Friday, September 30, 2016

On celebrating my 11th and last Herty Medal Dinner as Host

The Georgia Local Section of the American Chemical Society has a deep history in recognizing research and service toward the advancement of chemistry in the nation’s service. The first of the Herty Medals was awarded in 1933 to Fred Allison. Charles Herty was honored with the award in the following year. As of September 16th of this year, we have now awarded 82 gold medals to deserving chemists in the southeastern United States. The most recent Medalist was Prof. Brooks Pate from the University of Virginia who was recognized for "his work in revolutionizing molecular rotational spectroscopy and its applications in astrochemistry and analytical chemistry and for his service in mentoring diverse students through a summer undergraduate research program.” His seminar illustrated how his key insight of spectral theory allowed him to develop an approach for capturing the spectra in a single experiment rather than using a series of single frequency measurements. The speed and accuracy of this technique has played a key role in reimagining the field of astrochemistry.

On a personal level, I was pleased to see Brooks again after we had been lab mates in Kevin Lehmann’s laboratory at Princeton. I was an undergraduate while I saw him sail through his candidacy exams. On a different personal level, this most recent Herty Medal dinner also marked the eleventh and last dinner for which I chaired the corresponding selection committee. The list of nominees is outstanding and this made settling on a finalist all the more difficult each and every year. Nevertheless, with the able help of my committee colleagues, we developed a process that allowed us to sort through the nominees carefullly and thoughtfully. We pre-screened all of them electronically prior to our in-person meeting. The two- to three- hour discussion led to a deeper understanding of the candidates, and often resulted in a final choice which our individual assessments had rarely predicted. During my term as Chair of the Herty Medal Selection Committee, we also had the opportunity to do up the 75th Herty Medal celebration. For the fist and only time, we have nearly 15 Herty Medalists return to Atlanta to commemorate them and chemistry in the Southeastern United States. We staged several one-time activities reaching out to students and professionals of all ages. We founded the Herty Medal Undergraduate Research Symposium (HMURS), and it continues to support our Section’s diverse undergraduates. I am thus very proud of what our Section has accomplished, and thankful to the section for letting me be a part of it. I also look forward to celebrating the 100th Herty Medalist in 2034. Mark your calendars now!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The talking head video for my District IV Director campaign

You may recall my recent post on the making of a video segment for my District IV Director election campaign. Well now you can see it...

Check it out here!

And the election window is coming up... It runs from October 1 to October 30! So if you are an ACS Member living in the SouthEast please vote. Whether you vote for me or not, I will be happy to represent you, if elected. I also welcome your thoughts on how to mate the American Chemical Society a better society for all of us!

Monday, September 12, 2016

District IV Director's Candidate Statement in CEN

As some of you may know, I am running to continue into my second term on the Board of Directors of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The candidate statements have just appeared in the September 12th issue of C&EN, and I reproduce mine below. The text is also available on my website. If you are a member of the ACS and a member of District IV (roughly in the SouthEast of the US), I would very much appreciate your vote!

Some of you may wonder why I volunteer for the ACS. After all, it takes roughly 160 hours of my time each year to serve the ACS as a Director. That's time that I could be devoting to my research, my students, or (most importantly) my family. Yes, like you, I multi-task and make it work. But the question is why? And the answer is simply that it gives me the opportunity to shape our ACS into a society that works for all of us. My roles as an active research professor, who engages in grants and contracts from government agencies, foundations and industry, gives me currency in the use of many of our offerings. I see directly (through my undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral) students the impact of our career services. As a computational chemist and journal author, I am directly familiar with our journals and electronic platforms for communication. Unfortunately, the Board has traditionally been under-represented by members who are still active in their careers and could provide a balancing perspective for the emerging challenges to our members and our society. For this reason I have felt compelled to serve you on the Board, and I ask that you vote for me so that I may continue doing so.

