Younger Chemists Committee

Serving the Needs of Early Career Chemists

Candidate Profile: Willie E. May

1. Why are you running for President-Elect?

I think that I can broker solutions that meet ACS needs. I

·      am committed to ACS doing even more to help students, postdocs and early career professionals reach their full potential.

·      have a long, well-established, and successful senior leadership track record that I can bring to ACS to help it be even more strategic and effective;

·      have a proven record of working with all sectors of the ACS stakeholder community – business (chemical and non-chemical), academia (faculty and students), and government (U.S., abroad, and intergovernmental

2. What are the top three changes/improvements that will be among your priorities as President?

I would work with ACS’s leadership at all levels to:

·      Inspire and Educate:  ACS should play a greater role in shaping policies to expand and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals – ranging from chemical plant technicians to research investigators in government, academic, and industrial laboratories. The skills and education gained in our 20’s and 30’s will not sustain us throughout our careers.  We should consider establishing an “ACS university for continuous learning”.

o   We should more actively encourage and facilitate dialogue and transparency with the public, particularly during this time when public interest and confidence in science, data, and facts has been challenged. There is a huge gap that we can and should help to fill.

·      Diversify: We should be more vocal and advocates for strengthening institutions serving underrepresented populations. Students from these institutions are an underappreciated and underused resource for skilled workers for the chemical industry.  Through expanded ACS assistance with internships, professional development, and other career opportunities, these untapped pools of talent will bring us greater diversity of thought and innovation.

·      GrowScience has no national boundaries. Non-U.S. citizens should be a growth area for recruiting new members, including those working for global companies.  Biology is increasingly a quantitative molecular science.  We should explore ways to bring more biologists under the ACS tent, including adding relevant conference topics and forums for biologists and biochemists, and by fostering collaborative engagement opportunities for the different disciplines.

In these three areas and others, ACS is poised to – and must – continuously improve.

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

I have been an active member of ACS since 1979. In the mid-nineties, I was a charter member of the Committee on Minority Affairs and served as its second Chair. While Chair, I oversaw the initial implementation of the ACS Scholars Program.  I am most proud of this area of work – and the results ACS has achieved. To date nearly 2700 underrepresented minority students have received scholarships through the ACS Scholars Program. Over 1500 have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a chemical science. Of those students, more than 40% have gone on to graduate school, and about 35% are known to have entered the chemical sciences workforce. One of the reasons I am now interested in being ACS President is that I now have more time to give back to my profession. In the past 20 years my professional responsibilities at and related to NIST precluded me from being more actively involved in ACS leadership activities other than with the Committee on Minority Affairs.

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

Please see number 2. I think that ACS should be constantly aware of the needs of our membership and its changing demographics. 

If elected, I would work to build upon the excellent and diverse programs that are already in place.

·      I would start by listening to our members and our staff to hear their concerns and ideas. In fact, I have already have begun to reach out to different segments of ACS’s membership, including but not limited to students, early career professionals, and non-US professionals involved with the chemical sciences.

·      I then would follow up with targeted efforts to:

  • grow and diversify our membership, including more recruitment of international members;
  • expand our membership base and member recruitment activities by reaching out to the biological and molecular quantitative sciences community to join our ranks.
  • Engage with young people about the excitement, “coolness,” and personal sense of fulfillment that can be derived from a career in the chemical and related sciences. 

5.     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?

Over the past ten years or so, we (at ACS and more broadly) have mounted significant efforts to get young people interested in STEM.  Now that we are making progress in getting more young people interested in the chemical and related sciences, we need to provide the programs and tools to assist them in their career progression.

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

I would like to hear your inputs ranging from “the blogosphere” to my visiting ACS student chapters. I would like to have an advisory group of young chemists and chemical engineers to be sure that I maintain a constant dialogue with this critical demographic. I would turn to the Younger Chemists Committee to help me form this group. "If I don't get your dope then that would make me a dope!

7. 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 your broad goals as ACS President?

I will be bolder in characterizing the situation. “Younger chemists” are the life blood and future of the American Chemical Society. As stated earlier, I would include YCC input in all programs that I promote and decisions that I make.

I would also utilize innovative/interactive tools (e.g. social media, online polling software, etc.) to keep younger chemists engaged with both my agenda and the programs of the society. We also need to recruit more young chemists into the leadership ranks of ACS. I know first-hand the enthusiasm that younger scientists bring to any endeavor, and ACS needs to tap into and capture that energy and creativity.