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ACS News

May 1, 2006
Volume 84, Number 18
pp. 37-38

Silver Anniversary for Chinese Society

Chinese-American Chemical Society celebrates 25 years of good food and good friendships

Linda Wang

There's a saying by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lu Yu: "Born to the earth are three kinds of creatures. Some are winged and fly. Some are furred and run. Still others stretch their mouths and talk. All must eat and drink to survive."

Since 1981, the Chinese-American Chemical Society (CACS) has been bringing Chinese chemists and chemical engineers together to eat, drink, talk, and make lasting connections. These get-togethers, in the form of a banquet and keynote lecture, are held four times a year during American Chemical Society and American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) spring and fall national meetings.

Photo by Linda Wang

Feast With Friends This year's banquet was buffet-style, with dishes such as squid with pickled Chinese cabbage and curried chicken.

This year's gathering at the ACS spring national meeting in Atlanta provided even more reason to celebrate, as it marked CACS's 25th anniversary. In fact, it was in Atlanta at an ACS spring national meeting 25 years ago that CACS was born.

CACS celebrated its anniversary with a special symposium, "Sustainable Contributions by Chemical Professionals," which ACS President E. Ann Nalley included in her presidential event lineup. The session was cosponsored by the ACS Division of the History of Chemistry. "I congratulate you on your 25th anniversary," Nalley said during her remarks. "Over the years, I've had the opportunity to work with many of you in a number of capacities, and I do appreciate the role that you play in the American Chemical Society."

Other speakers included John C. Chen, professor of chemical engineering at Lehigh University and AIChE president, who emphasized the role Chinese Americans play in the chemical industry, and Arnold Thackray, president of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, who talked about the Chinese history and tradition in chemistry.

Norman N. Li, president of NL Chemical Technology, in Mount Prospect, Ill., gave a keynote lecture on water treatment and reuse by membrane technology; Hai-Lung Dai, professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, provided the perspective of an immigrant research scientist and teacher; and Liang-Shih Fan, professor of engineering at Ohio State University and winner of the 2006 E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, spoke about clean fossil energy conversion systems.

Following the symposium was a banquet attended by about 100 people, both Chinese and non-Chinese. Chris Hobson, senior vice president of research and environmental affairs at Southern Co. in Atlanta, delivered a keynote address on environmental controls and advanced power generation.

CACS was founded on April 1, 1981, by the late Jesse C. H. Hwa and other CACS leaders. While attending ACS meetings in the 1970s, Hwa would see many Chinese faces but didn't have an opportunity to meet these scientists. He decided to organize a regular dinner where Chinese chemists and chemical engineers could meet and discuss issues of mutual interest. ACS, and later AIChE, gave him the green light to hold the banquets during their national meetings. Since then, the format has not changed: The events begin with a social hour, followed by a banquet and keynote lecture.

Photo by Linda Wang

Another Perk Nalley (left), who attended the Chinese-American Chemical Society banquet, autographs Feng's program book after dinner.

Among CACS's objectives are to promote fellowship among Chinese-American chemists, chemical engineers, and those working in related professions; to create opportunities for members to share their professional experiences and to participate in joint research and business opportunities; to provide career counseling for young people who are interested in science and engineering careers; and to recognize those individuals who have made outstanding contributions to chemical science and technology and have served the chemical profession.

During the anniversary symposium, Nalley reminded the audience of the importance of peer recognition. "I would like to encourage you and remind you to nominate your colleagues, to identify their accomplishments, and to recognize them. Please don't forget to nominate. Every year, you all should be nominating someone for awards. You have a lot of very, very accomplished colleagues."

Despite its achievements, CACS is still striving to increase its visibility among Chinese chemists and chemical engineers. Currently, CACS has around 300 members, but that number is small compared with the number of Chinese chemists and chemical engineers who attend ACS and AIChE meetings each year. "I think there's a lot of work to do to spread the word about CACS," says Yi Hua (Ed) Ma, professor of chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts, and president of CACS. "If you look at the number of Chinese members in either ACS or AIChE, it's amazing. Really amazing."

Ma's goal is to get younger chemists and chemical engineers involved, such as Lianmei Feng, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia. Feng attended the CACS banquet for the first time this year, having heard about the dinner through a friend. She admits that it's difficult for Chinese students to network because they tend to be reserved. For her, the banquet provided a casual atmosphere where she could meet other chemists with cultural backgrounds similar to hers. She said that speaking in her native language, Mandarin, made it easier for her to communicate with her peers.

Ma says he hopes that CACS will encourage Chinese chemists and chemical engineers to become more active in their communities and to voice their opinions. "I hope CACS can make them realize that we have got to do something," he says. "We've got to participate; we've got to speak up on things."

Yunsheng (Tony) Hsieh, principal scientist at Schering-Plough Research Institute, CACS's second vice president, and coorganizer of the 25th anniversary symposium, agrees. For him, participation in CACS has boosted his confidence and improved his leadership skills.

W. S. Winston Ho, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State University, chairman of the CACS board of directors, and coorganizer of the symposium, says he tries to meet everyone who comes to the banquets. It's a good opportunity, he says, to renew his fellowship with old friends and also to meet new people. "If you know each other, it's much easier to work together and resolve common issues," he says. He emphasizes that CACS welcomes both Chinese and non-Chinese.

Over the years, CACS has grown to include five local chapters: Great Lakes, New England, Northern California, Pittsburgh, and Tristate (New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania). These chapters offer chemists and chemical engineers more opportunities to network on the local level, and they often advertise job openings both in the U.S. and overseas. Some of the chapters even offer scholarships and mentoring programs for students. The Great Lakes Chapter is holding its 10th annual conference in Evanston, Ill., on Saturday, May 13.

At the end of the 25th-anniversary celebration, some graduate students stayed around to mingle, exchange contact information, and walk over to the Sci-Mix poster session together. They laughed, joked, and talked chemistry. It certainly was a night for making new friends and lasting impressions.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society