My Candidate Statement:

The most important element in ACS membership is you. Every one of us, cross-linked together through ACS, makes up a personal and professional chemistry network that we can leverage to advance our careers, each other, and chemistry as a whole. Through ACS, we can celebrate that chemistry has a human side, and it must be diverse. The challenge lies in continuing to adapt our structure and our offerings to best serve the broad needs of our fellowship. This is a challenge that cannot be solved once and for all because we, and the world around us, are constantly changing. The opportunity for advancing the interaction and support of chemical scientists like you is what drove me to volunteer to serve as district director, and it is why I would like to continue for another term.  

Ihave focused on three of ACS’s core values: the value proposition of ACS membership, education of the chemical workforce, and science advocacy. The diversity in age, experience, background, worldwide location, race, ethnicity, gender identity and orientation, and ability that makes our fellowship stronger must be addressed through these values and everything we do. My championing of diversity equity on task forces and boards and as the director of OXIDE (Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity) demonstrates my strong commitment to advancing these critical issues within the chemical workforce. As a director, I have spoken with many of you at regional and national meetings, and I wrote two comments inI have focused on three of ACS’s core values: the value proposition of ACS membership, education of the chemical workforce, and science advocacy. The diversity in age, experience, background, worldwide location, race, ethnicity, gender identity and orientation, and ability that makes our fellowship stronger must be addressed through these values and everything we do. My championing of diversity equity on task forces and boards and as the director of OXIDE (Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity) demonstrates my strong commitment to advancing these critical issues within the chemical workforce. As a director, I have spoken with many of you at regional and national meetings, and I wrote two comments in C&EN—July 14, 2014, pg. 45 and August 24, 2015, pg. 40,—promoting diversity equity and inclusive excellence.

ACS remains as relevant and necessary today as when it was founded, despite the flattening in accessing information through the internet. As members, you and I are voting affirmatively with our wallets, declaring that chemistry and our network are important. Through this collective action, we are empowering ourselves as a force for change in areas such as energy, sustainability and human health. Nevertheless, our Society, like many others, is facing the challenge of decreasing membership. This is a tide that we must stem. Our size gives us the diversity we need to advance our science. It also signifies a vote of confidence for all of our advocacy and outreach activities. As an ACS Director, I will remain a strong proponent for providing clarity to the value proposition of our membership to each of our present and future members.

Diversity of the emerging chemical workforce translates into a need for using multiple mechanisms in and out of the classroom to engage students in the educational process. As a Phi Beta Kappa lecturer, I have had the opportunity to engage, motivate, and mentor undergraduates though campus visits that provide small-group interactions going well beyond my classroom. (Check out undergraduate Linsey Liles’ recap of my visit to the University of the South in the Key Reporter.) If elected, I hope to continue such visits by engaging local chapters as hosts. I am also keenly aware for the need to continue professional education. I have been involved as a facilitator in the Cottrell Scholars Collaborative New Faculty Workshop (C&EN, March 24, 2014, pg. 36). I am also leading a team organizing the Academic Leadership Workshop aimed at supporting midcareer faculty to become university administrators or research directors (C&EN, March 7, 2016, pg. 47). These programs illustrate the power of ACS to catalyze educational opportunities for chemical scientists throughout our lives.

Advances in chemical science and innovation depend critically on public and private support. Advocacy for such efforts can succeed only if we make our science understandable to the public. It is particularly critical for advancing high-risk, high-potential science that tends to receive less funding when budgets are tight (C&EN, September 21, 2015, pg. 33). Again, ACS as a professional society is uniquely positioned to provide current understanding of science and to advocate for the chemical challenges that still remain to be understood. I have enjoyed working with ACS staff in advocating for chemical science and the people who do that work.

