Silvia Ronco is a senior program director at Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) where she directs the Cottrell Scholars program and works closely with RCSA’s upper leadership on the foundation’s mission and vision.
Silvia received a PhD in inorganic chemistry from the National University of La Plata in Argentina and conducted postdoctoral work at the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory and Clemson University. She joined RCSA in 2003 after a faculty career at the University of South Dakota where she was a professor of chemistry and served as the founding chair of the USD Undergraduate Research Council.
Silvia is a fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the immediate past-president of the Council of Undergraduate Research, and a Councilor for the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry.
What is the one essential piece of personal tech you always travel with?
My iPad! I use it all the time to work, read the news, answer emails, attend zoom meetings and watch movies.
Window or aisle?
Definitely aisle. I used to like window seats but got tired of being pushed too close to the window by the aisle passenger.
Where would your dream business trip take you? What appeals to you about this destination?
I would love to go to Paris. Although I’ve been there as a tourist, I would like to enjoy the city vibe from a different perspective. And I love sitting in cafes and watch people walk by.
Airport you are highly motivated to avoid, if at all possible. Why?
I haven’t had great luck with O’Hare airport. Seems too crowded and exposed to too many weather challenges. When I lived in the Midwest, I had to fly through Chicago often and flights were delayed or cancelled all the time. Or at least, it felt that way! Now that I live in Tucson (AZ), I try to avoid early morning flights to San Francisco due to frequent fog-related delays or cancellations, especially if flying small, commuter planes.
How do you pass the time while flying?
If I’m flying for business, I spend most of the time getting ready for meetings. That’s when the iPad becomes really handy! Before the flight, I always download necessary files in the “Books” app. For longer or end of the day flights, I may download a couple of movies from my Netflix account. And, I’m lucky to be able to sleep in overnight flights, which I usually take when I visit my home country (Argentina).
Where did your very first business trip take you? What do you most remember about that trip?
I believe my first business trip was in 1988 when I was a second-year postdoc at the Radiation Laboratory, a DOE-sponsored national lab in the University of Notre Dame campus. In 1988, the Rad Lab sponsored the PI’s meeting for the DOE Photochemistry and Radiation Sciences Program and I was invited to attend. As a young photochemist, newly arrived from Argentina, I felt truly privileged to be at the “invitation only” meeting where I met so many renowned scientists! Many of the participants were scientists I knew their names from their publications and this was the opportunity to interact with them. It was a little intimidating too. At that meeting, I met John D. Petersen who later became my second postdoctoral mentor.
What is your go-to snack to bring on-board the plane?
I’m not much of a snacky person but I love coffee! I always enjoy cappuccinos from Starbucks and often bring them on-board. It’s a comfort thing for me.
Favorite ACS meeting site?
I love the San Diego site. It doesn’t get any better! There’s always nice weather and great opportunities for walks in between meetings. And there’s great food too.
What do you do to alleviate jet lag?
I don’t have any great insight here. I try to stay up until a normal bedtime and get a good night sleep. Drinking tons of water also helps, especially if not alternating with red wine!
Was there a business trip you have taken that went particularly badly? What happened?
On my worst business trip, I took a late afternoon flight from DC to Houston. Thirty minutes from landing at Bush International, they informed us that the airport was closed due to summer thunderstorms in the Houston area. We landed in San Antonio, instead. After a full hour, and still sitting on the plane, we heard that the flight crew was leaving and that we would travel to Houston by bus, a three-hour drive. While in the bus to Houston, the airline informed me that my new departure time to fly home (Tucson) was almost 24 hours later! Once in Houston and sitting at a dark terminal at 1 am, I was able to purchase a ticket from a different airline that would get me home early that morning. I was thrilled until I realized that the new flight was leaving from Hobby Airport (instead of Bush International) and finding a cab to switch airports at 4 am was not an easy task. In the end, I made it on time and was happier than ever to be back home!
Your best business travel tip for readers of ACS Industry Matters?
Pack light and do not check your bags! At an ACS Meeting in Philadelphia a few years ago, I had to shop for business clothes twice before I reunited with my luggage two days later. My airline reimbursed me, but it was not fun. Also, I always stay in hotels with dining options. Especially if you arrive late, you don’t want to try to find restaurants in unknown places or not being able to have a comforting meal.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. 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.