Friday, 28 January 2011

Cafe Chimique kicks off IYC!

RSC Belgium launched its event programme for International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) on 27 January with a 'heated' debate on climate change. A capacity crowd of 70 engaged in a Cafe Scientifique style discussion in the Autoworld Museum situated in the Cinquantenaire Park close to Brussels' European quarter.

The venue for the 'Cafe Chimique' was Espace53: the retro-chic restaurant 'bubble' in Autoworld. The event brought together two scientific experts on climate change with Belgium section chairman Prof Bob Crichton (centre, below) acting as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. A free bar and snacks were provided by the section to lubricate the discussion.

Of models and men
Our two speakers both based their presentations firmly on scientific view points. Prof Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (right above) studies climatology and environmental science at the Universite Catholique du Louvain (UCL) and is vice-chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While Prof Istvan Marko (left, above) is also a researcher at UCL running the Laboratory of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry.

Both speakers gave a short opening presentation before the floor was opened to questions. The debate lasted for almost two hours and focused around a number of controversial points such as the 'chicken and egg' question: in the historical record which came first - temperature change or CO2 variation. How climate models are developed and used was also a 'hot' topic.

Straw poll
Before the debate got going a straw poll of the audience was made to determine their starting position on two questions: 'Is Global warming really happening?', and 'If so is it due to human activities?'.

At the start of the event our audience were overwhelmingly saying "yes" to both questions, with a slightly lower majority for the second question on the contribution from human activity.

A repeat poll at the end of the debate gave a similar result but with a distinct, and unexpected, swing towards climate scepticism.

Discussions and debate continued informally after the Q&A session while the bar remained open.

The event was a great success and the section hopes to organise at least one more Cafe Chimique on a controversial subject during IYC 2011. If you have ideas for a topic and a pair of speakers, please share your ideas with us by email.

Don't forget...
Our next scheduled evening event for IYC 2011 is on March 1 in the Swoosh Lounge at the British School of Brussels (BSB) and will look at progress in the understanding and combating of Alzheimer's Disease. Our speaker will be Prof Jean-Noel Octave, President of the Institute of Neurosciences at UCL.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Chemical moments - times two!

RSC Belgium members were involved in two of the IYC 2011 Breakfast events held on 18 January under the theme: "Women Sharing a Chemical Moment in Time" . This global celebration brought together around 50 individual events across some 37 countries linking them together via social networking media including Skype and Twitter.

Catherine Feore, EuCheMS Policy Development Manager, hosted a breakfast roundtable at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Joining Catherine were three women MEPs from the European Parliament’s committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE).

Edit Herczog is a Hungarian MEP who trained as a food conservation engineer and was a research fellow with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Prof. Maria da Graça Carvalho MEP obtained a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London, was Portugal’s Minister of Science, Innovation and Higher Education and Principal adviser of the President of the European Commission, José Barroso.

Britta Thomsen MEP from Dennmark has extensive experience as a teacher and organiser of adult education. Mrs Thomsen is also the author of a European Parliament report identifying and suggesting solutions for the social, cultural and other barriers that account for the under-representation of women in science, entitled 'Women and Science’.

The breakfast conversation was recorded on video and you can watch it below or on the Chemistry Europe website.

Chemistry Europe from Chemistry Europe on Vimeo.

Breakfast at Dow
At the same time Carolyn Ribes (below) of Dow Benelux was involved in organising a breakfast meeting at Dow's Terneuzen site in the Netherlands.

"The event was a a huge success," says Carolyn. "We had about 100 women and men in the audience and an excellent keynote address was given by Michelle Mes of Femco on Networking. She covered the benefits of building a network, tips on how to network, and differences between how men and women build networks. The breakout group discussions were lively and there was a lot of energy in the room."

The event at Dow was clearly popular (see above) and this was refelected across the Netherlands. A report on actvities across the country can be found on the Dutch IYC website.

"Women Sharing a Chemical Moment in Time" was created to bring women in chemistry together to network, to celebrate the pivotal role of Marie Curie in chemistry, and to reflect on the current landscape for women chemists. By using modern communication tools a special moment of chemical time together was created enabling a global chemical handshake.

