CHINESE-AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
CACS meeting focuses on fellowship and professional development
ACS President Elsa Reichmanis headlined the Chinese-American Chemical Society's (CACS) Tristate Chapter One-Day Symposium on Modern Chemical Technology & Business. About 150 chemists gathered at the Schering-Plough Research Institute in Kenilworth, N.J., on June 7 for the program.
It was an impressive turnout for the society, which boasts about 300 members nationwide, says Kuangnan Qian, an analytical chemist at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering, Annandale, N.J. CACS's largest chapter--which is composed of about 120 members--is the Tristate Chapter.
CACS holds mini-symposia frequently. This year, the focus was on celebrating the society's more than 20 years of service to scientific communities in the U.S.; promoting fellowship among Chinese-American chemists and chemical engineers; and providing opportunities for networking, professional enhancement, and career development, says Yunsheng (Tony) Hsieh, a principal scientist at Schering-Plough Research Institute and the meeting's program chair. Hsieh is also the society's 2003 Tristate Chapter president.
Reichmanis kicked off the day's events with a keynote presentation titled "Achieving Technological Advances--The 21st-Century Approach." On the way to outlining the history of microelectronics and the issues it faces in the coming decades, Reichmanis touched on her own research at Bell Laboratories.
Her speech was followed by a second keynote address by John Piwinski, vice president of chemical research at Schering-Plough Research Institute. His speech, "Discovering New Medicines with Chemistry," focused on the vital role of medicinal chemistry in the drug discovery and design process. As an example, he traced the history of antihistamine drugs, describing how new levels of molecular understanding changed drug discovery from the days of purely pharmacological evaluation.
Among the other presentations at the full-day event were technical presentations, such as discussions of combinatorial catalysts for cross-coupling reactions and metals in macromolecular separations; discussions of business opportunities, including speeches on making the transition from chemist to entrepreneur and on the state of the pharmaceutical industry in the current economy; and practical seminars, such as a primer on successful interviewing. Ming-Daw Tsai, a professor of chemistry at Ohio State University and 2003 CACS president, gave the third presentation of the day, "Opportunities for Chemists in the Post-Genomic Era."
"The most important things that CACS offers are enhanced communication and professional interaction among its members and financial support," Hsieh said. "And we have established the CACS Young Chemist's Award to recognize and support outstanding high school students in developing careers in chemistry-related fields upon entering college."
Jesse C. H. Hwa, CACS's founder and first president, agrees. "Our most important goal is to provide communication channels for the Chinese-American community through recognition of academic achievements, models, examples, and social and professional fellowship," he says.
As an example, he points to the problems Chinese-American chemists face in moving up the corporate ladder. "We want an equal opportunity to move up the ladder," he says. "Chemists should not be viewed as good at science but not at management. They should be viewed as equal resources."
It's something that Reichmanis touched on as well. Asian Americans are more likely to be employed in the chemical sciences but less likely to be promoted to management, she said. Misconceptions about the Asian American community and over style differences can lead to inaccurate perceptions of ability, she said, but meetings like this increase awareness and understanding. "It's not a problem that's going to be solved overnight," she added.
ACS and CACS have a close working relationship: CACS holds a social hour, dinner, and featured speech at every ACS national meeting, and it was officially created during the spring 1981 ACS national meeting in Atlanta, "with the blessing and support of the ACS president and executive director," Hwa said.
The idea for a society focusing on Chinese American chemists had been gestating long before then. Hwa attributes CACS's creation partly to the 1972 breakthrough in relations between China and the U.S. In the years that followed, Hwa was involved in a number of bilateral visits between Chinese and American scientists, and, as an ACS councilor and a member of the Joint Council/Board Committee on International Activities, he was deeply involved in communication between ACS and Chinese chemists. He was also one of the first Chinese American chemists of the era to return to China and lecture.
In 1979, a delegation of Chinese chemists, along with Li Su, secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, attended the first Pacific Basin Chemical Congress in Honolulu. Hwa organized a luncheon in honor of the guests, which 80 people attended. Its success prompted him to organize similar luncheons at the next two ACS meetings.
"At many meetings, I would see the faces of Chinese chemists," Hwa said. "But we would only make eye contact--we would never talk to each other." The luncheons changed all that.
Hsieh thought that this year's program was outstanding--especially the keynote addresses--and has high hopes that its next iteration will be even better. Among the society's big plans for the future: It is working on raising its profile by cosponsoring a First International Chinese Chemical Symposium to be held either in Taiwan or China.
VIPS CACS meeting participants included (from left) Kuang Yu Chen, Hsieh, Piwinski, Heng E. Michael Su, Joe Jiuliano, Neng-Yang Shih, Steven Karski, Hwa, and Tsai.
PHOTO BY AALOK MEHTA