Through these priorities, I will aim to help our society become a better home for ts members and a more effective partner to the world. The resonating thread that we must advance through these and other initiatives is you. ACS programs can be effective only if they serve your needs and advance your goals. To this end, I look forward to hearing from you through links at to learn more about how to make our ACS fellowship even stronger. I also ask for your vote so that I may continue to work with you and our fellow ACS members to improve your ACS. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Video Segment on my Candidacy for District IV Director

This Fall, I am running to continue into my second term on the Board of Directors of the American Chemical Society (ACS). As part of our effort to communicate with members, a 2-3 minute video segment of me discussing my vision for the ACS was just recorded today. I'm including the transcript of that statement below so as to give you a spoiler for the video! Feel free to send me your thoughts and suggestions for increasing the value of the ACS to you and chemistry broadly. If you are a member of the ACS and a member of District IV (roughly in the SouthEast of the US), I would also very much appreciate your vote!

Here's the transcript:

The most important element in ACS membership is you. Together we form a personal and professional chemistry network that we all leverage to advance our careers, each other, and chemistry as a whole. Through ACS we celebrate the technical and human sides of chemistry, and both must be diverse. 

The challenge lies in continuing to adapt our structure and our offerings to best serve the broad needs of hour fellowship. This is a challenge that cannot be solved once and for all because we and the world around us are constantly changing. The opportunity for advancing the interaction and support of chemical scientists like you is what drove me to volunteer to serve as District Director, and it is why I would like to continue for another term.

I have focused on three of ACS’s core values: The value proposition of ACS membership, Education of the chemical workforce, and Science advocacy. The diversity in age, experience, backgrounds, world-wide location, race, ethnicity, gender identity and orientation, and special abilities that makes our fellowship stronger must be addressed through everything we do. My championing of diversity equity on task forces, boards and as the OXIDE Director demonstrates my strong commitment to advancing these critical issues within the chemical workforce. As a Director, I have spoken with many of you at regional and national meetings. I have written several comments in C&EN, promoting diversity equity and inclusive excellence, the integration of teaching and research, and advocacy for public understanding and financial support of the chemical sciences. 

The ACS promotes and advances chemical science and innovation through its on-line platforms, journals, abstract services, conferences, and more. The ACS is also here to help you and all of its members grow professionally through our myriad of educational offerings. All of these programs and offerings are critical in establishing a marketplace of ideas to which you as a member have a privileged entrée while benefiting from the broad scope or our large membership. As a member-driven society, none of these things can happen without you. So I ask that you join me in advancing our society. Contact me electronically or personally through the links at follow me on twitter at EveryWhereChem, or read my posts at VOTE for me, Rigoberto Hernandez, so that I may work with you and our fellow members to advance your ACS.

Remember… Every Vote Counts!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Diversity in the Marketplace of Ideas

During my Phi Beta Kappa visit to University of Oklahoma back in late March of this year, my host Ron Halterman added a somewhat unusual meeting to my visit. Namely, he arranged for me to go to a recording studio at the local NPR station, KGOU. While there, I had a conversation with Paige Willett Lough and Merleyn Bell on the work that I’ve been doing to promote diversity equity in chemistry through OXIDE. In much less than an hour, they recorded enough material to produce a 30-minute show as part of their Race Matters series. At first, it wasn’t clear to me who was more nervous, Merleyn or me. I’m pretty sure that it was me, and Merleyn pretended to be so just to make me adjust to the fact that I was staring at a very large microphone. In any event, it was fun to have a conversation about diversity equity and science advocacy, and I thank Ron, Merleyn and Paige for making that happen!

A 30-minute conversation includes a very long narrative that is too long to reproduce here, but I can highlight a few of the points to hopefully peak your interest. (Or you can just use this as your “cliff notes” so as to avoid going further!) The notion that we as scientists are competing in a marketplace, not of physical products, but of ideas is one that intrigues me. We develop and disseminate ideas but it’s hard to own or sell them. Yet it costs money to produce and maintain them. That money comes from the federal government or student tuition, for example. It leads to solutions and products that we all use and pay for. So it’s definitely a marketplace which has real value. For us to remain competitive in this marketplace of ideas, we need to have a diverse cohort of scientists, and this notion frames several of the segments of my discussion. Indeed, it is the need for us to remain competitive in science that drives OXIDE in its work to diversity the faculties in chemistry departments across the US. As a community, we have made significant advances in changing our policies and procedures to advance our climate, and I provided several specific examples. Meanwhile, Merleyn also asked me about how I encourage young people to be scientists. I hope that I do this by example, and by actively engaging and mentoring students when I visit colleges and universities. But scientists need help from the media to amplify our message. To this end, I mentioned that the theme in the “The Martian” —in which science was used frequently as the key to solve his challenges— is a great example of the media promoting science, and not just innovation. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bittersweet transitions: Thomas E. Gompf Chair in Chemistry

