Younger Chemists Committee

Serving the Needs of Early Career Chemists

Catalyze the Vote Q&A Series

YCC: Why are you running for President-Elect?

PETER DORHOUT:  ACS has done so much for me as a developing professional at every stage of my career. I am passionate about leading this organization and making an impact on something that has become so much a part of who I am, someone who is proud to be an ACS member. 

THOMAS GILBERT:  I want to make ACS membership more valuable to more chemistry professionals and to more students preparing for careers in chemistry.

more students preparing for careers in chemistry.
What are the top three changes/improvements will be among your priorities as

YCC: What are the top three changes/improvements will be among your priorities as President?

PETER DORHOUT: 1) Create an Industry Partners Advisory Board with member stakeholders from Corporation Associates, the Division of Small Chemical Businesses, I&EC, CPT, SOCED, YCC, GEAB, and others who will advise ACS on matters of employment, education, and training for the future chemical workforce.  2) Enhance education by building stronger alliances among partners and work to promote the highest standards and safest chemistry training programs for all emerging chemists and chemical professionals.  3) Increase the diversity of ACS members and create an inclusive Society that continues to promote and recognize outstanding contributions by its members who work to improve the opportunities for all chemical professionals.

THOMAS GILBERT:  If elected I will work with the Younger Chemists Committee and the Membership Affairs Committee to launch a program to recruit as student members and to retain as regular members a majority of the more than 50,000 students currently enrolled in ACS-approved baccalaureate programs. The program will feature graduated membership dues and activities focused on professional skill building, career planning, and public outreach that emphasizes partnerships with preK-12 schools and community colleges serving minority groups that are under-represented in ACS today.

I will also work with the Committee on Professional Training, the Society Committee on Education, and federal funding agencies to put into practice the recommendations of the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences. Simply put, this country can no longer afford graduate programs that fail to address the knowledge and skills (and not just laboratory skills) graduates need to succeed in today’s chemical enterprise.

Finally, I will address the professional development needs of chemistry professional working in interdisciplinary fields such as biotechnology, materials science, and energy production and storage. It is essential that ACS be seen as a principal source of information and ideas in these evolving research areas. Therefore, if elected, I will organize presidential symposia for the 2018 national meetings featuring advances in science “at the boundaries” of traditional chemistry that will be organized by the industries that the research supports

Committee to launch a program to recruit as student members and to retain as regular

members a majority of the more than 50,000 students currently enrolled in ACS-approved

baccalaureate programs. The program will feature graduated membership dues and

activities focused on professional skill building, career planning, and public outreach that

emphasizes partnerships with preK-12 schools and community colleges serving minority

groups that are under-represented in ACS today.

YCC: How long have you served in ACS leadership and in what capacity(ies)? During this time, what was your greatest accomplishment?  

PETER DORHOUT: It has been my pleasure to serve as an elected ACS Councilor for 14 years - including 3 years on the ACS Board of Directors.  I have been elected by Council to serve on the Committee on Committees (2 years as secretary and 1 year as chair) and to Nominations and Elections (I stepped down from N&E to run for the Board).  I am currently serving as a member of the Committee on Budget & Finance and chair of the Communications Subcommittee.  While on the Board, I served on the Grants & Awards committee, chairing the Nominations subcommittee and working to diversify our national awards nominees.  I also served as the chair of the Professional & Member Relations committee and was elected twice to serve on the Board's Executive Committee.  Prior to my Board service, I also chaired the Graduate Education Advisory Board - education and jobs for graduates are important to me - and the International Activities Committee, developing the strategy for the International Year of Chemistry programming for the Society.  I really got my start with ACS leadership as a member of the YCC, and I currently serve as the committee consultant.  I have served as a Local Section and Division Councilor, getting to know the needs of both groups who are critical to the success of the ACS. 

My greatest accomplishment:  working collaboratively with IAC and the Board, along with several key members to create and fund the International Center for ACS.  This was a major team effort, following on the heels of a very successful International Year of Chemistry. 

THOMAS GILBERT: Like many ACS volunteers, I began by serving my local (Northeastern) section - eventually as its chair in 1988. That was followed by over 25 years representing the section on the ACS Council and then a term on the ACS Board of Directors. During those years I served on umpteen committees and task forces (the list is on my website) with leadership roles in nearly all of them. Among my accomplishments were successful attempts to convince Council to change ACS policies and procedures on (1) financing its national meetings and (2) allowing electronic balloting in national elections. As Vice-Chair of the Council Policy Committee (the President serves as the committee’s chair ex-officio), I launched and served as the founding chair of the CPC Subcommittee on Long Range Planning, which gave the committee – and Council – leadership roles in the ACS strategic planning process.

