Chemistry Talks

President’s Column

New directions for EuChemS

One of the topics at the EuChemS General Assembly in Lisbon was to discuss strategic directions for EuChemS for years to come. I would like to share the outcome of some of the often vivid discussions with you as the outcome implies that there will be changes in EuChemS policy in the near future.

An important discussion point was engagement with industrial partners. Chemistry obviously is not solely an academic field, but a discipline with many interfaces with society, including companies, ranging from small to very large, with an enormous variety of products and applications. Nevertheless, EuChemS as a whole – Member Socieities, Executive Board, Divisions, Working Parties – fully consist of academic representatives, there is no involvement from industrial partners apart from some sponsored lectures organised by the divisions. In contrast, many of the Member Societies do have strong ties to industry, as demonstrated for example by industrial representatives in the board, memberships for companies, and scientific meetings jointly organised with chemical companies. The outcome of the discussion was rather clear in favour of more engagement with industrial partners, meaning that the Executive Board will start to involve industry in its various activities. A Task Group will be set up to propose a plan to the Executive Board to shape this new policy. An important condition is that this must be organised in such a way that EuChemS will maintain its independent position as a learned society.

There was also strong support to further increase EuChemS’ educational activities. The course ‘Good Chemistry – Methodological, Ethical, and Social Implications’ is a great success and there was a clear wish from the Member Societies to increase the number of courses – not by duplicating courses that already exist at universities, but by setting-up courses on topics where the European dimension is relevant. Sustainability was mentioned as one of the topics of choice.

Finally, there was an extensive discussion on a proposal that originated from the Association of Greek Chemists to organise a European Chemistry Day. Many of the Member Societies were enthusiastic about this idea, albeit it was also recognised that such an event may come on top of many activities that are already organised by chemical societies such as, for example, a chemistry week or science week. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm for such a new event prevailed and we will also set-up a Task Group to further explore the feasibility of a European Chemistry Day.

Floris Rutjes
EuChemS President 

PhD journeys abroad

Stories about obtaining a PhD in a foreign country, facing challenges, and experiencing positive changes

A stay abroad during the doctorate is the dream of many people and is also useful for one’s career. However, it is also an adventure to live far away from friends and family, in a foreign country with a foreign language, and to get off to a good start in the new lab. In the series “PhD Journeys Abroad“, six Marie Curie doctoral students from all around Europe talk candidly about their experiences.

They describe, for example, the ups and downs, mental problems such as imposter syndrome, and how they overcame them. For example, the ESR (Early Stage Researcher) network of the Marie Curie PhD Fellows program was a great help.

Even though not everything was easy from the beginning, especially while the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to see people in person, they all enjoyed their stays in different countries very much. They agree that overall it was a good decision to go abroad during their PhD. They have developed as individuals and as early career researchers, both in terms of their professional and interpersonal skills, and they would all make the same decision again.

First two articles of the series already appeared in ChemistryViews:

Bacteria for sustainable petrochemistry

With a little tinkering with their DNA, we can make bacteria produce a variety of molecules. Even petrochemical molecules belong to the possibilities. Though there are still obstacles to overcome, bacteria could offer a route to a sustainable petrochemical industry.

In the pharmaceutical and food industries, micro-organisms are common production vehicles. Citric acid for soft drinks, lactic acid in cheese and yoghurt; all made by bacteria and fungi. But researchers are starting to gradually modify bacteria to produce a variety of completely different molecules. Molecules that we currently make from petroleum, such as ethyl acetate or isopropanol.

Read more here: