Connecting Early-Career Scientists and Engineers
LOCALLY and GLOBALLY
New England Scientists and Teachers for Sustainability (NESTS)| University of Massachusetts Boston
New England Scientists and Teachers for Sustainability (NESTS) was started in November, 2015 by a group of graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Boston. It exists to increase awareness of sustainable science in the Northeast region through advancement of sustainable research practices, teaching, promotion and outreach. Our vision is to be the leading authority on sustainable science initiatives within the Greater Boston Area and the Northeast region.
- developing and implementing sustainable science research and teaching
- building a community of aware scientists
- outreach with local schools and community organizations
- condensing and publishing news from sustainable science efforts
- promoting knowledge of sustainable practices
- offering opportunities for professional development
Boston has 50 higher education institutions and is home to over 250,000 students. NESTS events typically target young chemists aged 18 to 30 years old. We are also determined to reach students in middle school and high school as well as teachers at general education institutions.
NESTS is currently working on developing chemistry demonstration modules. We will be presenting two demos related to climate change at the 2017 Cambridge Science festival as well as at East Boston High School.
One of our committees is dedicated to holding chemical safety events on campus each spring. In 2016 the workshop pertained to compressed and hazardous gas safety. The one coming up in Spring 2017 will focus on laser safety.
Our newsletter committee is in the process of publishing the sixth issue of the UMass Boston Center for Green Chemistry Newsletter. Click here for all of our published newsletters!
Successes and Challenges:
We have had great success collaborating with local organizations. Together with the Young Chemist Committee of the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society we have held three trivia events and one green chemistry workshop hosted with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. The workshop drew in over 45 people with very diverse backgrounds including AP high school students, high school teachers, undergraduates and graduate students.
Early on it was challenging to gain momentum to found the initiative. Once a couple of graduate students returned from the 2015 American Chemical Society Green Chemistry School we hit a critical mass and the ball started rolling, attracting more and more interested students. Having more members gave rise to another challenge, delegation of work. Using strategic planning techniques we were able to define a clear purpose for the initiative and create specific committees to focus on achieving the core goals of NESTS.
To learn more, please email NESTS’ secretary, Andrew Gnann, at email@example.com
Green Chemistry Initiative | University of Toronto
The Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI) at the University of Toronto was founded in September of 2012 by a group of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers in the Department of Chemistry who were in search of a way to not only decrease the environmental impact of their own chemistry research but also educate others within the chemistry community on the principles and merits of green chemistry.
We believe that chemistry is a necessary part of the overall solution to many of today’s environmental challenges and we want to do our part to promote information and tools that can make chemistry greener and more sustainable. To that end, the GCI hosts monthly seminars by cutting-edge researchers and industry partners, various social and educational outreach events, weekly trivia challenges, and annual green chemistry workshops.
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Motivation and core values:
We believe that chemistry has the potential to provide meaningful solutions to pressing environmental problems, but often, even though the end goal of the project may be green, the methods of getting there are not. We all wanted to learn more about how we could do chemistry in a way that would not adversely affect the very environment we are trying to help through our research. We found that while our department does an excellent job of incorporating green chemistry principles into the undergraduate curriculum, as graduate students and post-docs there was no formal way for us to learn how to actually apply green chemistry principle. We decided that by working together, we could fill this information gap.
Our mission is to raise awareness about green chemistry in order to promote more sustainable practices within the chemistry community at the University of Toronto. Through seminars, workshops and networking, the Green Chemistry Initiative strives to educate scientists and engineers about important green chemistry concepts that are relevant to chemical research and the community at large.
As we focus primarily on research, our primary target audience is graduate students, post-docs, and undergraduates. We do some amount of community outreach to younger kids and families as part of city-wide events such as Science Rendezvous or in conjunction with Pueblo Science.
Activities and outreach events:
- Green Chemistry Seminar Series – Each month, we invite a speaker from academia, industry, or a governmental agency to give a lecture focused on some aspect of green chemistry.
- Annual Workshop – The workshop is intended to be a more in-depth study of particular aspects of green chemistry. Our first workshop was focused on understanding how to implement green chemistry in actual graduate research and then how to measure the success through the use of green metrics. We were lucky enough to have Dr. John Warner as our keynote speaker for this event. Our second workshop focused on what we felt needed to be the next steps in green chemistry: namely toxicology, environmental fate of common chemicals, and very discipline specific examples of green chemistry application.
- Green Chemistry Trivia – Every week we pass out trivia ballots at a well-attended existing Department of Chemistry social event (with permission of course!). We ask a question related to some aspect of green chemistry and each correct answer serves as an entry for a prize drawing. We follow up each event with a departmental email that has both the question and answer with an explanation and links to green chemistry resources. This event reaches the most people within the department at once.
- Educational Resources – We have created a section on our website where we have organized useful resources (papers, solvent selection guides, databases, etc.) for everyday lab work. We also have developed a “top 10 list” in poster format for simple steps to make everyday lab work greener.
