Education

Support of education at all levels is fundamental to ACS and to my focus in ACS. Shown here are examples of programs I’ve started ad/or supported. I’m interested in incorporating more collaborations between industry and educational institutions to expand support for education in the future.

Teacher Scholar Award

Presentation of the Teacher Scholar Award to Dr. Jeanette Medina. Left to right: Harry Unger, Jeanette Medina, Tom Lane, and Bonnie Charpentier

The Teacher Scholar Award is the first ACS award to recognize chemistry teaching and pedagogy at the two-year college level, I co-founded this award with Dr. Harry Unger, who identified a gap in ACS awards for teaching. It has been presented by the Santa Clara Valley Section since 2009. Similar awards have been established in other local sections subsequently. Please see my comment on recognition for community college teaching, and establishing the award by clicking on the link below. Given that about 30% of chemistry majors get their start at community colleges, it is especially important to recognize community college teaching and the dedication of those who do this important work.

Comment encouraging recognition of community college teaching

Letter to the editor, C&E News in response to comment

Workshop for Middle School Teachers

In 1996 I co-founded, in collaboration with a teacher, Juanita Ryan, an annual hands-on workshop for middle school teachers, with the support of local industry and the Santa Clara Valley Local Section. The workshop has provided training and hands-on experience with chemistry activities designed for middle school students. Held in conjunction with National Chemistry Week since then, this outstanding workshop has become a flagship event for teachers in the bay area and beyond, reaching an estimated 90,000 students.

New presentations, training materials and all materials needed to do experiments in the classroom are prepared each year to coordinate with the NCW theme. The workshop was originally co-sponsored by Roche Palo Alto, whose employees helped organize the workshop, provided tours of the research laboratories, and organized a very popular giveaway of supplies and equipment. Since the closure of the Roche site, the workshop has been supported by a grant from Gilead Sciences. Feedback has been extremely positive from the teachers and from their students who benefit from the teachers’ experience and the materials provided has been extremely positive. It has also provided leadership opportunities for new volunteers and industry/university/community partnerships.

American Association of Chemistry Teachers

Recognizing and honoring high school teaching with awardee Michael Morgan

As a charter member of AACT, it has been great to see the growth of this organization, run by and for teachers. I’ve been delighted to support memberships for local teachers, and to include memberships as part of the workshop for teachers and other teacher programs.

Project SEED

As a long-time supporter of Project SEED, I have advocated for increased support for this program, which has a proud heritage in supporting economically disadvantaged students. This collaboration among the Project SEED Office, ACS local sections, industry and academia, provides important opportunities for students to learn about chemistry as a career. We should continue to grow our support for SEED students and share best practices across local sections to provide opportunities for students throughout our geographic reach.

Outreach

Outreach to Children in Homeless Shelters

The Shelter project began from a discussion with colleagues about which children were most in need of outreach projects following the economic downturn in which many families lost their homes. Contacting homeless shelters where families were housed confirmed the need, and the project was begun in 2012.

Partnering with the Shelter Network of San Mateo County helped us design a program suitable for the different settings and age groups. In the first year, the project brought science to the summer day camps of four shelters in the bay area. Volunteers facilitated hands-on experiments such as exploring polymers through making slime, flubber and bouncy balls and demonstrating freezing point depression by making ice cream in plastic bags. Each child received a gift bag with chemistry-themed items and the shelter libraries received copies of the book “Apples, Bubbles, and Crystals”.

Since then the shelter outreach project evolved to offering after school and evening programs at shelters once a month. The program expanded to two counties and six shelters. The program has matched student volunteer groups at several universities with individual shelters to provide enthusiastic student volunteers with kids who have lost so many areas of stability and support in their lives. The project has been a great collaboration with adult and student ACS volunteers, and with the shelter staff. An example of feedback from shelter staff follows: “I wanted to say a huge thank you from all of us here at Haven Family House for sending volunteers from ACS to work with our kids. Your volunteers were truly fantastic, they had great demos and experiments, and the kids really enjoyed learned about science and how it can be fun.”

National Chemistry Week, Family Science Night, Chemists Celebrate Earth Day

My participation with National Chemistry Week (NCW) dates from the time it was originally National Chemistry Day. NCW is a program that clearly needs more than a day to celebrate. As a program with very high member participation, NCW has a huge positive impact on the public perception of chemistry. Like many other ACS member volunteers, I’ve also worked on teams to present activities and demonstrations at schools and other venues (including a soccer field between games), and projects such as creek clean-ups for Chemists Celebrate Earth Day. These experiences help provide a first-hand understanding of what works for effective outreach to the public and how to present a positive image of chemistry. I’ve learned a lot from volunteer colleagues and from feedback from members of the public which I believe will be helpful for our programs in the future.

