A Lifetime ACS Fan: Undergrad Gets Inked

Science tattoos are all the rage these days. Ever since science writer Carl Zimmer asked whether science geeks were hiding tattoos displaying their love for all things biology, chemistry, and physics, it seems that the ink trend is on the rise. Zimmer put out a book, “Science Ink,” late last year collecting photos of some of the most impressive ones out there. And at the recent Science Online 2012 meeting, in Raleigh, N.C., Zimmer took some attendees to a tattoo parlor to join the club.


Goodwin's ACS proud. Credit: Courtesy of Monte Helm.

This morning, during a talk at the ACS national meeting in San Diego (#ACSSanDiego), a science tattoo in a category all its own was unveiled. Monte L. Helm, a chemistry professor at Fort Lewis College, in Durango, C.O., showed a photo of a certain tattoo sported by his student, undergraduate Andrew W.L. Goodwin.

Helm was speaking in the symposium “Undergraduate Research at the Frontiers of Inorganic Chemistry.” After talking about the work that Goodwin has done—synthesizing novel phosphorus-containing ligands for transition-metal catalysis—Helm demonstrated just how dedicated the student is to his subject … and to ACS.

Believe it or not, on his upper arm, Goodwin bears a permanent ACS logo.

When Goodwin first unveiled the tattoo at the beginning of this school year, “it was shocking for me,” Helm told Newscripts. “Andrew’s a really excellent student, but he’s also very quiet,” Helm said. “He rarely volunteers things.”

So when Goodwin came into Helm’s office and said, “I have to tell you something,” Helm was worried. And when he said, “I got a tattoo,” Helm was expecting the worst.

But what he got was the ACS logo. “He’s a chemistry major, but I had no idea he was so dedicated,” Helm said. Goodwin explained the tattoo to Helm by saying that he wanted something black—a logo—that had to do with chemistry.

Well, the ACS logo does indeed have to do with chemistry. Now, the question for ACS is, does Goodwin get an automatic membership for life?

Author: Lauren Wolf

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  1. That kid is an idiot. Wait ’til he sees how fast the escalator on membership price rises once he’s out of undergrad. Couple that with dwindling job prospects for chemists, he’s gonna feel less than proud of that tattoo in 10 years, I promise.

  2. ^ Wow, I remember how bitter I was in grad school – but you sir take the cake. It’s just a tattoo – and I have seen much much worse for sure…

  3. Keep burying your head in the sand, Luke. The higher ups at ACS are counting on it. Imagine how outraged people would be if they knew the head of this “non-profit” organization was pulling a cool $1 million in salary each year. But I guess since the situation on Wall Street is much much worse, this shouldn’t even raise an eyebrow.

  4. Luke is correct: It is merely a tattoo, there are many worse things than the ACS logo, grad school bitterness is understandable. But in a field such as chemistry, physics, statistics, materials science, computer science, mechanical or electrical engineering, the benefits will be worth the effort. You may not believe it to be true now, but you will be surprised over the course of your lifetime. I promise.

    Postdoc: If the “head of this non-profit organization” were earning a salary of $1 million per year, would that be so terribly unreasonable? Think about how paltry that is in comparison to most for-profit entity CEO salaries. Many of those CEO’s have fewer responsibilities, are less qualified, with minimal productive output to benefit science and society, unlike the ACS. No, I’m not a member, just a chemistry fan. And Postdoc, you should cite a source from an annual financial statement for the ACS before making a claim like that! It is publicly available information.

  5. Well said Luke and Ellen. Tattoos are most meaningful to the people who get them. Andrew will not regret this, it will always be a reminder of how excited and passionate he was about science at this time in his life. Postdoc: sounds like you could use a reminder of that time in your life also, if you ever had it.

  6. Ellie, if you’re not joking then your response is laughable at best. I raised the point about Wall Street CEO salaries in sarcasm. You seem convinced that point is valid. By your logic, if I rob an old lady, I shouldn’t be held accountable because there are career criminals who rape and murder women and my crime is not as bad by comparison. ACS is a NON-PROFIT organization. Would you be so cavalier if a non-profit who was helping rebuild Haiti paid its president $1 million? Can you honestly say that you wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the ethics of that? Are you suggesting that since ACS supports science we should look the other way while they charge exorbitant fees from their members and pay their executives ludicrously large salaries? It must be nice to look at things from the outside, considering you don’t even pay ACS dues in the first place. I’m sure the thousands of unemployed chemists who can’t find work will take comfort in your words, knowing that you believe their investment will pay off. I’d like to know YOUR source for that claim, considering I know many people who would disagree with you. Here’s all the information you need on ACS financials, including the 990 that details executive compensation.


