Zach ThammavongsyWe are so excited to announce that Grand Challenges Initiative (GCI) postdoctoral fellow, Zach Thammavongsy, was named a Future Leader of the Chemical Abstract Service of the American Chemical Society! This prestigious honor is only given to 30 young scientists chosen from around the globe. 

The Future Leaders program awards early-career scientists with leadership training and a trip to the ACS National Meeting & Exposition. Under this program, students have the opportunity to network with leading scientists in their fields and to meet other students who are similarly driven. Thammavongsy was awarded the CAS future leaders title due to his work in the field of chemistry education, where he’s worked to develop chemistry board and card games. He says, “I am very grateful to be chosen as this year’s CAS Future Leader, a division of the American Chemical Society. This award means that I am able to represent myself, my school, and all those who mentored me on a world stage.” 

Dr. Gregory Goldsmith, director of our GCI program, says, “We are thrilled to have Zach join the ranks of the American Chemical Society’s CAS Future Leaders Program. His selection is no surprise. He is unique in his passion for research, teaching, and public engagement in chemistry… Zach is leading the way in designing and building compelling new ways to engage the next generation in chemistry.” 

The Grand Challenges Initiative brings together students from different disciplines to work on long-term projects aimed at tackling our world’s biggest problems. Students are paired with postdoctoral fellows, who mentor and guide our students as they work on their projects for two years. Thammavongsy has been a postdoctoral fellow in the GCI program for eight months and has found the program to be rewarding both in his interactions with undergraduate students and with the larger community of GCI postdoctoral fellows. He says, “This is a very unique opportunity to bounce teaching ideas off other postdocs who equally care about improving their teaching as much as their research skills.” 

Outside of GCI, Thammavongsy works on his research under the guidance of Dr. Allegra Liberman-Martin. He explains, “My research in their lab focuses on synthesizing silicon catalysts for hydroboration and hydrosilylation reactions. In addition, I am exploring the field of chemical education research, where I implement my chemistry board and card games in the chemistry classroom.”  

He founded a chemistry board and card game company called d-Orbital Games (dOG), which has produced six games that are commercially available and won two international gaming awards. His company also has partnered with the Science History Institute to craft a chemistry game to showcase the importance of rare earth elements. 

As part of the Future Leaders program, Thammavongsy will travel to Ohio, where the CAS headquarters are located. There, he will have the opportunity to present his research, learn career skills, and network with other leading scientists. He says, “ I look forward to discussing and shaping the future direction of chemistry in research, industry, and education.” He also has the opportunity to attend the upcoming ACS National Meeting in San Francisco to present his research. 

Thammavongsy extends his thanks to advisors and mentors who have helped him develop the skills to have this opportunity. “I would like to thank my Ph.D. advisor (Jenny Y. Yang, Ph.D.) from UC-Irvine, who played a big role in my development as a chemist. I would also like to thank Daniel Mann, Ph.D. (director of UC-Irvine’s Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation), for helping me develop into the best teacher I can be.”