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Category → 2009 Spring National Meeting

Thank you, Salt Lake City!

Looking through the hundreds of photos I took during the national meeting in Salt Lake City, I couldn’t help but think how fast the week went by. I certainly had fun. Here are some of my favorite moments:

Original music by Ivan Amato/C&EN.

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See you in Washington, D.C.!

Show Me The Money

NSF Chemistry Division Director Luis Echegoyen announced a proposed sweeping realignment of the division’s chemistry programs at the foundation’s ACS Town Hall meeting on Monday evening in Salt Lake City. During the Q&A that followed Echegoyen’s presentation, all anyone wanted to ask about was the $3 billion NSF will receive as part of the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus package.

slc_nsf.jpg“Most of what I am at liberty to talk about on the stimulus, you already know,” Echegoyen told the packed house at the outset of his presentation.

Didn’t matter. The first question Echegoyen took after his presentation was, “Will the stimulus allow anything that has been canceled to be revived?” Six or seven more questions on the stimulus followed. Before he adjourned the session, Echegoyen asked, “Does anyone have anything to say about the realignment?” No one seemed to.

The goal of the proposed changes, Echegoyen said in his presentation, is to realign the chemistry division “to guarantee that the very best projects in research, education, training, and infrastructure development are supported and to anticipate and respond to new developments in chemistry.”

The new structure would abandon the traditional program delineations such as the “Organic and Macromolecular Program” and the “Physical Chemistry Program.” In their place would be eight new programs in the following areas:

  • Chemical Synthesis
  • Chemical Structure, Dynamics & Mechanisms
  • Chemical Measurement & Imaging
  • Theory, Models & Computational Methods
  • Environmental Chemical Sciences
  • Chemistry of Life Processes
  • Chemical Catalysis

“This represents a substantial departure from the current structure,” Echegoyen noted, adding that the only word that survives from the old structure to the new is “theory.”

The Chemistry Division handed out a nifty brochure that describes each of the proposed new programs. It doesn’t look like it is available yet on the division’s website, but I’m sure someone will send you one if you ask. You can submit comments about the proposed realignment to .

Photo: Madeleine Jacobs (left), Ronald Breslow (center), and Luis Echegoyen at the ACS Town Hall meeting. Credit: Rudy Baum/C&EN

Small World

I’m not sure what drew me to Marilyn Mackiewicz’ poster during Sci-Mix tonight, but there I was firing off a rapid succession of photos while she explained her research to a passerby.

You might say it was fate, because when she finished her presentation, she looked straight into my lens and asked, “Did you go to Texas A&M?” Stunned, I put my camera down and asked, “Do we know each other?”

Marilyn reminded me that we had met at a bus stop in 2001 while I was a second-year master’s student in science journalism and she was a first-year doctoral student in chemistry. That day, I had been on my way to visit the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, in College Station, and I spontaneously invited Marilyn to join me. We became instant friends, meeting up often for lunch and even going to see the fireworks on the Fourth of July. We lost touch after I graduated and moved to Washington, D.C.

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Four Minutes And Forty-Seven Seconds Of Fame

Jeremy D. Leavell had been standing at his poster on crystallography for an hour and eight minutes when I came across him at the undergraduate poster session this afternoon.

Most students I had talked with had between five and six people stop by their posters. Some students excitedly told me they had explained their work to around 20 people.

But for Jeremy, not a single person had stopped by his poster the entire time he had been standing there—and there was only 20 minutes left in the poster session.

Jeremy noted that one girl had stopped by, glanced at his poster, and then continued on. “I didn’t even get a chance to present it to her,” he said. He still counts that as half a visitor.

It’s understandable why more people hadn’t stopped by, said Jeremy, who is a senior biochemistry major at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Research on crystallography can be a bit obscure.

I wanted to give Jeremy, who is attending his first ACS national meeting, an opportunity to present his poster, and what better audience than C&EN readers? “Now I’ve just one-upped everyone,” he said.

Photogenic Salt Lake City

Saturday afternoon was the one significant block of free time I had during the week I am spending in Salt Lake City. It was a glorious spring day, sunny and breezy with the temperatures in the upper 60s, so I took a walk with my camera.

Realistic bronze sculptures of people, often children, are scattered throughout the city. This one of a boy and a girl at the base of a flagpole sits in front of the city’s impressive city hall, the tower of which appears in the background. The inscription reads: “Erected as a tribute to our nation’s constitution and flag by the school children of Salt Lake City AD 1936-37.”

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National Meeting Sugar-High

With goggles too big for their heads, and chocolate smudged on their tiny faces, hundreds of elementary school kids learned chemistry the fun way. The outreach event took place this afternoon at the Discovery Gateway Museum in Salt Lake City.

In one activity, kids learned how chocolate can neutralize acids. In another, kids learned how chocolate milk contains more electrolytes than Gatorade. Student affiliate groups led the various experiments.

Here are some highlights of this afternoon’s Chocolate Fest, a presidential outreach event organized by the ACS Office of Community Activities and the Committee on Community Activities.   

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First Impressions of Salt Lake City

I peered at the snow-covered mountains as my plane approached Salt Lake City this morning. The scenery was breathtaking, just as people had described.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the size and scale of the city. I’m used to attending ACS national meetings in big cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston, and for some reason, I thought Salt Lake City would be the same. I even brought my most comfortable pair of shoes.

To my surprise, Salt Lake City isn’t very big, and much of it feels like an eclectic neighborhood on the outskirts of a big city. Mom-and-pop establishments abound, the streets are wide and the blocks are long, and the people here are laid back and extremely friendly. The city definitely has charm.

At the same time, half the city seems to be under construction, and it may not be long before skyscrapers overshadow the small family-owned businesses. In some places, you already can’t see the mountains that surround the city, or the Mormon Temple that used to be the city’s highest point.

Economic growth is a good thing, but how often does it come at a cost?

Salt Lake City on a Shoestring

Self-employed ACS member John K. Borchardt isn’t afraid to admit that he’s a “cheapskate” when it comes to his spending habits at ACS national meetings and other scientific conferences. After all, frugal is in.

Borchardt says he always shares a hotel room with a friend with whom he splits the cost, he’s been known to make a beeline for the free hors d’oeuvres during receptions and social hours, and he often keeps a stash of breakfast bars to get him through the day. He used to go as far as looking through the local phone book and mapping out all the fast food restaurants near his hotel (this was before the Internet and Mapquest). But now, he says, he has to be more conscientious about his health.

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