Making An Impact: SciFinder Future Leaders In Chemistry 2014

Success as an academic scientist isn’t just about your prowess in the lab. Being able to contextualise your research and place yourself in the bigger academic picture is integral to your success too.

That is why the inter-national, inter-disciplinary young scholar award called the ‘SciFinder Future Leaders in Chemistry‘ is such a great idea. It brings together 15-20 PhD students and postdocs from universities around the world at the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) HQ in Columbus, Ohio; giving them an opportunity to share their insights with the team behind SciFinder, but (most importantly to me at least) a chance to interact with their peers.

The SciFinder Future Leaders In Chemistry program was launched 5 years ago. By the time my letter of acceptance arrived, I was 1 of ~400 applicants, of whom only 18 were accepted. We were to be flown out to Ohio for an all-expenses paid residential at CAS, then on to San Francisco for the ACS Fall National Meeting (again, all-expenses). I was excited when I read the program description, and even more excited when I was selected: after the draining process of applying for grad school in two consecutive years, and powering through a stop-by-the-library-at-midnight-on-the-way-home-from-lab kinda first year as a PhD student…I guess it was nice that something came back in return.


[Residential – Columbus, Ohio]
Home of flagship Ohio State University, Columbus is more sophisticated than the average college town. CAS and a cluster of tech start-ups and research institutes call this place home.

The Future Leaders in Chemistry at Ohio Stadium

The Future Leaders in Chemistry at Ohio Stadium

The SciFinder Future Leaders program did a lot to give us a taste of the midwest. Outside of the meeting room sessions we were treated to everything from the local foodtrucks to tours of the popular sport stadiums. The views from our “Corner Suite” hotel bathrooms of downtown Columbus were nicer than the views out of most! We watched glassblowing demos in the Botanic Gardens and took a zipline tour through the nearby woodland.

Ready for Business

Ready for Business

That’s not to say we slacked off that week. Quite the opposite. Whilst on-site at CAS we were introduced to everyone from the CEO down. Marketing, product development and the technical staff were all interested in soliciting our thoughts about SciFinder and the process of chemical research. In return, we learned a lot about SciFinder itself: how the data is input, where the data is stored (in a Matrix-style room filled with black consoles as far as the eye could see), and a lot of tricks to make our daily SciFinder usage ten times easier.

What was the best part about the week, though? The company! The Future Leaders were all folk who worked hard, travelled far and laughed loudly. Their backgrounds were very diverse, but they were (on average) people who had studied and worked in different countries, who were skilled at communicating their science to others, but didn’t take themselves too seriously. We were the type of unashamed nerds who found data centres & glassblowing fascinating, and liked asking questions. I’m not a relentless extrovert by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew I clicked well with the Future Leaders by the end of the first evening I’d spent with them.


[Advice for future applicants]
Interest in the Future Leaders in Chemistry Program is growing yearly. If there were 400 applicants this year, I would hazard a guess that the number will be a lot higher in 2015.

Academic background does matter, but only to a point. As a first year PhD student I only have 1 publication – and I was accepted alongside scientists who had 20+ publications and H-indeces in the double-digits. An international science career seems to help – even internships or a semester abroad – as does a life outside the lab.

The ability to think originally is also screened for in the Essay component. The task was to write about the importance of SciFinder to your daily research – any format acceptable. Parts of the SciFinder Future Leaders program were in effect focus group sessions: CAS was looking for insight from people who thought about science in an imaginative way, and who had interesting perspectives.

Basically, if you like science…learning…exploring…talking…I think you’d enjoy the Future Leaders Program.

Photographs by @SciFinder and @CAS respectively.
My account of the ACS San Francisco Meeting is coming soon.


2 thoughts on “Making An Impact: SciFinder Future Leaders In Chemistry 2014

  1. Pingback: Thoughts On ACS Fall 2014 Meeting | St Andrews Lynx's Blog

  2. Pingback: Thermostat | St Andrews Lynx's Blog

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