Journey to the Big Easy

By Tao Ye

This was my fourth time to attend ACS conference. After reading ‘A Journey to the Mile-High City’ which was published by CSW after my first trip to ACS conference in Denver back in 2015, the memory of my first trip to ACS conference was still fresh in mind. Time flies!

The feeling was different this time. The traveling to New Orleans and early rising to catch the morning talks did not make me feel tired. Getting up at 7 am, walking in the gentle and warm morning sunshine of French Quarter to the conventional center, breathing the slow and easy-going wind from the Mississippi River, seeing hundreds of energetic peers and chemists with the ACS hangtags heading to their sessions, I felt the strength of the crescent city and the power of chemistry and science.

As a Ph.D. candidate in the last semester of the Ph.D. program, I can feel the inner energy and need to broaden my knowledge and identify myself in academia. I spent a lot of time at the section ‘Physics & Chemistry of Water Treatment: Symposium in honor of Professor Desmond F. Lawler’. This section provided me the great opportunity to listen to the talks given by the big shot professors from different research areas in environmental engineering, which was overwhelming but informative and inspiring. The ‘Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholars Reception’ was one of my favorite events in ACS conference and I attended it every time when I went to ACS conference because I was able to make connections with peers and enjoy the energy of young scientists and future professors.

During the conference, I also had the chances to talk with professors whose research interested me and to take a step forward and explore possible postdoc positions for the coming semester. Luckily enough, I was able to come across a famous professor, William Mitch, in my field and introduced myself to him when he was outside the convention center carrying his baggage and waiting for his Uber to the airport and I was on my way back to the hotel. I was extremely nervous when talking with him and made several errors in speaking English, which I could see from his compound facial expressions. However, he was still very patient and politely and masterly enlightened me of future research by making a finishing point.

My talk was scheduled on the fourth day of the conference. Giving a talk used to be an inextricable responsibility for me when attending a conference because I had to practice and practice and be nervous before the presentation. However, this time I enjoyed it and I liked it, quite a lot. Four years’ Ph.D. study enabled me to deliver my talk fluently and passionately. ACS conference has trained me and I have grown over the past four years of ACS experiences.

On the last day of this trip, I took the trolley to experience the city with a friend of mine from my alma mater, Tongji University. We got off the trolley right after we saw the symbol of ‘Loyola’ in front of a magnificent and vintage building, which turned out to be the main architecture of Loyola University. We ended up wandering on the campuses of Tulane University and Loyola University, enjoying the genial Spring sunshine of NOLA, chatting about science, chemistry, biology, and, of course, life. What a wonderful and memorable afternoon!

This was my last time to attend ACS conference as a Ph.D. candidate. As an ABD (all but dissertation), I don’t know where science will lead me in the near future, but I do know that pursuing science and chemistry will be the career of my whole life. I would like to thank the Chemical Society of Washington, The George Washington University, and my advisor, Dr. Danmeng Shuai, for providing me this opportunity to attend ACS conference.

Photo by Didier Moïse