Colloquium with Professor Bassam Shakhashiri Will Address Recommendations from ACS Report on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences

Following the recent release of the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences report, commissioned by UW-Madison Chemistry Professor and 2012 ACS President Bassam Shakhashiri, the department will host a colloquium on the topic. The colloquium will be held Thursday, Feb. 7 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 1315 Chemistry Building (Seminar Hall), and a reception will follow the event.

Professor Shakhashiri will present, along with commission member William Banholzer, Dow Chemical Company executive VP and CTO.

For more than half a century, steady funding for research and education in the chemical sciences has given the U.S. high-quality graduate programs that attract talent from around the world. But are the current practices of educating the next generation of scientists working ­ for students and for society? This colloquium will discuss the report of a commission convened by the American Chemical Society (ACS) to consider graduate education in the chemical sciences. The commission developed actionable recommendations that include radical changes to foster graduate education to better use the nation’s vast educational, industrial, and government resources to successfully prepare students for their own professional careers and to meet societal needs throughout the next 50 years. Speakers will engage UW-Madison faculty, graduate students, and postdocs in discussing the recommendations for graduate education reform and the challenges that lie ahead.

The report’s five major conclusions include:

  1. Current educational opportunities for graduate students, viewed on balance as a system, do not provide sufficient preparation for their careers after graduate school.
  2. The system for the financial support of graduate students, as currently operated by private, institutional, state, and federal funds, is no longer optimal for national needs.
  3. Academic chemical laboratories must adopt best safety practices. Such practices have led to a remarkably good record of safety in the chemical industry and should be leveraged.
  4. Departments should give thoughtful attention to maintaining a sustainable relationship between the availability of new graduates at all degree levels and genuine opportunities for them. Replication in excess is wasteful of resources and does injustice to the investment made by students and society.
  5. Postdoctoral training and education is an extension of graduate education that is important for success in a variety of career paths, particularly for faculty appointments.
  6. Postdoctoral associates should be treated as the professional scientists and engineers they are. A postdoctoral appointment should be a period of accelerated professional growth that, by design, enhances scientific independence and future career opportunities.

For more information, or to view the full report, please visit

Watch a videocast of Professor Shakhashiri’s presentation to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) on the report.