On July 14th, I received a phone call from my department Chair, Ken Karlin. He was excited to inform me that the Board of Trustees had just approved my appointment as the inaugural holder of the Thomas E. Gompf Chair in Chemistry. Elation! An endowed professorship is a promotion, and provides discretionary funds useful in pursuing new areas of investigation. It is also another sign of support from my department, my Chair, and my Dean showing that they want me to be part of the collective vision for advancing chemistry at Hopkins. But wait… who is Thomas E. Gompf? Will I have a chance to meet him, express my gratitude, share our passion for science, and generally be a good steward of his beneficence? No. He passed away on January 6th of this year. Sadness! Thus my transition into the Chair is bittersweet because the loss of Dr. Gompf is what made the Chair possible in the first place.

According to the obituary from the Jennings, Nulton, & Mattle Funeral Home in Penfield, NY, Thomas E. Gompf passed away at 90: "Predeceased by his loving wife of 63 years Elaine. He is survived by his son Robert E. (Leslie R.); 2 grandchildren, William "Liam"& Peter; sister, Betty Nordwall; special friend and caregiver Sarah Callahan and family. He retired from Eastman Kodak with over 10 patents to his name.”  The titles and subjects of his patents suggest that he was an organic or formulations chemist having developed innovations to make better photographs. Not surprising as he worked at Eastman Kodak.

That is all I know. But that is enough to know that I have big shoes to fill. The fact that the professorship he endowed is not restricted to his area of chemistry and open to theoretical and computational chemists such as myself speaks to the broadness of his thinking. I look forward to learning more about him, and hopefully also about his connection to Johns Hopkins. I also look forward to hearing about what he did #OutsideTheLab! (Feel free to e-mail me or post anecdotes or information if you have them!)

Credit: The picture is taken from the obituary.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bittersweet Transitions (From Georgia Tech to Johns Hopkins!)

As I have been mulling over my move to Johns Hopkins, the word that keeps cropping up again and again is "bittersweet." I look back at the 20 years that I spent with my family, my colleagues, my friends, and my group in Atlanta, and I feel the moroseness of the loss. We built our home here, our son was born here, my research group thrived here, and I was part of the team that raised the visibility and profile of Georgia Tech's School of Chemistry.

The funny thing about that rise is that it included faculty like me who started our careers at Tech, but it has also included a significant number of colleagues who moved to Tech after having established their research groups elsewhere. The latter came to Tech with an opportunity to reinvent themselves and their research groups. They also had a mandate to add to the growth of their new department. This is the sweet side of a move. Likewise, I am looking forward to reimagining a more agile research group solving problems across our core areas of research. I am also excited by possible new collaborations, and what I will learn from them. The practice of chemical research has increasingly become multi-disciplinary and collaborative. It's exciting to be on a new team, but it is still a bittersweet feeling as I will undoubtedly lose some of my ties to Georgia Tech.

At the stroke of midnight on June 30th, the transition will be complete. I will start my adventure with my new colleagues at Hopkins! The size of our undergraduate student population makes it feel like a primarily undergraduate institution that happens to be collocated with a world-class graduate research program. I look forward to being able to engage with students in smaller classroom settings just as I experienced during my Phi Beta Kappa lectures. I look forward to meeting with my new colleagues and collaborating on problems that I have not yet thought about. My research group is also moving quickly, and we will have the resources to advance the theory of chemical reaction rates and dynamical consistency in multiscale nonequilibrium approaches, while tackling challenges related to proteins, nanoparticles, colloidal suspensions and high-speed flows. Hopkins Chemistry has been moving up because of: many outstanding recent junior hires, many successes by mid-career and senior faculty, and emerging ties to other disciplines. It's an amazing opportunity to be a part of this growth!

