GSSPC: An Opportunity for Leadership, Excitement, and Achievement

Alex Wagner, University of California, Irvine

Grad students from a variety of universities have shared the excitement of planning symposia for ACS National Meetings. Bringing their visions to fruition, they’ve organized and led symposia with world-renowned scientists. These groups are called Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committees (GSSPCs), and they seek the individuals who will join their ranks in 2014. One of their current members answers all your questions.

What Does GSSPC Do?

The GSSPC, or Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee, is a group of graduate students who lead in planning and presenting a symposium at an ACS national meeting. Each GSSPC comprises students from the same university, although for every new spring and fall national meeting a different university is chosen. Active GSSPCs select and mentor their successors as part of their responsibilities.

How Did GSSPC Begin?

A group of graduate students from the University of Illinois established GSSPC in 2005 and premiered their first symposium at the 231st (Spring 2006) ACS National Meeting. All the committees work in conjunction with the ACS Division of Chemical Education (CHED) to produce and host first-rate symposia featuring world-renowned scientists as guest speakers. Topics covered by the symposia span the various chemistry disciplines, having ranged from very technical content to professional and societal issues.

Spring 2013 GSSPC from the University of California, Irvine.
(Photo Credit: Jessica Paretsky)

What Are the GSSPC Goals?

On the individual level, GSSPC aims to provide graduate students with a national forum to develop a professional network and leadership skills. At the same time, they gain invaluable hands-on experience in organizing a symposium. At the organizational level, the program establishes a permanent and self-sustaining mechanism for introducing future graduate students to the excitement and opportunities that ACS offers. For almost every national meeting since 2006, members of the previous GSSPC have awarded a new committee of graduate students from a new university the opportunity to select a topic, invite speakers, raise funds, and present their symposium to an international audience.

How Does a New GSSPC Get Started?

The currently active GSSPC, which will present its symposium in Spring 2013, is now seeking a group of three to six highly motivated graduate students—preferably from multiple research labs within their department at the same university—to serve as the Spring 2014 ACS GSSPC. The group selected will be planning their one-day symposium for the national meeting in Dallas, Texas. It will take place March 16–20, 2014. Additionally, this group will attend the 245th (Spring 2013) ACS National Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 7–11, 2013. They will receive complimentary travel, lodging, and meeting admission. The group will also meet with the current GSSPC and attend their Graduate Student Symposium (Benchtop to Business: Energy Solutions for a Green Future) while they are at the Spring 2013 National Meeting.

Who Is the Spring 2013 GSSPC?

A group of six graduate students from the University of California, Irvine makes up the Spring 2013 GSSPC. The goal of the symposium, Benchtop to Business: Energy Solutions for a Green Future, is to present an analysis of the challenges and opportunities in the field of renewable energy. Speakers will discuss fundamental chemical research, developing novel devices, and commercializing new technologies. The GSSPC is delighted to have commitments from Professors Daniel Nocera, Melanie Sanford, Nate Lewis, and Matt Law, along with a former Ecolab executive, Kirk Froggatt. These experts will provide a unique set of perspectives to initiate a multi-dimensional discussion about the future of clean energy production. In an effort to encourage open discourse, the speakers will also participate in a question and answer panel. The session will conclude with an informal cocktail mixer to foster scientific collaboration and provide a networking opportunity for attendees.

What Are the Benefits of Forming a GSSPC?

Forming their committee excited the Spring 2013 GSSPC members for a number of reasons. The chance to choose a topic and plan a symposium that would allow them to reach chemists and scientists from around the world thrilled everyone. Even as a group of chemists with different areas of expertise, they all shared an interest in one of the greatest issues of our time—global energy demand for the future. Each of the individual students felt that the GSSPC provided the perfect vehicle to engage leaders in the field of renewable energy and to inspire graduate student audience members. The GSSPC members shared a sense of amazement and excitement at having the opportunity, as graduate students, to bring together this extraordinary group of distinguished speakers. They also found that planning an event of this magnitude has provided opportunities to acquire other valuable experiences, such as identifying speakers, securing symposium funding, and arranging for event advertising. The GSSPC members received another opportunity of enduring value in the form of invitations to serve on executive committees and advisory boards for groups within the ACS. These positions afforded them the opportunity to act as a voice for graduate students and to have a behind-the-scenes look at the organization’s operations.

How Can Graduate Students Apply To Be the Next GSSPC?

The Spring 2013 GSSPC is looking forward to evaluating applications for future GSSPCs and selecting the next committee. The main message they would like to share with those who are considering the project is this: Becoming a part of the ACS GSSPC grants graduate students a unique opportunity. They strongly encourage chemistry graduate students who are interested to consider applying.

Are you interested in forming the Spring 2014 GSSPC? If so, please visit the 2013 GSSPC’s Web site at http://gsspc.chem.uci.edu/Apply.html . Applications are due by December 7, 2012.

Alex Wagner is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Rychnovsky Group at the University of California, Irvine and a Spring 2013 GSSPC leader. He is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow. His research focuses on the use of kinetic resolution catalysts as a new method for determining absolute configuration.