Juliana Ladeira Vidal sits in on the CIC AGM from a Brazilian setting.

Editor’s note: Originally from Brazil, Memorial University of Newfoundland doctoral student Juliana Ladeira Vidal went home to visit family earlier this year and has been unable to return to Canada because of the COVID pandemic. As she recounts here, however, a global health emergency does not stand in the way of her engagement with the CIC.

As an international student, I was quite overwhelmed when I arrived in Canada to pursue my doctoral studies in chemistry. I would frequently get lost in the building where I did research and would need to use Google maps to find a grocery store around the corner from where I live. As you may have imagined, when I first heard the phrases CIC and CSC I had no clue what people were talking about but from discussions with professors and students it seemed to involve conferences. So, was that right? What were they?

Those of you who have just started your chemistry studies might be experiencing the same feeling of lostness that I had, and maybe have not clicked on that “About Us” button on the CIC homepage. Here you can find a very brief explanation of these important Canadian chemistry organizations. The Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC) is a network of professionals that promotes the advancement of all chemical sciences professions in Canada. Their members belong to one of three societies: the CSChE (Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering), the CSCT (Canadian Society for Chemical Technology), or the CSC (Canadian Society of Chemistry). And yes, they do organize amazing conferences, but this is not even the beginning of it. 

The idea behind this network is to promote interaction between members through local sections, subject divisions, student chapters, scientific articles and news summaries, conferences and so much more. It is all so we can achieve more together as a team rather than alone. The CIC and the CSC are here to support us, whether we are students, young professionals, academics, industrial professionals, technologists, government employees, or entrepreneurs. 

But what is our role in all of this? How can we support this network and their societies? How can we be more engaged and make sure we also contribute to this community who helps scientists in Canada to enhance their skills, advance their careers and be recognized for their accomplishments?

Understanding and being uncomfortable to create an impact and move forward

In the context of being engaged, the Annual General Meetings (AGMs) are a great opportunity for us to understand more about the impact of the CIC and CSC in our community, but also a chance for us to create an impact within this network and their societies. The CIC and CSC Annual General Meetings are normally held in person during the Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibitions (CCCE). However, because of the recent “coronavirusalization” of our world, these meetings were held virtually in 2020. 

To be completely honest with you, I did not participate in the Annual General Meetings in my first Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition, which took place at Québec City in 2019. What was I, Juliana, a mere graduate student, going to do in a meeting with all the Board of Directors of the CIC and CSC? What if they ask me something? What if I do not understand anything? Oh, yes… That fear of feeling uncomfortable (which I work very hard to overcome and will be mentioned again further on) took a lot out of me. 

Well, the probability of feeling out of place and passing out with nerves were significantly reduced in front of my computer (in the worst case scenario my Internet could go off “unexpectedly” if I was asked a question). I felt this was a great opportunity for me to be engaged with the science community in Canada. So, I bravely clicked on the “register” button and participated in my first (and virtual) Annual General Meeting.

The CIC AGM was held on May 27 and started off with a wonderful presentation entitled “Teaching To, and From, the Rainbow” from Dr. Nola Etkin, the recipient of the 2020 CIC Award for Chemistry Education. During her talk, Nola told us her inspiring story and gave us some tools on how to make chemistry education more engaging, diverse, inclusive, and equitable. On the next day before the CSC AGM began, we heard a beautiful talk from Dr. Alison Thompson, the recipient of the 2020 Clara Benson Award, about “Creating Successful Chemistry”. Alison’s presentation was full of insights that I totally believe in and work on (even though I cannot accomplish them every day): the importance of just putting yourself out there, learning from your mistakes, and feeling comfortable being uncomfortable. 

During the Annual General Meetings, we had the opportunity to participate in the CIC treasurer and the CSC Vice-President elections. We could hear from the Board of Directors about what the CIC and the CSC have been doing for us during the past year and what are their plans moving forward. Although this pandemic has stopped us from interacting in-person as we would like to, it also gave us the opportunity to stay engaged and participate in the AGMs regardless of where we were. That could be exemplified by the terrific attendance at the two virtual AGMs, which included more than 100 members from all over Canada and the world.

To the past directors of the CIC and CSC, a big thank you for their all their hard work to promote the success of our chemistry community, and a warm welcome to the new ones! I think we can all agree that 2020 has been full of unexpected situations in every way. However, our ability to adapt to these uncomfortable circumstances and to have uneasy but important conversations will hopefully drive us forward so we can keep moving towards the path of a brighter future for us all!