Comments From the Chair

September 2020 Issue

Welcome back! I hope that your Summer was pleasant and with Fall coming our way, it is time to look forward to the remainder of 2020.


First, our Executive Committee met again to discuss the “Green Phase” of Pennsylvania re-opening protocols as it applied to the ACS Philadelphia Section. Based on these discussions and upon review of these decisions with the Board of Directors of the ACS Philadelphia Section, all Regular Meetings and Meetings of the Board of Directors will remain virtual for the remainder of 2020. The chief rationale for this decision was that in-person meetings, with the required stringent social distancing and mask-wearing requirements, would make in-person networking difficult. To that end, the Section has taken advantage of an offer from ACS National to utilize a Zoom account that is fully subsidized until May 2021. We will be using this platform exclusively for virtual meetings moving forward. That said, should COVID-19 conditions improve where we can more easily hold an in-person meeting in a manner that is advantageous for networking, the Section is fully prepared to pivot to in-person meetings accordingly. Let us hope that conditions improve where we can truly do this in a beneficial manner. I am sure all of us are suffering from some semblance of Zoom fatigue!


In 2016, my predecessor, Dr. Deborah Cook, won the Section election as Chair-Elect by only a couple of votes. Moving forward to the 2018 election, the Section held an election for both Chair and Chair-Elect, with three candidates running for election as defined by our Section by-laws. My immediate predecessor, Dr. James K. Murray, Jr., won the election for 2019 Chair by only five votes. The runner-up – the person writing this article – became the 2019 Chair-Elect and 2020 Chair by only one, single vote.

In this edition of the Catalyst, you will see the slate of candidates for our 2020 Election, which was approved in a Special Meeting of our Board of Directors this past July. Soon, you will be seeing in your email a SurveyMonkey ballot so that you may vote in this election. Please do not cast this email aside in your spam filter or put this in your electronic recycling bin! Please vote! We typically have roughly 10% of our members voting for any given year, and as you can see from these election results that I have just described, every single vote does count, and one, single vote may have an extremely critical impact on the governance of the Section. Your vote does matter and it is a way for you to be heard, so please take advantage of this profound opportunity to shape the Section in the manner that you – our membership – want it to be shaped.


This past August 12th, the ACS Philadelphia Section held its 2nd Annual Summer Event, this time through virtual means. We had a wonderful time taste-testing beer from the comfort of our own homes, as well as enjoying a panel discussion on brewing sciences featuring Marisa Egan from the University of the Sciences, Adam Bartles of Two Robbers Hard Seltzer and Tom Kehoe, CEO of Yards Brewing. My gratitude to our Philly YCC Chair Isabella Goodenough, Program Planning Committee Member Dr. Gangotri Dey for coordinating this event, and to JP Northrop, a Past Chair of the ACS Philadelphia Section, for assisting the group with networking for this very well-attended event as well as doing an outstanding job fielding questions from the participants.


As you will read in this edition of the Catalyst, on September 9th, the ACS Philadelphia Section is proud to host Dr. Thomas M. Connelly, Jr., the Chief Executive Officer of the American Chemical Society. Tom will be giving his presentation along with an opportunity for you to ask him questions. This is an outstanding opportunity for all of us to connect with ACS at its highest levels and learn more about the Society and its future direction, so please join us for this event! As with last September’s event, our Philly YCC took charge of this event, so I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Taylor Keller of Philly YCC and Dr. Gangotri Dey of the Program Planning Committee for their assistance.

As with last September, our Philly YCC took the major lead in coordinating this month’s event. This year, Philly YCC has joined forces with the Chemical Consultants Network (CCN). This is a Topical Group of the Section which focuses on the concerns of independent consultants. They meet throughout the year with a break during the summer, and they offer technical programming as well as talks focused on the needs of chemical consultants in a wide variety of disciplines. I would like to acknowledge the help of Dr. Keith Wing, the Chair of CCN, on this September event, especially with the coordination with ACS National and with Tom Connelly to make this event possible. Please take the time to visit CCN’s website at to learn more about this outstanding Topical Group!


