April 2021 Issue
While there was no formal Section meeting in March due to the postponement of the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Lecture until November, our Program Planning Committee has been hard at work. They have been working to find the balance of in-person and virtual events. Be on the lookout for our Research Seminar Series on April 21st, and our Teaching and Scholastic Achievement Awards on May 4th, and our Multi-society networking event on May 11.
Often our Education and Outreach (E&O) Committee is hard at work behind the scenes paving the way for our Section in outreach to the community. For that reason, I would like to profile two volunteers from E&O. Special thanks to Tom Umile, the chair of E&O, for his pulling together this profile. Of course, thanks to our outstanding volunteers—Laura and Craig!
The US National Chemistry Olympiad: A Conversation with Education & Outreach Volunteers Laura Grande (LG) and Craig McClure (CM)
Each year, high school students nationwide participate in the US National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO), a multi-part competition that celebrates outstanding chemistry students and ultimately selects the team who will represent the United States at the International Chemistry Olympiad. This year’s local examinations were administered on March 27th. Top students will be invited to take the three-part National Exam, which includes both written and lab practical components.
Local and national USNCO examinations for the Philadelphia Local Section are coordinated by Education & Outreach Committee members Laura Grande and Craig McClure. Laura is an Assistant Professor in the La Salle University Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Environmental Science and Craig is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Drexel University Department of Chemistry. They recently responded to some questions about their experiences with USNCO and their time volunteering with the Education & Outreach Committee.
How long have you been involved with the Education & Outreach Committee and running the National Chemistry Olympiad testing? How and why did you first get involved with E&O and this project?
CM: I have been involved in the program for five years now, since Laura and I started on this in 2016. That was my first involvement in the E&O Committee. I had previously co-coordinate the USNCO in the Alabama Section for several years before moving to the Philadelphia section. Since I had enjoyed my participation in this program previously, I decided to keep working on it when the opportunity arose here.
LG: Thomas Straub of La Salle University ran the Philadelphia Local Section of the USNCO for years. When he retired, he asked if I would continue the project. Craig and I decided to tackle the project together.
What do you enjoy most about running the National Chemistry Olympiad local testing? Do you have a favorite memory or experience?
LG: I personally enjoy the day of the event, especially the lab practical portion of the exam. Listening to the different ideas that the students come up with and how quickly some of those students are able to solve the problems provided is fascinating to me.
CM: It is a lot of work. I think what I enjoy the most is interacting with the students on the day of the National Examination and seeing them getting to know each other. I also enjoy working with Laura, she is a great co-coordinator, and we work very well together.
How has your involvement with the Philly ACS E&O Committee impacted you personally or professionally?
CM: It has been enjoyable. When we are setting up the laboratory practical portion of the National Exam, it has led me to think about the laboratory activity and possible lab activities in my courses.
LG: I believe my participation in the Olympiad has increased my effectiveness as a teacher. I am always trying to incorporate new and interesting active learning techniques to engage my students in the classroom. I have used ideas from some of the lab practical problems to create guided inquiry lab experiments for my students to use.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the program or your involvement?
LG: This program requires so many important components. The high school teachers who encourage their students to participate should be commended. Both Drexel and La Salle University have donated resources that we use to run the program. Finally, the Philadelphia Local Section of the ACS provides the funding for this to be possible.
CM: I’ll echo what Laura said here. We are grateful for the area high school teachers who work to offer this opportunity to their students. Also, the Philadelphia Section administrators have been great to work with, as they do the initial mailings, and have been very responsive to our requests. We couldn’t do it without them (Anna Boffice, and previously Lautrelle Smith-Gary). The La Salle University Chemistry Department has hosted the National Exam for many years now prior to our involvement, and we are appreciative for their support and having that location. Drexel Department of Chemistry has also supported this program.
For more information on volunteer opportunities in the Philadelphia Local Section Education & Outreach Committee, contact Committee Chair Tom Umile (firstname.lastname@example.org).
