the population?

The major challenge faced by professional societies, including the ACS, is member  recruitment and retention. In a time of rapid change, ACS must articulate and demonstrate  the value of membership to new and continuing members. To remain relevant, ACS  must support and engage all its members at all professional stages, as students,  throughout their careers and into retirement, wherever their paths take them. It’s clear  that many people who join ACS as students do not continue their membership as early career professionals. We often hear said that younger members are the future of the  Society. That is true; however, I argue that they are an integral component of its present.  The compelling societal (small ‘s’) challenges of our time, including the effects of the global  pandemic, systemic racism and climate change, have a real urgency for younger scientists. Over the years, I’ve heard frustration from younger ACS volunteer leaders that others in  the ACS sometimes view them more as proteges to be mentored rather than leaders who  are ready to apply their talents and expertise in service of our Society and society as a  whole.  

The current ACS governance structure rewards and celebrates longevity, and our  deliberative processes can appear maddeningly slow. Some students and early-career  chemical professionals may not be in position to commit to a multi-year appointment that  might eventually provide them with a focused opportunity to contribute meaningfully. If I  am elected, I will work to create more opportunities for ACS members, including younger  chemists, to contribute to short-term, high-impact initiatives. 

5. The ACS is an organization driven by membership. What are your ideas to promote  increased collaboration between the academic and industrial community? What can be done to  mitigate the continually declining ACS membership? 

It’s my understanding that there has been a positive trend in overall ACS membership over  the past couple of years; however, it is noteworthy that the growth areas in ACS  membership are student members and international members. There has been a decline in  regular membership for chemical professionals based in the US and, in particular, among  industrial members, which is a significant problem. 

It is critically important counter the perception among some that ACS is an organization by  and for PhD chemists in academic positions. All too often we speak of those who are  employed outside of a large academic/industrial/governmental laboratory setting as  pursuing “alternative careers” as if they’ve somehow wandered off the one true path. This  lack of respect can lead to members becoming disenfranchised at various career stages.  Instead, we must celebrate and encourage all ACS members’ professional contributions to  society. 

In my role as a professor at a liberal arts college, I interact with undergraduate students on  a daily basis. Most of these students will have careers that differ substantially from mine:  they will work in multiple fields for several employers (including, perhaps, themselves) in  different locations. Many of their job titles won’t include the word “chemist.” If they are to  continue to see ACS as their professional home, they must feel that their experiences and 

expertise are valued, and their professional development is supported, by ACS and other  ACS members.  

ACS must encourage all its members to be lifelong learners, prepared to build upon their  education and gain expertise in areas that might not even exist today, and establish and  continually cultivate their professional networks. Although ACS offers an outstanding  array of professional and leadership development programs, including short courses and  webinars, these reach relatively few ACS members. I’d like to experiment more with ways  of packaging and advertising these as member benefits.  

Providing more focused, short-term opportunities for members with a broad diversity of  backgrounds and experiences to contribute meaningfully to ACS initiatives would yield  substantial benefit to the Society and to society as a whole. I intend to work with  governance units (committees, divisions, etc.) to do this. 

What can, and what should, ACS do? No one person has all the answers. Indeed, in this  turbulent time, we cannot even be certain of all the questions. Regardless of the outcome of  this election, I am committed to working constructively, respectfully, collaboratively and  creatively with you and other members to advance ACS for its members and society.

Questions from the ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses (SCHB)

Angela K. Wilson 

2021 President-elect Candidate 

1. Discuss how your interests are aligned with the interests of industrial chemists and the  chemical business community. 

Industrial chemists and the chemical business community are at the heart of the global chemical  enterprise. The health and growth of the chemistry enterprise is a vital key to the global economy, future  jobs, and overall impact upon our world. To support the chemical enterprise, in broad terms, my interests  are in career and workforce development, diversity towards innovation and strengthening our field,  advocacy for the chemical enterprise, and membership – working towards improving, broadening, and  enhancing ACS membership experiences.  

To expand upon these points, my goals are to: 

Empower and equip:  

I will strive to ensure that our future workforce is well equipped for the current and changing needs of  the chemical enterprise. This entails providing training and transition opportunities not only for students  and recent graduates, but for unemployed and underemployed members, as well as members who wish to  gain supplemental experiences and training in emerging areas.  

More preparation routes from academica to careers in industry and the chemical business community  are important. For many students, the first day they step into a non-academic environment is on the day  they interview for a job, and, the second day is the day that they start the job. Opportunities for engagement  and easier ways to engage students (at all levels) towards internships or short-term visits are important.  More introductions to and support of pathways to and through entrepreneurial avenues (see question #2) 

are of interest. Safety education is important, and will continue to be a priority. As well, routes to better  connect potential employers and employees is also important. 

Communicate and advocate

ACS needs to gain greater traction and support at the state and federal levels in research and  development (R&D), STEM education and workforce training, and manufacturing in chemistry, to  stimulate jobs, research, and the overall chemical enterprise. Advocacy on legislation that is supportive of  the chemical industry and small business is highly important and is a priority. I have been active in  discussions with legislators and legislative staff members on topics including sustainability, national-use  large-scale chemical instrumentation, and chemistry education. 

There is a significant gap between what the chemical enterprise offers to the world and the public’s  knowledge and understanding of our work. This gap results in numerous challenges including policies made  without the benefit of appropriate and transparent use of scientific information, and in misperceptions or  assumptions about the products and services that we offer.  

Diversify and amplify:  

Diversity results in better performance, greater innovation, and stronger teams.  

Racial and ethnic minorities make up 39% of the US population, and are predicted to comprise ~50%  of the population by 2060, yet, our field does not parallel this composition. ACS needs to make strides to  support further diversification of our workforce, as this will impact all sectors of the chemical enterprise. 

Greater routes for connectivity across the sectors (industry, academia, and state and federal agency) are  important towards greater innovation. A part of this is enabling routes for greater engagement on common 

Response to SCHB, Angela K. Wilson, Candidate for ACS 2021 President-elect (cont.) 

topics of interest, but, also working to address barriers to cross-sector innovation between industry and  academia.  

Adapt and innovate:  

ACS needs to ensure the relevancy and value of society membership at all career stages. I am really  concerned that ACS is losing valuable members from industry and the chemical business community, and  want to work with the Division of Small Chemical Businesses, Committee on Technician Affairs, Corporate  Associaties, Division of Professional Relations, and other representatives from industry and the chemical  business community to address the value of membership. 

My interests are aligned with those of industrial chemists and the chemical business community, as  well as the ACS Strategic Plan and Core. 

2. What do you see as the importance of small businesses (sole proprietor, start-up/early stage, and spin-outs from academic labs or larger corporations) to the American Chemical Society? 

Small businesses are a vital part of the chemical enterprise, and of ACS. They are critical to innovation and competitiveness, where they are often the pioneers, drivers of the economy, and vital to the workforce. Across the U.S., small businesses created ~2/3 of new net jobs and account for ~44% of U.S. economic activity. Small businesses provide career opportunities for our members and further the impact and influence that ACS has locally, nationally, and globally. Within communities, small businesses are often best posed to have broad-spread public influence. They are the chemical science representatives across broad areas including investment, policy, safety, legal, R&D, product development, and manufacturing, often interacting with state and local governments and engaging with local Chambers of Commerce and across other vital spheres of public impact and influence. 

With ACS activities and programming, small business are vital to help influence future ACS pathways and plans towards areas ranging from education, support, scientific discovery to commercial products, and prosperity. We must embrace our small business owners and leaders and provide mechanisms for them to stay ahead of technical requirements, thrive, and grow. 

3. Are you planning to launch/initiate projects/positions within the ACS to help start-up,  early stage small and growing chemical businesses? If yes, what are they? If no, why  not, and how can SCHB help? 

Yes. I do believe that projects/opportunities within ACS to help start-up, early stage and growing  chemical businesses are very important. Providing greater opportunities to gain information, experience,  and insight at all stages of development should be available. This comes in multiple forms – many of which  SCHB is doing – seminars, panels, and networking. Greater opportunities for pitches, connecting with  angel investors (i.e., an ACS “Shark Tank” to also try to generate enthusiasm and interest from chemists  contemplating such ventures) is of interest. And, so are more opportunities for coaching and connecting  with small business consultants (tiger teams) – with expertise in chemical business and tech transfer are  important. Visibility to innovators, entrepreneurs, and those who support chemistry-based businesses is  important, as is partnering with universities to encourage entrepreneurship as a career option. Enhancing  routes to help chemists gain the skills and information needed to succeed and move through the innovation  lifecycle towards commerical products, over the “Valley of Death” is important. I look forward to working with SCB and other ACS committees and organizations to identify the most effective programs towards these ideals. Though my own experience, working with a company nearly from  its start-up as a small business over ten years ago to its current listing on the NASDAQ has been incredible. I look forward to working to provide the support, education, networking, and training infrastructure from  start-up for small, growing, and established chemical businesses. 

4. With membership in the ACS dwindling, what plans do you have to engage younger  scientists and provide added value to what they consider is important to their careers  and professional development, as a means to rebuild ACS membership among  this critically important segment of the population? 

Below is a list of a number of ways in which we can engage younger scientists and provide added value: 

Form YCC’s in more local sections. and international chapters, and support their creation and  development towards engagement and activity of younger chemists.  

Provide younger chemists with opportunities to get more involved in ACS activities, committees, and leadership. Provide leadership mentoring opportunities. Support a program such as IUPAC’s “Young  Observer” program, where younger chemists can shadow an ACS leader at a national meeting to  become familiar with ACS does and routes for involvement. This provides routes for professional  engagement, a mentor connection, and provides additional perspective for the activities in which they  engage. 

Enable more recognition opportunities for younger-to-early mid-career chemists (perhaps an ACS-wide  program to recognize excellence in career domains?).  

Provide more career and networking opportunities for chemical technicians and chemists with  bachelor’s degrees who work in industry to ensure programming is tied in with their interests.  Broaden the job opportunity database and connectivity/networking opportunities. Continue to engage in activities such as LatinXChem. 

Develop a route to engage and welcome chemists as they transition from school to early career chemical  scientist to be sure to engage members as they transition/move without communication gaps. 

5. The ACS is an organization driven by membership. What are your ideas to promote  increased collaboration between the academic and industrial community? What can be  done to mitigate the continually declining ACS membership? 

These two questions are vital ongoing questions that we need to continue to identify routes to addresss.  For the first, there are many possible ways to promote increased collaboration between the academic and  industrial community. Possibilities include: 

Promote NSF GOALI, and other federally funded programs and offer more education about these  programs. 

Encourage more internships and co-op programs. It is amazing how many of our chemists have their  very first visit to industry/chemical business in an interview, while most chemists are employed in  industry or small business. 

Engage divisions in including talks on a successful spin-off or company related to the talks that they  typically have in a symposium. 

Have academic-industry “match-making” and other academic-industry networking events for  collaborative opportunities.

Have articles focusing on academic-industry partnerships, including routes that were used to address  many of the barriers that occur. 

Have coaches available to aid in navigating the academic-industry partnership barriers towards  innovation. 

Promote innovation and entrepreneurial activities as a viable route towards promotion and tenure and  universities. (This will require significant university leader involvement, and I am prepared to engage  in these discussions.) 

Create a list of talks that industrial members are willing to give at universities and vice versa to provide  easier routes to connect than by chance encounters or scouring the internet. 

Mitigating the continually declining members is a significant ongoing challenge, and, in fact, was a  topic of discussion at the ACS Leadership Institute that I attended 20 years ago as a new chair-elect of an  ACS local section.  

The ACS Membership Affairs Committee is working on an a la carte membership plan for  consideration. This may be appealing to some members who wish to use more or less of the ACS  offerings.  

Is an automated montly payment plan available and needed (and not too expensive for ACS)? Per  month, it is about the cost of a cup of coffee from Starbucks (or whatever other company is preferred). Which local sections or divisions have had increased growth – and not just because of mergers or other  such reasons. What have they done to increase numbers?  

Provide ACS “tours” to provide a one-hour walk-through of what ACS offers. (Academic Analytics  and other organizations do this to demonstrate the importance of their products).  We need to address communication gaps. While it is a member’s responsibility to update records,  members need to have reminders to update records, and there should be mechanisms in place when e mail or snail mail is undeliverable for ACS to try to resolve the records. News of new members should  go to sections and divisions upon registration, without a monthly update of records. The records should  be easy and not time-consuming to navigate.  

Many ACS activities are being hosted by local sections, divisions, committees, journals, regions, and  nationally. Currently, the only way to discover some of the great offerings is by happenstance if a  member is not on an email list or part of a social media connection. With so many activities being  available virtually, there should be a central calendar that is easy to populate and search so members  may take advantage of the great variety of offerings. This will be particularly helpful to members who  are more isolated in terms of locale, or are in sections that are less active or in sections for which the  programming does not align with their professional interests.  

There should be more opportunities for discussion, networking, and being engaged, to supplement the  strong line-up of virtual webinars and panels.  

In the future, sections may want to consider offering some meetings in a hybrid format, particularly for  sections where getting to meetings across traffic and/or distance can be difficult. This also provides a  route for ACS members from across the globe to participate in exciting offerings. 

Partnerships between sections, divisions, local sections and divisions, international sections should be  encouraged and more mechanisms to connect with one another when there are common interests in  programming or activities should be provided. 

Thank you for “listening”. I welcome your comments! Please feel free to contact me at: 

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