Welcome in your new role at EuChemS!
Renáta Oriňaková is a new member of the EuChemS Executive Board. She is currently a research Professor and the Head of the Department of Physical Chemistry at the Institute of Chemistry at Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice in Slovakia.
Slavica Ražić is a new member of the EuChemS Executive Board. She is currently a Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Belgrade in Serbia.
Péter Szalay is a new member of the EuChemS Executive Board. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry at the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary.
Martin Albrecht is the new Chair of the EuChemS Division of Organometallic Chemistry (DOM). He is currently the Deputy Director of the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Bern in Switzerland.
Joana Amaral is the new Chair of the EuChemS Division of Food Chemistry (DFC). She is currently a Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança in Portugal.
Yulia Gorbunova is the new Chair of the EuChemS Division of Inorganic Chemistry (DIC). She currently works at the Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow in Russia.
Pilar Goya awarded the HonFRSC designation
Interview with Pilar Goya, EuChemS Vice-President
Pilar Goya Laza was the first woman President of the European Chemical Society (EuChemS) from 2018 to 2020.
She is a Research Professor of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) at the Instituto de Química Médica working in medicinal chemistry and drug design. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Konstanz, Germany, financed by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and was Head of International Affairs of the CSIC. She has chaired the Chemistry Committee of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowships, and was the director of the Instituto de Química. She has been the Vice-President of the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry (RSEQ) and the President of the Spanish Society of Medicinal Chemistry (SEQT). She is very active in reaching out to the general public having published two popular books, on “What we know about Pain” and the other one in 2019, on “The Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements”.
Recently, you have been awarded with the HonFRSC designation from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). First of all, congratulations! How do you feel about this recognition?
Every year, the Royal Society of Chemistry invites a few eminent individuals to become Honorary Fellows of the Royal Society of Chemistry (HonFRSC) in recognition of their achievements ranging from public engagement to distinction in research. For me, it is a great honour and privilege to have been invited this year to be part of this list of personalities. Personally, it is even more special, since it comes from a most prestigious organisation from the United Kingdom, a country with which since my childhood I have had special bonds.
Brexit happened. How do you see scientific and research cooperation between the United Kingdom and Europe evolving in the coming years?
Already in 2017, EuChemS issued a position paper which stated that research and industrial competitiveness across the EU greatly benefitted from the input of UK researchers and vice versa. Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from many funding schemes would remove some of the key quality drivers and fundamentally damage research and innovation in Europe as well as in the United Kingdom, so we urge the negotiators to retain as strong as possible a relationship between the EU and the UK researchers.
EuChemS counts now 50 members societies and supporting members, and 19 professional networks. How does EuChemS rely on its unique and diverse network of chemists to provide a single European voice?
EuChemS, the supranational association of chemical societies covering the European countries and beyond, is all about subsidiarity, synergy and solidarity. Our actions have the added value of being endorsed by all our chemical societies representing the voice of 150.000 individual chemists. Through our network we can pair big and small, wealthy and less wealthy societies, all belonging to different regions in Europe, integrating them into a bigger community and ensuring that their voice is heard at the EU level.
You have been the President of the European Chemical Society from January 2018 to December 2020. Your mandate has been marked by important events and moments for the European Chemistry community, such as the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT19), the EuChemS 50th anniversary celebration, but also more generally, by the COVID-19 pandemic. What are some of the moments and achievements from your time as EuChemS President that you are most proud of?
It is true that my mandate has coincided with memorable events for EuChemS. In 2018, a landmark in our history: a new name, a new acronym and a new logo, EuChemS, the European Chemical Society, and the excellent ECC7 congress that took place in Liverpool organised by the RSC. Then, 2019 was the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT19), with the many interesting events and activities that took place, and in 2020 we celebrated our 50 years, from FECS to EuChemS, which culminated with our online celebration on 3 July.
Unfortunately, 2020 was also the year of the pandemic, but EuChemS readapted itself to new ways of working and of organising meetings online.
In your opinion, what it the most memorable moment of the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT19)?