March 2021 Issue
I would like to congratulate Dr. James Murray of Immaculata and Chair of the Philadelphia Local Section in 2019 on the receipt of the Outreach Volunteer of the Year Award for his efforts in meet-ing the members of the Section and listening to how we can make the Section better. His award was presented by Joseph Martino, Immediate Past Chair of the Section during our February Section Meeting.
Our February Section Meeting was “Learning from STEM Outreach Leaders in our Section.” A special thanks goes out to Randara Pulukkody for coordinating the planning committee of Dave Hagan, Steven LaMonica, Dan Domin and Andreea Argintaru. Our speakers included: Daniel Domin (Raw Material Chemist at Quaker Houghton), Nan Odenthal (Project Director at Norris-town Area School District), Roshawnda Washington (Volunteer Program Manager at Dow), and Neil Johnson (Director of US Chemistry Talent at GlaxoSmithKline). Steven LaMonaca shared his personal perspectives on what STEM Outreach means to him and Thomas Umile (Chair of Education and Outreach) offered an overview of the Education and Outreach Commit-tee. Thank you to all our speakers and participants for a great discussion after the speakers.
This month the committee being profiled is the Career Services Committee. Thank you to Jim Murray, Chair of the Career Services Committee for his overview:
We are a standing committee of the ACS Philadelphia Section and our purpose and focus is on the members of the Section who may be looking for a new position or for a change in career within the chemistry profession and we provide services to help them through this process. We are looking to really expand the focus to include the chemistry majors at all the regional colleges and universities and look to work with them earlier in their careers as chemists to try and help them determine what the best career path is for them at this moment in time.
In this capacity, the members of the Career Services Committee plan career-related events, help with resume reviews and interview prep, and offer opportunities for individual conversations on next steps for member’s careers or transitions from school. If you are interested in a personal conversation, resume review, or interview prep, please email PhilaACS@gmail.com with your interest and who you might be interested in speaking with. The members of the Career Services Committee’s bios are below. Additionally, if you are interested in joining Career Services as a volunteer, please reach out to PhilaACS@gmail.com and we can put you in touch with Jim Murray. Alternatively, you can email email@example.com. I also encourage you to visit our website for more information on career support and links to programs and services provided by ACS National.
Career Services Committee Bios:
James (Jim) Murray—Chair—Jim earned his BS, MS and PhD (Organic Chemistry) from Drexel University in 1996, 1997 and 2003, respectively. He has been a member of the faculty at Immaculata University since August 2001. He has spent 13 years as Department Head at Immaculata, served as Chair of Local Section in 2019 and Chair of Career Services since 2020. Jim has been an ACS Career consultant for a little over two years.
Andreea Argintaru earned her BS and MS in Chemistry from the University of Lyon. While at the University of Lyon, Andreea also worked as a Research Associate at Bayer CropScience. From here, Andreea performed her doctoral research work at the University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Professor Virgil Percec. After completing her PhD, Andreea went to the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, where she rose through the ranks performing research in oncology, ophthalmology and drug delivery. She then took a position at Axalta, where she is currently employed as Principal Scientist. Andreea is active locally on the ACS Philadelphia Section’s Program Planning Committee and has more recently become an ACS Career Consultant.
Benjamin Blass earned his BS in Chemistry from Emory University and his PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Rochester under the direction of Professor Andrew S. Kende. From here, Ben accepted a position at Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals, where he worked on and led several programs focusing on different therapeutic areas as well as developed high-throughput methodology. From here, Ben went to Wyeth Research as Principal Research Scientist, leading scientific teams on several medicinal chemistry projects. After Wyeth was acquired by Pfizer, Ben worked at the Fox Chase Chemical Diversity Center. From here, Ben joined the faculty at the Temple University School of Pharmacy, where he is currently Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research. Ben is also a registered US Patent Agent, owns his own patent firm and consults with a local patent law firm.
Catherine Bentzley earned her BS in Chemistry at St. Joseph’s University, and her PhD in Chemistry from the University of Delaware under the direction of Professor Murray V. Johnston. From here, Catherine began her independent career at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, where she is currently Associate Professor of Chemistry. Catherine has been working with Lori Spangler, Dennis Murphy and Jim Murray in coordinating efforts between Career Services and USciences.
