Are You Ready for Boston??

BostonWe’re coming to the end of July and that means two things; summer is nearly over and the ACS Fall National Meeting is right around the corner. ACS Fall National Meetings tend to be smaller than spring national meetings. So, instead of 15,000-20,000 chemists in one convention center, you only have 12,000-15,000. Okay… so, it’s still big, but we’re here to help!

This meeting will feature some very special guests. For the first time EVER, ACS International Student Chapters will send representatives from their schools. As if this isn’t exciting enough, the meeting is being held in Boston, one of the oldest and most interesting cities in the country.

With so much to see and do between now and the end of the meeting, how do you even know where to start? Here are some tips for making the most of your national meeting experience.


By now, you should have made your travel plans. If you haven’t, go the national meeting website to register, find travel discounts, and locate a hotel room (the official ACS hotels are sold out, but information on alternatives is provided). But don’t bother renting a car. Boston traffic is legendary, and you can get around much easier by walking or using public transportation.

ProfessionaGet your suit cleaned and iron your khakis. ACS meetings are fun, but they are also professional conventions. You’ll need business attire for your presentation, business casual for the rest of the meeting, and whatever you feel like when you are done for the day. And leave the flip-flops at home. Invest in some good, comfortable leather shoes that look smart and can handle all the walking (on concrete) you are about to do.

Your presentation should be ready (still need tips?), so now is the time to practice, practice, practice. The more you practice, the more confident you will sound, no matter how nervous you are. And remember to bring along some business cards.

Contingency plans

Now you’re probably thinking, “all these preparations are good, but if I get to Boston and a zombie apocalypse breaks out? Or worse—my poster gets smooshed?” Emergencies are tough enough to handle at home, much less in a strange city.

But we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to handle most emergencies at national meetings:

  •  Can’t find my room: go to the lobby and look for a friendly person in the bright yellow, “Ask Me” T-shirt. They are there specifically to help you navigate the technical program, find your room, and answer general questions.
  • Can’t find my hotel: use the hotel and shuttle map. You can also download the meeting app for all conference information. Or stop by Undergraduate Hospitality Center in room 205A of the convention center for directions, information, and possibly a muffin.
  • Presentation got lost/splattered/hit by a car: always have a back-up of your presentation or poster on a flash drive. If something happens, find an “Ask Me” person, an ACS operations office, or a hotel concierge to direct you to the nearest FedEx or other printing facility.
  • Medical emergency or crime: if you are seriously injured or sick (or suddenly become a crime statistic), call 911 and alert the hotel staff… in that order.
  • Fire, earthquake, zombie apocalypse: if some sort of catastrophe happens at the meeting, ACS staff and security personnel will tell you what to do, while everyone else takes pictures. Put down your camera/phone and follow their instructions. You’ll be safer for it, and the Wi-Fi will be too overloaded for your tweets, anyway.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Get a tube or carrier for your poster, protect your computer, and remember you are in a city. Pay attention to your surroundings, travel with friends, and don’t flash anything expensive.

What to do?

Okay, you are all rehearsed, you’re looking sharp, and your arrangements are made. So what do you actually do in Boston?

Start with the Undergraduate Program Guide. It lists all of the national meeting programming that is set up specifically for students. There are chemistry talks, discussions with the international student chapters, grad school workshops, and opportunities to meet grad school recruiters and chemical professionals.

Want more technical talks? Search the technical program by topic, day, or your favorite chemist. Want to meet more people? Browse through the social events for the groups you are interested in. Entering the workforce… ever? Check out the career resources and register for the career fair. Need a break? Stop by the exposition for information, giveaways, and workshops from a variety of vendors.

And, if you need more of a break, check out the city. Boston is a fluid blend of historical landmarks and modern fun (unless you count the roads). For a brief respite, stop in Boston Common and watch—or ride—the swan boats. For a longer break, shop at Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market, visit the New England Aquarium, or tour Old Ironsides. If you have even more time, try following the Freedom Trail or taking a Duck Tour.

Also, have a donut. Dunkin’ Donuts was founded just south of Boston, so their shops proliferate the city. In fact, if you buy just one donut at each Dunkin’ Donuts you pass while in Boston… you’ll probably go broke on your first day.

See you there!

Boston, here we come!