- Energy Reduction – We are planning energy reduction initiatives that will be implemented within the department, such as more efficient hallway lighting, replacement of wasteful water aspirators, and an evaluation of energy use from building ventilation.
- Waste Awareness – We have been working with the building staff to track the waste produced within the department over the past year. In the coming year, we plan a multi-pronged approach to raise awareness about the fate of the chemical waste (it doesn’t just go to the collection room an magically disappear) and how to reduce the overall waste by increasing efficiency, targeted recycling, and focusing on minimizing the production of the most hazardous types of waste.
- Journal Club – We host a monthly journal club meeting where we invite a member of the department to discuss a paper they have recently published and then analyze it with a green chemistry perspective.
- Social media – We frequently post on facebook and twitter as a rapid way to interact with the broader community.
- Blog posts – We post monthly blog entries on various aspects of green chemistry which act as a complement to our social media outreach.
- Public outreach – We participate in many university-specific and city-wide events. We have run a number of demonstrations at these events (i.e. building blackberry solar cells, making green glue, etc.) intended for audiences of all ages.
- Curriculum development – We are currently working with teaching faculty members to both update existing course content as well as create new experiments and assignments for undergraduate courses.
Successes and challenges of being green:
Successes: We continue to be amazed at how many people are willing to help us if we just ask. We have received so much support from our university, our department, other student organizations, and the many green chemistry experts we have had the pleasure of working with so far! It’s so exciting to see how much impact a small group of dedicated students can have. Though we have been in existence for only a few years, we can already feel the department’s perspective on green chemistry changing. It really is true, the more you talk about something and the more people hear it, the more likely they are to listen.
Challenges: Overcoming the misconceptions about “green chemistry” can be quite difficult. People who don’t really know what green chemistry is about often think it’s not relevant to their work and therefore simply stop listening. We have had to work very hard to ensure that we do not come across as judgmental so as not to inadvertently alienate anyone. However we have found that through repeated positive face-to-face interactions, we can at least engage with people and start to get them to take an interest in green chemistry.
GREEN | University of Arizona
The Greening Research, Education and Environment Network (GREEN) started in September of 2013 at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. GREEN was formed to help educate the department on green chemistry and how it can be implemented in their research (no matter the division of chemistry or the field of research). We have a diverse membership, ranging from organic, inorganic, biological, and analytical chemists to biologists and microbiologists.
GREEN is dedicated to educating students of all ages (elementary and high school students, undergraduate and graduate researchers, and academic and industrial scientists) about the importance of green chemistry. We promote sustainability and minimization of the environmental impact produced by the chemicals and solvents used daily in academic and industrial research and production. We also encourage the use of “greener” and environmentally-friendly alternatives in order to reduce the environmental footprint of the standard practices. For instance, as rare-earth metals and fossil fuels are depleted, it is crucial that both scientists and the community at large embrace green alternatives and reduce the use and waste of our precious resources.
For more information please contact us at email@example.com
Motivation and core values:
We started the group because we felt there was a lack of green chemistry education at the University of Arizona and, while we aren’t experts, we felt that we could provide information and perspectives on why and how to be more green and sustainable in every aspect of research and life. Our goals still are to continue educating and growing the group in the department and in the community by creating workshops and outreach programs to educate all young scientists from middle school to graduate school.
We currently reach out mainly to undergraduate and graduate students. However, we have recently participated in community water preservation, green workshops for middle school students, and annually participate in high school student/teacher programs to promote interdisciplinary research and, recently, introducing the concepts of green research.
Current activities and outreach:
Successes and challenges of being green:
The McGill Green Chemistry Student Association | McGill University
Founded in 2014, the McGill Green Chemistry Student Association (MGCSA) is a graduate and undergraduate student-led initiative based in the Department of Chemistry at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Our purpose is the communication of information to students on how they can apply the principles of Green Chemistry in their daily lab work as well as serve as a springboard for students to explore their own ideas about green chemistry and sustainability through various projects.
Motivation and core values:
While both McGill University and the Chemistry Department have a strong commitment towards sustainability in chemistry through the NSERC CREATE program, the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF), and similar initiatives, these programs often struggle to reach a large proportion of students working in labs. MGCSA wants to bridge this gap by focusing on student outreach and assisting green student initiatives.
MGCSA aims at two main goals: inform the students on how they can apply the principles of Green Chemistry in their daily lab work, as well as supporting and empowering initiatives relevant to its activities. The goal of these activities is to reduce the environmental burden of McGill research labs, reduce hazards students and staff are exposed to, and better educate students in green chemistry, which we believe is the chemistry of the future.
Our main audience includes staff and students (grad and undergrad) in the Department of Chemistry and local high school/CEGEP students in Montreal.
Current activities and outreach events:
- Waste Management: We are also collaborating with McGill Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) to learn more about how our chemical waste is disposed. Our goal would be to educate staff and students about proper waste segregation and how this impacts disposal from a cost and environmental point of view.
