Roberto Federico Perez

Roberto Federico Perez – Standing for the position of Director of Membership Activities

Listen to Roberto’s NESSE interview 

Picture_R_Federico_PerezCurrent Career Status: Graduate Student, PhD

Institution: University of Tennessee

Location: Knoville, TN, USA

Country of Origin: Mexico


I am currently working on my PhD in analytical chemistry at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville. My research involves the use of optical sensor films for the detection of several analytes of interest, as well as the development of coated composites with potential applications on in-situ chemical oxidation. I’m originally from Mexico, and I got my bachelor’s degree in food chemistry at the University of Sonora, as well as a certificate on sustainable development. My research interests include green analytical chemistry methods, as it is often in my opinion a less discussed area of green chemistry, and I also enjoy learning about environmental law and policy. In my free time, I like working out, watching a good documentary online, going to the movies, and working on my public speaking skills. I joined NESSE to connect with other professionals who share an interest for rethinking the processes that industry and society in general have in place.

Statement of Interest: 

My interests in sustainability started earlier on while I was an undergraduate student. As part of my capstone project, I had the opportunity to work on a case study in Mexico that involved the risk assessment of chemical substances in a hospital setting. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the hazard of cleaning products and the exposure of workers in compliance with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of classification and labelling of chemicals. From this experience, I realized that exposure is a well assimilated concept when it comes to our own empirical perception of risk. However, the idea of reducing the inherent hazard of a chemical is a less familiar thought for most people. This motivated me to pursue a specialization on sustainability and explore the logistics behind the implementation of cleaner systems of production from the point of view of a chemist.

Even now as a graduate student, I have realized that this perception of risk among my peers and professionals with more expertise continues to regard a significant level of hazard as acceptable in many everyday practices. I believe that changing the mindset of a whole generation is not just a technology problem, but also an opportunity to educate a new cohort of people on what can be done to responsibly manage our economic development. After participating in the 2016 ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy, I learned about how NESSE’s mission aligns with this purpose and decided to become a member.

A pivotal purpose of NESSE is providing a platform for interaction of its members. As the Director of Membership Activities, I would continue to foster the initiatives launched to date, while proposing and developing new strategies for the engagement of new and current members. A particular interest of mine is recruitment, especially the expansion of the membership to new geographical areas. Having the input of early-career professionals from diverse social contexts will enrich the experience of our network and will complement the initiatives within the organization. For this purpose, direct outreach to academic institutions would be a viable method to tackle this objective.

In addition, continuing to improve the engagement of our membership would be a major focus in this role for me. An essential step for this task would be the creation of new tools to obtain feedback from all those associated with NESSE, in terms of what resources need to be further developed and which ones spark more interest. In this manner, we can obtain a blueprint for new initiatives that would provide a tailored experience to our network, including webinar topics, seminars, workshops, etc. Maintaining a dynamic communication between members and board directors represents an important goal to achieve this.

On previous years I have been involved in several associations, both during my undergraduate studies and currently while working on my PhD at the University of Tennessee. I presided over the graduate student association in the chemistry department at UT, working on the organization of several events, fundraising, and a career-development seminar. Moreover, I have been involved in my community by serving at a local Toastmasters club as Vice President of Membership, where we work on our leadership and communication skills while helping our members do the same. Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as a NESSE representative in the organization committee of the 2017 International Symposium on Green Chemistry in La Rochelle, France.  Over the course of several months, we were able to plan and hold a panel discussion on industrial and academic career paths. Our guest speakers shared their thoughts on career advancement and opportunities in green chemistry with the attending audience. Working on this event gave me the chance to spread the word regarding the mission of NESSE, to connect with scientists that translate sustainable science into action, and to reach out to new early-career professionals who share the same passion for sustainability as I do.

I believe that serving as the Director of Membership Activities would represent a great platform to continue building prolific relationships within our organization that will eventually lead to the changes we are expecting tomorrow. I will ensure that we provide the ideal conditions for these collaborations to occur and that they echo the values that NESSE aims for.