Meet the (Former) YCC

The Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary! Eight former YCC members share their favorite things about YCC and what they see as the value of YCC for younger chemists and the broader chemistry community.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary! The YCC was established in 1974, taking the place of the Younger Chemists Task Force that preceded it from 1970 until 1973. Since then, the YCC has doubled in size, growing from 14 members to about 30.

To help us commemorate 50 years of advocating for and supporting younger chemists, we’re dedicating this month’s Meet the YCC feature to sharing the perspectives of some of the committee’s former members. Meet the YCC was launched in July 2023 with the aim of sharing what our YCC members and associates do both in and outside of ACS.

We asked eight former Committee members, representing 49 years of combined YCC service, to share their favorite things about YCC, how they have observed the committee grow, and what they think the YCC adds to ACS and the broader chemistry community. Their answers, along with some of their past and current ACS involvement, are below.

Dr. Carolyn Ribes

Business Analytical Leader, Dow Chemical

Years on YCC: 1994-1998 (Chair, 1997-1998)

YCC subcommittee: Local and Regional Affairs (LRA)

Current ACS involvement: Director-at-Large, Board of Directors; Chair, Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations

Connect: LinkedIn

I loved the energy of the team! YCC members wanted to make a difference and had great ideas about how to enable younger chemists. Highlights included the symposia at national meetings and the YCC reception since we could meet so many people. I really enjoyed expanding my network beyond my workplace and my local section. Being part of the YCC family at the Spring and Fall meetings made such a difference!  It was an extremely positive experience and resulted in my lifelong commitment to ACS volunteer service. I also appreciated the professional development that came from being an active YCC member. We had many opportunities to build communication skills, including an elevator pitch on YCC activities. This was my first time leading a diverse and remote team, so I had to develop influential leadership skills.

About the photo: Carolyn recently enjoyed a trip to Yellowstone National Park with her husband, Al.

Dr. Natalie Foster

Retired; Professor Emerita, Chemistry Department, Lehigh University

Years on YCC: 1980-1982

YCC subcommittee: “The YCC didn’t have subcommittees back then!”

Current ACS involvement: loyal fan; still attend national meetings and read the journals

Connect: LinkedIn

Being on the YCC enabled me to get a crash course on the ACS as a professional society: what it did, how it operated, and most importantly, who the people were who made the whole endeavor work. I met not only my colleagues on the committee but also many staff members who helped each of us find our place in the larger organization. As a result, I became acquainted and often friends with other chemists at all stages of their careers who, through their activities as members, practiced doing science as a commitment to advancing both the discipline and the commonwealth. Some of my longest and most rewarding friendships began in the committee rooms, dining rooms, technical sessions, at the expo, and at parties during ACS meetings, and it all started with my first appointment on the YCC. The experience was more than just building a network; it was building a community.

About the photo: A couple summers ago, Natalie enjoyed lobster at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point, Maine. (Credit: Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier)

Dr. Peter K. Dorhout

Vice President for Research, Iowa State University

Years on YCC: 1995-1998 (member); 2013-2016 (consultant)

YCC subcommittee and roles: Program Committee; Liaison to DAC

Current ACS involvement: Councilor (ex officio, Past ACS President); member, Committee on Nominations & Elections; member, Pensions & Investments Committee

Connect: LinkedIn

I had the privilege of serving with YCC twice—once as a member and again as a consultant 20 years later—so I had two favorite parts.  Being part of something larger than yourself has always been important to me, and ACS and YCC fulfilled that. As a member of YCC and a junior faculty member, I was learning how to navigate a career in chemistry and engage with chemistry professionals in my local section and my technical divisions as a way of advancing myself.  Looking back at the many rosters of YCC members I shared as a member and consultant, there were so many who, like me, advanced their careers and the places they worked as well as recognized the value in advancing others through their leadership.  There were many members who were not like me—education levels, where they grew up, personal experiences, perspectives, personal and professional identities—that made YCC a fun and safe place to learn (who can forget ACSJeopardy!®—my second favorite part).  In those old agenda rosters, I recognized the names of current ACS and scientific leaders: ACS board members, committee chairs, CEOs, and even ACS Presidents.  YCC has been a committee to develop and nurture talent in ACS by being a committee of members who are dedicated to making ACS a valuable part of being an emerging professional in the chemical sciences and engineering.

About the photo: Peter represents ACS with style by wearing an ACS lapel pin and a tie featuring molecular structures.

Dr. Lisa Nogaj

Associate Dean for the School of Sciences and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Gannon University

Years on YCC: 2012-2016

YCC subcommittee and roles: Local and Regional Affairs (LRA); developed Program-in-a-Box with other LRA members and the ACS Webinars team

Current ACS involvement: Erie Local Section Executive Committee Member and Website Administrator

Connect: LinkedIn

The best part about being a YCC Member was working with a wonderful community of younger chemists engaged across all sectors of the chemistry enterprise—government, academia, industry, non-profits, and more. We often hear that a chemistry degree opens a multitude of career options, and YCC was the first place where I really saw that statement come to life. I am grateful that the YCC helped shape me into the professional and leader that I am today. YCC instilled a deep respect for the value of strategic planning, taught me the importance of advocacy, and showed me the power of intentional leadership development. In YCC, I found an encouraging space to grow and learn, and that feeling of appreciation—that our contributions as students and early career chemists were valued equally by ACS—has never left me. There will be different seasons of your involvement with ACS as you move through your personal life and your career, and my time serving with YCC was memorable and will always be special to me. Congratulations to the Younger Chemists Committee on 50 amazing years!

About the photo: Lisa is enjoying a hike with her family at her local nature center, Asbury Woods, in Erie, PA.

Dr. Jodi L. Wesemann

Director, Strategy, Society Programs, American Chemical Society

Years on YCC: 1995-2002 (Chair, 1999-2001)

YCC subcommittee and roles: Communications (COM; chair); newsletter editor

Current ACS involvement: Director, Strategy, Society Programs, American Chemical Society

Connect: LinkedIn

Like so many other committees and volunteer activities, YCC brings together people who are committed to contributing to a shared cause.  Involvement provides a sense of belonging, a community, and a safe space in which to grow professionally.  Interacting with people who have different experiences, skills, and insights provides deeper understanding of that shared cause, a broader sense of opportunities, and a rich network.

The extra value of YCC comes from its mission and the career stages of its members. There is an excitement about empowering, supporting, and advocating for those in the early stages of their careers.  The committee members, being in the early stages of their careers, have fresh perspectives and ideas, along with the optimism and energy to create positive change. Young leaders transforming the world help shape the future of our well-established and respected professional society.

About the photo: Jodi is posing with a sculpture of blue-tailed day gecko at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Natalie LaFranzo

Vice President of Strategy at The LINUS Group

Years on YCC: 2013-2018 (Chair, 2016-2018)

YCC subcommittee: Communications (COM; chair, 2014-2015)

Current ACS involvement: Director at Large, Board of Directors; Chair, Committee on Budget & Finance; Member, Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations

Connect: LinkedIn

I have friends and colleagues that are some of the closest in my circle that I met through YCC. I feel like I am a better person and professional because of my time on the Committee. YCC also provides a jumping off point; you can start your “ACS career” in YCC and go on to do lots of impactful things because of the training and background you have.

YCC continues to push the envelope on programming and new ideas, which helps the Society grow and evolve. And there’s always been an interest in globalization on the Committee, but similar to the ACS as a whole, this has continued to grow over time. I’m also impressed by YCC’s efforts to bring attention to the many different backgrounds of chemists through features like this—to help people feel “seen” and connected to the chemistry community.

As for the YCC today, I’m so proud of the YCC track at the Leadership Institute. The excitement, passion, and energy of the new leaders that come through this track is incredible. I think this amazing entry point into ACS is one of immeasurable value both to ACS, and to the leaders that participate. It’s how I got my start in national ACS volunteerism; also true for so many other leaders who are making significant contributions both within ACS and the profession. Once you’re involved and you start to grow your network, there’s no limit to what you can contribute, and reciprocally receive in return!

About the photo: Natalie enjoys spending time with her two dogs.

Dr. Jason Ritchie

Associate Professor, the University of Mississippi

Years on YCC: 2000-2005

YCC subcommittee: Society Interface and Outreach (SIO, now Governance Interface and Outreach)

Current ACS involvement: Councilor, Ole Miss Local Section; Elected Member, Committee on Committees (ConC)

Connect: LinkedIn

I enjoyed getting to meet other young chemists and think about career development issues. I especially enjoyed getting to work on projects where we could help other young chemists develop their skills to be more successful in their careers. It’s been fun to watch the committee continue to grow and prosper over the years, see all the new younger chemists who are brought on board, and watch their progression in their careers and onto new roles within ACS. I’ve enjoyed being a YCC alum and continuing to have a relationship with the committee, attending their events and socials at national meetings, and playing some small roles in their programming.

YCC really helped me to develop important skills that a lot of chemists don’t get a chance to develop through just graduate school and working in a lab, like running meetings and leading teams. Through my involvement with YCC, I got to meet a lot of ACS volunteers and staff and was invited to participate in strategically important society programs, like the development and piloting of the Leadership Institute.

About the photo: In addition to being a professor at Ole Miss, Jason has been active in the Ole Miss Local Section, having served as an elected councilor since 2006.

Dr. Malika Jeffries-EL

Professor and Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Boston University

Years on YCC: 2002-2009

YCC roles: Society Interface and Outreach (SIO, now Governance Interface and Outreach); Program Chair

Current ACS involvement: Director-at-Large, Board of Directors

Connect: LinkedIn

[My favorite part about being on YCC was] the people I had a chance to work with on YCC and the opportunity to create space within the society for younger members. [YCC has grown in that] there are more sub-committees, awards, and also greater influence within the ACS. The YCC has a reputation for being a pipeline for future leaders. I love that they have advocated for younger members for over 50 years. They keep up with current trends but remain true to their mission and bring fresh perspectives to the table.

About the photo: Malika joined the faculty at Boston University in 2016 and became the Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2020.

Article by Olivia Wilkins, Ph.D.

Olivia Harper Wilkins is an astrochemist and Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Dickinson College. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Caltech and a BS in Chemistry and Mathematics from Dickinson.