Do what you are: A recipe for your dream job
Jun28

Do what you are: A recipe for your dream job

My mind went daydreaming today and I got this crazy idea I want to share.  I want everyone reading this blog post, particularly those trying to figure out what to do with their lives, to just take ten minutes to forget about the failing economy, the saturation of the chemistry job market, and all the worries that arise when you wonder how you will support yourself and pay off your loans after you graduate.  Take the next ten minutes to dream— I’m going to guide you through it.  Before you navigate away from this page thinking I’m some kind of nut, please let me explain. I’m going to give you the recipe for figuring out what job you were made for.  In other words, I’m going to help you figure out what kind of job will let you do what you are.  Take a piece of paper and draw lines to create four sections. Or type it out, whatever works.  Causes I am passionate about Activities that get me excited Work environments I thrive in My dream job(s) For sections a through c, write out anything that comes to mind. Be honest and just let it flow.  Now, here is the recipe for your dream job: Think of ways you can work for the causes you’re passionate about by doing the activities you love in a work environment you thrive in.  What’s the idea behind all of this? As you learn more about who you are, you can start figuring out what you were made to do.  Here’s the awesome part: You are free to add and remove items from your list as you go through life and learn new things about yourself. Your dream job may change many times as you yourself change and grow. That’s okay, that’s all part of it.  Now, what does this all have to do with alternative careers in science?  A lot, in fact. For example, you might think you’re passion is research because you’re in grad school and that’s what you do and, for the most part, you enjoy it. But as you dig deeper to figure out what drives you, you may find that your root passion is problem solving, or perhaps project management, mentoring, or on a broader scale, working for a noble cause. While you once thought you were limited to a research career, you might find that you could be happy doing anything that allows you to fulfill that inner longing.  So be creative and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. As you open yourself up to careers off the beaten path, you might find that you have...

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Show me the money: How a Ph.D. chemist is helping corporate America team  up with K-12 STEM education programs
Mar31

Show me the money: How a Ph.D. chemist is helping corporate America team up with K-12 STEM education programs

We hope this blog is making it abundantly clear that a chemistry degree qualifies you for a lot more than you might think. I mean, who knew a chemist could land a job at a Disney theme park where he could use his chemical knowledge to help make, for example, a more corrosion-resistant artificial skin? It seems, therefore, that a reasonable approach to discovering your chemistry dream job is this: Figure out what you’re passionate about and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Then find a job that lets you do that. (Word of caution: Not every job you can dream up will be able to pay the rent, so that’s something important to keep in mind). This seems to be the approach Zakiah Pierre is taking in pursuing her career. Although she started grad school thinking she’d go into forensic science, along the way she discovered she was really passionate about “mentoring and paving the way for our future engineers and scientists.” The more she got more involved in mentoring students, the more she became convinced that a science career that allowed her to have an immediate impact on students was the right path for her. That line of thinking has led her to where she is today with Change the Equation, an organization focused on improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for every child, with a particular focus on girls and students of color. One of the ways CTEq strives to accomplish its goals is by identifying innovative programs to advance STEM literary in the United States, measuring the success of these programs through research and analysis and replicating them in communities that need them most. This is where Zakiah comes in. As a research associate, she gathers data regarding the condition of STEM learning state-by-state and nationwide and assesses the impact of STEM learning programs that receive corporate support. By evaluating the success of various programs, she helps CTEq make a solid case for why companies should continue funding them—and expanding them to new, underserved sites. She also writes reports that let their partners know about the needs in STEM learning, with the hope that changes in policy will be made to address those needs. In addition to research and writing reports, Zakiah also blogs about science education news and programs and occasionally represents the organization at meetings around D.C. on a variety of STEM education topics. In the future, Zakiah hopes to expand her role to writing short briefs for peer-reviewed journals on current issues in K-12 STEM learning. It may be apparent by now that Zakiah has had to...

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Money, it’s a gas
Sep16

Money, it’s a gas

Grab that cash with both hands And make a stash So sayeth both Pink Floyd and Chemjobber. The latter put a couple of interesting posts up this week about money tips for grad students and contributing to an IRA. Worth a read. I’m visiting a collaborator’s lab to make some measurements this week (read: working 16 hour days and getting very little sleep), but will be back next week with a profile of Jake Yeston, Senior Editor at Science. Have a great...