Tech Trek, Sally Ride Festival, Bay Area Science Fair

Analyzing vitamin C at Tech Trek

The Sally Ride Festival and Tech Trek are programs designed to draw girls to science and math.
The Sally Ride Festival is open to any of the public and involves science demonstrations; in my local area, it has been held at Stanford, and includes chemistry activities thanks to the Santa Clara Valley Section volunteers. Tech Trek, also held at Stanford, is organized by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and brings middle school girls to week long camps with a focus on STEM. We have partnered with AAUW for several years to do chemistry experiments with the girls at the camps. I’ve also been happy to be involved with presenting chemistry activities at the Bay Area Science Fair, which draws tens of thousands of participants. These different programs provide models of different ways ACS volunteers can collaborate with other groups to provide effective public outreach and share the transforming power of chemistry.

Chemists in the Community

One of the first things I did as a new ACS Board member was to look for ways for Board members to be more engaged in working side-by-side with other ACS volunteers. The fall ACS National Meeting in San Francisco that year offered an opportunity to do just that. Working with other volunteers from the hosting local sections, the California Section and the Santa Clara Valley Section, Chemists in the Community was created. We worked with Hands On Bay Area to identify and organize community projects, with the idea that ACS would leave the host city better than we found it. Four locations were chosen for the project with different times and physical ability

Bonnie with Natalie McClure, a co-organizer, at the San Francisco zoo.

requirements. The earliest in the day was the San Francisco Zoo from 8-11 AM, Heron’s Head Park in the Hunter’s Point area of San Francisco from 10-2 PM for weeding and planting native plants and was supervised and arranged through a local organization, Literacy for Environmental Justice. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy hosted volunteers from 1-4 at the Fort Funston nursery project preparing native plant seedlings for maturation. The final location was the San Francisco Food Bank from 12:30-3 for chemists preparing boxes of food for distribution.

Volunteers at the bay planting native plants with local students.

Many meeting attendees arranged their travel schedules to participate in the event, and the ACS Board also re-arranged their schedule to participate. President Ann Nalley provided support from her ACS budget. The event was also a great venue for teamwork – at the Food Bank, for example, the ACS volunteers completed the task of organizing and packing food for distribution in 2 hours, when the expected time was 3.5 hours. The Food Bank invited ACS come back any time. The event was a wonderful cooperative effort of the local sections, ACS meeting attendees, and local San Francisco Community groups including involvement of at-risk youth. We also had a lot of fun.

C&EN Comment on Chemists in the Community

Diversity Partnerships

Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board (D&I)

I am proud to have been part of the establishment of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, which grew out of a collaboration of individuals across several ACS Committees (The Joint Subcommittee on Diversity). This is a great example of ACS members seeing a need for collaboration and creating a way to establish that collaboration. Conversations with the members of the Joint Committee on Diversity indicated they would like to have more recognition and support from the larger ACS organization, and we established the D&I Advisory Board to provide that support and establish strong communication between the D&I Advisory Board and the ACS Board of Directors to support this important effort. We need to continue a strong effort for true diversity and inclusion so that all our members feel part of the larger community and have the opportunity to collaborate.

National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE)

Bonnie giving a keynote address to kick off the NOBCChE STEM Weekend 2014. Credit: Sophia Cai/C&EN
Judges Paula Christopher (from left), Bonnie, and Robert Gooden at the NOBCChE 2011 Science Bowl. Credit: Lauren Wolf/C&EN

ACS and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) have a long-standing collaboration. I have been involved as both an ACS volunteer and a NOBCChE member. I’ve been honored to provide a keynote address at the NOBCChE annual meeting and to receive an honorary Kente Cloth. Working with students in the Science Bowl has been a delight, and it has been inspirational to see the dedication of the students and their coaches and parents. I look forward to continuing and growing ACS collaborations with NOBCChE.

Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)

The headquarters of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is located within my local ACS section, providing opportunities for information collaborations. The idea for an outreach program for homeless and economically disadvantaged students grew out of conversations at a SACNAS national meeting held in San Jose. SACNAS student chapters at local universities have collaborated with ACS student chapters in several outreach programs, including the program for children in homeless shelters.

As a SACNAS member, I have had the opportunity to provide mentoring through review of abstracts for the national meeting. Collaborations between ACS and other scientific societies work for the benefit of all, especially for students.

Scholars

Bonnie with ACS Scholar Melanie A. Wiley and Madeleine Jacobs. Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

The Scholars program is an outstanding example of effective partnering and mentoring to support under-represented minority students in science. Funding for scholarships for the students is provided by a substantial list of donor companies, philanthropic partners, local sections and individual members, including myself. Vital to the success of the Scholars program is the time commitment of volunteers who mentor the students. Scholars has a proven track record and should be supported to reach even more underrepresented students.

American Women in Science (AWIS)

My membership in American Women in Science (AWIS) is almost as long as my ACS membership, and has provided many opportunities for collaborations. I think one of the strongest aspects of AWIS is mentoring, across disciplines and across generations. I was honored to receive the 2014 Sherrie Wilkins Award for Distinguished Professionals from the Northern California Chapters of AWIS for professional achievements and for mentoring activities.

