U.S. Declining in Scientific Accomplishments

Madeline Jacobs, executive director and chief executive officer of the American Chemical Society, encouraged and advised students in their pursuit of scientific careers at a visit to the University on Tuesday.

The American Chemical Society is the worlds largest scientific society, Jacobs said.

Jacobs emphasized that the best and brightest young people are desperately needed in science today.

There is a crisis in literacy, Jacobs said. The scientists are knowledgeable. The rest of us know nothing about science and are proud of it.

While the United States still has great university programs in science, Jacobs said, the K-12 science education program is lacking. For this reason, the country is in decline with regard to scientific accomplishments, and is being eclipsed by

other countries such as China.

Jacobs said she became interested in science from watching the Mr. Wizard TV show and decided at the age of 13 to become a chemist. At that time, science was widely promoted as a noble career aspiration in the U.S., because of Cold War competition with the Soviets.

After her first year of graduate school at the University of Maryland, Jacobs grew tired of conducting research and asked the editor of Chemical and Engineering News, an ACS publication that she enjoyed reading, for a job in science writing.

In 1972, Jacobs left the ACS when she found out she was being paid 30 percent below the benchmark salary for her position, and went on to spend the next 30 years doing science writing and public relations for the National Institutes of Health, the National Bureau of Standards (now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and the Smithsonian Institution. However, as she advised students, she did not burn her bridges with the ACS, and she attained her current position there after coming back in 1993 to serve as managing editor and editor in chief of the Chemical and Engineering News.