Friday, September 29, 2017

ACS Presidential Candidate Willie E. May on #chemjobs issues

I recently sent an e-mail to Dr. Willie E. May, who is currently running for the ACS President-Elect position to see if he was interested in answering last year's questions for ACS presidential candidates.

He responded yesterday. His unedited response is below:

1. Which ACS program do you think best helps the job-seeking ACS member? How would you improve it?
Interview and resume review workshops for chemists at any stage of their careers as well as programs for aspiring entrepreneurs are among the many valuable ACS programs for job-seekers. ACS appears to have made considerable effort to address unemployment among chemists, which is important, especially if weak spots develop in the market ahead.

ACS should put more energy into assisting the young people – who we are encouraging to pursue chemical science careers – to find gainful employment.

I was informed just last week of a staff reorganization intended to strengthen ACS job and career programs for members. I would like to get additional details before commenting further; it is probably prudent to allow time to see the impact of these changes and I pledge to track these changes.
2. Is it ACS policy to get more students to study in STEM fields, specifically chemistry? If so, how do we reconcile the fact that wages for chemists are stagnant? Does this argue against the idea of a STEM shortage and the need for more STEM students?
ACS policies are based on a recognition that the contributions of chemical scientists and engineers are essential in solving many of the world's pressing challenges. So there always will be a need for the best and brightest who want to be part of global solutions to become chemists and other scientists at the interface of chemistry. Unemployment of ACS members is still below the national average and dropped to 2.6%. Unfortunately, the salaries of many professionals have been stagnant. As ACS President-Elect, I would work tirelessly to help chemists get the best possible training for the available jobs and I would seek additional opportunities to promote and sustain the livelihoods of chemical science and technology professionals. I consider this to be a primary area of responsibility for ACS and the ACS President-Elect.
3. In the past decade, what was the one action of any ACS President that has had the greatest influence - good or bad - on members' employment and careers? Other than working groups and reports, what tangible steps would you take to increase the number of chemistry jobs in the US, and is this something you think is really achievable?
ACS has come a long way over the past decade in seeking to boost employment and careers of chemists, and the Society’s members, in particular. That’s because all our Presidents have endeavored to strengthen our organization and move programs and policies forward with respect to career enhancements for chemical scientists, engineers, technologists and administrative professionals. ACS also has an opportunity, that I would pursue, to raise awareness of and appreciation for the contributions that chemists can make in solving our society’s problems and advancing growth through innovative approaches.  See my candidate statement at: and my website at: for my ideas about building on this past work.
 4. One of the chief roles of the ACS is to advocate for chemists in the US Congress. Which of the following options would you prioritize, and why? (increased grant funding, more training in entrepreneurship for students, shifting funding from academia to more SBIRs or retraining postdocs?)
If elected, I would work with the ACS Board Committee tasked with advocacy and ACS staff to advance these three goals while regularly re-examining our priorities.  
5. It has been 8 years since the official end of the Great Recession. What should ACS be doing to prepare our members for the next recession? 
It is very wise for ACS – and chemists, more broadly – to prepare for both economic growth as well as less favorable developments. ACS has worked with many groups to ensure chemists are flexible and well trained for the future. As noted above, I would work to further enhance those programs. 

Thanks to Dr. May for his responses. Dr. Charpentier will have her responses published within 24 to 48 hours after it has been received.


  1. I don't think anyone has ever offered a straightforward answer to question 3...which is an answer unto itself if you read between the lines.

  2. "Unemployment of ACS members is still below the national average and dropped to 2.6%. Unfortunately, the salaries of many professionals have been stagnant." So suck it up, snowflakes! May's responses to all the questions are pablum, but is anyone surprised?

  3. If you asked me on the spot and I had to answer with zero preparation or thought, I'd probably come up with almost the same answers. Ugh.

    1. This was sent through email. Plenty of time for preparation and thought.

  4. Chemistry professors - want as many undergrads, grad students, and postdocs as possible and plenty of funding for research.

    Employers - want the best chemists at the lowest possible salaries and be able to shed them at will.

    Chemists - want the best possible jobs at the highest possible salaries and have job security.

    All are ACS members.

    That's why ACS President and cat herder are equally difficult jobs.

  5. "ACS has worked with many groups to ensure chemists are flexible and well trained for the future."

    WAT. Please elaborate because myself and everyone I know has never heard of such things. Generally speaking, myself and everyone I know does not know what ACS actually offers chemists other than some access to journals for a very high fee.

  6. nice job not directly answering questions. This is part of the reason I am no longer an ACS member.

  7. Quoting employment statistics for its members while ignoring those of chemists who are not ACS members is one of its favorite ploys. The Dept. of labor and AAS have this data; it isn't secret. Are there more chemists who are ACS members or who are not ACS members?

    The analogy here is to the politicians who claim low national unemployment numbers by using selective poling:
    include workers who are on short-term "gigs"
    include sub-sustenance employees in the the service industry
    include the post-retirement people who are forced to work at Wal-Mart etc. to stay alive
    exclude those whose unemployment benefits have expired
    exclude those who have given up looking for employment, but who are nevertheless capable of holding down a job


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20