I attended most of the Aug 23 ACS Presidential Symposium titled Chemistry & Policy: Solving Problems at the Interface, a symposium organized by 10 MIT graduate students, eight of whom are pictured below: Rebecca Parkhurst (from left), Brian Walker, Johanna W. Wolfson, Jose M. Lobez, Jan M. Schnoor, Brandi Cossairt, Jared Silvia, and Brett VanVeller. Not pictured are Jeewoo Lim and Kristin Glab.

All smiles after successful symposium

By many measures, the symposium was a smashing success. By the time the last speaker, Harvard University chemistry professor George Whitesides, started to talk the 200-person-capacity room was standing room only. The graduate students organized and executed the symposium under the auspices of ACS's Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC) Project, which encourages and supports the involvement of graduate students in planning symposia at the American Chemical Society national meetings. The roster of speakers was impressive. Joining Whitesides were MIT chemistry professor and former CIA director John M. Deutch; William S. Rees Jr. of Los Alamos National Laboratory; Jay D. Keasling of UC Berkeley; Kathryn Beers of NIST; David Goldston of NRDC, Joan Berkowitz of Farkas Berkowitz & Company; John Gavenonis of DuPont; and Janan Hayes, Chair ACS History of Chemistry and a member of the ACS's board of directors. ACS recorded the presentations and will be available on in about two weeks. After the symposium, I talked to four of the student organizers and came away impressed with the methodical, collaborative, consultative approach they took to plan and implement this successful meeting. I've asked them to think about what they've learned from and how they've grown because of this experience. Stay tuned for a story about this student success in C&EN.

Author: Maureen Rouhi

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  1. The MIT GSSPC is carrying on an impressive tradition started in 2006 by graduate students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Each GSSPC has the opportunity to plan a symposium on a topic of their choosing, working with the Division of Chemical Education and others who co-sponsor the event. Those involved gain a tremendous number of skills and contacts in the process!

    More information about the next symposium, planned by the University of Texas at Austin GSSPC for the Spring 2011 ACS National Meeting, and the GSSPC project, is available at