As we move toward the last quarter of 2020, we still have a few more events on the way. First, I am pleased to announce to you that, with the wonderful and enthusiastic cooperation of the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania, we will be holding the 2020 Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture! Our 2020 Lecturer, Professor Barbara Imperiali of MIT, has graciously agreed to present the Lecture through virtual means, and we will be forwarding the information and timing on this to you soon. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Section and Penn Chemistry to thank Professor Imperiali for her willingness to present her research and for her support of this historic lecture series. The Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture has been cancelled 5 times in its 91-year history: from the years 1943-1945 because of World War II, and from the years 1972-1973 because of the Vietnam War. For the first time in the Lecture’s history, it will be presented virtually, and because we live in a time where such technology exists, we are proud to announce that the oldest lectureship in the United States co-sponsored by a Local ACS Section and a University will continue strong and without a sixth cancellation despite the global pestilence we face. My heartfelt gratitude to Dr. David Christianson, Chair of the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania for his enthusiastic support of this effort, Chris Jeffrey of the University of Pennsylvania for coordinating logistics, and Anna Boffice, Administrative Assistant for Penn Chemistry and the Section, for their help with this event.

Next month, the ACS Philadelphia Section Award will be featured. We will also honor our Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the Chemical Sciences and our Excellence in Pre-College Teaching Award winners at this time. You may recall that the Section postponed these awards from April due to COVID-19 mandated closures, so we are pleased to honor these award winners now.

Moving to 2021, our Chair-Elect, Dr. Christine McInnis, has the year’s slate of Regular Meetings mapped out very well, and she has done an outstanding job in growing and expanding our Program Planning Committee for next year’s series of programming. Be on the lookout in January for some exciting Section events!

As always, should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at Your input, ideas, questions, and concerns are always valued and welcomed.

In the meantime, let us all take time to enjoy the fall foliage during this time of year, and we will touch base in October!

June 2020 Issue

During our April and May Board of Directors Teleconferences, we discussed our current response to the COVID-19 pandemic regarding our Section events. Moving forward for the remainder of 2020, our events will be planned for the contingency of continued virtualization if government restrictions require it.

As I write this, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has moved 37 counties in the “Yellow” phase of re-opening, requiring aggressive COVID-19 mitigation protocols, which includes al-lowing gatherings of 25 people or less. The State of New Jersey, which encompasses Section territory in Burlington and Camden counties, continues to be under a stay-at-home order.

For now, Section events remain virtualized. However, in anticipation of a future move from stay-at-home to aggressive mitigation protocols, I will be calling the Executive Committee to order again to discuss what a Section event would look like under these conditions and if it is prudent for the Section to begin to hold events under these conditions, continue with our virtualized events until restrictions have been loosened more, or to have hybrid in-person/virtual events.

As I mentioned in my May column, please continue to monitor our website (, the monthly email that you receive, as well as our LinkedIn group for the latest, up-to-date information. Please also continue to read the Catalyst. I’ll be using this column to break down and explain the decision making of the Board of Directors, our Executive Committee and any executive decisions that I need to make on behalf of the Section to address this ever-changing health crisis and its impact on the Section.


As a result of our cancelled April meeting, the Section was not permitted to honor our Student Scholastic Achievement Award Winners in the traditional, in-person manner in which the Section is accustomed. To compensate for this, you will see in this month’s edition of the Catalyst profiles of the students that we are honoring this year. As I mentioned in April’s column, we traditionally ask our student award winners three questions: What is your name? What school did you attend? What do you plan to do after graduation? We continue this tradition in this edition of the Catalyst. Our student award winners have graciously answered these questions and we publish their responses here. Congratulations to our students for their accomplishments and we extend our gratitude to them for their graciousness with responding to our requests as well as their understanding as the Section adapts to a difficult time in our history.


In June, we traditionally honor our 50-, 60- and 70-year members. As I mentioned in last month’s column and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we unfortunately had to cancel this event. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate these members in their service to the Society. Currently, the Section is working with these anniversary members to honor them, and you will be seeing their traditional profiles in the September edition of the Catalyst.


It is known in industrial chemistry that a product which has an application in one area can be found to have an application in another area. There is frequent switching of applications in chemistry. This month’s talk by Dr. Robert Hormann explains such an application switch, where science applied to insecticide research was translated to gene therapy. What is also fascinating is that the gene therapy application involves a gene switch! I’ll leave the details to Dr. Hormann’s abstract which you’ll find in this edition of the Catalyst, but I hope that you’ll switch on your computer (sorry, couldn’t help the pun) and watch this fascinating technical talk!


Provided that COVID-19 cooperates with us, here’s what we’re planning: In August, the Section will be holding another networking-type event at a local winery. Please be on the lookout for this event in our email blasts and our website as well as our LinkedIn group for more details, as the next edition of the Catalyst will be published in September. Speaking of September, we will be hosting Dr. Thomas Connelly, the CEO of ACS on September 9th in association with our Topical Group, the Chemical Consultants Network, and Philly YCC. In the Fall, we plan to re-visit the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture which was originally scheduled for March of this year. In October, we will honor the ACS Philadelphia Section award winner in addition to the Excellence in Pre-College Teaching and Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the Chemical Sciences Awards. Finally, in November, Nobel Laureate Dr. Peter Agre joins us at the Science History Institute for the 2020 Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture. As the Section has demonstrated so far, we will offer events virtually if restrictions are placed before us, and we will inform you of what we will do every step of the way.


