Ray Lam is an Associate Professor at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Since 2015 Ray has served as the chair for National Chemistry Week (NCW).
In this Member Volunteer Spotlight, learn more how Ray became involved in volunteering as part of the NCW, opportunities for mentorship, and advice to others interested in volunteering for NCW.
How did you become involved in volunteering for NCW?
It all started when I was an adjunct faculty at Emmanuel College. My department chair, Dr. Christine (Chris) Jaworek-Lopes, was the NCW chair back then. I casually asked one day whether there was anything I could help with NCW and that’s how I started volunteering at outreach events. A year or two later, she was looking for someone to pass the NCW torch to so she can be involved with other positions at NESACS and I thought I’d give it a shot. Chris showed me the ropes on how to organize the events and it was around that time that she got very sick. Chris never let her health issues get in her way, and she remained positive, courageous and passionate about outreach programs right up until her unfortunate passing. It was with a heavy heart that I took over organizing NCW and have been doing that ever since.
For NCW, did you have a mentor and/or do you serve as a mentor to others participants in this program?
NCW was a well-oiled machine when I took over and Chris was a great mentor; showing me all the different tasks that needed to be done for a successful event. I cannot stress enough how much of an impact she has made. She also left me in great hands; our NESACS board of directors have been very supportive and our collaborators at the Museum of Science, Boston and Boston Children’s Museum are godsends. I couldn’t have done any of it without them. For that, I’m truly thankful.
What has been the most rewarding / exciting component of volunteering for NCW?
The excitement in our young visitors’ eyes when they get their hands-on experience at NCW is priceless. I distinctly remember overhearing a young museum visitor, who I saw at our NCW activities table earlier on, talking excitedly with his parents, screaming “I love chemistry!”. That right there makes all the work and stress worth it.
What advice would you give to other individuals considering volunteering for NCW?
Things are bound to go wrong, learn to go with the flow. The event does not need to be perfect for it to be successful. There will be stressful moments, don’t give up. Focus on the big picture, push through. I promise the smiles and excitements on our visitors’ faces are well worth it.