So farewell to Georgia Tech and hello to Hopkins. This is an ending that has a beginning, and I am looking forward to what awaits.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Q&A on balancing activities in research and #OutsideTheLab

I was recently interviewed by Dr. Antara Dutta from Georgia State University for an on-line story by the ACS Georgia Local Section as part of their series to promote volunteer leaders in the American Chemical Society. The questions and answers are more about how I do what I do, and may be of use to you if you are thinking about balancing your professional and volunteer tasks...

1. What do you like most about your job? What are the most challenging parts of your job?
What I like most about my job is that I can learn something new every day, and that I also can make an impact on the lives of students, colleagues, and beyond. In this sense, the day is never done as there is always something more that I could have done. Thus the challenging part is knowing when to stop.

2. What characteristic do you associate with a good chemist?
Recalling that “chance favors the prepared mind,” it is clear that a good chemist must be both diligent and careful in their preparation, but imaginative in the construction and interpretation of everything they do.

3. How have you grown professionally through your career? How did you choose your professional career growth path?
I have been fortunate to meet great chemists who mentored me and guided me not just on my chemistry, but  also on how to manage my chemistry.  For example, Bob Lichter has been an amazing mentor helping me to integrate my broadening participation efforts with my scientific program.

4. How do you face and overcome your professional challenges?
I ask for help and I work harder.

5. What are your habits have you adopted to ensure professional success? For example, do you have a daily routine or practice that helps you to be successful?
I exercise every day to ensure that my mind and body stay healthy. I also reserve Monday’s and Wednesday’s for after school pickup of my son from his school and rarely schedule something else over them, unless I’m travelling. This ensures that I have quality time with my son.

6. How do you handle failures, either major or min, both professionally and in research?
As an academic, failure is inevitable because noone wins every grant competition. So I look at such failures as an opportunity to grow. That is, I learn from the rejections (by leveraging the written comments from reviewers and discussions with program managers), and I try again.

7. Who has inspired you professionally or personally and why?
My friends, Peter Stang and Dick Zare, are remarkable in their ability to balance their research programs and their activities to advance our profession.  They are living existence proofs that you can both serve others and pursue research, and it helps me to not give up hope that I can do both as well.

8. What are your thoughts on your growth especially in this digital age? What transformation do you see in the field of chemistry from the way you have learned the subject and it is today in this digital age? 
The promise of computers in chemistry is multi-fold. On the one hand, it provides the ability to amass a lot of data for which analytics tools can find unexpected correlations and solutions. On the other hand, it provides a platform on which we can code ever more accurate models of complex chemistry for which calculations and simulations can reveal chemistries that we had not anticipated earlier. Across this range, the power of computers thus offers us an opportunity to do chemistry differently just as, for example, combinatorial chemistry tools have already transformed discovery.

9. What hobbies or activities do you participate in outside of your professional life?
I have been running with my wife since just after I received tenure. In addition, since my son was four years-old, we have been training in Tae Kwon do together, taking all of our belt tests together, and we earned our Kukkiwon-certified 3rd degree black belts together. Running and Tae Kwon Do have been important for my health, but equally importantly they continue to provide me quality time with my family.

10. Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
Much of what I have related involves the importance of interacting with people, both to help them and be helped by them. I have found many of my friends and colleagues through the American Chemical Society, and the value of my membership comes primarily from the fact that we are a society of like-minded chemical scientists and engineers. I encourage you to engage with other members at our local section meetings, our regional meetings, our national meetings, and on various on-line platforms. I am sure that you and I will both benefit from your greater engagement!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Balancing Signal and Noise

How frequently to post is a perennial question for anyone with a footprint in social media. Too frequent and no one pays attention to all the noise. Too seldom and no one bothers to look. In either case, you also risk the possibility that Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook will deprioritize your post when serving it to your followers or friends. Of course, it all depends on how valuable a given post is. It can have value simply because you are popular in whatever sense, and the reader cares only about the fact that you are the one saying it. It can have value in some intrinsic sense because of the concept that is conveyed. Or it can have value somewhere in between. Regardless, readers are being bombarded by so many screaming pieces of content (that is, noise) that it's hard for any piece of truly valuable content (that is, signal) to be noticed.

Interestingly, this question also pertains to data. Is the signal from the device detectable and reproducible from the noise? It is also relevant to the articles that we publish in science. Is the advance incremental and hence within reach of a good guess from past work?! Or is it truly a new signal that advances our understanding? Ultimately, we scientists must find signals well above the noise, and be careful in reporting it so that it doesn't get lost in the noise. There is also the question of what is the noise and what is the signal. Consider the accompanying image with this post. Is the pretty red region the signal that is tainted by the noise of a few bright spots? Or are the bright spots the signals that shine over the noise of the red background?

If you are interested in questions of observation, you may also want to check out some of my old posts on the role of perception and implicit bias: Part I and Part II. (It's relatively timely again because Amy Herman appeared on an NPR broadcast just this week.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Wandering through campus (as a @PhiBetaKappa Visiting Scholar)

I recently finished the last of my 9 campus visits courtesy of the Phi Beta Kappa Society during the 59th year of the Visiting Scholars Program. Wow! These visits included 6 primarily undergraduate colleges, in order: the College of Wooster, University of the South (Sewanee), College of St. Benedict & St. John's University, Willamette University, Bucknell University, and Hamilton College. The last three were research intensive institutions, in order: Johns Hopkins University, Kansas State University, and the University of Oklahoma. From the Society's marketing materials, the Visiting Scholars Program "sends distinguished scholars in a variety of disciplines to participate for two days in the life of colleges and universities with Phi Beta Kappa chapters. During each two-day visit, a scholar takes part in class discussions, meets informally with students and faculty, and gives a free lecture open to the public." The chapters were sent information about me, my available dates, and possible lectures on topics accessible to undergraduates or the public. After a matching process, I filled my schedule with the nine sites listed above. The only way to make seven two-day visits possible in the Spring was to obtain release from teaching. However the number of contact hours (with over 20 hours per visit) was much greater than the sixty-ish hours I would normally have spent on a single course. Though these numbers didn't make sense form a work load perspective, the experience was transformative and in a word, priceless!

I was routinely asked by the chapters if theirs was the best visit and/or what the other schools did to make the visit special. My answer to them and to you is that all of them were equally outstanding. No jokes about Lake Wobegone, please. Each of my visits included unique and different elements that were special about the individual institutions. My visits to primarily undergraduate institutions allowed me to walk in the shoes of their faculty. The level of interaction and attention to their undergraduate students is amazing and enriching for students and professors alike. My visits to the research intensive institutions differed remarkably from my usual visits. In those, I typically meet almost exclusively with faculty and a few graduate students. As a consequence of the PBK lens, my hosts made sure that I interacted almost exclusively with undergraduate students in classrooms, in small-group discussions, and in one-on-one mentoring events. It was remarkable to see the depth and breadth of the students and the potential we have as educators to reach them if only we stop to say hello.

All of that would be enough to have made it worthwhile. But just as in those cheesy late-night commercials we sometimes stay up too late not to miss, there is more… I had an opportunity to extend my network of friends and colleagues with remarkable faculty across the country. I knew some of my chemistry hosts and their colleagues from previous activities, but most I did not. My bonds with new and old colleagues were much more strongly cemented through the intensity of the programs that they prepared for me. Meanwhile, many members of the PBK chapter hosting teams were from departments outside of chemistry, giving me the opportunity to learn and discuss a broader set of ideas with experts who I would not have seen otherwise. With them and the broad set of students, staff and faculty that attended my talks and sessions, I was able to share my work in theoretical and computational chemistry, and my work to advance diversity in academia. The latter also appear to have sparked many conversations that I believe will have an impact in their efforts to improve campus climate and diversity equity.