At this point, the Section will go on its traditional Summer break. I would like to thank our Officers, Members of the Board of Directors, Committee Chairs and Topical Group Chairs for their cooperation, professionalism and support of the Section and its efforts during this very unusual and difficult time. I would also like to thank you, our membership, for your patience, understanding and support as we navigate together during this novel and complicated point in Section history.

As always, my door is open to your questions, comments and concerns. Please feel free to email me at We are also open to volunteers, too, so if there is something of interest or if you have an idea where you think you can contribute to growing the Section, please let me know.

Summer is here! My hope is that you have a restful, peaceful and enjoyable Summer that is productive in your work and fun with your family and friends. Stay well and safe, and we’ll catch up in September!

May 2020 Issue

The ACS Philadelphia Section continues to adjust to the realities of COVID-19 as the impact of the virus increases at an exponential rate. At the end of March and in my capacity as Chair of the ACS Philadelphia Section, I made the executive decision to cancel our April 21st Awards Banquet featuring Professor Jinglin Fu of Rutgers-Camden and to convert this to the webinar featuring Professor Fu’s talk exclusively that was held this past April 21st. The path forward for recognizing the award winners will be discussed later in this column. Moving on to this month, I have also decided to make the May 21st Section Meeting featuring LinkedIn expert Coach Ron Nash a webinar-only event. Finally and in consultation with the Section’s Executive Committee, the June 11th luncheon to honor our 50-, 60- and 70-year members has also been cancelled, and the Section will be working with these individuals to afford them the recognition that they so justly deserve for their many years of service to the Society. This recognition will include the traditional awarding of an anniversary certificate and recognition in the Catalyst as well as an invitation to the 2021 member anniversary luncheon. Dr. Robert Hormann, the President of Boraura, Inc. and the keynote for the June event, has also agreed to present his talk as an exclusive webinar to the Section membership on June 11th. As our Board of Directors meetings always have a teleconferencing option, they will continue to be held so that the Section is properly governed, and that business continues to be conducted in as normal a manner as is possible. I am grateful to Professor Fu and Dr. Hormann for their flexibility and cooperation in helping our Local Section during this difficult time in our Section’s history.

All these decisions were made according to guidance issued by the CDC and the President of the United States as well as state and local agencies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing.

Moving forward, this past March 23rd, I called the Executive Committee to order to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Section. The decisions that I have described above were discussed and explained, with significant input being sought and considered, especially in order to honor our award winners and our 50-, 60- and 70-year members in an appropriate and fitting manner. The Executive Committee is also looking forward to the Fall, with the postponed Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture and a visit from ACS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Thomas Connolly on the schedule. In collaboration with our Chair-Elect and Awards Committee Chair, Dr. Christine McInnis, the Executive Committee has decided for this year to combine honoring our Excellence in Pre-College Teaching and Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the Chemical Sciences Awards with our ACS Philadelphia Section Award ceremony in October. The Committee has also paved a path forward to ensure that our Student Scholastic Achievement Award winners that were to be recognized at the April meeting are also honored in a manner befitting their achievements while upholding our Section’s traditions for this award.

I am sincerely grateful for the input and advice given by those who have participated in this critical Executive Committee meeting for our Local Section.

As the Catalyst is a monthly newsletter which is deadline driven, it is impractical from a logistics standpoint to publish the most recent information on this quickly changing response to COVID-19 in this forum. I will be using this column to report to you – our membership – why either the Board of Directors, our Executive Committee, or I have made the decisions that we have made and how those decisions impact the Section. I will also be doing this in a manner which gives you the detail that it deserves, so some of these columns may be longer than in previous years.

For the most current, up-to-date, information on the activities of the ACS Philadelphia Section, please pay attention to these resources:

  • Our Section’s monthly email blast: Ms. Marge Matthews has faithfully distributed this email to you, our members, for many years. It is highly interactive with links to all the in-formation and events that you need. Marge will be distributing any urgent changes to events through this forum, and I want to publicly thank Marge for her efforts in quickly distributing this information to you.
  • Our Section’s website – Mr. Matthew Bodek, our Section’s web-master, and our Chair-Elect, Dr. Christine McInnis, have worked to recently update the website so that it has a cleaner interface. The home page now has a calendar of events which can be rapidly changed to update you on any events which may either be cancelled or converted to a webinar due to COVID-19. You can also now view the Section’s Face-book and Twitter feed right on the website as well. I want to thank Matt and Christie for their efforts here and invite you to look at the updated website.
  • Our Section’s LinkedIn group: If you go to the Section’s website and click on the LinkedIn button, you will be led directly to the Section’s LinkedIn group. Here you will find the latest information about the Section’s activities and updates on our events. Please join this group as this will help us to get more rapid information out to you.

