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Gratitude for Chemistry

 Mark E. Jones, PhD, Executive External Strategy and Communications Fellow, The Dow Chemical Company
Mark E. Jones, PhD, Executive External Strategy and Communications Fellow, The Dow Chemical Company

I just encountered “three gratitudes” for the first time. Proponents of the three gratitudes exercise say it is effective at reducing stress during trying times. These are certainly trying times, times requiring stress reduction. Pausing to reflect and finding just three things that you are grateful or thankful for is prescribed. Those sold on the power of three gratitudes state that expressing gratitude can lead to increased happiness and reduce stress. I can’t find actual clinical studies that support this assertion, but it certainly seems harmless. It is an activity that, at worst, can do no harm. Any happiness that results is certainly a welcome break from the unrelenting stress of coronavirus. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is testing us. Many activities that are foundational to the ACS are being cancelled, curtailed or forced virtual. Planning is certainly more challenging than in previous years. It prompted me to want to explore areas where some aspect of chemistry causes me to be thankful, three chemical gratitudes. 

I am thankful that the chemical shell surrounding the novel coronavirus is made of lipids. The lipid shell is easily disrupted, rendering it benign. It didn’t have to be that way. Other viruses have protein shells that encapsulate their payloads, rendering them quite resistant in the environment. The novel coronavirus is neutralized by soap and water. Alcohols, too. That is a bit of chemistry to be grateful for and somewhat comforting.  I take some solace that soap – plain old soap – is an effective weapon.  

I am grateful that we now have tantalizing evidence that drugs, products of the practice of chemistry, are effective at reducing the duration and severity of disease caused by the virus.  This inspires hope since where there is one drug, there may be others. A day ago, there were none. Today, we know there is at least one. I am thankful that it now appears that treatments are on the way, enabled by chemistry.  

I am also thankful that the companies that form the backbone of the chemical enterprise stepped up and are making a real difference. Plants are operating to provide products that protect our medical heroes, our food and our health. People went above and beyond to provide needed supplies and implement entirely new products. Operators at some plants endured extended lockdowns to keep operational. Companies rapidly became hand sanitizer producers, a response to a critical need conceived and implemented in record time.  

Chemistry is important in our battle against the virus. We are striving to find the new normal for the ACS, new ways to support STEM education in the community, new ways to celebrate the power of chemistry and new ways to recognize achievement. Please consider sharing successes related to the COVID-19 response from the chemical enterprise. I am sure there are many stories that will make us all grateful.  

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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