With the 250th ACS National Meeting just around the corner, it’s time to properly prepare for presenting your research in Boston. Here are my six top tips for presenting at the National Meeting Poster Session:

  1. Know your research: Although you may have done all of the bench work, do you understand the mechanisms and background of your research? If not, now is the time to dig into the literature and to seek help from your advisor to understand the reasoning behind each of your laboratory steps and the larger picture of your project.
  2. Prepare your elevator speech:A 60 second summary of what you did, why you did it, and your results.
  3. Practice, practice, practice: You should practice your “elevator speech” to yourself, lab mates, friends, and family. It can be helpful to present to people without a chemistry background. For example, a group of middle school students were touring our new science building, and their teacher asked me about my research. To explain my work with protein affinity tags, I talked about eating a bowl of Lucky Charms. Whenever you eat a bowl of Lucky Charms, all you really want are the marshmallows; this is analogous to my research because we want to pick out specific proteins from a mixture. Bazinga! The kids understood my research! Practice your elevator speech to others, and you will be prepared for whoever walks up to your poster.
  4. Designing your poster: The key to a great poster is a single, cohesive story summarizing your research project by showing the key results that support your conclusion and demonstrate the originality of your work. (See the February 2012 issue of InChemistry magazine for more details).
  5. Dressing for success: Potential employers and graduate school recruiters come by the poster sessions, so you want to look professional and confident. For both men and women, I suggest going for solid colors for tops and black or blue for pants – a conservative and classic look.

For men: Black pants or slacks, a button-down shirt (long sleeve), and a tie is ideal. Also, nice brown or black shoes are important — ditch the sneakers for today.

For women: The best combinations are black pants or skirt with nice shirt (short sleeve or long sleeve) or a dress that is close to knee length with hose. It’s important to wear nothing that is too clingy. You want your work to be on display, not your figure. Also, low heels (no taller than 2 inches) or flats are best. You will be standing up and walking all day.

  1. Print business cards: Now that you have practiced and look you the part, you should be prepared to share your contact information. You can get 250 cards custom-printed at Staples for $6!

To make sure you’re ready to go, here’s an ACS National Meeting Poster Presenter checklist:

  • Notecards to practice your speech
  • Poster (seems obvious, but double check!)
  • Flash drive (with your poster on it)
  • Printed materials (your poster number, confirmation, etc.)
  • Hotel and flight itineraries
  • Nice outfit
  • Business cards and a portfolio with copies of your resume
  • Pen and a notebook (who knows when inspiration could strike!)
  • Camera
  • THUMBTACKS! This is the most forgotten item.

For more details, check out Dr. Brent Znosko’s webinar.


Student Chapter T-Shirt Contest

We_want_you_new_bis_copie[1]Are you, or someone in your student chapter, a creative genius? Do you have a quick wit and an appreciation for science humor?

If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions, you’re exactly the kind of person we’re looking for.

The Undergraduate Programs Office (UPO) needs YOUR help! We are challenging ACS student chapters to design UPO’s new t-shirt. T-shirts will be used by UPO as promotional items and may be used as gifts for volunteers, liaisons, and faculty advisors.

Designs can be submitted using this form. Shirt design is limited only by your creativity. Submissions will be accepted by 11:59pm EST June 5, 2015.

If your design is selected as our first place winner, it will be printed on all of UPO’s t-shirts. Second place will be printed on promotional pint glasses. The winning chapter will receive t-shirts for their entire chapter. All you’ll need to do is send us your size requests.

Send contest questions to

** Fine Print**

Note any content considered profane, sexual, or offensive to any group will be disqualified. Designs submitted during this competition will become property of the American Chemical Society. ACS reserves the right to modify designs to meet branding guidelines and/or sizing restrictions.

Until Next Time, Denver

IMG_0417Another ACS National Meeting has come to an end, and we have to say, it was a really successful meeting! This is Alex and Monica—the ACS Student Liaisons—and we’re here to provide a final recap of our experience at the 249th National Meeting in Denver, CO.

The first day of the Undergraduate Program was on Sunday, March 22. We knew going into the meeting that there would be a lot going on that day, but we were completely blown away by how incredible the program was! In the morning, we led the volunteer orientation and moved directly into “Making the Most of Your First National Meeting.” This workshop is one of the most valuable tools to help you schedule your time at the National Meeting. Throughout the rest of the day, we received valuable advice about planning for grad school and what to do when you get there, professional development opportunities, and how to balance life and career.