Kevin Cannon is currently a professor at Penn State Abington College and an assistant adjunct professor at Temple University. His research interests include both heterocyclic organic chemistry and the history of science. Kevin started his chemical career at age 15, working as a part-time laboratory technician at Leatex Chemical Company in Philadelphia. He earned a BA and PhD in Chemistry from Temple University and Princeton University respectively; he was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to becoming a full-time faculty member at Penn State in 2003, Kevin worked nearly 15 years as an industrial chemist at the Dow Chemical Company (Freeport, TX) and at Elf Atochem/Atofina/Arkema (King of Prussia, PA). Throughout most of his industrial career, Kevin taught chemistry as an adjunct at local colleges and universities, including Temple University, Chestnut Hill College and Philadelphia University.
Prof. Michael J. Castaldi graduated with a BA in Chemistry from St. Peter University, Jersey City, NJ, a MS in Science Education from Columbia University, and a DSc in Chemistry from Hill University 2011. He retired from Pfizer Inc. in 2009 as a Senior Research Process and Medicinal Chemist. He has taught at Immaculata University, Jefferson University General Chemistry, St. Peters University, and Widener University. Michael is a member of Philadelphia ACS Board of Directors, the Chair of Senior Chemist Committee, Alternate Councilor (2016-present), and member of Awards Committee Philadelphia ACS (2012-present) in addition to serving on the Career Services Committee. He was an Executive Committee member MARM ACS Regional Meeting in 2016. Michael’s hobbies include opera, piano golf, and history—especially scientific, European, and American history.
Linda Gerz earned her BS in Chemistry from Holy Family University. During her undergraduate studies, Linda interned with Sunoco Chemical in Philadelphia. Following her undergraduate work, Linda accepted employment with Atofina in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania (now Arkema). While at Arkema, Linda pursued her graduate studies at Villanova University, where she earned her MS in Chemistry. From Atofina, Linda served as an Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Penn State Abington, and is now Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Steve Fleming is a professor of instruction in the Department of Chemistry at Temple University (2008-present). He was a professor of chemistry at Brigham Young University (1986-2008) before coming to Philadelphia. He enjoyed serving as the Chair of the Philadelphia Local Section of the ACS in 2014 and learned much about the Philadelphia section as a Director prior to chairing the Section. He believes it is a privilege to serve as a Director of the Philadelphia Section and enjoys working on the Career Services Committee. He has mentored more than 100 undergraduate students and 12 graduate students. These students have taken various profession-al directions. He keeps close contact with most of his former students. He has learned vicariously from the experiences of those who have taken a route into the chemical industry. This feed-back has helped him provide assistance to those looking for information about careers in the chemical profession.
Dennis Murphy is currently a Principal Investigator at GlaxoSmithKline in Mechanistic Biology. His work is focused on early drug discovery, primarily against enzyme targets. He utilizes enzymology and biophysics to dissect the mechanism of inhibition for lead-optimization. Dennis’s undergraduate degree is from Bucknell University with a double major in Biology and Chemistry. He earned his PhD in Organic Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin and was a post-doctoral fellow at Penn State University. He began his industrial career in 1988 and has spent the majority of time in pharmaceutical research. He has also worked in biocatalysis and enzyme evolution, bioinformatics, nanomaterials, and adjunct teaching, all in the Philadelphia area – from Newark DE to Lansdale PA.
February 2021 Issue
For the remainder of the year, I intend to profile one of our amazing committees in order to bring visibility to the work that they are doing and allow for interested volunteers to make connections with existing committee members. For the month of February, I am going to be profiling our Program Planning Committee.
The Program Planning Committee develops, organizes, and hosts our monthly Section meetings. This process starts well in advance of the event so that an appropriate budget can be drafted and submitted in the fall of the year before the event. The Program Planning Committee is newly revived and will be chaired by me this year. Please reach out if you are interested in joining us (PhilaACS@gmail.com). I hope that you will join us for at least some of the events we have planned for you this year.
