Luis A. Echegoyen

Luis A. Echegoyen

University of Texas at El Paso

Candidate for ACS President-Elect, 2018

Q&A

Why are you running for President-Elect?

The time has come for me to use my knowledge, influence, experience, and energy, in combination with advice from members, to work for the collective good of our profession through the ACS platform, just as I previously did at the NSF when I was Division Director for Chemistry.

What are the top changes/improvements that you believe would improve ACS? How would you tackle these during your Presidential succession?

An increasing number of my colleagues, many of whom have been ACS members for many years, are opting out of the membership. Lack of relevance to their jobs is a recurring complaint, and another is that ACS expects a lot of volunteer service from its members without committing reasonable financial resources. It is important to address these concerns to make members feel that the Society does care for them and is not simply benefitting from their volunteer work.

While ACS is actively involved in lobbying Congress it should become an even stronger voice for increased funding for science and technology. ACS should organize and catalyze stronger and more productive interactions between highly visible and powerful individuals and groups from academia, industry and national laboratories and Congress.

The ACS could also play an important role in helping to catalyze an increase in the number of scientists and engineers who run for congressional positions. In the US, of the 541 members in the U.S. Congress, there are only eight engineers, one physicist, one microbiologist and one chemist. Orchestrating a paradigm shift in the US would have a tremendous impact on the future of scientific development in our country.

How and when did you get started in ACS?

I became a member of ACS in 1973, when I was still a PhD student.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment within ACS?

Besides my scientific contributions to and organization of multiple symposia during my 45 years as a member of the ACS, I have contributed through my participation in multiple committees, from the Committee on Science for several years to the USNC for IUPAC. I am passionate about international collaborations and have both supported interactions with multiple countries through the ACS as well as on a personal basis. I firmly believe that science should have no borders and international collaborations should be encouraged, something that I would push and enhance if elected president.

Outside of ACS?

My most important legacy are the 28 PhD students, more than 50 postdoctoral associates and more than 150 undergraduate students with whom I have had the pleasure and privilege of interacting and supervising during my research career, many of whom belong to underrepresented groups. They will impact future generations through their scientific and leadership abilities. As a joint legacy with them I also leave a scholarly record of important discoveries included in more than 450 publications.

Given that the Younger Chemists Committee is a voice for ACS members under the age of 35 and our constituency makes up over 20% of ACS members, how do you plan to use the Committee, or younger chemists in general, to achieve your goals as ACS President?

I would develop unique workshops aimed at mentoring and developing young researchers. One specific program that I would like to establish as president that is specifically geared to young scientists would be the establishment of a US based analogue of the European Lindau Nobel Laureate conferences. Similar events are held in China, Japan, and Singapore, but surprisingly, not in the US! The impact and benefits of these conferences is far reaching and ACS should take a leading role to benefit many young scientists and to impact future scientific generations. One specific idea would be for the ACS to institute an independent session connected to its annual award ceremonies where awardees present technical talks to hand-picked groups of young scientists.

What do you think the Society can do to improve the public perception of science?

Most ACS communications and information dissemination are directed to chemists and chemical engineers, including at the K-12 level, typically to chemistry teachers. These activities, while useful to chemists, do not reach the general public. The ACS should implement an open public dissemination campaign directed at the general population that counters the negative perception of science, and chemistry in particular, by stressing the excitement and positive values that they provide. This would be a unique opportunity for the ACS to create partnerships with industrial, academic and government laboratories to creatively educate and impact the general population, extolling the power, beauty and ubiquity of science along with its connection to intellectual and economic growth.

How can younger chemists best advocate for science funding, and commercial investments in R&D?

We should ALL be continuously advocating for increased funding for science. People in Government, especially Congress, need to understand two things: 1) Science drives the current economy and the American way of life, thus 2) Funding for Science and Engineering is not an expense or cost but a solid investment for the US and its economic prosperity. Many of the younger scientists are very savvy about translational research so as President of the ACS I would like to identify particularly successful examples to highlight both within as well as outside of the ACS. Specific examples of very successful intellectual developments as well as spin-off companies and financial successes will be highly publicized within the context of future growth for the US.

Please share your ideas to improve career development for chemists pursuing careers outside of academia, and even outside of the lab.

The ACS already has a variety of short, online, and on-demand courses available, some specifically designed to address career development for non-traditional jobs. However, given the diversity of jobs held by many chemists, more courses may be needed to help chemists and chemical engineers to continue their professional development outside academia and outside the lab. Most of the existing ACS short courses are of a technical nature so more non-technical ones may need to be developed.