IMG_0454Although we were a little tired by the end of the day, we were also really excited about the Student Chapter Awards Ceremony and the Undergraduate Social. The Awards Ceremony brings together all student chapters that won awards in the previous year. During the ceremony we heard from the new ACS Executive Director and CEO, Tom Connelly, as well as various members of SOCED (Society Committee on Education), ACS President Diane Grob Schmidt, and ACS President-Elect Donna Nelson. The night ended with lots of food and dancing at the Undergrad Social. We had so much fun spending time with our new friends!

Both Monday and Tuesday were also great days. We heard lectures from some incredible scientists working in the field of green chemistry. We especially enjoyed Dr. Henry Kholbrand’s lecture on industrial sustainability and climate change. His years working for Dow Chemical have helped to broaden his perspective of sustainability in both developed and developing nations. Our favorite session was “Toxicology of Marijuana.” This was probably the best attended workshop of the Undergraduate Program, in which we learned how marijuana affects your blood and brain chemistry. It was truly fascinating!

There are so many exciting things to see and do at the National Meeting that you’ve just got to experience it for yourself. The program not only helps you meet students from around the country, but it also provides a rare opportunity to meet chemistry professionals, broaden your understanding of our field, and hone your networking skills.

We hope to see you in August for another great Undergraduate Program in Boston!

Getting ready for Denver: what you should be doing now

Denver USA Interstate Highway SignAre you heading to Denver this weekend? If so, you are joining one of the largest professional gatherings in the country—over 13,000 professionals and 1,000 undergraduates presenting over 10,000 papers. In other words, imagine every student from Harvard, MIT, and the University of Denver all together in one convention center.

Not only is it crowded, it can be a little overwhelming. But the Reactions blog is here to help. Today, we’ll go over what you need to be doing right now to prepare for the national meeting. (What to do once you get there will come later.)

Prepare your presentation

Whether you are doing a poster or oral presentation, by now you should have it pretty well in hand. If you still need some tips, ACS student members can check out the webinar recordings, Tips for Creating High Impact Scientific Poster Presentations and Delivering a Dynamic Presentation. You can find even more advice in the following:

Be sure to practice, practice, practice. The more you practice, the easier it will be to talk about your research or student chapter, no matter how nervous you are. And remember to bring along some business cards.

Book your travel

If you haven’t done so already, make whatever plane, train, or bus reservations you need. Delta, United, Southwest, and Amtrak all have discounts for meeting registrants. (You’ve already registered for the meeting, right?)

The hotels and convention center are close and parking is expense; save money by skipping the rental car and walking through Denver. (You can book a Supershuttle to get to and from the airport.)

Although the discount hotels have sold out of rooms, you can still reserve an official ACS hotel room and be entered in a drawing for a Kindle or iPad. Share the room with a buddy to cut costs.

Dust off your suit

You are about to present research, show off your student chapter, meet industry and graduate school recruiters, and network with the big kids. If you want to be taken seriously, you’ll need to look the part.

Get out a decent suit or at least a nice jacket/button-down shirt/slacks (or skirt) combo for presentation today. Think khakis, slacks, and conservative skirts for the rest of your meeting time. Nothing screams, “Hey, I’m a student—don’t take me seriously,” like a T-shirt and jeggings. (Of course, you can always change when you leave the meeting and tour the rest of Denver.)

If your good clothes don’t fit or have tears or stains, get new ones! It’s a rare student who can’t afford J.C. Penny, Target, or even a thrift store.

And leave the flip-flops at home. Invest in some good, comfortable leather shoes that look smart and can handle all the walking you are about to do.

See you there!

Honoring the Father of Analytical Chemistry

Professor Izaak M. Kolthoff (1894–1993),

Professor Izaak M. Kolthoff (1894–1993)

I am Quang H. Luu Nguyen, an undergraduate chemistry senior in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. On September 12 and 13, 2014, the University hosted an ACS National Historic Chemical Landmark celebration to recognize the legacy of Professor Izaak M. Kolthoff (1894–1993), who was an active faculty member in the Department of Chemistry for 35 years. I was honored to be invited as a contributor to the ACS Reactions blog and share my thoughts abou t this celebration, which included a dedication ceremony and a research symposium.

The Department of Chemistry at my school is located in two buildings—Kolthoff Hall and Smith Hall. I’ve frequently heard about the work of Professor Kolthoff and Professor Lee I. Smith and how their influence shaped not only the chemistry program at my school but also the field of chemistry itself. However, I did not know as many details about Professor Kolthoff’s contributions until this special celebration event.