A recent C&EN survey found that chemistry faculty members in the top 50 research universities (ranked by NSF based on chemistry research spending) were about 15% women, and the number of full professors was less, currently about 11% women. Those numbers stand in contrast to the number of undergraduate chemistry majors (around 50% women), with chemistry PhDs trending about 35% women. Within ACS, the number of women members is about one third. Mentoring and sharing experiences among women in chemistry and other scientific disciplines is vital to women scientists’ careers. The Women Chemists Committee works to provide support for women seeking chemistry careers, and address the recognition of women chemists for ACS awards. Partnering with AWIS in these types of endeavors helps form an informed and supportive community.

Employment Initiatives and Mentoring

One of the first ACS programs I was involved with as a young analytical chemist was the Younger Chemists Committee Chemical Career Insights Program (aka the Road Show), visiting campuses and talking with students about chemistry careers. On one road show my 3-month-old baby came along and generated a lot of discussion about work and family balance. Since then, I’ve been involved with many other programs to support members with careers, and programs for undergraduate and graduate students.

Student Interview Workshop

One program I co-founded is the Student Interview Workshop, a collaborative effort of the Santa Clara Valley and California ACS Sections and the AIChE Northern California Chapter. We visit campuses, discuss interview skills and careers, and have each student practice interviewing with a coach and a group of fellow students.

I’ve also presented in career programs with the ACS Division of Chemistry and the Law, the ACS Women Chemists Committee, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), and on many university campuses and meetings. I really enjoyed my laboratory career, and I have also really enjoyed putting my analytical thinking skills to work in other research and development roles. Sharing those experiences with others making career choices is always interesting, especially when involves hearing others’ choices and career paths.

There are no simple to solutions to helping all chemists find satisfying employment, but communication among chemists to share information is a powerful tool, and we can use ACS resources more effectively to better enable such communication.
ACS webinar “Exploring Alternative Careers in Chemistry”

Mentoring has been an important part of my professional life, both within the places I’ve worked, and formally and informally with other groups. This work was recognized by receipt of the Mentoring Appreciation Award at Metabolex, Inc. in 2008 and the Sherrie Wilkins Award for Distinguished Professionals, American Women in Science (AWIS) Northern California Chapters, 2014.

Receiving the Sherrie Wilkins Award from the late Sherrie Wilkins’ husband
With nominator, Martha Murari, an ACS and AWIS colleague

Advocacy

In these challenging times, when science is being politicized and dismissed, we need continue to strengthen our advocacy programs to reach legislators not only on Capitol Hill, but in their home districts. ACS has good programs for Advocacy on Capitol Hill, and Act 4 Chemistry to involve members, however, we need to support more member engagement and involvement. For example, we have effective advocacy programs in some states, but others are inactive or non-existent. We should provide increased support for state programs – we know how to do it; we simply need to commit the resources.

We lament the lack of scientists in Congress, however, we have done little to change that picture. We can provide support and information for members who are interested in becoming more involved in the political process, be it running for school board, for Congress, or for any office in between.

ACS has policy statements on a wide variety of topics, developed by members of ACS committees in collaboration with staff. Many members do not know they exist, although input is welcome from all members. We need to find ways to inform and engage more members in developing policy statements.
My deep experience in advocacy, both with ACS and with patient advocacy groups, provides a spring board for working effectively to advocate for science and for education. That experience includes Capitol Hill, state, local, and international communications and interactions.

Comment: Capitol Hill with Kristin Omberg

Comment: Get involved, … Run for Office

Comment: ACS Policies and Members


Congressional fly-in with Tom Lane and Representative Mike Honda


Visiting the California legislature with Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction


Bonnie with the Northeastern Local Section (NESACS) at the March for Science

International Collaborations

Collaboration with other professional scientific societies benefits all chemists and makes our education and outreach programs stronger. I am pleased and honored to have established solid working relationships with many chemistry societies around the world, including the Canadian Society of Chemistry and the Sociedad Brasileira do Química (SBQ, the Brazilian Chemical Society). A sampling of other partnerships is shown here.

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies at the ACS National Meeting in Anaheim 2011.
Signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (the German Chemical Society). Bonnie with Joe Francisco and Michael Droscher.
With Prof. Dr. Thisbe K. Lindhorst, President of the German Chemical Society at the ACS National Meeting Fall 2017.
Meeting with the Royal Society of Chemistry in the House of Commons.
At the House of Commons with Rep. Bart Gordon, chair of the U.S. House Science & Technology Committee and Andrew Miller, a member of Parliament and chair of its Science & Technology Select Committee, hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

It has been my honor to participate in national meetings of the Sociedad Química de México (SQM, the Mexican Chemical Society) for several years. That participation has included serving as a Plenary lecturer, presenting in a symposium on drug development, and collaboration on ideas for outreach programs to the public, including programs organized by students such as the 3D periodic table display, below. The collaborations of ACS with SQM have resulted in great programs for education and outreach and should be continued and expanded.