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University team organizes symposium for ACS National Meeting

The Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee includes, from left, Jeffrey Ting, Kailey Soller, Ben Neisen, Victoria Szlag, Randy Siedschlag, Solaire Finkenstaedt-Quinn, Leon Lillie, and Lindsay Johnson (committee chair). 

Download a PDF of the symposium flyer.

A year of hard work and planning is coming to fruition for a group of graduate students who have organized a graduate student symposium for the upcoming American Chemical Society National Meeting.

The symposium planning team members include Solaire Finkenstaedt-Quinn, Lindsay Johnson (committee chair), Leon Lillie, Ben Neisen, Randy Siedschlag, Kailey Soller, Victoria Szlag, and Jeffrey Ting. Their symposium, Academic Innovations for Tomorrow’s Industries, will be conducted, Tuesday, Aug. 18, as part of the 250th ACS National Meeting and Exposition in Boston, MA.

They have recruited a slate of 10 scientists, 9 from academia and 1 from industry, to highlight examples of academia using commercialization as a mechanism to bring the rewards of research to the world. Symposium speakers include Nobel Laureate Robert Grubbs from the California Institute of Technology who will present the keynote address, Cynthia Arnold from Valspar, Angela Belcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Carolyn Bertozzi from Stanford, Joseph DeSimone from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Paula Hammond from MIT, Daniel Nocera from Harvard, Buddy Ratner from the University of Washington, Jonathan Sweedler from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and C. Grant Willson from the University of Texas at Austin.

“All of our speakers have developed companies with the research that has come out of their laboratories,” said Johnson. “We are trying to promote the entrepreneurial spirit of these scientific researchers, as we show students the real-world impact that research laboratories can have.”

This past year has been a real learning experience for members of the symposium planning team. One of the first hurdles was being selected by the ACS to organize the graduate student symposium for the national meeting. Minnesota’s team was selected from a pool of applications from institutions across the country.

The planning team was responsible for recruiting speakers, raising the minimum of $21,000 needed for the symposium, and publicity. The positive response was overwhelming, said Johnson. Invited speakers were positive in their yes responses to participate, and a number of industry, University of Minnesota, College of Science & Engineering, and American Chemical Society affiliates, chapters and divisions stepped forward to support and sponsor the symposium.

Response to the fund raising was so positive, totaling $34,000, that the planning team was able to add a networking breakout lunch to the day’s schedule. The planning team was also able to offer a travel grant to graduate student, accepting applications for the grant from graduate students in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Hannah Rhoda, a chemistry graduate student from the Duluth campus, won the grant.

This was a great opportunity to develop a variety of different skills, said Johnson. “We learned how to network, how to approach people for help and assistance, how to fund raise, and how to handle all of the logistics for an event this size.

“This whole experience has been amazing,” said Johnson, and the team is grateful for the positive response of all those who helped make the symposium possible. “Everyone has been very supportive,” she said.

“I’m very proud of planning team, who showed great initiative in organizing what is sure to be an exciting national event," said William Tolman, Department of Chemistry chair. “The leadership shown by these students is truly impressive."