Articles

    Madeleine Jacobs

    March, 2014:

    A Source for Inspiration to All of Us

    When I first began thinking of women who would act as an inspiration to interested in Madalein Jacobschemistry or those just starting their careers in chemistry, I wanted to find someone who also had an interest in public affairs. At the time I was trying to decide who to write about, the announcement that Madeleine Jacobs was named the new executive director and CEO of the American Chemical Society was made. I have chosen to write about Madeleine Jacobs, since I believe she has some worthwhile words for all of us.

    Of course, Madeleine is very well qualified to assume the position of executive director and CEO of the ACS due to the retirement (after 20 years) of John K. Crum. She has been the editor-in-chief of Chemical & Engineering News since 1995. She received her BS with distinction and special honors in Chemistry from George Washington University in 1968. Although accepted by Stanford University to pursue a doctorate in chemistry, Jacobs stayed in Washington because of family matters. Instead, she carried out graduate work in organic chemistry for a year at the University of Maryland.

    Her experience with the ACS and more specifically with C&EN began in 1969 when she joined the staff as a reporter. From 1972 until 1974, she worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as a writer and editor. In 1974, she joined the staff at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) where she rose to the position of chief of media liaison and general publications. In 1979, she joined the Smithsonian Institution as the chief science writer, and was promoted to director of the Office of Public Affairs. At the Smithsonian, she served as the principal spokesperson and public affairs strategist for the entire institution. She returned to C&EN in 1993 as managing editor and was appointed editor-in-chief of Chemical & Engineering News in 1995.

    Jacobs has received dozens of honors and awards in her career, including the Smithsonian Institution Secretary's Gold Medal (1993), the ACS Executive Director's Award (1999), the New York Academy of Sciences Women History Month Award (2001), the 75th Canadian Society for Chemistry Conference Lecturer (2002), the ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences (2003), and a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from George Washington University (2003).

    Among her professional interest, Jacobs has written and given speeches on the public image of chemistry, employment, minority representation, and gender equality of scientists. Her writing and speeches were one of the reasons I choose to write this month's column on her. In one of her recent speeches (April 29, 2003, Women in Technology and Science) she provided the following "Ten Lessons from a Lifetime of Communicating Chemistry"

    1. Never do anything just to please your mother - or anyone else for that matter.
    2. Follow your intuition. It is often better than looking only at the facts.
    3. Never take NO for an answer.
    4. Believe in yourself. A lack of self confidence and a lack of self esteem are nearly universal problems that haunt young women at some stage in their development and can still be the root of problems for furthering a career for experienced, professional women
    5. Never burn bridges and know when it is time to move on, and then do it. No one can make these choices for you. Be open to change.
    6. Never allow yourself to become a martyr or to be victimized by anyone. Take control of your career and make it happen.
    7. Get a life! That is, a life in addition to your work life. And, if you don't enjoy going to work everyday, ask yourself why. Decide what gives you satisfaction in life, and then make it happen.
    8. No matter what career pathway you choose, you should do it for something other than money.
    9. Carpe Diem! Don't let a day slip by without doing something to advance your career. Today is the first day of the rest of your life - make the most of it.
    10. I believe that the best and the brightest are desperately needed in the sciences, and I hope that those of you who are on your way in this career will see it through to the end.

    In her address in May 2003 upon the receipt of her honorary doctorate from George Washington University she said, "I focused in my career on the importance of chemistry and science in our daily lives. … But increasingly we live in a world where scientists and non-scientists don't communicate. … So let me challenge the graduates here today to work to bridge this gap between the two cultures."   I think her 10 lessons are worth considering as we pursue our lives in chemistry. I think about her challenge to the GWU graduates and try to work on achieving this challenge personally. I hope that you will consider her lessons and challenge as well.

    — B. E. Moriarty