    Certainly, you are welcome to reach out to me with any questions or concerns by sending an email to, and I’ll be happy to discuss them with you. We live in very disturbing and unsettling times, but together – step-by-step, with our scientific problem-solving skills, determination and grit – we will persevere through the end of this and when it does end, we will together enjoy the brighter and better days that the ACS Philadelphia Section and you – our members – so justly deserve.


With the pestilence that is COVID-19, we have come across a new phrase in our lexicon: social distancing. I am sure that all of us have some semblance of cabin fever and would like the days of social distancing to be quickly over, especially with Springtime weather here! But while we socially distance ourselves physically in the fight to destroy COVID-19, it does not mean that we need to be entirely socially distant. The timing of this LinkedIn webinar for our May Regular Meeting could not be better.

The ACS Philadelphia Section has streamed Section events before, especially our Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture. However, these events have always been coupled with the physical event itself. As the Section has done for the April meeting and now for May, the ACS Philadelphia Section will go entirely virtual by webinar. In doing this in the short-term age of social distancing, the Section does its part to keep its members safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Long term, having a webinar component may help our Regular Meetings be more available to a wider audience, especially to those in our membership who find commuting to our Regular Meetings difficult.

In January, I discussed the pop culture phenomenon of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and how it applies to LinkedIn. For this month, our Career Services Committee, under the leader-ship of Dr. Dennis Murphy, has invited Coach Ron Nash to expand upon LinkedIn and how to better utilize it. Some of you may have interacted with Coach Ron if you attended the ACS Career Fair at the ACS National Meeting this past August in San Diego, so we welcome Coach Ron through virtual means to the ACS Philadelphia Section and look forward to his expertise.

The ACS Philadelphia Section appreciates that our members may have some cabin fever, so Coach Ron and Dennis have planned something a little different. We may not be able to gather at the local craft brewery for fun networking in person, but that’s not going to stop us from do-ing it virtually through Zoom! Before Coach Ron discusses LinkedIn, we will be holding a virtual “happy half-hour” which Coach Ron will moderate. This should be a fun, light-hearted warm-up to a great talk – all in the comfort of your home (and we could all use a bit of fun and light-heartedness at this point, anyway!).

In June, Dr. Robert Hormann, the President of Boraura, Inc., will be giving a webinar-based discussion on his involvement with Rheoswitch technology that is used for gene therapy. We are also looking to once again hold a light networking event in late August (and hopefully in-person, too!). In the Fall, we are looking to hold the re-scheduled Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture with the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania. On September 9th, the Section will be hosting a visit from ACS CEO Dr. Thomas Connolly. As I mentioned earlier, October will be our combined Teaching Awards and ACS Philadelphia Section Award ceremony. Finally, on November 19th, Nobel Laureate Dr. Peter Agre of Johns Hopkins University will present the Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture.

So, despite COVID-19, the ACS Philadelphia Section remains as strong as ever, and together, step-by-step, we will all enjoy the Section’s brighter and better days when this health crisis finally comes to an end.

As always, should you ever have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me at with your thoughts. Please know that this is your professional home and that you are welcome. In the meantime, please stay healthy and safe, and we will chat next month!

April 2020 Issue

There is no question that all of us are justly concerned about the novel Covid-19 virus, and the reports that we have been seeing in the nightly news have been most disconcerting. No doubt this new scourge on humanity is having a swift and adverse effect on what we do. Even the American Chemical Society and this Local Section have been affected, with the cancellation of last month’s ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia as well as last month’s Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture, which the Section co-hosts with the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania. Certainly, we are justly disappointed in these cancellations and have a deep concern for the safety and well-being of all.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Sharon Haynie and her staff of volunteers who have put forth a great effort to coordinate our Local Section efforts for the ACS National Meeting. These volunteers worked very hard toward this National Meeting and did so in a very upbeat and positive way. They deserve our heartfelt thanks and sincere gratitude and have captured the spirit of what the ACS Philadelphia Section is all about. I would also like to thank Dr. Lee Hoffman, the Chair of the Communications Committee, Ms. Robin Davis, the Editor-In-Chief of the Catalyst, and all of the volunteers of the Communications Committee who have put together the Special Edition of the Catalyst for the National Meeting. Even though the National Meeting was cancelled, I still invite you to look through this Special Edition of the Catalyst on our Section’s website (see:, as it very useful even outside of chemistry and the National Meeting. It contains a wealth of information about the Philadelphia area that you can use for your own leisure time with family and friends.

