So many nontraditional chemistry careers…
Oct17

So many nontraditional chemistry careers…

A core topic covered here at Just Another Electron Pusher is careers that are deemed by some to be nontraditional for those with a degree in chemistry—away from the bench, generally speaking. I was thinking it would be appropriate, at this time, to list the various nontraditional (or alternative or whatever adjective you prefer) careers that have been covered by current, former and guest electron pushers since this blog’s inception over two years ago. Yes, this is the blog equivalent of a sitcom clip show, where the characters sit around and reminisce, saying things like, “Remember when such-and-such happened to so-and-so…” Annnd cue the short segment from an earlier season. “Ooh, I hate these clip shows!” you cry, and shake your fist at the TV. But you end up watching them anyway, don’t you? Admit it—they’re addictive, almost inescapable. That’s what I’m trying to do here—lure you in with the promise of nostalgia, which comforts like the aroma of freshly baked bread, until the trap is sprung. Excellent. And, in the spirit of altruism, I’m hoping this JAEP retrospective will provide a handy, and perhaps dandy, one-stop shop so you can browse through professions profiled and topics covered. This list will be updated regularly, and permalinked to the sidebar within the JAEP blogroll. I’ve chosen to list these alphabetically, because, well…I’m a scientist, and we’re anal we prefer order. So, without further ado: Actor profile Book Editor / Publisher profile Career Adviser profile Cartoonist (Piled Higher & Deeper’s Jorge Cham) profile Chemical Safety / Chemical Hygiene Officer profile Chemical Software Marketer profile Chemistry Librarian profile Chemjobber profile Congressional Legislative Assistant profile Conservation Scientist profile Cook part one, part two Cosmetic Chemistry profile Disney Imagineer profile Flavor Chemistry profile K-12 STEM Outreach profile one, profile two Medical Sales (and Cheerleader!) profile Medical Writing profile Molecular Jewelry Designer profile Optometrist profile Patent Attorney profile Project Manager profile Regulatory Affairs profile Science Artist / Illustrator profile Science Policy and Communication profile one, profile two, profile three Science Writing part one, part two Scientific Journal Editor profile Scientific Staffing profile Technology Transfer profile Winemaking profile US Government Jobs overview Video Producer profile Web Entrepreneur (BenchFly’s Alan Marnett) profile So, there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this recap, and that you’ll revisit regularly. This list contains only a small fraction of the careers those with chemistry degrees currently enjoy. I’d like to think there are many others, who have a degree in chemistry, but are currently employed in a profession not typically associated with chemistry. Perhaps they’re applying chemistry knowledge and skills in a unique way. If  either description fits you or someone...

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On the Continually Bleak Chemistry Job Market
Aug14

On the Continually Bleak Chemistry Job Market

You’ve probably seen the numbers. On August 3rd, the July unemployment figures for the US were widely reported. Relatively stagnant, again, with an overall unemployment rate of 8.3% Last month, here at C&EN, Rudy Baum presented his take on unemployment figures for ACS members, which fell from 4.6% in March 2011 to 4.2% for March 2012. He pointed out that this rate was still “well below” the national unemployment rate, which was at 8.2% in March 2012. This was followed by a commentary by Madeleine Jacobs, CEO and Executive Director of the ACS. She expressed concern for her membership by stating that “those unemployed chemists are no longer solving critical challenges and creating jobs to ensure sufficient energy, clean water, and food while protecting the environment and curing diseases. Unemployment has both a human and an economic face.” She was prompted to speak out by Brian Vastag’s article in the Washington Post from July 7th, which covered the lack of available jobs in the sciences. Within that article, a chemist, displaced from her position at a pharmaceuticals company, was quoted as advising her high-school aged daughter to avoid pursuing a career in science. “I tell her, ‘Don’t go into science.’ I’ve made that very clear to her,” she said. Ms. Jacobs was particularly disturbed by this advice, and felt compelled to call others to action. This is where her initial expression of concern morphed into something else: “Many people became scientists to fulfill what they saw as their patriotic duty. Let’s not discourage our children who are passionate about chemistry and other sciences by pointing them to other fields.” She then proceeded to quote, as support for her position, a biology undergraduate, who said, among other things: “Anyone who would discourage a child who loves math and chemistry from pursuing a career in science because it might be difficult to find employment might not be a scientist for the right reasons.” I guess there’s room enough for at least two on that particular high horse. Okay, where to begin? Among my coworkers, Madeleine Jacobs’ commentary was viewed with something best described as sputtering disbelief. Her rebuke smacks of “nothing worthwhile is ever easy,” or “hard work is its own reward.” Gee, um, thanks, Mom. That disbelief was wonderfully crystallized in a subsequent post by Chemjobber. He first pointed out that a straight comparison between the unemployment numbers of ACS members and those of the country at large was a bit misleading: “Less than 30% of the United States has a college degree. The ACS membership in 2010 consists of 64% Ph.D.s, 18% M.S. holders and 18% bachelors’ degree holders.”...

