A Gold Standard Community
A toast to friendship and mentorship!
Rich Whitworth |
We often see the term ‘gold standard’ in analytical science. In fact, having searched for a quick example online, I found this heavily plagiarized and slightly vague sentence: “GC-MS has been widely heralded as a ‘gold standard’ for forensic substance identification because it is used to perform a specific test.” Borrowed–stolen from economics, where the term refers to a system that defines the value of a given currency in terms of gold, it is more commonly used today to describe the ultimate benchmark – a thing against which all others should be judged.
And ‘gold standard’ is the very term that sprouted in my mind when I was thinking about the analytical science community. Right from day one, I have been overwhelmed by the friendly and welcoming nature of people in this field; attending my first HPLC conference in Amsterdam (2013) was like being at a huge family party. Since those early days of The Analytical Scientist, I’ve never stopped being enchanted by the warm smiles and genuine handshakes that greet me at the various (numerous!) conferences that punctuate the normal routine.
One such smile and handshake this year came from Harold McNair at the ACS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. Harold – for those of you who don’t know – received the 2016 ACS Award in Chromatography; there was a dedicated symposium at the meeting to celebrate the fact. Before the presentations from his former students began, Harold made a point of making his way over to the sidelines to say hello – a small and yet great gesture – and entirely characteristic. Kevin Schug (one of the speakers) and I felt the sentiment at the symposium deserved to be shared with a wider audience; here, several of Harold’s friends share stories of his wonderful mentorship and friendship – and how he taught them not only to be good scientists, but also good people. It’s a touching tribute to Harold – and I suspect that many of you have similar stories to tell about your own mentors.
Clearly, a great community can only be formed by many good people. Educators and mentors who successfully pass down skills that go beyond ‘the science’ should never be taken for granted. Without them – and the ‘pay-it-forward’ momentum they generate – the positive and welcoming community we all enjoy might cease to be. And conferences will be much less fun.
I would struggle to list here the many people who I have the great pleasure of knowing. But you know who you are. And for those of you I don’t know – I’ll never become tired of warm smiles or genuine handshakes.
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