    InorgChem, plenty of people get tattoos that they regret. Go look through a tattoo artist’s portfolio, you will see no shortage of cover ups. Odds are good that Andrew is going to grad school. Odds are also good that by the time he finishes, the job market will still be bad (you know, like it has been for the past 20 years). Supporting the ACS in tattoo form at that point will not be quite so simple. Believe it or not, chemistry does, always has, and will continue to exist outside of the ACS. You don’t need to unfailingly support the organization to enjoy chemistry.

  7. Postdoc, this is really not the best venue for doing financial statements analysis and an ad hoc executive compensation assessment. Be that as it may, I thank you for the URL. Unlike you, I was not wise enough to study for anything beyond a master’s level degree in a scientific field, and was instead diverted toward investment finance. I hold you, Postdoc, in very high esteem for having been graduated with a doctorate in chemistry or chemical engineering. You do work that is of great value. If you work in an area related to petroleum and energy, you are helping people. If not, e.g. pharmaceuticals, agronomy, basic research, you are (understatement!) also helping people!

    Continuing on… I scanned the most recent two Annual Reports of the ACS. Note that the ACS was organized in 1937 (and remains) a NOT-FOR-PROFIT entity. That is different than a NON-PROFIT entity. Industry and quasi-regulatory entities on Wall Street e.g. the Depository Trust Corp, are also not-for-profit, for example. I reviewed the Form 990, Section J, as you suggested. Only one ACS employee earns approx (a little less than) $1 mil/ year. The other 9 of the top 10 most highly compensated employees of the ACS earn about $350K per year. They seem to do a very good job, based on my review of the balance sheet and tax filings. They had the sense to avoid securities lending in 2010. Net revenue, including investment income for 2010 was ($66mil) but a much improved +$44mil in 2011. The average ACS employee compensation is $22K per year, including part-time staff. The amount of debt on ACS’s balance sheet is negligible for an organization with $1.2bil in assets. Much of the endowment and research funds are very narrowly restricted in purpose, yet within those constraints, there is a great deal of activity, of a much more diverse sort. I’m now speaking in vague generalities, as this is not the appropriate venue.

    In a word, I remain convinced that you, and your professional organization, the ACS, are worthy and worthwhile, responsible and morally sound. Criteria for judging executive compensation is based on relative comparison with others with similar responsibilities. Making a comparison between career criminals, rapists, murders and the executives of the ACS is a rather specious argument. The latter probably earn more on average than the former, which seems morally appropriate to me! If a fund raiser for Haiti disaster relief was able to deliver $100 million in net (not gross!) aid for charitable purposes, then no, I would not begrudge its president $1 million in compensation. But what about other costs, employees? Making those kind of comparisons, associated with highly emotionally or ethically charged issues is a time-honored tradition, but remains specious. This isn’t about moral relativism either.

    Personally, for myself, I don’t like tattoos. “Body is the temple of the soul” kind of thing. But it does look good on others sometimes! As long as young Andrew doesn’t get any facial tattoos, and can cover up his current ACS tattoo under a t-shirt or suit jacket, there’s no harm done to his future career prospects, I don’t believe.

  8. I’m sorry, one last item. Postdoc, your closing words “were chemistry does, always has, and will continue to exist outside of the ACS. You don’t need to unfailingly support the organization to enjoy chemistry.” THAT, I believe is 100% true. I hope it is, because unlike you, I am not qualified to be a member of the ACS. But I love what little I do know of chemistry. I was better with physics and math. I wish I could have been like you though.

  9. As the Chief Executive Officer of the American Chemical Society, I am really impressed with Andrew’s dedication to chemistry and to ACS! With this kind of passion, I know Andrew will be successful and ACS will be here as your professional home for life, Andrew! If you ever need any career help or advice, please contact me directly. I am a firm believer that the world still needs chemists to solve the world’s grand challenges, such as ensuring sufficient energy, clean water, and food; protecting the environment; curing intractable diseases; and protecting our security. I look forward to following your career. Others may tease you, but my grandson has tattoos all over his body and he’s a successful banker!


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