SETTING THE WORKSHOP STAGE: PRE-WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT SURVEY

As a precursor to the workshop, Dr. Anastas captured constructive ideas on how to address green education issues through an informal 10-question pre-workshop survey3 of the workshop participants. Forty-three of the workshop participants—people from academe, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations—answered a mix of multiple-choice, yes-no, and open-ended questions. The questions covered many topics in green education, including who was interested, how it should be taught, who would benefit, and what mechanisms existed for funding. According to the survey results, in addition to helping teach technical issues, the main benefits of teaching green chemistry and green engineering were enthusiasm, continued interest, and increased job opportunities. The majority of participants also felt that integrating green chemistry and engineering throughout the four years of an undergraduate curriculum, is a more effective method for teaching green chemistry and engineering than having a single undergraduate course or waiting until the graduate level. In addition to the basic issue of funding mechanisms, other barriers for teaching green chemistry and engineering identified by the respondents included lack of tools and resources, already crowded curricula, and collegial resistance. The results of the pre-workshop survey were used by the workshop leaders to guide the discussions of what is being done at all levels of education and what can be done in the future to further green chemistry and green engineering education.

OPENING REMARKS

Workshop organizers Anastas and Wood-Black warmly welcomed the 75 attendees to the two-day discussion of green chemistry and engineering education. They explained the purpose and organization of the workshop.

Anastas explained that the time is right for leaders in green chemistry and engineering to push green concepts because the ideas of green chemistry and engineering are slowly being accepted within the broader scientific community. One example of the emerging interest in green approaches cited was the awarding of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Robert Grubbs, Richard Schrock, and Yves Chauvin “for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis” provided an excellent example of green chemistry and engineering. A second example he gave was the movement of the Green Chemistry Research and Development Act through both the U.S. House and Senate after passing the first hurdle of the House in April 2004.4 A third example provided by Anastas was the placement of green chemistry education on the Carnegie Groups’ agenda (e.g., Center for Sustainable Engineering).5

Anastas closed his remarks by discussing impediments to innovation. He explained that change can come much more slowly than anyone would expect because people do not like to do things differently from the way they have done them before. New ideas and new perspectives often face harsh opposition. He led the audience in considering some amusing historical examples of mistakes made by a few of our greatest scientific leaders:

  • Lord Kelvin, discoverer of the temperature scale named for him, denied his date for the age of the earth (24 million years old) was wrong even after radioisotope dating had demonstrated his value to be false;

  • Mendeleev, inventor of the periodic table, denied the existence of radiation and the electron; and

  • J. J. Thompson, discoverer of the electron, adhered to the belief in the existence of the “ether,” which “is as essential to our lives as the air we breathe,” long after this concept was disproved.

3

A list of the 10 questions and tabulated answers are listed in Appendix A.

4

Green Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2005. Available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:h.r.1215.

5

http://www.csengin.org/.



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