Stay Grounded

Joe Sabol prefers to avoid airports of all stripes, preferring to drive
Joe Sabol, Consultant
Joe Sabol, Consultant

Joe Sabol is a consultant to the chemical, semiconductor, and polymer industries. He specializes in technical and business development services, primarily to start-ups and small and growing chemical businesses. Joe grew up on an apple farm in Racine County, Wisconsin, and received a B.S. in chemistry from Carroll College (now Carroll University, Wisconsin) and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. After a postdoc in chemical engineering at University of Minnesota, he taught analytical, physical, and environmental chemistry. He also studied the transport, magnetic, and crystallographic properties of single crystal transition metal oxides, variants of Fe3O4. Joe joined ACS in 1976, was named ACS Fellow in 2018, and currently is Division of Small Chemical Businesses program chair (2008-present) and Councilor (2016-2024), Upper Peninsula Local Section treasurer (2008-2023), and Great Lakes Region director (2011-present) and treasurer (2019-2022). He served on the Committee for Chemistry and Public Affairs (2015-2021) and is an associate member of Committee on Environmental Improvement (2022). In 2003 Sabol was appointed to Marquette County, Michigan, Local Emergency Planning Committee and has been chair since 2017.


What is the one essential piece of personal tech you always travel with?

Not an electronic device, my essential travel “technology” is a 27-inch expandable, rolling suitcase, trolley style. Large enough to hold 20+ kg clothing, adequate for a week, capable of transporting folded suits and dresses. Avoid spinners, the wheels are not as robust and the compartment is not as large as embedded trolley wheels. 

Window or aisle? 

This depends on the time of day (sun or shadow) and route. For example, if flying to Anchorage, Alaska, from the lower 48, a right side outbound allows full view of the coastline, with left side return complimentary. Obviously, window gives you a better view, but aisle allows easier to deplane. In general, longer flights window, shorter trips aisle.

Where would you dream business trip take you? What appeals to you about this destination? 

New Orleans: great city, delicious French food, and local music. My good fortune allowed me to visit a client in New Orleans six times in 2013.

Airport you are highly motivated to avoid, if at all possible. Why?

Avoid all airports, stay on the ground if possible. Air travel is generally more resource intensive and complicated than automobile (I love driving my car on two-lane roads.) Of course, if you need to go somewhere far away, air is quicker. Chicago O’Hare pretty much has a direct flight to anywhere and it’s close to me, I don’t avoid O’Hare.

How do you pass the time while flying traveling?

Read a book. You never know when you might be delayed. ALWAYS have a small book or something to read with you. A paperback book or back issues of C&EN are popular choices. Of course, one can always talk with an adjacent person. I recall sitting next to a pharmacy graduate student and we discussed usage of the major volume drugs and correlation with people taking a walk for 30 minutes each day. Not every seatmate will be interesting, and some travelers don’t want to talk. I never watch movies on airplanes, but sometimes listen to music with headphones.

What is your go-to snack to bring on-board the plane when traveling?

Fresh cheese curds, if you can get them. If you are not flying out of Wisconsin, an alternative is dried fruits and nuts, they pack well, are small volume, and are high in energy and nutrition. My favorite are dried tart cherries and pistachios, but whatever you like. Dark chocolate covered if you desire theobromine. Avoid sugar. If grab and go, an apple or a bagel.

Favorite ACS meeting site?

New Orleans.

What do you do to alleviate jet lag?

If you can adjust an hour or two before departure, great. But direct local sunlight sync at the destination ASAP aligns your clock (get outside, don't take a nap). Your body responds to light and dark in different ways. To promote restful sleep: tryptophan rich foods (best) or supplements, a drop of lavender oil on your pillow, and avoid TV or other screen time before sleeping.

Was there a business trip you have taken that was memorable? What happened?

In 2016 I was returning from a physics conference in Krakow, with a stop in Copenhagen before Chicago. The flight was oversold and volunteers were requested, with quite lucrative support. I got in line, but the person in front of me was the awardee. Back to my original flight, next to me was a Danish air quality engineer, tasked with monitoring ppm ammonia in animal housing. In addition to an engaging discussion on chemistry and education, we also shared our ideas on food and opinions on various world affairs.

Your best business travel tip for readers of ACS Industry Matters?

Be comfortable. Control any stress if plans go awry, make sure you have your critical items in good shape. Have fun and adapt to your travel surroundings.

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.

Related Content