Readers reminisce about their careers, and continue the competition to be the RSC’s longest-serving member
Diversity at the Lindau Nobel laureate meetings
The Council for the Lindau Nobel laureate meetings believes that diversity and inclusion are essential for future success (see p5). At this summer’s chemistry meeting, the participants, about 500 young scientists, consisted of 45% women, and came from 90 different countries. There was diversity in this regard. However, the Nobel laureates were mostly white men. This is the result of historical norms and bias that unfortunately still rule in society. Science is male dominated. This is starting to change, but a lot remains to do. Universities around the world must work to give everyone the same opportunity to develop a scientific career. With progress on this, Nobel laureate diversity will increase. But it is slow, and the Lindau participants are important to nurture. They are the future scientists that may be awarded Nobel prizes.
Ahead of the 2022 Lindau chemistry meeting, we introduced a Code of Conduct to which all participants must agree to adhere. We also organised a panel discussion around inclusion and diversity at a prominent spot in the program. This session resulted in a lot of engagement from participants; clearly, events like this will become permanent in future programmes. There was one serious mistake in the programme, which we deeply regret. The sessions where young scientists had active parts were not diverse. Assuring diversity in those sessions had been unintentionally neglected, which we as chairs take full responsibility for. At the second summer meeting, economics, we introduced an ombudsperson to whom participants could turn with complaints, and gender pronouns could be added on name badges.
The Council welcomes suggestions. We learn from the participants’ feedback. At its next meeting in October, this topic will be a major point on the Council’s agenda. We want the participants to get a fantastic experience that inspires, encourages, and supports them towards future scientific careers.
Wolfgang Lubitz and Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede
Scientific co-chairs of the 71st Lindau meeting
Even longer service
I am happy to accept the challenge of Ronald Dell, whom I met at least once during our working careers, to advance on his 71 years of membership. I received my excellent 70 years membership certificate in June 2018, so I am now on 74 years of membership. I am sure the RSC could produce a histogram from members’ deaths of their lengths of service so that those of us in our 90s have something to aim for!
Frank Tye MRSC
Ronald Dell asks if there are any advances on his 71 years of membership of the RSC. In my case I have been a member for 77 years. I was 19 when I joined the then Institute of Chemistry in 1945 and I am now 96 years old. I received my 70 years certificate in 2015.
The October issue of Update also provoked memories. Sadly, it recorded the death earlier this year of my friend George Meadows aged 94. We first met in 1986 as we daily walked back to our digs, completely exhausted by the Saturday, when we were taking the FRIC Branch E examination, now the MChemA. I wonder if there are any other survivors of the old Branch E exam.
Alan Turner MRSC
Reading Frank Holland’s letter reminded me of the parallels in our early careers.
I also started out at 16, as a lab assistant in the chemical industry, and obtained my Ordinary National Certificate via day release at my local college (Constantine, now Teesside University). They recommended that I go on a four-year sandwich course leading to the Grad RIC qualification. This consisted of six months at college and six months back at work each year, with classes timetabled from 9am till 5pm, five days a week!
For the final exams we had the three theory papers in college on Monday and then Tuesday morning, after which I caught the train to London, found digs and spent the next four days carrying out six-hour practical exams – little wonder many years later that I had no sympathy when my students complained of having exams on consecutive days.
I then completed a PhD at Durham University, during which I taught at my old college for one afternoon a week to supplement my grant. I really enjoyed this, so my career was clear.
After one year at Salford University I moved to Liverpool to what would become Liverpool Polytechnic and then Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), as Holland had done as a student. My remit was to develop a new degree in industrial chemistry. This was soon achieved and I was professional tutor for several years, placing all our students in industry for their third year.
When I took early retirement from LJMU in 2005, after a 36-year career, I was professor of chemical education and head of chemistry. During this time I was elected to governance committees of both the RSC and the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI). I am still principal of the SCI College of Scholars, having started when it was set up 11 years ago.
Who would have believed that Holland and I would achieve so much, considering where we started. This shows what you can achieve with hard work and determination, despite poor exam results at school.
I was very interested in the letters from Frank Holland and Ronald Dell.
My career followed a similar pattern to Holland – Ordinary and Higher National Certificates then exemption from Part 1 of the Royal Institute of Chemistry (RIC) route to Associate RIC (ARIC) and finally a one-year course at Liverpool College in 1961. Unfortunately, my then employer in Widnes did not offer scholarships and I had to take a year off without pay to attend, which proved difficult as I was then married with a mortgage. I finally joined Unilever in Warrington and my speciality became the alkaline silicates that were the origin of the ‘sil’ part of Persil washing powders. I have never regretted following this path and at 87 years old still read everything published on them. Most of the general public have never heard of them and yet they appear in practically every kitchen in the country in the form of washing and cleaning products.
Last year I received my certificate for 60 years’ membership of the RSC.
Tom Griffiths MRSC FRSC
Katarina Cermelj grew up in Slovenia, not Slovakia (Chemistry World, September 2022, p55)