Thomas R. Gilbert

Thomas R. Gilbert

Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

Candidate for ACS President-Elect, 2018

Q&A

Why are you running for President-Elect?

I want to make ACS membership more valuable to more chemistry professionals and to more students preparing for careers in chemistry.

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

If elected, I will work with the Younger Chemists Committee and the Membership Affairs Committee to launch a program to recruit as student members and to retain as regular members a majority of the more than 50,000 students currently enrolled in ACS-approved baccalaureate programs. The program will feature graduated membership dues and activities focused on professional skill building, career planning, and public outreach that emphasizes partnerships with preK-12 schools and community colleges serving minoritized groups that are under-represented in ACS today.

I will also work with the Committee on Professional Training, the Society Committee on Education, and federal funding agencies to put into practice the recommendations of the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences. Simply put, this country can no longer afford graduate programs that fail to address the knowledge and skills (and not just laboratory skills) graduates need to succeed in today’s chemical enterprise.

How long have you served in ACS leadership and in what capacity(ies)? During this time, what was your greatest accomplishment?

Like many ACS volunteers, I began by serving my local (Northeastern) section – eventually as its chair in 1988. That was followed by over 25 years representing the section on the ACS Council and then a term on the ACS Board of Directors. During those years I served on umpteen committees and task forces (the list is on my website) with leadership roles in nearly all of them. Among my accomplishments were successful attempts to convince Council to change ACS policies and procedures on (1) financing its national meetings and (2) allowing electronic balloting in national elections. As Vice-Chair of the Council Policy Committee (the President serves as the committee’s chair ex-officio), I launched and served as the founding chair of the CPC Subcommittee on Long Range Planning, which gave the committee – and Council – leadership roles in the ACS strategic planning process.

What is the Society’s greatest need/challenge and, if elected, how would you address it?

We in ACS are proud of stating that we are world’s largest scientific society. Unfortunately, our membership has been decreasing in recent years, and our many efforts to increase the number of new members and to retain more of our current members have not reversed this trend. Declining membership, particularly among industrial chemists, is a significant challenge facing ACS today because our strength as a professional society is in our membership: in how many members we have, in how engaged they are in ACS programs and activities, and in how much value they find in being ACS member. That is why I will focus my 3 years in the presidential succession on addressing this value proposition.

When it comes to issues facing younger chemists, where do you think the ACS can do a better job towards solving this issue and what role would you play if elected?

I would convey the message that recruiting and retaining younger chemists as ACS members is a top priority for me. Younger chemists are the lifeblood and futures leaders of the ACS, and quality programs that address their educational and professional development are essential if ACS is to start growing again. I am prepared to take a leadership role in making sure that these programs exist and that they are continuously assessed and improved.

If elected, how do you intend to harness the energy and enthusiasm of younger chemists to help achieve your strategic goals?

I propose working closely with YCC – both at the national level and through local section YCCs to help me set goals and map strategies for achieving them. Frankly, my most immediate strategic goal is getting elected. To help me do that, I have reached out to the leaders of my university’s ACS student chapter and to many members of the e-board of the Northeastern Section’s Younger Chemists Committee. Their fresh ideas, professional development priorities, and savvy use of social media have already impacted the content of my position statements and the operation of my fledgling campaign. If I’m elected ACS President, I look forward to expanding such collaborations across the country to address the important challenges facing our Society.