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ACS Webinars: The Road Less Traveled– Nontraditional Careers for PhD Chemists, Part Two
Nov18

ACS Webinars: The Road Less Traveled– Nontraditional Careers for PhD Chemists, Part Two

As promised, here’s Part Two of my recap of Steven Carlo’s presentation with ACS Webinars entitled, The Road Less Traveled—Alternative Careers for PhD Chemists. If you missed it, you can watch the video on the ACS Webinars YouTube channel or here. In the last post, I compiled a list of both traditional and nontraditional career options for chemists, some of which Steven highlighted during the webinar. For your convenience, I’ve linked back to previous profile posts where we highlighted a person with that career. Steven’s lecture was full of all kinds of career advice, ranging from how to prepare your resume to tips on networking. I’ve arranged his words of wisdom in a Q&A format and arranged the questions by topic: General advice for job applicants Q: The job market isn’t looking so hot. What advice do you have for job applicants to increase their chances of landing a job? A: Right now the odds are against you to find a job. So, be sure to take advantage of the resources at your disposal: talk to your adviser, people who work in career services on your campus, peruse the internet.  Some recommended websites for finding job postings: ACS Careers, Monster.com, careerbuilder.com, chemistryjobs.com, USAjobs.com, Science. Education and Experience Q: Is a PhD required for all these jobs? A: It varies. If you are someone who is considering a nontraditional career for yourself, part of your research on careers should involve talking to people who work in the field to find out what types of educational background are common for people in those fields. Conversations with people in the field, known as informational interviews, are a crucial component of networking, which we all have heard over and over is such an important part of your career advancement. Q: Should I do a postdoc if I’m not sure what else to do? A: Doing a postdoc probably isn’t necessary or helpful unless you’re serious about academia—then it’s essential that you find a postdoc adviser who will help train you and prepare you for an independent research career. Lots of publications and a big-name postdoc adviser is always good is you’re shooting for academia. Q: How can people who are thinking about non-traditional careers and have little to no experience in those areas compete with those who do have experience in those fields? A: If you lack formal educational training, go take a course at a community college, or find some other ways to get skills of experiences that will make you more qualified for the job. Consider if there are any skills that are transferrable from one field to another. You just need...

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Chemists in Career Services
Sep26

Chemists in Career Services

Profile: Alexis Thompson, Ph.D. (Chemistry, 2007), Director of Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Illinois   When Alexis Thompson was in grad school studying physical chemistry, she discovered that her passion was helping other people discover their passions. After she got her Ph.D., she landed her first job as a career adviser– more specifically, as the assistant director of career services in the Graduate College at the University of Illinois. As a career adviser, Alexis spent her time meeting with students to answer questions, help them prepare job applications and perform mock interviews. She also created and hosted professional development programs that addressed students’ needs. Side note: What’s cool is I actually met Alexis in the first year of my Ph.D. program, right around when she was wrapping up her degree. In my first year, I attended one of her career workshops and got to hear about her nontraditional career path. I’m pretty sure this is what first got me thinking about how a Ph.D. qualifies you for more than just academia or industry. Not surprisingly, most university career advisers don’t have doctorates in chemistry. Many come from a background in education or counseling. But Alexis’s background in science makes her uniquely suited for her current position. If you’ve been through grad school, you have tasted and seen the academic world from the inside and can relate to the struggles that science students are going through, in a way that non-science people can’t.­ And though it’s not always apparent, many of the skills you acquire through toiling in the lab and facing research ups and downs—well, they can carry over into your seemingly unrelated career. Alexis can certainly attest to the power of transferable skills. She had quite a learning curve when she started her first job in career services. But she felt confident diving into an entirely new field, thanks to her Ph.D. training. So, how exactly did Alexis take her chemistry Ph.D. and break into career services? Well, without realizing it, several experiences during grad school helped prepare her to make a case for why she was the ideal candidate for the job. Alexis held leadership positions for the chemistry grad student advisory committee and assisted with the planning of session on work/life balance at an ACS national meeting. She also had gotten acquainted with the university’s Graduate College by going there for their services and also serving on a student advisory committee. Those leadership and volunteer experiences made Alexis realize that while she enjoyed research, her real passion was working with people and planning events. Also, as she was seeking out career options for herself, she talked...