I think the major breakthrough was our iconic Periodic Table, highlighting availability and vulnerability of the 90 elements that make up everything, which was designed by David Cole-Hamilton and Nicola Armaroli, and was promoted extensively. This EuChemS Scarcity Periodic Table, available in 32 languages, was a great success, it was first disclosed at the European Parliament, widely distributed in schools, used in lectures and in the media. This will probably be the most valuable legacy of EuChemS from the IYPT19.
In 2020, EuChemS celebrated its 50th anniversary since its foundation in 1970. Where is EuChemS now, after 50 years?
The European Chemical Society, EuChemS, has advanced notably since its foundation as FECS, Federation of European Chemical Societies, and has largely fulfilled the expectations of the founding fathers who strived to create a union of all the chemical societies in Europe and beyond.
You were the first woman President of the European Chemical Society. What was the greatest challenge during your Presidency?
To be the president of EuChemS is above all a great privilege, but also a great challenge. In my case, being the first woman implied additional concerns, because I was afraid I could be more thoroughly scrutinised than a male colleague. However, those concerns did not materialise at all, I have always felt absolutely respected and was very comfortable in my position, and I do not think that I have been judged any differently than my male predecessors. Not in vain EuChemS supports inclusion and diversity in all its forms, and we do all we can to eradicate discrimination and inequality in the realm of those of us working in chemical sciences.
During your mandate, you actively promoted actions to enhance inclusion and diversity in the chemical sciences. In your opinion, what did EuChemS achieved in this regard?
In line with what I have just said, EuChemS has been very much concerned in recent years with promoting gender balance and diversity. To mention just some examples, during the IYPT19, we organised together with IUPAC and the University of Murcia, Spain, the congress “Setting their Table: Women and the Periodic Table”. We also supported the publication of the book “Women in Their Element: Selected Women’s Contributions to the Periodic System” edited by two members of EuChemS Working Party on the History of Chemistry i.e., Brigitte van Tiggelen and Annette Lykknes. We are also signatories of the “Statement on inclusion and diversity in the chemical sciences” promoted by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and we have recently established a Task Group on “Inclusion and Diversity” to deal with these important issues.
Is there a message you would like to leave to young girls and graduates interested in Chemistry?
There would be many recommendations I could convey to chemistry students, but if I have to choose one, my message here would be addressed both to girls and boys. Even if chemistry is the subject of your choice, you should not leave aside your interest for other disciplines; first, because it is most enriching for your personality, but also because science is becoming more and more multidisciplinary and many of the problems you will face would have to be tackled in a multidisciplinary fashion. So, even though you should dedicate most of your efforts to your particular chemical subject, you should try to widen your knowledge of general chemistry and beyond. Remember that many of the greatest scientists had multifaceted skills and interests: Newton studied in depth and wrote on The Temple of Solomon, whereas the romantic poet S.T. Coleridge enjoyed the chemistry lessons of Humphry Davy very much.
How do you think EuChemS can support the careers of young chemists in Europe?
EuChemS has a dynamic, enthusiastic network of young chemists, the European Young Chemists’ Network (EYCN), who provides valuable guidance and help young chemists in Europe.
Do you expect closer cooperation between Asian and American societies in the future?
International cooperation has always been in the agenda of EuChemS. We have strong ties with global organisations such as IUPAC, the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies (FACS), the Federation of Latin American Chemical Societies (FLAQ), and a long-standing collaboration with the American Chemical Society (ACS).
In 2019, EuChemS together with chemical societies worldwide signed the joint agreement on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In the future, we intend to increase our collaboration with all of these associations since we have many common objectives such as presenting chemistry as the indispensable solution to global challenges.
This interview is coming to an end, would like to add a few words?
Well, I would like to thank the Chemistry in Europe (CiE) Editorial Board, and in particular Nineta Hrastelj for inviting me for the interview and Laura Jousset for conducting it.
Interview of Pilar Goya, EuChemS Vice-President
Conducted by Laura Jousset, EuChemS Science Communication & Policy Officer