A great IYC blog
Talking of great communication tools one women Australian chemist, Magdeline Lum, has vowed to write a blog an interesting piece of chemistry every day throughout International Year of Chemistry. She is keeping up so far! Support her efforts at the chemistry 365 blog.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

AGM 2011

RSC Belgium held it 2011 Annual General Meeting on the evening of 14 January at Le Crabe Fantome Restaurant in Brussels. The activities of the section in 2010 were reviewed and plans for 2011 - the International Year of Chemistry - described. The AGM was followed by the section's Annual Dinner.

The highlights of 2010 for the section were described by section Secretary Ian Carson and section's healthy financial position was outlined by David Terrell. David is stepping down as Treasurer after six years in the job - the maximum allowed under section rules. Rita Woodward will become section Treasurer for 2011.

Section chairman Bob Crichton thanked David for his dedicated service and achievements in keeping the section's funds in excellent shape while our activities have changed and grown substantially over the past few years.

Bob also praised the section committee, members and friends of the section for their continued support for section activities. In particular he highlighted Rita's award at the RSC's General Assembly in November and also the way the section reacted to the Greenlight for Girls opportunity.

The meeting was also a chance for a first outing for the section's new 'pop-up' stand that had been delivered on the morning of the AGM to Newsletter editor Tim Reynolds. The stand was the backdrop for a presentation of a 'gold' RSC pin badge to our newest committee member John Swift by Chairman Bob Crichton (see above). The badge marks 40 years of RSC membership for John.

RSC Belgium Committee 2011
Following elections at the elections at the AGM the membership of the RSC Belgium executive committee is:
  • Prof Bob Crichton (Chairman)
  • Dr Ian Carson (Secretary)
  • Mrs Rita Woodward (Treasurer)
  • Mr Tim Reynolds (Membership Secretary / Newsletter Editor)
  • Dr Paul Gray
  • Mr John Swift
  • Dr. David Terrell
  • Ms Laura Yonge

Mrs Elaine Francke is also a co-opted member of the committee.

To obtain copies of the Secretary's report, Treasurer's Report and Section financial summary for 2010, or minutes of this or previous AGMs, please contact Ian Carson.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

IYC launched in Belgium

The International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) was launched in Belgium today (11 January) with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and some 150 representatives from the country's chemical community. The Belgian programme of activities for IYC 2011 was inaugurated at an event held at the Royal Academy for Science and the Arts adjacent to the Royal Palace in central Brussels. The launch was organised by the Belgian National Committee for Chemistry and Essenscia - the Belgian chemical industry body.

The rational and programme for IYC 2011 in Belgium was outlined by Wouter De Geest of BASF and president of Essenscia, Yves Verschueren of Essenscia and Dr. Paul Baekelmans of Solvay and President of the Belgian National Committee for Chemistry. Dr. Baekelmans is also national coordinator for IUPAC and IYC 2011 in Belgium.

The Belgian programme has two main aims: to promote chemistry as a provider of innovation and sustainable solutions for the challenges facing society; and to engage with young people to ensure that sustainable future is achieved.

Belgium faces a particular demographic issue for chemistry in the near future with at least 25 000 new skilled personnel needed by 2017 in Flanders (northern Belgium) alone to replace current workers who will be retiring. During late February and early March a series of events will focus on young people with demonstration lectures and other initiatives organised in both main language communities.

The weekend of May 21-22 will also see chemical sites across the country open their doors to the general public.

Value of chemistry
The value of chemistry to the Belgian economy was underlined by Prime Minister Leterme (above - image ©Lieven Van Assche/essenscia) who said it made a significant contributions to exports and some 50% of all Belgian R&D spending was in chemistry. The chemical and related sectors employ around 17% of the national workforce or 92 000 individuals.

The Belgian postal service is producing a special stamp for IYC 2011 that will be on sale from 17 January. The design (above - image ©Lieven Van Assche/essenscia), by graphic artist Thierry Mordant, was presented by revealed by Koen Van Gerven of bpost and unvieled by Prime Minister Leterme and essenscia president Wouter De Geest.

The launch ended - literally - with a bang thanks to a quick chemistry demonstration undertaken by a member of staff from the Technopolis Science Centre in Mechelen.

The launch event was followed by a lunchtime drinks reception.

