How Students Are Leveraging Their ACS Membership

Students from Duquesne University during an ACS National Meeting
Students from Duquesne University at an ACS National Meeting.

Congratulations, you have become a member of the American Chemical Society. You now have 150,000 new friends!

But… now what?

Joining any professional organization is about more than going to meetings and getting a magazine (although ACS has some great meetings and magazines). It’s a gateway to new peers, mentors, and even employers or colleagues. Professional societies offer access to exclusive information, workshops, and job opportunities. ACS can help you determine, define, and develop the career and lifestyle that work best for you… if you take advantage of the opportunity.

So, where is a student to begin? inChemistry interviewed some student leaders who participated in the 2019 ACS Leadership Institute to find out how they have maximized their ACS membership. Here are their top recommendations.

ACS Leadership Institute

The ACS Leadership Institute provides vital training to help volunteers (e.g. local section and division chairs, student chapter officers, ACS governance) to lead successfully. Participants gain an understanding of the essential elements of effective leadership and an opportunity to interact with other local section and technical division officers and ACS governance. Leadership development courses help participants develop core skills important in ACS leadership roles as well as in the workplace.

Headshot of Sara Elnztwy

Sara Elnztawy
Member since 2018
Alexandria University, Egypt

I recommend being more connected, following what ACS does, including the chemistry-related celebrations, and attending the national or regional meetings, if possible.  ACS also has a lot to offer especially at the university level. For example, the Leadership Institute was one of the greatest opportunities for me as an undergrad to connect with people from academia, government, and industry and develop my leadership skills. 

Headshot of Madelyn Kist

Madelyn Kist
Member since 2017
Kent State University

First: Career Resources

Take advantage of the Careers tab at I intend to obtain a Ph.D. in forensic chemistry but recently have been having a lot of anxiety about what I will be doing and where I will be working. I found many useful resources such as sample career pathways and CV/résumé writing tips that offer an inside look into what it takes to succeed in various chemical disciplines. The College to Career resource outlines scientific careers in government, industry, education, and independent work, so even if you know what you want to do, you can learn about other opportunities you might not have known even existed. And the résumé/CV tips are excellent! I used some of the ACS résumé suggestions last year during application season and ended up winning the Student Leadership Award.

Second: Technical Papers

As a member of ACS, you have access to more than one million research articles in every subdivision of chemistry imaginable (members can download 50 articles per year). The Publications tab on the ACS website is my favorite part of being an ACS member. This 24/7 access to scientific publications has been exponentially helpful throughout my undergraduate career, especially for certain courses, like my analytical and physical chemistry laboratories, where professional journal format is encouraged. This resource also helps when you engage in undergraduate research because staying up-to-date with the work being done in your field is very important. You can find an article about any scientific topic and even filter your search by author or publication date with just a few clicks.


ChemIDP [Individual Development Plan] helps you develop your academic and professional plans. Use it to assess your strengths and interests, explore careers, and set goals in consultation with your advisor.

Headshot of Cameron Johns

Cameron Johns
Member since 2018
University of Detroit Mercy, Michigan

I think that going to the ACS national meetings is one of the most beneficial and eye-opening experiences of being an ACS member! There are so many experiences and opportunities available at national meetings. You are able to attend symposia or specific research presentations of interest and meet graduate school admission teams and ask questions about their schools. On top of that, national meetings provide a fantastic opportunity to network with schools, students, and professionals.

ACS also has many tremendous leadership courses. I was able to reflect and build upon past leadership experiences that really helped mold me into a more successful leader as my ACS student chapter president and in many other aspects of my life. Having access to these courses online or at meetings is a great benefit that makes the membership well worth it!

Headshot of Lauryn Gist-Reed

Lauryn Gist-Reed
Member since 2017
Xavier University of Louisiana

As its vice president, I encourage all members of my ACS student chapter to use the resources on the ACS website. The SCI Scholars Program is an amazing opportunity for students, especially for those interested in industry or those who need lab experience for the summer. Our chapter members also get involved by writing ACS Student Chapter grant proposals, such as one submitted for the 2020 regional meeting in our area. This grant will give chapter members the opportunity to conduct the undergraduate section of the meeting and put grant writing on their résumé. My advisor always advocates for students to use the ACS College to Career website. Now that I am a junior, this resource is helping me narrow down what I may want to do in the future and also choose graduate programs to help me achieve my goals. 

Headshot of Kevin Barz

Kevin Barz
Member since 2016
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

I would recommend joining a local ACS student chapter or forming one at your school.  Much of my experience with ACS has been centered on the people and connections that I have encountered as part of my ACS student chapter and the outreach and networking opportunities there. I do not know where I would be had I not taken that first step of joining an ACS chapter, as many of my best friends were made as a result of my involvement in my student chapter. Also, many of my experiences presenting research and other professional development activities have stemmed from there.

Second, get involved. For undergraduates this is the time to explore what field of chemistry you want to study, and ACS provides a clear path forward into many of these potential areas of interest. Writing grant proposals, attending conferences, and participating in research are great ways to explore these areas. Furthermore, ACS has a number of opportunities to improve your professional development skills, such as webinars, conferences, and professional development institutes that ACS hosts. Ultimately, as a member of ACS, it has been rewarding to be involved.

Headshot of Bao Nguyen

Bao Nguyen
Member since 2016
Plymouth State University, New Hampshire

Get involved more with your student chapter or your ACS local section events because of the "soft skills" that ACS can help you build on and the dynamic network of scientists, researchers, employers, etc., that you are a part of. Take advantage of resources from career services to help you prepare for your internship, job application, or other professional development. Apply for the available scholarships and awards ACS offers to undergraduate students to fund your education, your research, or travel to conferences and workshops. My travel award to attend the ACS Leadership Institute enhanced my leadership skills, and I met awesome young leaders as well as experienced leaders from around the country. 

Headshot of Juan Jose Montero

Juan Jose Montero
Member since 2017
University of Costa Rica

The easiest way to grow with the support of ACS is by working with and for others. Set a path for your career. ACS has many programs that can help with that. Go online and ask everything. Get to know your student chapter advisor; your most helpful ACS friend is your advisor. The advisor knows some ins and outs. Finally, talk to the board [members] of your chapter; they were once in your place and can offer helpful advice.

Headshot of Jonah Ralston

Jonah Ralston
Member since 2017
Tennessee Tech University

Definitely get involved in research because undergraduate research and ACS memberships work well together. Doing my research and getting involved in ACS to present at the national meeting opened up several avenues of opportunities for me; it truly helped me to grow not only as a student but as a chemist. You network with others and from that you find out about opportunities (which actually helped me get accepted into an REU – Research Experiences for Undergraduates). When you become a member, you can subscribe to various ACS journals and magazines – choose some in the fields you are interested in. For me it helped fuel ideas and thoughts needed to pursue my research. Last, check out the Member Benefits section of the ACS website. I have used the career consulting section for résumés, as well as using the ACS Network for general chemistry questions I felt like asking. I also utilized the webinar archive database to view webinars.

Top tips for taking advantage of your ACS membership

  1. Take advantage of the ACS Careers website
  2. Get involved by joining an ACS student chapter or your ACS local section, or volunteering at an ACS event
  3. Present research and network at an ACS technical meeting (regional, national meeting, Green Chemistry)
  4. Develop your professional skills through courses and volunteer opportunities
  5. Take advantage of internship and research opportunities
  6. Search and read ACS journals, Chemical & Engineering News Magazine (C&EN), and inChemistry Magazine
About the Author

Allison Proffitt
is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, TN.