Celebrating 100 years of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute
On 24–28 July, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) held its Centenary Congress, in honour of its 100th anniversary. It was attended by several members of staff.
The congress took place in Melbourne and was the biggest ever chemistry conference to have taken place in Australia. It was held in collaboration with several partner conferences, including the 17th Asian Chemical Congress, which resulted in a huge gathering of Australian and international chemists.
The Royal Society of Chemistry was involved in a number of ways, including hosting a reception for our Australian and New Zealand members and other guests.
"The reception was brilliant", said Sarah Thomas, Senior Programme Manager, International Engagement. "There was such a buzz of conversation and it was really nice to meet the Australian and New Zealand members – I think they really enjoyed the opportunity to meet up and mingle."
Alan Bond, chair of the RSC Australia local section, was instrumental to organising the reception, and gave a speech to the assembled members. He spoke to us about what it was like to bring representatives from the Royal Society of Chemistry together with local members.
"The RSC Australian Group liaising with the RACI has a synergistic effect in advancing chemistry and the profile of the discipline, both in Australia and the UK, for example by the presentation of the 2017 RSC Australasian Lectureship by Neil Barnett at this meeting", he said.
RSC Council member, Tom Welton, also gave a speech congratulating RACI on their centenary and presented a gift to the President of RACI, Peter Junk.
We also collaborated with RACI to organise a panel discussion on the Future of the Chemical Sciences. The facilitator for the discussion was our External Relations Manager, Ale Palermo. Amongst the panellists were Penny Brothers, President of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, Frances Arnold, Caltech, Tom Welton, Imperial College and RSC Council member, Martina Stenzel, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Peter Bury, Chemistry Australia and Mary Garson, Queensland and advocate for Women in Science.
During the lively discussion, the panel and audience debated issues such as education and the skills needed for the next generation of chemists, the changing face of the industry sector and the importance of science advocacy and of effective communication.
"It was a pleasure to chair this discussion on the future of the chemical sciences with such a distinguished group of panellists," said Ale. "Overall it was a vibrant and interactive couple of hours and an excellent panel with an excellent audience too!"
Roger Stapleford, CEO of RACI, masterminded the whole congress and was crucial to organising our involvement. "Without him there would have been no congress", said Sarah. "He was the real driving force."
Roger said: "The Congress was a great success due to a huge team effort. In the end there were 26 separate technical organising committees and if they had not been prepared to work together the whole enterprise would have crashed and burned.
"One of our goals was to break the silo mentality of the various branches of the chemical scientists and we were pleased to see this happening, with many joint sessions occurring and people mixing at the multitude of social events.
"A second goal was to move away from a purely academic based chemical conference and get more involvement of industry and commerce. Again we succeeded with the involvement of the Chemeca conference, a HS&E meeting and the SCI three day seminar pulling in a lot of non-academic delegates.
"The final success was the involvement of school students. With the pulling power of Sir Martyn Poliakoff we had almost 500 senior school students attending on the outreach day for a first-hand experience of what chemistry and chemists are all about."
Among the delegates were three previous winners of our Marlow Award. This award also includes the R A Robinson Lectureship Bursary for the purpose of giving a lecture in either Singapore, Malaysia, Australia or New Zealand. We collaborated with RACI who invited the 2015 and 2016 winners to give their lectures at the Congress.
Finally, the winner of the 2016 RSC Australasian Lectureship, Neil Barnett, from Deakin University received the award from RSC Council member, Mike Ashfold, and delivered his lecture.
"It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to", concluded Sarah. "It ticked all the right boxes – the organisation and the scientific programme were all excellent and there were even koalas participating! It was a very positive experience, and wonderful to be able to share in the centenary celebrations of RACI."
(l-r) Sir Martyn Poliakoff, Ale Palermo, Sarah Thomas, Professor Ben FeringaPicture: