Chemical Handshake Around the World

The alarm rang at 6:00AM this morning. In my part of the world in Perth in Western Australia, the sun had already been in the sky for 30 minutes and was sending its rather bright summer light into my bedroom. I looked to my left and through my blurred morning vision I made out a note I had left myself the night before yelling out, “IYC 2011 BREAKFAST 7:15AM!!” all that was needed to kick start things and to get out of bed.

This morning I had a very important date that I could not be late for. I was attending the International Year of Chemistry Women’s Breakfast Meeting, Women Sharing a Chemical Moment in Time. It is a worldwide networking event with skype links between different cities bringing chemists together for a worldwide handshake. The international organiser of this event is Professor Mary Garson of the University of Queensland.

I arrived in time at the Park Cafe at the Australian Resources Research Centre for the 7:30AM skype session with Brisbane. It was especially poignant to see that the devastating floods in Queensland did not prevent chemists in Brisbane participating in this global event. It was lovely seeing all the bright smiles through the blurred images of the webcam all waving hello.

The Chief Scientist of Western Australia, Lyn Beazley officially opened the breakfast by paying tribute to paying tribute to women scientists an chemists in Western Australia. She also highlighted their contributions and influences on the state.

One particular chemist highlighted is one of Australia’s wealthiest women. She is the current owner of Heytesbury Pty Ltd, one of the largest private companies in Australia. This woman is Janet Holmes à Court, AC, HFAIB. She attended the University of Western Australia and her major was in organic chemistry.

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In between a hearty cooked breakfast and taking photos I chatted with an amazing array of people in attendance. I found myself giving advice to chemistry undergraduates who are only just starting their journey in the field. I was thrilled to learn that the teaching of chemistry in universities has changed to reflect the needs of the world today. Nanotechnology was the new kid on the block when I was studying chemistry as an undergraduate student. No one knew what it was, and now, it’s part of everyday language.

I had the opportunity to speak with Ian Macleod from the Western Australian Museum about one particular ongoing conservation project being undertaken in full view of the public. The Western Australian Museum has the largest Megamouth Shark specimen in the world on display at the Maritime Museum in Fremantle. It has been in a 70% ethanol solution for preservation since 1994 and recently work has started recently to replace the ethanol solution with a 65% glycerol solution after a move across the city. Ian Macleod told me the other day that he knows of no other person that has donned the scuba gear to swim in a glycerol solution.

The best part about this morning was not the networking or catching up with colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, that was wonderful but when surveying the room I noticed something. The crowd was young, exuberant and the atmosphere was buoyant. There were so many smiles and handshakes as people introduced each other before entering a conversation. I admit to having fears about whether there were chemists younger than me coming through. This morning showed me that there are and that they are intelligent and bring a new point of view to Chemistry. I welcome and cherish that.



Filed under chemistry365, Science, Science Communication in Action

2 responses to “Chemical Handshake Around the World

  1. Vickie RACI National Office

    Hi Mags,

    Great write up, I’d like to use some of your words in the RACI National eNewsletter for Feb
    Please let me know that you’re happy for me to do that…

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