Saved in the Nick of Time

By John Bain

It was Friday night, the day before we were to set off to the national ACS meeting in Boston, and the situation looked grim. My fellow lab mates and I had yet to secure lodging in the great city of Boston. It was looking like we would be sleeping either in the car or far, far away, but at the last moment we found a great little apartment near the airport. The trip had been saved in the nick of time and now everything was looking up, except maybe the 8 hour trek from Washington DC. However, not even the long road trip would stand in our way of attending the meeting. The setting was in Boston, the players were in motion, and now the story and drama of the ACS Boston meeting could begin.

Having surgery on my Achilles tendon only a month before the conference, I knew it was always possible I would not make it to Boston. I had never before been to a national meeting, and I really wanted to attend. I knew it was something for which I really had to work hard, and with a little luck I was successful. Mobility was always going to be an issue, especially because the conference was held all over Boston, but I didn’t let that stand in my way.

I first attended the conference on Sunday morning, where I quickly jumped right into some interesting talks in the ‘Designing Safer Chemicals’ section.  I mostly work on the catalysis side of green chemistry, so it was interesting to learn more about other areas of research in the field. Personally, I find it really easy in graduate school to get caught up in a project and lose sight of the larger picture. The conference gave me the chance to take a step back and explore other areas of research which excited me about possible future job opportunities.

The day of my poster presentation I found myself both excited and nervous to be presenting at such a large event. However, within the first 5 minutes of my poster session I knew there was not going to be the turnout for which I had hoped. Sadly, the catalysis poster section started right after all the talks ended for the day, and it was held in the basement of a hotel with no offerings of food or drink. I was, however, able to have some great conversations and receive helpful feedback about my research.

Overall, attending the conference was a great experience and provided me with additional motivation for going forward in my graduate school career. This experience also gave me a better perspective on being a chemist that will be very useful in the future. I am truly grateful to the Chemical Society of Washington and The George Washington University for providing me with the opportunity and the means to attend the conference.


The Chemical Society of Washington (CSW) offers a travel award to defray travel and/or registration costs to a National ACS meeting. The award is open to current graduate students in the jurisdiction of CSW. Awardees are asked to share with CSW members something from their experience that impacted their perspective as a chemist.

For more information on the Student Travel Award, please look here. Contact csw@acs.org with additional questions.


Photo credit: Boston Public Library / CC BY 2.0

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