Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I'm a Chemist? Who Knew? 

Today I received my invitation to apply for membership in the American Chemical Society! I can't tell you how thrilled I am, after all these years of hard work... No, wait. I haven't had anything to do with the chemical industry since my year of Chem 101 and 102 my first year at Bryn Mawr, in the fall of 1982 (and it was right after lunch, so we were all prone to post-prandial napping during the lecture. Then there was the time that Dr. Ernst Berliner was puzzled by my apparent glass sculpture making, when it was actually just my practicing tube-bending on the instructions of Dr. Frances Berliner after I screwed up my initial attempt). Why am I getting this mailing?

Wait - there's a little letter inside that opens with: "Dear colleague: Do you wonder why someone whom you've never met would nominate you for membership in the American Chemical Society?" Why yes... *looking at signature line* ...Denise, I am wondering that. Please tell me!

"I would, too. And that's why I asked Debbie Fillinich if I could enclose this brief note of explanation [thank you, Denise!].

The American Chemical Society Bylaws state that to become a member of ACS, you must be nominated by two current members.

Many chemical practitioners who wanted to join informed us that this was a real barrier. They had the credentials - the degree, academic training, and job title required [this is apparently the largest scientific society in the world, with over 160,000 members - if you're working in the industry, how can you not know a member]. But they didn't know any members or were uncomfortable asking a colleague to make the nomination [get over it - ask your colleague to recommend you, then take her out to lunch].

So Debbie's office came up with a novel idea. Each year they would compile a master list of likely candiates for ACS membership: chemists working in academia [nope], industry [nope], government [nope], and other venues [nope]. Then we would carefully review the list to ensure that the candidates merited nomination [apparently not that carefully]. If they did, we agreed to make the admission process easier by pre-nominating these screened [better check that screen for holes] candidates."

Yeah, I'm thinking that someone list company screwed up their requests for American Constitution Society and the American Chemistry Society, and now law students, attorneys and other constitutionally-minded progressives around the company are being encouraged to apply for the resume-enhancing credentials that come with membership in the American Chemistry Society.

Now it's time to pack for my trip to Dallas tomorrow. Clearly I hate packing and will latch onto any distraction to postpone the inevitable.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:01 PM