SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  14 March 2013
Volume 14 Issue 3

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SETAC North America 33rd Annual Meeting in Long Beach—Chemistry at SETAC: The Science and the Social

Sascha Usenko, Chair for the Chemistry Advisory Group

Science Highlights
This year had many great highlights with sessions celebrating 40 years of the Clean Water Act and the 50-year anniversary of Silent Spring. We were also encouraged to “take action yourself” by Ed Begley, Jr., who helped remind me that public awareness and social leadership are powerful tools. When we consider the numbers, environmental or analytical chemistry sessions made up around 20% of the overall sessions, including a few special sessions. Environmental or analytical chemistry sessions included about 160 oral presentations and 222 poster presentations. When we look beyond these sessions, we found great chemistry presentations throughout the meeting. Perhaps that is why we attend SETAC.

The meeting’s program guide keyword index noted that this year “bioaccumulation,” “bioavailability” and “persistent” were used as keywords to describe 262, 139 and 83 presentations, respectively. “Pesticides,” “nanomaterials” and “metals” were used 153, 122 and 249 times, respectively. Interestingly, “pharmaceuticals” and “personal care products” were used 103 and 57 times, respectively, while “dioxins” was only used 17 times. There is an obvious focus on emerging contaminants.

Cora Young
New Chemistry AG steering committee member Jon Benskin and SETAC Chemist Travel Award recipient Cora Young enjoying the AG’s happy hour in Long Beach.

The SETAC Chemistry Advisory Group (CAG) held its annual business meeting on Tuesday morning of the conference. As a science advisory group, one of our goals is to help ensure that emerging and important science is not omitted. Our steering committee added six new members this year including individuals from the United States and Canada with careers in academia, government and business. This new and diverse group will help ensure that the “C” in SETAC is on point. Our new steering committee members include:

  • Colleen Rostad from the United States Geological Survey
  • Jonathan Benskin from AXYS Analytical Services Ltd
  • Jonathan Martin from the University of Alberta
  • Lee Ferguson from Duke University
  • Pam Rice from the United States Department of Agriculture
  • Wendy Hillwalker from Exponent

In Long Beach, the CAG sponsored two sessions:

  1. Safer Consumer Products: Advancing Green Chemistry in California and Beyond. Chairs: Cory Robertson and Evelia Rodriguez
  2. Designing Safer Chemicals with Minimized Unintentional Biological Activity. Chairs: Bryan Brooks and Julie Zimmerman

Bryan Brooks summarized the session on designing safer chemicals as "A special green chemistry session focused on sustainable molecular design to reduce environmental hazards of industrial chemicals." Leading experts presented recent findings on a variety of topics, ranging from integration of molecular docking with computational toxicology, synthesis and environmental modeling. Clearly, this emerging area remains of much interest to SETAC and the CAG.

Julie Zimmerman presented “designing benign chemistries” and highlighted the importance of designing chemicals to meet our industrial or biological needs (physical and chemical properties) as well as to curtail the environmental and human health impacts (toxicology).

This year’s SETAC Chemist Travel Award recipient was Cora Young from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Every year the CAG sponsors an individual who excels in the field of environmental chemistry and is currently not a member of SETAC to attend the SETAC North America meeting. A majority of Young’s research focuses on studying the atmospheric sources, fate and transport of persistent pollutants such as perfluorinated acids and flame retardant compounds.

Young summarized her experience, "As an atmospheric chemist attending SETAC, I found that the conference had not only a high level of science but also an excellent collegial atmosphere. The size of the meeting provided an intimate environment for the exchange of ideas between scientists, compared to the large meetings that usually feature atmospheric chemistry. I discovered many opportunities for collaboration and new research directions to pursue. My students and I will certainly be attending future SETAC meetings."

The Women in SETAC Luncheon was held on Tuesday of the conference. The title of the luncheon was “Personal and Societal Perceptions of Women in Positions of Authority” and was attended by Eleanor Robinson, a graduate student from Baylor University. Robinson said, "Kim Anderson, Anne Fairbrother and Mary Reiley spoke about their career paths, gave advice to women on how to succeed professionally, and discussed how as a woman to balance ones personal and professional lives. Kim discussed potential issues tenure-track female professors face. It was motivating to meet and receive advice from such strong and humble women."

Robinson was also the recipient of this year’s SETAC-ACS Student Exchange Award. As the recipient of this award she was invited to present her research titled “Reconstruction of Pesticide, PCB and PBDE Profiles in Gray and Blue Whale Earplugs” at the next American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting.

Social Highlights
Besides meeting up with friends and colleagues, this year the CAG held its first happy hour and social event. The event started at 7 p.m. and was held at the Congregation Ale House. Charles Wong and I helped welcome well over 250 chemists with food and drink. Contributions for the social event were obtained from both chemistry steering committee members as well as from Cambridge Isotopes Laboratory (CIL) and Environmental & Turf Services. Attending the event, Ben Priest and Terry Grim represented CIL, while Stuart Z. Cohen represented Environmental & Turf Services. Thanks to all of our sponsors and attendees, the event was a complete success. I have the photos to prove it!

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