Despite the early cold in September, the introduction given by the chair of the Departmentof Chemistry, Professor William B. Tolman, ignited in me a sense of school pride. He described Professor Kolthoff as an enthusiastic, passionate chemist and teacher. Professor Kolthoff was a pioneer in, and is considered by many to be the father of, modern analytical chemistry. He played an important role in establishing the field as a separate discipline from other areas of chemistry. He led a huge program of research—publishing nearly 1,000 papers—in analytical chemistry, which gradually became a mature field of science. In addition to his papers, he also wrote numerous textbooks and a definitive 30-volume treatise. He advised more than 50 doctorate chemists, some of whom became leading faculty members worldwide. Consequently, more than 1,100 chemists now can trace back their scientific roots to Kolthoff.

Professor William B. Tolman, University of Minnesota

Professor William B. Tolman, University of Minnesota

The talk given by Professor Peter Carr at the memorial on Saturday morning was also exceptional. As a close friend of Kolthoff, Professor Carr shared personal anecdotes about Professor Kolthoff, such as the meetings, lunches, and sports activities they shared. I enjoyed learning about Kolthoff’s interests outside of his professional career, such as his love of tulips—he often reminisced about his home country, The Netherlands—and how he enjoyed playing tennis, riding horses, and watching the TV show Hogan’s Heroes.

Another colorful portion of the event was the research symposium on Saturday. Five guest speakers presented their current research to a room of about 250 people. The speakers were established chemists from some of the best universities in the United States. It was an amazing and rare opportunity to meet several famous chemists at once and learn about their cutting-edge research in tandem. I was especially interested in two presentations: one given by Professor Harry Gray from California Institute of Technology, and another by Professor Judith Klinman from University of California, Berkeley. They were the final two presenters, but they were able to hold the audience’s attention thanks to their interesting research topics and articulate speaking skills.

Professor Klinman discussed the kinetic isotope effect of hydrogen tunneling mediated by heavy atoms in protein in enzymatic reactions. She proposed a new model confirmed by both computational studies and experimental data. Her presentation also included a lot of cartoons to simplify the chemical systems and her experimental designs, which made the technical talk more approachable.

Professor Harry Gray’s presentation about solar energy was very lively due to his humor and enthusiasm. His presentation was mainly focused on the electron transfer between cheap metal cations and how such a reaction could be applied in solar cell effectively. This research is important, as it will ameliorate environmental impacts caused by fossil fuel, which is the main source of energy today. His research group also provides special opportunities for high school students to learn more about science by designing experiments for these students to perform.

After the celebration, I was more proud than ever to be a part of the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry, because of the notable impacts that Professor Kolthoff and Professor Smith made on the field of chemistry and how they have benefited society by fulfilling the vision of ACS, which is to improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.

Quang H. Luu Nguyen is a chemistry major at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Class of 2015). He plans on attending graduate school in the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a synthetic organic chemist.

Lightning In A Bottle #SweetFailures

Written by: Ben Hall

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us have seen Star Wars and have wondered what it would be like to shoot lightning from our hands like a Sith lord, but alas, that’s probably never going to happen. However, what we can do is make lightning in a bottle. Not as cool, I know, but it’s still a lot of fun to do!

To achieve lightning in a bottle, the Undergrad Programs Team gathered in our top secret laboratory and began plotting. Mwhahaha! (Evil, maniacal laugher) We found some pretty simple instructions on the internet and got started. Turns out all we needed to buy was a bag of wintergreen mints and pour those into a blender.


Does not reflect actual results.

Before I tell you how our experiment went, I should probably talk about the science behind it. The phenomenon we’re talking about today is called triboluminescence. This occurs when two materials rub together and cause a spark. Essentially, this is light from friction. The table sugar (sucrose) is in the same spectrum as lightning. That’s where we get lightning in a bottle.


Okay, so back to our lightning. It worked! But, it was very faint and very brief. So there was no #SweetFailure in this experiment, but we did learn a lot. First, you need fresh mints for best results. Second, to make the most ‘lightning’ happen, you need to make sure that the mints are whole. If you have those two squared away, you’re ready to get started.

View our lightning here:

When you do this at home, make sure you are prepared for lots of noise! It’s loud. Also, be prepared for your house to smell like wintergreen mints. So fresh and so clean, clean.

Continue reading