CINF Technical Program Highlights: An Interview with Rachelle Bienstock

Rachelle Bienstock

Dr. Rachelle J. Bienstock received her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from The Cooper Union in New York City and her PhD in Chemistry from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Following postdoctoral studies at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas), involving NMR and molecular modeling of constrained peptide analogs and peptidomimetics, she joined The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, (NIEHS), Research Triangle Park, NC, as a molecular modeler and computational chemist. Her main research interests are protein structure and protein complex prediction methodologies, computational and structure-based ligand design methods and protein-protein and protein-ligand docking studies.

Svetlana Korolev: Rachelle, could you tell us about your professional service interests that brought you to CINF? What were your motivations to volunteer for the CINF Program Chair 2011-12? Are you a member of any other ACS divisions or other professional societies?

Rachelle Bienstock: Rajarshi Guha had posted a message on the Computational Chemistry List (CCL) server indicating that he was looking for people who would like to organize and suggest interesting symposium topics for the CINF Division program for National ACS Meetings. So I suggested a symposium on Computational Methods for Fragment Based Ligand Design for the Salt Lake City Meeting in 2009, which was so popular and well-attended that it was followed by a second part symposium in 2010 at the San Francisco meeting. Rajarshi then suggested that I might like to assume the Program Chair position at the end of his term. It seemed like a good idea as I had participated in some Program Committee meetings and enjoyed contributing topics to the CINF program at National Meetings. I am also a member of the COMP, MEDI and BIOL Divisions of ACS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

SK: The Fall 2012 ACS National Meeting was the last meeting for you as the CINF Program Chair and, coincidently, the CINF program was organized at its fullest length from Sunday morning to Thursday afternoon inclusively. Would you assess the last meeting as the most successful program during your tenure? What were the CINF technical program highlights in Philadelphia?

RB: The CINF program at the Philadelphia meeting was a bit of a challenge because not only did we have a substantial program, but we were blessed with two renowned Skolnik winners: Dr. Peter Murray-Rust and Prof. Henry Rzepa. Both Peter and Henry wanted to honor many of their collaborators and colleagues with the opportunity to speak so we had a rather extensive and packed Skolnik symposium all in a single day! Additionally, we had some speakers give their addresses via the Internet and had a real time twitter feed about the meeting ongoing simultaneously. While it was a challenge, it was really pioneering for an ACS Meeting.

Some of the other programming highlights from the Philadelphia Meeting were: the one-and-a-half day session on patents held jointly with the Division of Chemistry and the Law, and The Chemistry Small Business Divisions; the sessions on drug repurposing featuring Chris Lipinski as a speaker; on the history of chemical information; and on the new developments in electronic lab notebooks. Our program was really interesting to members and most of our sessions had standing room only attendance packed into tiny rooms in the Marriott. Even the Thursday morning session traditionally the “General papers” but subtitled “chemical databases, drug discovery and chemical structure representation” had a substantial audience.

SK: In the registration statistics of the ACS National Meetings over the past five years 2008-12, we see spikes in the numbers of attendees at the Spring meetings in San Diego (16,859 in 2012) and San Francisco (18,064 in 2010) and that correlates with the peaks of the CINF abstract submissions for the meetings. Could you comment on a magic formula of “Spring + San city = Success” and on the factors that the CINF Program Committee considers when programming for spring versus fall meetings, and for specific locations?

RB: One of the significant problems due to the current economic downturn is that many companies are no longer sponsoring employees for travel to conferences. Because San Francisco and San Diego have significant numbers of local attendees the travel problem is circumvented. At the recent meetings in Denver, Anaheim and Philadelphia we saw significant numbers of speakers asking for sponsored travel funds and then withdrawing their talks if the funds are not received. CINF is now frequently looking at the local venue and trying to involve individuals in the local area in CINF programming so that travel will be less of an issue. For the upcoming Indianapolis meeting, we are trying to involve David Wild and faculty members at Indiana University and people at Eli Lilly and Company so that travel funds will be less of an obstacle. However, we try not to let location impinge too heavily on the quality and content of our programming.

SK: Rachelle, in your highlights of the CINF Program at the 2012 Spring ACS Meeting in San Diego you observed that “no conference is now going without mobile chemistry.” The first InChI Symposium took place in San Diego, too. Could you mention some other emerging themes for CINF programming? How successful has the ACS thematic programming been in influencing the CINF programming during your tenure?

RB: As you mentioned, the development of mobile applications and their usefulness in chemistry has had a significant impact on CINF programming. Additionally, recent ACS thematic programming has focused heavily on medical and health themes like in Philadelphia. We had symposia on “Science and the Law” with emphasis on regulation in health aspects and “cheminoformatics in the hands of the medicinal chemist” as well as “cheminformatics opportunities in personalized medicine and chemogenomics.” At the San Diego meeting, one of our CINF symposia was featured in the LIFE thematic flyer included in the registration packets mailed to all attendees. Aside from mobile chemistry, open publishing, and medicinal and biological cheminformatic applications, I expect to see themes focused on new materials/nanomaterials and cheminformatics, semantic web and chemical database linking in the future.

