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Category → 2009 Fall National Meeting

Rocking The Expo

Music cells silica and alumina

Music sells silica and alumina

Even though David Schurer jokes that he “would watch TV and eat ice cream” all day if he could, he was working hard on the Expo floor at the ACS national meeting last month. And he was loving it. As vice president and co-owner of Sorbent Technologies, an Atlanta-based chromatography materials and supply company, Schurer was working the crowd to drum up new business for his small company. Working the crowd at the Expo means luring them your way, and to do that, Schurer would often sling his Mini Martin guitar around his shoulder and do what he loves to do most.

“I always do Louis Armstrong tunes, like ‘Ain’t Misbehaving,’ ” Schurer told me recently. “I usually play a Beatles tune, ‘Blackbird.’ And ‘Foxy Lady,’ ” usually at selective moments when the context matches the song. Says Schurer, “the ladies always like a little Hendrix.” Also in the mix are improvisations that conjure Hank Williams and Dave Matthews and music and lyrics that he makes up on the spot. “In D.C., I was just burning it and pretty much did what I had to do,” Schurer said.

I had a brief conversation with him at the Expo and took a picture of him, but it took me a while to get back to him to find out if his musical approach to marketing and his leading role in chromatography had anything to do with one another.

Schurer didn’t expect to be the bard of the Expo, but there have been signs that he could be for a long time. Let’s just say that music is in this guy enough that he dropped out of Emory University in the mid-1970s to give music a go. He played in bands and did solo gigs, but it wasn’t looking promising. Besides, he recalled, “I was getting parental pressure up the wazoo” to go back to school. Which he did, earning a business degree at Emory.

But the musical life kept beckoning. Continue reading →

Pictures from an Exposition



Every exposition at a national ACS meeting is a wonder of magnitude, logistics, specialty knowledge, personalities, marketing and promotion innovations (and desperations), and business diversity. The microculture of the journals and book industry, for example, is so different from that of the lab automation industry. For me, though, the biggest draw at each Expo is the opportunity to browse the material culture of the laboratory. It’s a  menagerie of forms and textures and designs that I revel in the way I might be amazed and amused by the biological forms, textures and designs on display at a zoo. And I particularly like to snap a macro lens onto my camera. This accoutrement provides me with a sort of low-power-microscope perspective on the gala. With that point of view, it’s the details, the components, of the mass spectrometers, x-ray diffractometers, calorimetry systems, automated sample handlers, and other laboratory instruments and furnishings that come to the fore. This act of abstraction also reveals how the result of design and material choice so often brings with it, not so much on purpose as by consequence, arresting aesthetic appeal.

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Looking Back At The National Meeting

With the ACS national meeting in my own backyard this year, I appreciated that fact that I didn’t have to travel very far. But I also wondered whether that would impact my ability get good photos.

When I’m in a new city, my senses are heightened, and I experience the world in a different way than I normally would. I guess that’s why ACS keeps the meetings moving from year to year—to keep them fresh and exciting. On the other hand, forcing myself to see Washington, D.C., in a new light brought this meeting to a new level of satisfaction.

Here are some things that caught my attention:

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“Snickers Is Almost A Perfect Food,” And Other Food-Texture Musings

shutterstock_2754827_crop2On the menu at last Tuesday’s food-texture talks at the ACS national meeting was a circus of flavors and sensual experiences (if only via PowerPoint): force deformation curves of fractured foam cell-walls for starters, an entrée of roasted-nut plot distributions, and a milky-smooth monologue on the pleasures and pains of food texture for dessert. (Regrettably, hotel catering didn’t contribute to the spread, as the session was over before lunchtime, and we all left salivating.)

After a couple detailed recounts of experiments dealing with cell-rupturing crispiness and nut-cracking crunchiness, Gail Vance Civille of Sensory Spectrum, Inc., wrapped everything up by bringing us back to the basics. Texture, she defined, is the sensory measure of structure or inner makeup of foods and other materials. We measure it with our skin and muscles, and we need people to evaluate it; machines can only help simulate textural experiences. We break down foods in three ways—mechanical, salivary, and thermal—and when foods don’t break down the way they’re supposed to, we reject them. For example, a waxy piece of chocolate that doesn’t melt on our tongues as it should is, well, waxy and unappetizing. Continue reading →

Scenes From The ACS Meeting

The ACS national meeting was held last week in Washington, D.C., and I attended numerous governance functions, award presentations, luncheons, dinners, and the like. Here are a few highlights from my week.

Several heads of foreign chemical societies attended the open meeting of the ACS Board of Directors on Sunday and were invited to make comments to the board. In his comments, Wolfram Koch, executive director of the German Chemical Society, said: “Chemistry should no longer be seen as the problem, as it was for decades, but now as the indispensible solution to the global challenges we face. Sustainable development on this Earth does not mean less chemistry, but more chemistry.”
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The Benefits Of Sparse Shuttles

As I’m sure many attendees of the ACS national meeting this week noticed, the shuttle pick-up times were rather, um, sparse. This threw a wrench into the works for those who like to hop back and forth between sessions. As a result, many of us had to commit to certain symposia and listen to talks that we might otherwise have skipped out on.

And there are always one or two talks in a session that don’t entirely fit in with the theme running through the others. But sticking around for those talks doesn’t necessarily turn out to be such a bad thing.

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Moments At A Poster Session

Company pride (Drahl/C&EN)
Company pride, pushpin-style.

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ACS National Meeting Dress Code

The national meeting program comprises over 400 pages of information, some of which is actually useful. It tells you where to see talks, what hotels to book, where to catch the bus, and how to find free food. One thing it does not tell you is what to wear—and I wish it would.

It’s high time for the ACS to either establish a dress code or at least provide guidance on the matter. Since I expect no such by-law will weave its way through the executive committee, I am taking it upon myself to set the rules. And they’re, like, totally official because this is the official blog of the official magazine of the ACS.

For some reason, dress codes are always set by what men are supposed to wear. (Women don’t wear sports jackets to “jacket-required” events, nor do they wear ties (of any color) to black-tie events.) I assume all women are just born with some innate conversion factor that lets them know what to do. With that in mind, I can boil down the official ACS National Meeting dress code to two simple rules:
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