In that Special Edition of the Catalyst, I mentioned in my column that Philadelphians are people who have determination and grit. As the Chair of this Local Section, I want to let you know that our Board of Directors – together with you, our members – have the determination and grit to get past this sad and unprecedented moment in the history of our Local Section and of the ACS itself and move the ACS Philadelphia Section forward to brighter and better days.

As I write this, I have called the Executive Committee of the ACS Philadelphia Section to order to discuss a Local Section strategy with regards to how the ACS Philadelphia Section operates with respect to addressing the coronavirus. This strategy will be thoroughly reviewed by our Board of Directors and shared with you. Please watch our website – – and our monthly email blast for the latest updates. If you haven’t joined our LinkedIn group, please go to our website and click on the LinkedIn button and you’ll be directed right to our LinkedIn group. This group contains rapid updates of what our Section does.

As chemists, we are trained that safety must take precedence above all else that we do in the laboratory. Even though our Local Section events may not be held in a laboratory, safety must always remain priority number one. Please know that the Board of Directors of the ACS Philadelphia Section holds your safety and well-being paramount and that we hold this responsibility as a sacred trust.

Also, stay tuned . . . we are planning to re-schedule the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture for the Fall. The tradition will continue!

March 2020 Issue

Adams. Urey. Marvel. Pauling. Debye. Seaborg. Brown. Corey. Stork. Danishefsky. Bergman. Karplus. Grubbs. Sharpless. Nicolaou. Breslow. Bertozzi. Hartwig. Roszensweig.

These names are all well-known in the chemical profession. All of them are great chemists. And all of them delivered the annual Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture that we celebrate this month.

There are many more great chemists who, throughout the years, have presented this prestigious talk, too. In the space I’m allotted for my monthly column, my hope is that this incomplete list above gives you an idea of the great chemists who have delivered this outstanding series of talks over the years.

Since 1929, the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania and the ACS Philadelphia Section has co-sponsored the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture. This lecture, named after the late Professor of Chemistry and Provost of the University of Pennsylvania as well as a three-time ACS Past President, is the oldest lecture in the United States that is co-sponsored by a university and an ACS Local Section. On behalf of the ACS Philadelphia Section Board of Directors, we are proud to continue this almost-100-year-old joint effort with the University of Pennsylvania and are pleased to bring this to you.

This year’s Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecturer is Professor Barbara Imperiali of MIT. On March 12th, Professor Imperiali will be presenting a talk about her current research involving N-linked protein glycosylation pathways. You will find the abstract of her lecture in this edition of the Catalyst. As always, the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture is preceded by a reception in honor of our speaker and followed by a dinner to be held immediately after the talk. More information on the schedule for this year’s lecture can also be found here in this edition of the Catalyst.

Next month, the ACS Philadelphia Section hosts our combined Student Scholastic Achievement Awards, the Excellence in Pre-College Teaching and the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the Chemical Sciences Awards Ceremony on the campus of Rutgers-Camden. During our April event, Rutgers-Camden Associate Professor Jinglin Fu will present a talk about his research. In May, our Career Services Committee will be hosting a presentation about the use of LinkedIn. In June, we honor the anniversaries of our 50-, 60- and 70-year members. And the year isn’t over yet!

As I mentioned in my column in January, our Section Expo and YCC Poster Session – which was very successful – served as a forum to network with our leadership to find out what you – our membership – want the ACS Philadelphia Section to be. In the upcoming months, you will be receiving a survey which will assess the needs of our membership so that the Board of Directors can make the Section as relevant for our members as possible. When you receive this survey, please take the time to complete it and let us know what is important to you! We can only know best how to serve you if we hear your ideas and your opinions.

As always, you are more than welcome to come to one of our meetings, stop by and say hello! Know that you are welcome and always at home in the ACS Philadelphia Section. If you should ever have a question or concern, please reach out to me at Also, for the most up-to-the minute Section news, check out the ACS Philadelphia Section LinkedIn Group.Here you can find postings about our events, news in the Section and can interact with your fellow ACS members, too. The ACS Philadelphia Section has something for everyone!

Let’s talk next month, and let’s enjoy springtime, which is right around the corner!