NCS (Nittany Chemical Society) is a Penn State student affiliate chapter of ACS (American Chemical Society). It is student-run with current faculty advisors, Drs. Joe Houck and Lori Stepan. The students engage in professional development while building outreach with the chemistry department and general community.
20 undergraduate students in NCS recently attended the National ACS Conference in San Diego where they presented their club poster, which described the group’s activities as an ACS affiliate, and individual research posters.
ACS is the world’s largest scientific society with more than 150,000 members worldwide. Their mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The vision is to improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry. At these national meetings, there are research presentations and networking opportunities for undergraduate students and NCS took on these opportunities. There were about 50 student affiliate clubs from across the country at the session, allowing NCS to meet with other student leaders while bouncing ideas from club to club.
“It was rewarding for me to see all their hard work pay off with this trip after travel limitations and uncertainty as we started the year" said faculty advisor Dr. Houck. “I am proud of what they accomplished - sending TWENTY students to SAN DIEGO!"
Prior to the ACS conference, the Penn State Chemistry GSA (Graduate Student Association) partnered with NCS to give the undergraduate researchers an opportunity to present their ACS posters to graduate students to receive feedback on their posters, science, and how well they crafted their scientific narrative.
GSA president Ryan Szukalo stated “many graduate students attended, ate Creamery ice cream with the undergrads, and listened to the amazing science that had been conducted. The graduate students had a great time discussing the posters, and hopefully our feedback provided a stress-free trial run for the presenters before their first trip to a national science conference. We hope to make this event an annual one, to better connect the graduate and undergraduate research programs, and increase the diversity of collaboration within the department.” It was a positive send-off to ACS San Diego.
Once the NCS members were prepped from the practice poster session, they made their way to the five-day national conference. The conference itself was hybrid, with approximately 11,000 oral and poster presentations. NCS members Ryan Lai, Kayla Constantini, and Olivia Tancredi presented the club’s poster, which covered all the club did this year: professional development, community building, fundraising, outreach, and adjusting with the pandemic. Farraz Haider, Morgan Dierolf, Sindy Liu, Anna Griggs, Timothy Lou, Sophie Aksoy, Tanner Wolf, and Hannah Priller were the members who presented their own research posters on site.
Ryan Lai, president of NCS, said ACS San Diego was “one of the most memorable chemistry experiences that I’ve had so far. I was able to meet many chemists at different stages in their careers while also learning about all the different facets of chemistry. I was able to see what students from other universities were working on, and it gave me a lot of new perspectives.”
NCS faculty advisor Dr. Stepan noted “the members have worked hard all year at fundraising for the trip, doing everything from selling Penn State clothing to cleaning up Beaver stadium after football games. The experience was phenomenal; they networked with people from all over the world and made some connections to sister student affiliate chapters. It was a successful trip!”
Alongside the conference, the students and faculty advisors were able to explore San Diego with all the touristy activities. The club went to the San Diego Zoo for an afternoon and the following day to La Jolla, where they got to view the beautiful California coast while meeting some seal friends! The conference’s theme this year was “bonding through chemistry”, which Lai said held true as the NCS team was able to “bond and become closer friends through this trip. All in all, I hope that we can continue to bring NCS to ACS conferences in the future!”