All to say that my term as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar was as enriching, if not more so, then a sabbatical concentrated at a single site. If ever you have a chance to do the same, I hope that you will not hesitate in saying yes!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Chemistry's Community Spaces

There was a time when book stores and libraries were the places where you met others. Like in today's universities, in which librarians can't get rid of books fast enough, students still go to libraries to study in their carrels. Unfortunately, the flattening of the printed word through electronic delivery is decreasing the need or motivation for you to physically visit bookstores or public libraries. Meanwhile, next-day (and next-hour!) deliveries de-motivate you from going to retail shops at your local mall. But we still need community spaces, like the Mexican zocalos, to see and meet other people. Coffee houses and fitness centers, necessarily serve products or services that you and others must experience physically, and are increasingly serving the need for community gathering spaces while proving that brick-and-mortar can still be profitable.

So where do chemists gather? Increasingly academic buildings are being created with coffee houses in mind. Sure, it's cheaper for me to make an espresso with the machine in my office. But if I walk down to the coffee shop, I have the extra benefit of running into students and colleagues. The upcoming National Meeting of the ACS in San Diego also serves this need. Going there, I get to hang out with over 15,000 of my closest friends. I can't, obviously, see them all, but I don't have to make many, if any, appointments. The chemists with whom I have common interests naturally attend the same receptions, governance meetings and scientific sessions. These chance run-ins are devilishly short and sweet. The follow-up often occupies my activities and seeds my next innovations over the next six months and beyond.

Of course, old and new gathering mechanisms can overlap. In San Diego, the Multidisciplinary Program Planning Group (MPPG) selected Computers in Chemistry as the theme. Working with my colleagues on the associated symposia, we introduced a special break from 10:00 AM to 10:30AM on mornings from Sunday to Wednesday called "Café con Ordenadores." We hope to leverage your need for coffee to discuss how computers can enable your chemistry. I look forward to my chance meeting(s) with you in San Diego starting on March 13th!

Check out my old post on some tips for making a large conference, like the ACS meeting, feel exactly like the small conference you want to attend.

This post was reprinted on the Sustainable Nano Blog on March 8, 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Juggling Communication Into My Calendar

It’s about time that I wrote my next Blog Post. As you may recall from one of my old posts on Hallows or Horcruxes, as a researcher, my daily question is whether to spend time on grants or papers. What I neglected to mention is that as a Professor, I also have a long list of other items that I must address in order to keep up my research (and teaching) enterprise moving forward. The fact that I enjoy many of these tasks doesn’t detract from the fact that they take time. Alas my blogging has suffered.

So where's the "chemistry" in the fact that I have been a slacker in not writing on my everywherechemistry blog? Sadly, it partially lies in the fact that all of my chemistry colleagues are equally overburdened. E-mail has become a daily chore with hundreds of messages that must be deleted, responded to immediately, or which require significant deliverables that require even more time. I know that this is no different than what other professionals experience. It is a sign of the times. Electronic communication has increased our ability to share our chemistry with each other, but it has also increased our volume of work. The ease in travel also tempts us to move our bodies, not just electrons, to distant places. It allows me to interact with chemists (and other scientists) directly, and mentor students whom I would not meet otherwise. That human touch provides more substance to the methods and approaches that we are developing and teaching each other.

Thus communication in all its forms is critical to learning and advancing chemistry. This is a fact that may have been lost on you as you learned how to balance chemical reactions, how to name molecules or how to calculate the wave functions associated with chemical bonds. Nevertheless, it's a critical part of doing chemistry... And I'm happy to be back on my blog! Please stay tuned.