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Why 50 Forward?

IT ALL BEGINS WITH AN EXPERIMENT

If you’re a chemist or chemical engineer, your career may have started with surreptitious experimenting with a chemistry set in the basement. Or maybe it was a science fair experiment presented proudly with the support of an inspiring teacher. Experimentation is central to who we are as scientists. In laboratories and lecture halls (and even basements!), we define problems, test possibilities, and then refine and improve the solutions.

In 1968, a group of ACS members launched an experiment called Project SEED. Targeting deep-seated challenges in society and education at the time, the program opened the doors of top chemistry laboratories to high school students who had little access to such opportunities. Dedicated ACS mentors engaged students in research, leading not only to a lifelong passion for science for many students, but also to confidence and new ideas of who they could become.

 

"When I received my first Gilbert chemistry set from my parents at the tender age of eight, I really had no idea what chemistry was all about. I conducted experiments in the family basement, as described in the kit, and became fascinated with chemistry. Perhaps, it was the ability to alter matter at will, with the associated sense of power, that captivated me, leading me to set up a small chemistry lab. I grew more and more competent as a young chemist and decided early on to pursue a career in chemistry." BRUCE E. MARYANOFF, PHD

ACS Project SEED is a summer research program providing economically disadvantaged high school students with the opportunity to spend 8-10 weeks working and being mentored in a research lab at a critical turning point in their lives.

"When I got to the lab, my nervousness was obvious—my hands were shaking filling the pipettes. Luckily, my mentor told me he expected mistakes because that is a critical part of experimenting."JIN GAO, OD – PROJECT SEED & CIBA SCHOLAR

A PROVEN SOLUTION

In the 50 years since 1968, the ACS Project SEED experiment has been refined into a proven solution. With a unique combination of lab-based experiences in chemistry and mentorship, it consistently inspires personal growth and a passion for science among the participants.

  • 89% of the students in a post-internship survey credited the program with igniting an interest in pursuing college.
  • Three of every four SEED alumni that attend college major in science.
  • Chemists who have participated in Project SEED rate it as one of the most memorable professional experiences of their lives, with many returning year after year to serve as mentors to new students.

 

A FOUNDATION FOR IMPACT

The chemists and chemical engineers of ACS who founded Project SEED 50 years ago were the experimenters and innovators. The next generation expanded the program to more students and sites, raising the quality of the program by refining processes and methods, and laying the groundwork that makes it possible to contemplate bolder impact today.

Because of these efforts, we are able take stock of the strengths of Project SEED, and ACS members are positioned to lead on issues of widespread interest and concern. These include:

High-quality STEM Education. We have a national consensus that science, technology, engineering and math education needs to be expanded and enhanced to generate innovation and continued prosperity. However, STEM initiatives remain woefully underfunded compared to the need for investment, especially in contrast to earlier periods in history. With a premier STEM initiative in Project SEED, ACS should scale up the reach and capacity of the program, while also encouraging its replication in new communities as well as globally.

Promotion of Scientific literacy. The flood of information of varying levels of credibility requires discernment, especially where science is concerned. Programs like Project SEED involving hands-on research offer young people experience in making evidence-based decisions and connections that make them more informed citizens. Scientic literacy is widely needed to enable our world to thrive, and Project SEED further addresses the scientic literacy gap among people of different backgrounds and income levels.

New voices in science. So many of the biggest questions for science today lie at the intersection of different elds, and are best explored by bringing together people from distinct disciplines, as well as from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Blacks and Hispanics still are underrepresented in the sciences (2% and 4% of ACS members, respectively), compared with Whites and Asians (80% and 9% ). Project SEED has a documented track record of creating a pipeline of diverse talent interested in the chemical sciences. That pipeline has proven to be a game-changer, and it should be pursued with even more vigor.

 

Of SEED participants that attend college:

Science Majors

Earned a Ph.D.

Earned a Masters of Science

Earned a Bachelor's Degree

Earned Other Degrees

A 50-YEAR VISION AND TRAJECTORY

Considering these needs and the strength of the ACS Project SEED model, it’s natural that ACS members, mentors, SEED graduates, donors, and other stakeholders ask about concrete plans for Project SEED headed into the next 50 years. The 50 Forward appeal articulates this clear set of actions along with the needed investment to achieve the impact that we can make. Our actions will be:

Increase the Project SEED Endowment from $8,000,000 to $10,000,000 to provide a stable, ongoing source of funds for the program.

Provide competitive stipends to encourage talented, low-income students to take advantage of the opportunity.

Expand the program from sites in 100+ communities in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to programs in more communities and all 50 states.

Raise student participation by 25% over 5 years, from 400+ students per summer to 500+

Foster a continually rejuvenated and expanding team of trusted volunteer mentors from ACS membership

Share the Project SEED model with ACS International Chapters and other scientic organizations.

“What I care about is research. We need research because chemistry can solve the challenges facing our world. We need to encourage young people to believe that they can make the discoveries that will change the world….Supporting this program in my small way is what I think can be the best place for me to start to encourage young people to do research. It is not research for America, but research for all people everywhere.” MASAKI TAN, MD — RETIRED SURGEON

FORWARD

Together we can build a foundation that extends ACS Project SEED’s trajectory outward and upward into the future – for 50 more years. We’ll increase the number of high school students who are able to participate in Project SEED, while continuing to raise our impact.

We’ll then see the changes that result from exposing thousands of students to what has inspired many of us – the pursuit of science in a laboratory setting under the guidance of a trusted mentor.

We invite you to experiment with ways you can help. Explore the Project SEED Inspiration Lab, learn about the science taking place, and hear the stories of participants. And consider how you can help move Project SEED forward for the next 50 years.

 

INVEST TODAY

Will you invest today in young people’s academic and professional futures? Join the giving level that reflects your commitment to chemistry in the next 50 years.