Computers have had dramatic impact on chemistry

    There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. -Victor Hugo
(Blacksburg, Va., Aug. 23, 1999) -- This year marks the 25th anniversary of the ACS Division of Computers in Chemistry. The division will celebrate the event, during the 218th American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans, Aug. 22-26, with a symposium that will look at the past and future of computer use in chemistry. The program will feature presenters who have had an impact in that period, including Raymond E. Dessy, professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech, author of the "WebWorks" column in Analytical Chemistry, and recipient of the first ACS National Award for Computers in Chemistry.

Dessy will talk about the evolution of computer use in the initial stages of research -- to record a scientist's notes and data, for 'mining' information in institutional databases, and for large scale testing of compounds during the advanced stages of new drug discovery. He will also explore mistaken predictions, the challenges of human adaptation, and technology on the horizon. His presentation, "Some call the world a dreary place" (Comp 30), is Monday, Aug. 23, at 10:30 a.m. in Convention Center room 225-227.

"It is a fascinating period," says Dessy. "In 25 years, we have gone from computers with 4K of memory -- which wouldn't hold today's screen savers -- to the ability to process huge volumes of data."

In the 1970s, computing centers were not addressing the needs of chemistry, he recalls. "Industrial scientists were champing at the 'byte' because they knew computer power was central to their jobs. When PCs were introduced, many scientists realized they were the solution for the lab. But most scientists didn't know how to use PCs, let alone how to interface with lab equipment." Between 1972 and 1992, Virginia Tech and the American Chemical Society provided week-long courses for 5,000 scientists, giving t

Contact: Raymond Dessy
Virginia Tech

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