Summer Scholar: When Green is More Than a Season

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

June and July in New England are typically as green and lush as it gets. But for Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, green is the schedule he keeps during the summer months—and all year long for that matter. Green chemistry, that is. As the program chair of the organizing conference for the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meetings, Levy is busy preparing. The next meeting is in Philadelphia in August, then the ACS moves to New Orleans in the spring 2013 for its bigger gathering.

That’s not all. Levy has joined the board of directors for Beyond Benign, a green chemistry education organization, and is working with them and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a new project called the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) where Gordon will be one of its first models. And oh yeah, he’s on the faculty advisory board for the GCC as well. In between his scholarship and leadership, Levy took the time to answer a few of our questions:

Faculty Central: What exactly does your ‘continuing work as program chair’ of the ACS include?

LEVY: I do the organizing of all the Chemical Education symposia for the ACS national meetings twice a year. Typically I’m working on three meetings at a time — final planning for the next meeting, lots of work getting everything in place for the meeting about one year out and pre-planning for the third meeting out. Each meeting lasts for five days with (usually) four concurrent sessions running all day each day. In addition we host a large number of undergraduate student posters. In the fall meetings we typically have about 1,800 authors presenting about 1,200 unique papers. In the spring we have about 2,700 authors presenting about 1,800 papers. At the most recent spring meeting (San Diego this past March) there were seven Gordon College students and all of our faculty in attendance.

Faculty Central: Sounds busy but exciting.

Levy: It is! I work as a member of the Executive Committee of the Division of Chemical Education, working with the division chair and with the meeting co-chairs for the national meetings, as well as with symposium organizers, and even individual authors (at times). I’m also the liaison between the organizers and the ACS national office staff who actually produce the meeting, coordinating details down to catering. So I get to have some of the big ideas about our meetings but I also spend a lot of time attending to hundreds of little details for each meeting. Our portion of the meeting is one of the larger ones but the entire meeting is massive. A typical national meeting draws 10,000 – 20,000 attendance for one or more days of the meeting.

Faculty Central: What can you tell us about the upcoming meetings?

LEVY: The first will take place August 19-23, with planning meetings for my committee on August 18. (More on that here.) New Orleans is next spring, April 7-11. And a good guess is that close to 14,000-16,000 will attend; about 2,400 will be directly involved in our Chemical Education program.

Faculty Central: And serving on the board for Beyond Benign sounds great as well. What does that entail?  

LEVY: Gordon College has been a support to Beyond Benign since their inception. I’ve always enjoyed working with them and they’ve used our students at a very high level to work on projects mostly in Massachusetts but also in California and Washington, D.C. I was delighted when they asked me to join their Board of Directors. The mission statement of BB is “to revolutionize the way chemistry is taught to better prepare students to engage with their world while connecting chemistry, human health and the environment.”

Faculty Central: And really, THE EPA???

LEVYYep. More particularly, Region 1 EPA which is the sponsor of the Green Chemistry Commitment project. I’m going to be meeting with the Green Chemistry Commitment team some time this summer to see how we can best be communicating the project. There are ten schools around the country who comprise the advisory colleges/universities, but since Gordon is one of the most involved in green integration throughout our curriculum, we’ve been chosen as a model for how other schools can bring green chemistry into their curriculum. Gordon—along with nine other schools working together in really collegial ways—has been involved for some time in helping students see green . . . chemistry.

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