RSC Belgium was represented at the launch event by section secretary Dr. Ian Carson and membership secretary Tim Reynolds. RSC Belgium member Catherine Feore was also present in her role as Policy Manager for EuCheMS.

More information
Details of planned events organised by Essenscia in Belgium for IYC 2011 can be found at their dedicated website (in French or Flemish only).

For more details of RSC Belgium's IYC 2011 programme see details posted on this blog site or contact Ian Carson. RSC Belgium's IYC 2011 programme kicks of with our first Cafe Chimique on 27 January at the Espace 53 bistro in AutoWorld, Brussels. See you there!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Welcome to IYC 2011

2011 is International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011) and RSC Belgium will be playing its part in promoting chemistry for the full 12 months! IYC 2011 celebrates the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well being of humanity. Throughout the year a exciting programme of events is intended to reach across the globe, with opportunities for public participation at the local, regional, and national level.

The goals of IYC 2011 are to increase public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, to encourage interest in chemistry among young people, and to generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry. The year 2011 will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to Madame Marie Curie—an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women to science. The year will also be the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Association of Chemical Societies, providing a chance to highlight the benefits of international scientific collaboration.

IYC 2011 events will emphasize that chemistry is a creative science essential for sustainability and improvements to our way of life. Activities, such as lectures, exhibits, and hands-on experiments, will explore how chemical research is critical for solving our most vexing global problems involving food, water, health, energy, transportation, and more.

Cafe Chimique - Climate Change
RSC Belgium starts its IYC 2011 programme with a Cafe Chimique at Espace53: the restaurant that is inside Autoworld in the Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels on 27 January from 8pm. Our Cafe Chimique will borrow the Cafe Scientifique format of short presentations and then a discussion/ debate involving the audience. January 27 is the date at which IYC 2011 will hold its global launch event at UNESCO HQ in Paris.

Our topic is Climate Change and we pose two questions to our speakers and the audience: 'Is Global warming really happening?', and 'If so is it due to human activities?'.

Our two speakers take opposing views - but both are based on a scientific view point. Prof Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (left) studies climatology and environmental science at the Universite Catholique du Louvain (UCL) and is vice-chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Taking a more sceptical view on climate change is Prof Istvan Marko (right) also of UCL but a member of the Chemistry department.

Come along and join the debate on 27 January. Entry costs €5 per person and advance booking is mandatory. The fee will cover a first drink from the bar and canapes. To register for this event contact Ian Carson.

We hope to organise at least one more Cafe Chimique on a controversial subject during IYC 2011.

Demonstration lectures
Our next scheduled evening event in 2011 will be on March 1 in the Swoosh Lounge at BSB and will look at progress in the understanding and combatting of Alzheimer's Disease. Our speaker will be Prof Jean-Noel Octave, President of the Institute of Neurosciences at UCL.

Our UCL theme for the first quarter of 2011 continues with our demonstration lecture for IYC. This will feature our sceptical colleague Prof Istvan Marko in a spectacular lecture entitled: 'Chemie et energie ... Une approche detonante!'

In line with recent annual demonstration lectures this evening public lecture will form part of UCL's 'Printemps des Sciences' week. The lecture will be given in French and English and will take place on Thursday 31 March from 8pm at the UCL site in Louvain-la-Neuve. To find more information and to reserve seats visit the UCL Printemps des Sciences website.

Schools Science
The section will also be taking part in the European Schools Science Symposium 2011. This annual event brings together up to 150 young scientists from European Commission Schools across the European Union to compete in presenting original research projects on various scientific subjects. The winner going on to represent the European Schools in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists. This year the European School Brussels II based in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Brussels is hosting the event from 20-23 March 2011 with Eurocontrol - the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation.

The section will sponsor some aspects of the event and provide a stand promoting chemistry and the RSC during the opening event on Sunday March 20. We also hope to organise a key speaker for the event.

Further IYC 2011 events are in the planning stage and details will be announced in the near future.

Don't forget the AGM!
But don't forget the first RSC Belgium event of 2011: the Section 2011 AGM and Annual Dinner at Le Crabe Fantome on the evening of Friday, January 14. For more details contact section secretary Ian Carson.

Happy New Year!