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Profile: Patent Attorney
Jul20

Profile: Patent Attorney

Want people trying to get your expert advice for free all the time? Like rules and details? Then a patent attorney may be the job for you. So, yay! But what is it? According to wisegeek, “A patent attorney is a specialist attorney with the qualifications to represent clients seeking patents and to carry out other procedures related to securing and protecting patents. A patent is protection that the government grants an inventor in the form of a guarantee of having the sole right to make and sell the invention for a designated period of time. We can speak of the patent attorney in terms of the steps she or he has taken to be so designated as well as in terms of the services and jobs he or she performs.” And if you can get through that definition without your eyes glazing over, then this career is maybe something you should look into. Eyal Barash definitely could whiz right through that paragraph. He’s the chief intellectual property counsel for Endocyte, a biopharmaceutical company based in West Lafayette, Indiana “in the area of folate-targeted therapies and diagnostics.” He also has his own law firm, working mainly in the pharmaceutical area. And he really loves his job. “Patent law is a great career where you combine the best of science with the excitement of commerce and the law. In the area of pharmaceuticals it is especially important since the barrier to competition is generally low,” he said. Barash started out studying chemistry because of “a fabulous high school chemistry teacher in West Lafayette,” he said. He got a B.A. in history and a B.S. in chemistry from Indiana University, where he did some undergraduate research in solid-state NMR. He liked that pretty well, and went on to UC Berkeley and got a Master’s degree from Alex Pines. Then he went to law school at Northwestern. Aye, there’s the rub. To become a patent attorney, you have to go to law school. And it’s going to cost you. “To advance in the field appreciably, a law degree is a must. Unlike grad school, however, it is difficult to get grant funding to go to law school and it is not cheap. Private schools, for example, have tuitions in the $30K range each year,” Barash said. He suggests going to the best law school that you can afford, and where you can get good grades. Because unlike grad school? Your grades in law school actually count. Weird, huh? If you can’t stomach the idea of getting yet another degree, you can become a patent agent instead. Here’s the difference between patent lawyers...

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2009 ACS salary survey
Jul12

2009 ACS salary survey

So, the results are in from the 2009 ACS salary survey, and they can be summarized in one word: ouch. Median salaries for all chemists fell 3.2%, and the unemployment rate jumped to 3.9%, the highest rate for chemists in 20 years. Hemlock, anyone? Okay, so things aren’t that bad. The overall unemployment rate for the same time was 8.6%, according to the report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So at least chemists had it better than the general population. But keep in mind that the numbers in the salary survey are from March 2009, and things may have gotten better (unlikely) or worse (probably) since then. For June 2010, the national unemployment rate was 9.5%. So use that to normalize your thinking as you read it. Also note that this survey focuses on the Big Three* types of employers: academia, industry, and government. But even if you don’t want to go into one of those areas, I do suggest you go read it, as well as C&EN editor-in-chief Rudy Baum’s take on it. I’m just talking highs and lows here. And there really aren’t that many highs. I guess one would be that the unemployment rate for PhDs was lower than that of master’s level chemists (3.3% versus 4.2%). So finish your degrees, grad students. Also, oddly enough, median salaries for professors teaching with 12-month contracts at PhD granting schools shot up, from $120,600 in 2008 to $149,000 in 2009. The article calls it an anomaly. And it does seem very strange, given that more educational institutions are cutting back in everything, including salaries. At my school, Indiana University, there’s a hiring freeze right now. So yeah, go figure. (Aside–did you know that salaries for all faculty and staff have to be publicly posted, if the school is public? Yep. So if you attend one, you can look up how much your adviser gets paid. Try looking at your respective Office of Financial Affairs website.) And now the bad news: there was a large increase in the amount of PhDs in post-doc positions, 2.5%. That’s up from 1.3% in 2008, and the highest number in 10 years. Ergh. That either means that people are post-docing longer, or more new PhDs that would have normally gotten a job are now going for the post-doc. Or both. In any case, that’s not good news. I really hope chemistry doesn’t turn into one of those disciplines where you can expect to post-doc for a long time after you finish, like biology or astronomy. To put it mildly, that would suck. More things that suck: in academia, the higher the rank,...

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Nature Jobs International Salary Survey
Jun25

Nature Jobs International Salary Survey

Nature jobs has published their first ever International Salary Survey, tracking things like salary level, job satisfaction, happiness, and gender bias for over 10,500 scientists over 16 countries, including those working in non-traditional jobs, although the article did not elaborate on that point. The goal of this survey was “to track contentment with one’s job by region or by job attributes such as health care, the degree of independence or mentoring potential,” says Gene Russo in the analysis, something hard to come by previously. The results are pretty interesting. In short, if you want to be a happy scientist, live in Denmark. Avoid Japan. Also, expect to take a pay cut for having ovaries in every country they charted. Surprisingly enough, the gender salary difference was the lowest in India. But overall salaries are also the lowest in India, which may explain the smaller difference. (Although it IS possible that they really are less sexist in India. Right? A girl can dream.) In other news, I got turned down for another science writing internship yesterday. I’ve honestly lost count, so I don’t know if it’s my 11th or 12th rejection. What did I say before about persistence and not giving up? I think I need to go read that...

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