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Let there be sight: A chemist opens her eyes to the world of optometry
Jul12

Let there be sight: A chemist opens her eyes to the world of optometry

  Ever touch a hot pepper and then touch your eye? It hurt, didn’t it?! That’s capsaicin binding to the pain receptors on your eye, which has more pain receptors per area than any other organ in your body— fascinating, huh? Karen G. Carrasquillo certainly thinks so— she’s an optometrist at Boston Foundation for Sight. She remembers always being intrigued with the eye. She also had a thing for chemistry and earned her Ph.D. in chemistry (2001) from the University of Puerto Rico. Towards the end of her degree program, she decided to go for clinical research and did a postdoc at Harvard Medical School in conjunction with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. During her postdoc years, she realized that her dream job would be one that let her pursue original research on the eye, teach younger scientists and interact with patients. The first step towards this career goal was to complete a doctoral degree in Optometry (New England College of Optometry, 2005). Since she already had a Ph.D., she qualified for the accelerated academic program. This was followed by a residency in Cornea and Specialty Contact Lenses at the New England College of Optometry. Now she is an optometrist who specializes in Cornea and Specialty Contact Lenses and works in a clinic, the Boston Foundation for Sight, treating patients that suffer from corneal diseases. “My career path, although it may seem like a divergent one, it really isn’t,” Karen said. “One thing led me to the other almost seamlessly.” She initially thought she would focus exclusively on research on vision and the eye, but a desire “to interact with patients and provide them with a more tangible solution and help” led her to pursue the path to becoming a clinician. “I see patients that suffer from severe corneal disease every day,” Karen said. “It’s very satisfying to see patients for which our treatment is most of the times their last resort and seeing how we can change their lives – we give them their lives back.” Karen said the experiences and skills she acquired at each stage of her career all built on each other: Writing peer-reviewed journal articles, collaborating in research and teaching are all skills in her tool box, and she uses most of them on a daily basis as an eye doctor. In addition to meeting with patients, Karen has a managerial role, working with ophthalmic technicians and managing daily clinical operations. The treatment offered by the clinic where Karen works is called PROSE, which stands for prosthetic replacement of the ocular surface ecosystem. ““PROSE uses FDA-approved custom designed and fabricated prosthetic devices to replace...

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Chemist-turned-marketing director in the computer software industry
Jun30

Chemist-turned-marketing director in the computer software industry

Profile: Philip Skinner, Field Marketing Director for PerkinElmer, San Diego, CA Electronic laboratory notebooks are the way of the future for scientific records, and Philip Skinner is helping pave the way for them. Philip is a field marketing director for PerkinElmer, where his current focus is promoting E-Notebook products to companies and laboratories. But he wasn’t always in the software industry. He is a trained synthetic organic chemist who received his Ph.D. at the University of Durham in the North East of England and did a postdoc at ETH Zurich before landing a job in med chem. While working in med chem, Philip helped asses E-Notebooks for his company. This experience helped him develop professional partnerships within the computer software industry. Little did he know that the time and effort invested would eventually develop into a full-time job just when he needed it. In 2009, the pharmaceutical company where Philip had worked for eight years cut 40 percent of its staff and Philip was left unemployed. He spent nine months actively exploring other career options, including project management and consulting. Finally, the software company developing E-Notebooks decided to expand their sales team, and they offered Philip a job. Shortly after, he moved up in the company into a marketing position and is now a director of field marketing. Philip said he would not have been so lucky had he not had the training and connections with the folks in the software industry. “I met a lot of people networking, but I got this job from contacts I had made and nurtured for many years, and people I had actually worked in partnership with,” he said. For the most part, he works from home, where he spends his time preparing for product demonstrations, participating in conference calls and talking with customers. “One of my main roles is essentially a translator,” Philip said. “As an experienced lab scientist, I understand the way at least the drug discovery world works. I can speak with the scientists we are working with, but also to our software people.” To expand the company’s client base, Philip demo’s the products at trade shows and visits companies all over the country– so there is a good deal of travel with his job. Philip said the best and worst part of his job is working from home since he said it makes it very difficult to maintain work/life separation. But he said he is very happy with his career move. “I enjoy the work, I like the people, it gives me a lot of freedom,” he said. “I feel valued and useful… and I feel that I have somewhere I can actually grow.” For chemists who may be interested in breaking into the software industry, Philip suggests doing research on both the companies and...

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