Our January event included the opportunity to meet members of Local Section leadership including members of the Board of Directors and Councilors. Following the opportunity to learn more about our leadership, Sharon Haynie led us in a game of Jeopardy! based on Philadelphia and Local Section trivia. Anne Demasi helped to determine who had the fastest “hand raising” skills. We were excited to enjoy the game together.
For later this month, Randara Pulukkody has coordinated a team including Dan Domin, Steven LaMonaca, Andreea Argintaru, and AIChE partner David Hagan to bring us a program looking at outreach programs developed by companies in our Section and their impact on teachers and the schools. Please register to join us on February 18, 2021 from 5-6 PM for this event.
The Edgar Fahs Smith Lecture is typically presented in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania in March of each year. The Edgar Fahs Smith Lecture was established in 1929 to honor the first modern chemist at the University of Pennsylvania, who was a former Provost of the University and President of the American Chemical Society. This lectureship is the oldest lectureship in the country under the joint sponsorship of a university and a section of the ACS. Due to the significance of this event for our Section, it was decided to wait until November to hold this lecture. The organizing committee hopes that we can have an in-person event at that time. Matt Irwin of Axalta and Ziang Li of DuPont are coordinating with University of Pennsylvania’s Chris Jeffrey to bring us this event. Dr. Matthew Irwin is a Team Manager within the Axalta Research and Development group, located at the Global Innovation Center in Philadelphia, PA. He joined Axalta in August 2016 as a waterborne colorcoat formulator, and his work has focused on designing and characterizing high-performance coatings for automotive and industrial applications. Ziang Li currently works as a Research and Development scientist at DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences. He trained as a chemical engineer with a research background in polymeric/colloidal systems for applications in drug delivery and microbial control.
Isabella Goodenough and Taylor Keller, graduate students at Temple University, and the Philadelphia Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) will be collaborating with the Eastern US YCC Partnership to host a virtual symposium and chemistry career fair to provide young chemists an opportunity to showcase their scientific advancements and to engage directly with local employers. The symposium component will include oral and poster presentations where students and young professionals can network with likeminded scientists. All presentations will be judged by a series of qualified volunteers with time allotted for a brief Q&A session. We will invite employers within the geographical regions of the local sections to engage directly with presenters. A separate component will include a virtual career fair and networking sessions, organized at the local section level to open and encourage meaningful dialogue.
On May 4, 2021, join us to celebrate our Excellence in Pre-College and Undergraduate Teaching Award Winners as well as our Student Scholastic Achievement Awardees. This will be a virtual meeting; register here. Special thanks to our Chair-Elect and Chair of the Awards Committee, Ivona Sasimovich of IFF, for organizing this event.
In May 2021, ACS Philadelphia will host a FREE virtual multi-section networking happy hour between our chapter and local professional science and engineering society chapters including STLE, ASME, AIChE and more. We will have some fun icebreakers and discussion topics to get conversation flowing, and raffle prizes for participants! It is sure to be a fun evening of meeting new professional colleagues and reconnecting with old friends. This event is organized by Candice Pelligra and Gangotri Dey. Candice (PhD Chemical & Environmental Engineering, Yale University) is a formulation scientist at Axalta Coatings Systems in Philadelphia, PA. Dey (PhD, Tyndall National Institute, Ireland) is an adjunct faculty member at NJIT and Rutgers University. We look forward to meeting you!
Our annual luncheon to honor our 50-, 60-, and 70-year members traditionally held in June will look a little different this year. We are planning to hold a virtual event with a special twist. We are hoping to arrange for food delivery or a special gift for our long-term members so that we can celebrate together while remaining socially distanced. Andreea Argintaru of Axalta and our Section’s administrative assistant, Anna Boffice, are coordinating this event.
In July, we will hold our first Industrial Relations Committee luncheon focusing on providing recognition and networking opportunities for our industrial members. While focused on industrial members, all are welcome including members of academia and students interested in join-ing industry. The Dow Chemical Company has kindly offered to host us for this event, organized by Sarah Reisert, Ro Washington and Moutushi Dey.
