What do the Lego Dinosaur at Disney Springs, and the ACS Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition in Orlando have in common? Green chemistry! As a librarian without a background in chemistry, the conference sessions were very attainable. Speakers were diligent about tying their research to broader themes and making it accessible for attendees of all ages and educational backgrounds. During the meeting, I attended a session, the I&EC: 2019 Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Lectureship Awards: Symposium in Honor of Paul Dauenhauer. My motivation to participate in this symposium was to listen to a presentation by a faculty member from the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at Syracuse University, where I work as the Science and Engineering Librarian. During the symposium, I learned that one of the projects Dr. ‘Dauenhauer’s research team has embarked upon is creating new environmentally friendly, sustainable chemicals that can be used to manufacture products like plastic building blocks. Although the Lego Dinosaur at Disney Springs ‘isn’t made from these newer environmentally friendly building blocks, because of chemists like Dr. Dauenhauer, maybe ‘Disney’s next Lego Dinosaur will be.
ACS was a whirlwind of dashing from session to session, networking with librarians in the ACS Chemical Information Division (CINF), visiting posters and presentations by faculty and students from Syracuse University, socializing and networking with the ACS Publications staff, attending skill-building workshops, indulging in delicious meals, and enjoying the beautiful weather. I also crushed my daily step goals walking back and forth from my hotel to the Orange County Convention Center, which happens to be the second largest in the United States.
To make the most of your conference experience, I recommend planning ahead, starting with registration. ACS offers professional development workshops that take place before and during the conference. Some of the workshops are free! I attended a free half-day workshop on Leading Change, which included a full breakfast. It was an excellent opportunity to work towards one of my professional development goals without having to travel to an additional conference or workshop. A takeaway from the workshop that I found interesting was thinking about who should be involved with leading organizational change. Selecting people to be leaders during times of change is often dictated by a ‘person’s role in an organization, this workshop suggests a better option, which is to look at ‘people’s personalities and identify individuals who are naturally influential and whom people tend to gravitate towards in an organization.
Another reason to plan ahead is for the sheer fact that the ACS Annual Meeting is huge. There were approximately 15,000 people who attended the conference. This meant that there were an overwhelming number of sessions to choose from at all hours of the day, and typically ten sessions happening simultaneously that I wanted to see. In choosing sessions, it was helpful to filter my search by division. Of particular interest were sessions hosted by CINF and the Chemical Education Division (CHED). In the ACS conference app, you could also search by presenter affiliation, which allowed me to find the presentations and posters being given by students and faculty from Syracuse University.
A major highlight of the conference was my discovery of chemical metadata! Librarians and metadata are like two peas in a pod, like Hans Solo and Chewbacca the Wookiee, who by the way will be coming to Hollywood Studios starting in August. This was the window ‘I’d been searching for to help me better understand chemistry research. One of the CINF sessions, “Creating a Common Language for Chemistry: ‘IUPAC’s Past, Present & Future Roles,” organized by Helen Lawlor and Leah McEwen, discussed a new language for representing chemical molecules and compounds, called InChI (International Chemical Identifier). By creating a string of standardized characters for each molecule or compound, IUPAC has helped improve communication around chemistry in the age of computers and international research collaborations. Now, instead of solely relying on my knowledge of chemistry, this non-chemist librarian can bring her research and metadata expertise to the party. I plan to build the InCHI codes and CAS Registry numbers into my regular searching routine. A sampling of other topics covered in CINF sessions included presentations on a variety of chemical information databases and tools like PubChem and CompTox, presentations from the EPA about data and regulations related to green chemistry, resources for finding chemical safety information, using pop-culture themes like poison in Game of Thrones to enhance ‘students’ interest in chemistry, and many more!
Another magical moment at the conference, Disney pun intended, was the Sci-Mix poster session. Picture a large room packed to the brim with ‘100’s of excited high school students, and their posters, the energy in the room was intense. Hearing the students gush about their science and their enthusiasm for sharing their science with others, brought joy to my heart, especially after having a glass or two of wine at the ACS banquet before the Sci-Mix event! I truly appreciate the ACS effort to include students in the conference. The amount of student participation at the conference, from high school students to graduate students was unique, a level of student engagement I haven’t witnessed at other conferences and professional organizations.
The other librarian travel award winners, from Scotland and Virginia, were awesome to get to know. It made the ACS meeting that much better, having “travel buddies and ACS newbies” to share the experience with. We capped off the conference with another magical experience, dinner at Morimoto Asia, at Disney Springs! We shared drinks and great conversation with members of the ACS Publications team, and the membership chair of CINF. This was a fantastic way to wrap up the conference. I am incredibly grateful to ACS Publications for the funding, time, and attention to detail in making this experience memorable. I am also thankful for the time I spent talking with other librarians in the CINF Division. Collectively the group was incredibly knowledgeable, welcoming, and eager to answer questions about chemical information and research along with the questions about the division. They encouraged us to come back to ACS and to get involved with CINF. The ACS National Meeting is a valuable experience for any science focused librarian interested in improving their understanding of the latest trends in chemistry research, networking with and learning from other chemistry researchers and librarians, learning more about ACS resources and the multitude of opportunities for students, faculty, researchers, industry professionals, and librarians to get involved with ACS. I will definitely be returning to the ACS National Meeting in the future!
Emily Hart is a Science & Engineering Librarian at Syracuse University Libraries.