YCC:   What is the Society’s greatest need/challenge and, if elected, how would you address it?  

PETER DORHOUT: This is different from the challenges facing ACS members.  Sustainability of ACS itself is an important challenge.  Member dues alone do not come close to covering the costs of doing the things we want to do to meet our strategic plan goals.  We rely on resources generated from our publications and information services to support what we do, so an integrated business plan that includes diversification and building partnerships is critical to sustainability.  Wisely investing ACS resources to provide services to its members is a critical challenge for ACS.  As President, I will set the tone with the Board, who has the ultimate oversight for the budget, and Budget & Finance to refresh the sustainability plan for the Society.

THOMAS GILBERT:  We in ACS are proud of stating that we are world’s largest scientific society. Unfortunately, our membership has been decreasing in recent years, and our many efforts to increase the number of new members and to retain more of our current members have not reversed this trend. Declining membership, particularly among industrial chemists, is a significant challenge facing ACS today because our strength as a professional society is in our membership: in how many members we have, in how engaged they are in ACS programs and activities, and in how much value they find in being ACS member. That is why I will focus my 3 years in the presidential succession on addressing this value proposition. My responses to Question #2 describe some approaches I would take to do so.  

YCC: When it comes to issues facing younger chemists, where do you think the ACS can do a better job towards solving this issue and what role would you play if elected?  

PETER DORHOUT: When I was a YCC member, the issues facing younger chemists involved employment, mentoring, and connecting with other professionals.  As young professionals, we were encouraged to develop a professional plan, and identify the skills necessary to achieve our goals as chemical professionals.  ACS provided many opportunities to address these issues, and YCC members were emboldened to think creatively and to step up to lead when no one else would.  ACS needs to continue to evaluate itself and its policies to be relevant to our future leaders.  As an example, the age group 20-29 has been growing the past few years; it is the most diverse group of members (>50% women), and it is the one most affected by unemployment (13% compared to 3.7% for all other members).  This group can be most impacted by our Career Navigator benefits, but we do not extend full membership to unemployed students – we should change this practice, since it’s allowed by the Bylaws.

THOMAS GILBERT:   I think my responses to Question #2 convey the message that recruiting and retaining younger chemists as ACS members is a top priority for me. Younger chemists are the lifeblood and futures leaders of the ACS, and quality programs that address their educational and professional development are essential if ACS is to start growing again. I hope it is clear from my responses above that I am prepared to take a leadership role in making sure that these programs exist and that they are continuously assessed and improved. 

YCC: If elected, how do you intend to harness the energy and enthusiasm of younger chemists to help achieve your strategic goals?  

PETER DORHOUT:  I plan to host quarterly Virtual Town Hall meetings using the same processes we have employed with other ACS webinar events.  I will specifically ask YCC to reach out to its LSYCC membership to engage them in specific VTH events to help inform me about the needs of the younger ACS communities.

THOMAS GILBERT:    (Please allow me to answer this question and the next one with a single reply.)  Again I reference my response to Question #2: I propose working closely with YCC – both at the national level and through local section YCCs to help me set goals and map strategies for achieving them. Frankly, my most immediate strategic goal is getting elected. To help me do that, I have reached out to the leaders of my university’s ACS student chapter and to many members of the e-board of the Northeastern Section’s Younger Chemists Committee. Their fresh ideas, professional development priorities, and savvy use of social media have already impacted the content of my position statements and the operation of my fledgling campaign. If I’m elected ACS President, I look forward to expanding such collaborations across the country to address the important challenges facing our Society. 

YCC: Given that the Younger Chemists Committee is a voice for ACS members under the age of 35 and the Committee represents over 20% of ACS members, how do you plan to use the Committee to achieve you board goals as ACS President? 

PETER DORHOUT:  The President needs to consult with, and regularly seek an audience with YCC at its meetings.  I would love to hear what YCC thinks can make ACS relevant to the 20-35 year old emerging chemistry professional.  I will host a Presidential Event that is designed by the YCC in conjunction with younger chemist leaders in the Divisions and Local Sections.

THOMAS GILBERT:    [see answer above]

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