SK: Rachelle, you organized two notable CINF symposia on a topic of fragment-based ligand design at Spring ACS National Meetings in 2009 and 2010, which resulted in publishing of the ACS Symposium Book Series Library Design, Search Methods, and Applications of Fragment-Based Drug Design in September, 2011. Could you share with us your experience of the symposium book publishing? Were there any difficulties? Are you planning to continue programming on this topic at future ACS Meetings?

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RB: Certainly publishing a book with ACS was a rewarding experience, especially since it was published and available so expediently as an E-book. However the greatest difficulty, which I had not anticipated, was persuading participants in the symposia to write chapters for the book! Because of the demands for the material in chapters to be novel and peer-reviewed, like a research article, many researchers preferred to publish in a journal rather than in an ACS symposium series volume. As fragment-based design and computer methodologies associated with growing and linking, and developing of novel fragments evolve, CINF will revisit this topic. It certainly was a popular topic and the symposium sessions were well attended.

SK: Rachelle, let’s review some challenges and support venues for Program Chairs. (There used to be a Planning for Program Chair Conference organized by ACS). How do Program Chairs collaborate with other divisions and with MPPG? How important is the role of the CINF fundraising efforts for financial support of speakers in order to put together high quality programs?

RB: Other than from Rajarshi Guha, the previous CINF Program Chair, I had little assistance. The PACS system is not too user-friendly for organizing the program, although Robin Green and Farai Tsokodayi at ACS provided excellent support. Collaborating with other divisions really involves personally reaching out to the other program chairs. We have been fortunate that other divisions, particularly MEDI, COMP, CHAL, CHED, and SCHB, wanted to build bridges and co-sponsor programming with CINF. Fundraising and financial support has been a challenging issue in the current economic climate. We also had some difficulties with speakers, who are accustomed to having all their expenses paid when they come to present at a conference. Graham Douglas has worked very hard in securing sponsorship for events.

SK: As Program Chair have you been getting any data about CINF programming from ACS? Have you heard any other feedback on the program? Would you like to share your recommendations with CINF members considering their involvement in CINF programming?  

RB: I have not received any feedback from ACS regarding CINF programming. However, I have been told informally from our members and other attendees that the program was interesting and of high quality. Many people commented to me on the diversity and the breadth of the program. They liked the fact that we did not repeat the same topical sessions at every meeting. The topics are really influenced by Committee members and Division members in general. Our programming is only as good as the varied input we receive from our members and attendees. We try to cast a broad net and invite all CINF members to participate in suggesting topics or organizing symposia. We welcome all suggestions and participants to the Program Committee either by attending the Committee meetings or emailing your suggestions to the Program Chair.

SK: Rachelle, who is going to be your successor as the CINF Program Chair 2013-14? Could you give us a sneak preview of the CINF technical program planned for the 2013 National Meetings?

RB: Jeremy Garritano, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Librarian at Purdue University, will be my successor. He is already busily organizing the Spring 2013 New Orleans Meeting. Since he is from the “librarian” side of the CINF membership as opposed to the “computational” side of CINF membership, I’m sure that Jeremy will bring a new flavor to CINF programming. We already have an exciting meeting planned with sessions on scholarly communication, advances in virtual high–throughput screening, public databases, library cafes, challenges for libraries in global universities, multiparameter optimization, linking bioinformatic and cheminformatic data, foodinformatics (in line with the ACS theme), as well as on finding information about food chemistry and safety. I am even organizing a symposium myself on computational de novo “rational” design of proteins and peptides.

SK: Are you planning on contributing to the CINF Division in any other role after completing your term as CINF Program Chair?

RB: Well, I am planning on organizing and chairing a symposium in New Orleans, and I hope to continue to be a participant in CINF and a contributor to CINF programming without the responsibilities of being Program Chair.

SK: Rachelle, thank you very much for sharing with us your experiences as the CINF Program Chair 2011-12.

Proposed CINF Program for the Spring 2013 ACS National Meeting

Advances in Virtual High-Throughput Screening

Joel Freundlich,
Sean Ekins

Advances in Visualizing and Analyzing Biomolecular Screening Data

Deepak Bandyopadhyay

Balancing Chemistry on the Head of a Pin: Multi-Parameter Optimization

Edmund Champness,
Matthew Segall,

CINF Scholarship for Scientific Excellence (poster)

Guenter Grethe

Computational de novo ("rational") design of proteins/peptides

Rachelle Bienstock

Food for Thought: Alternative Careers in Chemistry

Donna Wrublewski,
Patricia Meindl

FoodInformatics: Applications of Chemical Information to Food Chemistry

Jose Medina-Franco,
Karina Martinez Mayorga

General Papers; Sci-Mix (poster)

Jeremy Garritano

Going Global: Challenges for Libraries in Global Universities

Andrea Twiss-Brooks,
David Martinsen

Library Cafes, Intellectual Commons and Virtual Services

Leah McEwen, Norah Xiao,
Olivia Bautista Sparks, Teri Vogel

Linking Bioinformatic Data and Cheminformatic Data

Ian Bruno,
John Overington

Public Databases Serving the Chemistry Community

Antony Williams,
Sean Ekins

Scholarly Communication: New Models New Media, New Metrics

David Martinsen,
William Town