In August, Isabella Goodenough and Taylor Keller will host a unique summertime event where we will network with our fellow members (and perhaps some new ones) and, at your option, a tour of a local vineyard and a guided tasting. Also at this event, Ivona Sasimovich, Chair-Elect, and I will be on-hand to hold a Q&A forum.
September will be our Section’s first mini-Leadership Development Institute mimicked after the Leadership Development Institute offered to Chair-Elects of local sections. This event is in partnership with neighboring local sections and will bring several facilitators of ACS National’s Leadership Development Courses to St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Participants will have the opportunity to take two leadership courses, one in the morning and one in the after-noon, as well as participate in a networking lunch. Options are also available to take only a morning or an afternoon course. This event is being organized by Candice Pelligra and Matt Ir-win of Axalta and Mark Reynolds of St Joseph’s University.
In October, we will honor our Section Award Winner with an event organized by Ziang Li. The Section Award recognizes scientific achievement and contributions in an area of chemistry or chemical engineering by a member of the Philadelphia Section every year. The recipient will be given the opportunity to present the exciting scientific work before the Section Award dinner.
The Section will hold its annual Holiday Party banquet in December 2021. This year, invitations will be extended to the general section to thank members for their participation and sup-port in our local chapter. Please join us in revisiting our 2021 accomplishments and recognizing the efforts of our Section leadership and committee volunteers. Expect a delicious menu in a festive atmosphere with multiple options for those with dietary restrictions. Local guidelines regarding event sizes and coronavirus risk management procedures will be carefully monitored, with event details updated as the situation in the coming year unfolds. This event is organized by Candice Pelligra, a formulation scientist at Axalta Coatings Systems in Philadelphia, PA.
January 2021 Issue
Happy New Year! I hope that it is a happy, healthy, and peaceful year for you.
Obviously, 2020 was not the year anyone expected. However, this has given us a wonderful opportunity to think about the things that are important to us and to evaluate if we are on the track that we hope to be. I would like to share my vision for the Section in 2021 and invite your feedback.
My first goal is to make the ACS Philadelphia Local Section the place to learn about resources for all things chemistry-related in the greater Philadelphia Area. We will be maintaining a calendar of all events in the greater Philadelphia Area on our website:
(https://phillyacs.org/meetings-and-events/). Please check there often for interesting events within our Section and partners. If you have an event that you would like posted on the calendar, please email PhilaACS@gmail.com with the relevant information including date, time and registration information. I recommend offering a registration option for all virtual events to prevent “zoom bombers” or participants interested in disrupting the event rather than attending. I encourage all local colleges and universities to post any seminars that are open to the public on our calendar.
My second goal is to create a sense of belonging, empowerment, and ownership in our member-ship. As many have said before me, this Section is your Section. While we have many amazing volunteers currently, it may not always be clear how to volunteer with the Section or what volunteer positions are vacant. To make the volunteer process more transparent, I am going to be using my Chair’s Column to highlight current committees. It will focus on the mission of the committee, current volunteers, and opportunities to get involved. I am a fan of the philosophy that if you can envision it, you can create it; I promise to work with you to bring new programming and events to the Section as you have a passion for them. I hope that if you are not already a volunteer, you will find some way that excites you to get involved. Please always feel free to email PhilaACS@gmail.com with an interest to get involved. We will be posting our committee meetings on the Section’s calendar on our website. Please feel free to take a look and join any of the meetings that look interesting to you. Note that registration may be required.
I invite you to attend our monthly Section meetings, including the January meeting where you will have an opportunity to meet members of the Section’s leadership and play a game of Jeopardy focusing on trivia from our Philadelphia Local Section.
The Section has done a terrific job of pivoting in the face of the pandemic in 2020, including moving to virtual meetings. While there is hope that we can move back to in person meetings in the foreseeable future, we intend to hold all our meetings virtually until May. In May we are hoping to have an outdoor networking event at a winery.
I would like to end by thanking all of the many existing volunteers for our Section. There are so many things that you do to make our Section a place to learn and grow while making friends and giving back. Thank you!