- Chemical Education: Some of our members are involved in designing and testing new undergraduate experiments that encompass green principles. We have received funding for McGill for this research.
- Outreach: In collaboration with the McGill Chemistry Outreach Program, several of our members have presented to several high school and CEGEP students on green chemistry and sustainability. This includes hands-on demonstrations that illustrate examples of green chemistry practices, including research being done at McGill such as mechanochemistry and solar cells.
- Social Events: As a fun way to promote green chemistry, we host bagel hours and trivia nights to McGill students that have had excellent turnouts. We also attend other McGill sustainability events such as Green Drinks.
GreenSTEMS | University of York
GreenSTEMS is an early-career sustainable science group at the University of York (United Kingdom) that aims to connect and support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) + Social scientists in developing cross-disciplinary thinking in their research by engaging them in a local network. The group started in July 2014 and now joins together researchers, students, faculty, and staff with varied backgrounds and from different departments across campus under the common interest for sustainable development.
Motivation and core values
Current activities and outreach events
Successes and challenges of being green:
The Sustainability Research Network | University of Nottingham
The Sustainability Research Network (SRN) is a dynamic network of postgraduate and early career researchers at the University of Nottingham working on (or with an interest in) sustainability. We aim to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and discussion, facilitate knowledge exchange, and raise awareness of the many opportunities available within the University and beyond (e.g. funding, careers, collaboration).
Motivation and core values
The SRN was established in late 2012 and launched in May 2013 by five PhD students looking to create more opportunities for early career researchers working on sustainability in different Schools to meet each other. Prior to the launch of SRN there were few informal and formal opportunities for researchers interested in sustainability to meet one another and share ideas and expertise across disciplines. SRN is currently supported and driven by a Committee of eight postgraduate and early career researchers and PhD students.
Today, the network comprises over 300 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers, lecturers and other early career research staff from a broad range of disciplines across all faculties.
Current activities and outreach events
Since our launch in May 2013, we have organised a number of events.
- Researcher-led events: In association with the Graduate School, we have invited postgraduate, early career and research staff at the University of Nottingham to present their work and hold discussions around their research interests.
- Guest Speaker Events: We have hosted a number of external Guest Speakers at SRN events, including:
Dr Helen Sneddon, Head of Green Chemistry Performance Unit, GlaxoSmithKline R&D Ltd
Dr. Kevin Hard, CEO at EvoEnergy
Dr. Jo Horton, Corporate Responsibility (CR) Manager at E.ON
Dr. Chris Blencowe, Senior Sustainability Consultant at Hilson Moran
Graham Gardiner, Director of Aspiren
- Sustainability Research Network Launch Event (May 2013): This event saw 40 postgraduate and early careers researchers come together to discuss their research projects, learn more about sustainability research and teaching at The University of Nottingham and gain careers advice from a multi-sector panel.
Network organisation: Integration of new members into the committee, and development of a flexible structure in which interested individuals may collaborate in a one-time event organisation based on their research interests.
Expanding the scope of the network: When members are students or postdocs at the University for 3 years on average, how can we encourage ownership of the network by members as well as the Committee?
Developing a greater and independent collaboration between SRN members: Securing greater levels of commitment from our membership in terms of taking the network forward and contributing to organising future activities. Currently these tasks are rarely taken up by anyone outside the current named Committee.
Diversity and design in maintaining the network: Given the diversity of research on sustainability, and even the diversity of meanings of sustainability itself, what sorts of collaboration can we realistically attempt to foster within the limited time frame of potential SRN activities?
From early on in SRN’s development we contacted senior members of academic staff to let them know about what we were trying to do and to request their support. We have also kept in touch with them subsequently, updating them on SRN activities and inviting them to come to events. This has been helpful for overcoming bureaucratic hurdles (such as not having access to room booking systems) and for raising the credibility of SRN, as well as forming relationships with senior members of academic staff. We have also made links with other contacts such as the Graduate School; the University’s central support and professional development service for postgraduates and staff members. This has led to further administrative support for SRN and opportunities to publicise the network more broadly – as well as to organise joint events.
The SRN has set up ways of getting member feedback. In response to members’ wishes to gain different perspectives on their work, we have set up a researcher-led seminar, where postgraduates will be able to present their research and receive questions and comments from early career researchers in other disciplines. Some members were interested in networking with external organisations, so we have brought in guest speakers from E.On, EvoEnergy and GlaxoSmithKline to talk and answer questions about their industries and their own careers. Members have also asked for opportunities to form connections across disciplines and research areas, so we are working to organise interdisciplinary events and research discussions. Other member interests include aspirations that might seem to be outside the scope of the network: for example, advising the UK government or influencing the cares of the next generation. However, SRN provides an arena in which these aspirations and how to address them can be discussed – particularly from a critical angle. So SRN provides an opportunity for members to meet and speak with others from the University and elsewhere. Our events are structured to enable participants to meet lots of different people, with time available for discussion, and new perspectives and approaches introduced by external speakers.