The American Chemical Society held their annual National Meeting last week, March 13 – 17. It was held in San Diego and around nine thousand papers were presented. The ACS and APS (physics) meetings are quite different. At the physics meeting, most of the talks are twelve minutes long, and many of those talks are given by students. It’s a friendly meeting and people aren’t out to make their careers or ask ball-busting questions. Therefore, it’s a good atmosphere for students to gain experience giving talks.

In stark contrast, at the chemists meeting very few talks are given by students. Many of the talks themselves are given by invited speakers (i.e. major players in the field) and are longer, 30-40 minute talks. This leads to a greater number of heated discussions and a more serious tone for the talk sessions. Of course, longer talks means fewer talks overall, and therefore most of the student contributions are shunted into the massive poster sessions. Of the talks I personally saw, only one (other than my own) was given by a student.

In conclusion, physics > chemistry.