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ACS News

September 11, 2006
Volume 84, Number 37
p. 40

Young Chemists Unite

Chemical societies bring together early-career scientists from both sides of the pond

Amanda Yarnell

Californian Michael D. Burkart left last month's Transatlantic Frontiers of Chemistry meeting with more than a pocketful of business cards. The assistant professor from the University of California, San Diego, picked up a few phrases from his British colleagues, too. "The meeting really allowed me to 'peer out of the teacup,' " he told C&EN.

Amanda Yarnell/C&EN

WELCOME MAT GDCh's Hopf (left), ACS's Hunt (second from left), and RSC's Feast (right) welcomed young scientists to the meeting. California Institute of Technology chemistry professor John D. (Jack) Roberts (second from right) kicked off the scientific program with a fascinating history of the evolution of nuclear magnetic resonance in organic chemistry.

Burkart was one of 90 early-career chemists from the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. who met in Durham, N.H., last month for the biennial Transatlantic Frontiers of Chemistry meeting. Sponsored by the American Chemical Society, the German Chemical Society (GDCh), and the U.K.'s Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), this meeting aims to help scientists from each of the three countries build productive and sustainable international collaborations early in their careers.

"I don't think scientists have completely realized what globalization means for them," said Henning Hopf, vice president of GDCh. As science becomes an increasingly global enterprise, "it is imperative scientists look outside their borders," added ACS President-Elect Catherine T. Hunt.

Aiming to help the young scientists attending look outside not only their national borders but also their disciplinary borders, the meeting's organizers—nine young faculty from the U.S., the U.K., and Germany—assembled a broad and diverse scientific program spanning catalysis, materials chemistry, and chemical biology.

"The standard of the research was magnificent and showed the breadth and depth of the work going on in each of the three countries," said organizer Duncan Graham, a professor at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. "I'm sure many of the participants will go on to become opinion leaders in the field, and I hope the experience has been beneficial."

"I really enjoyed hearing about so many different topics of chemistry," said organizer Melanie S. Sanford, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "It was exciting to meet so many young chemists from around the world. I think that this is the type of environment that is likely to foster collaborative research going forward."

"The meeting permitted me personally to initiate potential collaborations," said participant Mohamed Eddaoudi, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida. In addition, Eddaoudi used the meeting to explore how he might start international student exchanges with fellow faculty across the Atlantic.

Amanda Yarnell/C&EN

ARCHITECTS With help from Tamara Nameroff (far left) and Beth Rudd (far right) of ACS's Office of International Activities and others from RSC and GDCh, nine young chemists organized this year's meeting, including Graham (from second from left); Paul A. Maggard of North Carolina State University; Stefan Meeking of the University of Konstanz, in Germany; Burkart; Ben Davis of the University of Oxford, in England; Carsten Schmuck of the University of Würzburg, in Germany; Sanford; and Krossing. Organizer Claire Carmalt of University College, London, is not pictured.

UC San Diego's Burkart, who chaired the meeting, said he too is looking forward to starting a collaboration with someone he met in Durham. "This meeting is a phenomenal chance to make connections that will last us for the rest of our careers," he added.

"The value of this meeting is getting to know people," said Ulrich Stilz of Sanofi-Aventis. A coorganizer of an earlier edition of this meeting, he pointed out that it "is particularly useful to young people, since many of us don't know our counterparts across the pond."

"The broad scope and small, personal size of this meeting is unique," explained organizer Ingo Krossing, a professor at the University of Freiburg, in Germany. "It provides lifelong scientific contacts and forges new ideas that may lead to joint proposals and papers."

Transatlantic Frontiers of Chemistry got its start as the German-American Frontiers of Chemistry Symposium in 2000. Cosponsored by ACS and GDCh, the biennial meeting aimed to strengthen German-American scientific ties. This year marks the first time that RSC has taken part. "We are delighted to have been asked to participate," RSC President Jim Feast told C&EN.

"RSC's involvement will increase the impact of what is already a highly successful collaboration," ACS's Hunt explained. "No one country, no one chemical society can or should go it alone."

Indeed, according to Hopf, GDCh has been so pleased with the conference's continued success that it launched a similar meeting series with the Chinese Chemical Society earlier this year. The next Transatlantic Frontiers of Chemistry meeting will take place in the U.K. in 2008.

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