Today has seen a series of breakfast meetings being held at locations around the world by women chemists. These meetings have celebrated the work and life of Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 100 years ago, and have been an opportunity for networking and discussion. They are also a prequel to the International Year of Chemistry, the official opening of which takes place in Paris at the end of the month. The Breakfasts have used social networking to link together in a chemical handshake around the globe.
I took part in a three time zone breakfast which we held as a Skype conference call. It all started as a bit of a giggle after I posted the Breakfast link to Facebook and two friends thought it would be a fun thing to do. Before long we were into serious planning involving Skype, Twitter and SMS and the result was our conference call this morning. Kathi, being on GMT -5 hours got up alarmingly early to join the Breakfast while for Debbie (GMT +1) and me (GMT) it was a good deal easier! None of us are professional chemists, but all have been interested in chemistry since childhood and have maintained that interest in various ways.
We chatted for about an hour, with Debbie doing a quick "experiment" and uploading the photos to Twitter for us all to see! We sent greetings to the Breakfasts taking place in two UK schools as well as to one taking place in Prague and another at the Open University, UK. We have also greeted the Breakfasts in New Zealand (where they stated the global handshake over 24 hours ago) and in Peru. We talked about what drew us to chemistry and the part it plays in our lives today. It was a fun thing to do and I think we are now looking for opportunities to do something similar again (possibly at a time that doesn't involve one of us getting up at silly o' clock!).
It was particularly meaningful for me as my late father was a chemist and I grew up reading journals such as Chemistry and Industry and Education in Chemistry (not forgetting Plastics and Polymers). He died four years ago today, so joining this Breakfast and my niece being at one organised by her school seems a fitting way to celebrate his life and express thankfulness for the enthusiasm he imparted and the encouragement he gave. It meant that, for me, our Breakfast linked three generations as well as three time zones.
More information about the event at the Twitter tags #IYC2011 #chemhandshake