This Week on CENtral Science: Fireworks Disposal, Not-so- Alternative Careers, and More
Mar29

This Week on CENtral Science: Fireworks Disposal, Not-so- Alternative Careers, and More

Tweet of the Week: UC flack to me: Email is best way to contact researcher since many depts ditched phones due to budget cuts. What a world.— Sam Lemonick (@SamLemonick) March 28, 2013 When I read this I thought-- Really?? Then I figured, well, why not? I haven't had a land line since college. But I'm still wondering how big a chunk of change a phone bill really is in the grand scheme of the UC budget. Rachel will be handling this roundup during April. Until May, chem-keteers. To the network: Newscripts: In Print: Europe’s Got A Stink Problem and Fashion Police: Science Shoes and Amusing News Aliquots Terra Sigillata: Saturday Morning Natural Products PharmChem Radio! and Dr. Gina Stewart on Career Flexibility and Entrepreneurship The Safety Zone: Letter on Donaldson Enterprises fatal fireworks incident and Defining chemical safety, health, hygiene, and security The Watchglass: Kevlar Inventor Stephanie Kwolek and Behind that Chess Pic and Protein Folding and Lise Meitner and Carbonyl Attack and Radioimmunoassays take '77...

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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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Project management as a bridge between roles in science and business
May02

Project management as a bridge between roles in science and business

Project Manager: Becky Urbanek, Global Compliance Resource & Project Sr. Manager, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Most chemists, whether in industry, government, academia, or some other setting, have worked on a research project at some point. So, who starts the project, who leads it, and who is responsible for its outcome? In academia, it’s likely to be your advisor. In industry, it turns out, there’s a separate discipline devoted to formulating and sharing best practices in the management of projects. Not unexpectedly, this discipline is called project management, and the people who oversee the day-to-day management of the projects are…(drumroll, please)…project managers. Try a quick search of “project manager” or a closely related query on any job search engine. The results suggest that project managers can be found across a variety of industries: construction, information technology, advertising, and many others. Project management of scientific projects is but a small piece of the larger project management pie. (Mmmm…pie) That said, managing a scientific project is the most common way a chemist is likely to transition into such a role. With enough experience and, yes, street cred, chemists—with their vast array of transferable skills—are often called upon to be research project managers. Such an opportunity was presented to Becky Urbanek, whose chemistry background [B.S., chemistry, Ohio Northern U., 1993; Ph.D., organic chemistry (natural product total synthesis), Univ. of Minnesota, 1998] led to her recent role as a Principal Scientist and medicinal chemist* at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. It became evident that management of projects afforded her some additional transferability. Last year, an announcement was made that all drug discovery activities would cease at her site. Becky was able to transition to another role on the business side of the organization, and is now Global Compliance Resource & Project Sr. Manager. “I had been a project manager for drug discovery projects for several years and really loved that role," Becky said.  "I didn’t fully appreciate that project management was a developed profession on its own until the announcement of our site closing and I began to plan for what would come next.” Becky's contacts in other parts of the company were a valuable asset. “I spoke with other project managers that I knew within AstraZeneca and beyond and they recommended courses and that I join the PMI (the Project Management Institute) to further explore project management as a career path," she said.  "I found out about my current job by watching the internal job postings and then networking within the company to learn more about it.” Before proceeding, let’s pause to define what a project is and is not. The definition comes from the PMI, mentioned above,...

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Profile: Alfredo M. Ayala Jr., Disney Imagineer
Mar30

Profile: Alfredo M. Ayala Jr., Disney Imagineer

Posted on behalf of Carmen Drahl Alfredo M. Ayala Jr. majored in chemistry in college, but these days he dabbles in a very special kind of alchemy. He's been with Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development for over 15 years, where his job is to create new illusions and experiences for Disney park guests. And as he explained Sunday at the ACS national meeting in Anaheim, it was organic chemistry that got his foot in the door. Ayala said he fell in love with science as a boy when he saw "Antimatter", an animated look at the atomic world by Carlos Gutierrez, a UCLA film major turned chemistry major and organic chemistry professor. As it so happened, Gutierrez became Ayala's mentor when the young Ayala came to Cal State L.A., through Gutierrez's program for engaging junior high and high school students interested in biomedical sciences. At Cal State L.A., Ayala followed his interests in chemistry and in computers, taking engineering coursework in addition to chemistry. He was an undergraduate researcher in Gutierrez's organic chemistry lab when he applied for an internship with the Disney company. Disney asked its prospective interns to write a paragraph about why they wanted the gig. But instead of just gushing about how cool it would be to work with the company, Ayala took a different tack. He knew Imagineers were looking to reformulate the skin material for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, which at the time contained chromium, a non-chlorine scavenger, as a heat stabilizer. By not having a chlorine scavenger, hydrochloric acid was being produced in reactions with water, which in turn corroded parts that would need to be replaced periodically. Ayala sent Disney three proposals for alternative skin formulas, based on some chemistry he had done forming precursors to analogs of 18-crown-6 ethers in the Gutierrez group. In this 1995 Tet. Lett. paper the group begins with some tin-containing acetals and forms two different crown ether precursors depending on whether they add 1,2-dibromoethane or 2-chloroethanol. “Note we were scavenging chlorine and bromine- this is how I got the idea,” Ayala says. His ingenuity on the application paid off in the form of an interview. "That was what got me in," he says. He's been with Disney ever since. "You'd be surprised how much chemistry goes on at Disney," Ayala says. Building one Disney attraction takes experts in 140 disciplines, from mechanical engineering to art. And chemistry challenges are everywhere at the parks, Ayala says. Research in materials science for skin and other applications is an active area. "The skin formulation I worked on as an intern is obsolete," he says. An...

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Making Science Cool for Kids with K-12 STEM Outreach
Mar07

Making Science Cool for Kids with K-12 STEM Outreach

If you love working with kids and you love science, why not find a career that allows you to have both? I mean, who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? I know what you might be thinking: I’m in grad school. I’m busy. And plus, I want to teach college kids. K-12 is for pre-college teachers. These thoughts also came to my mind as I started working on this blog post. For me personally, after I decided to go to grad school I kind of put pre-college kids out of my mind since I was moving on to “higher education.” If I teach anyone, it’s going to be college kids. But it turns out that there is a lot that people in higher education can do to help prepare the next generation of scientists to be successful future leaders—and it’s up to you whether it’s something you just do on the side, or something that becomes the focus of your career. You may have already known that. Perhaps you’ve already done some science outreach things and have even personally demonstrated to kids how cool science is by making ice cream for them out of liquid nitrogen and heavy cream, right before their very eyes. But have you thought about what difference your contributions can actually make? What gets Sharlene Denos going every day is the knowledge that her efforts are helping to make a difference in the future of science in America. From her experiences working in K-12 schools, Sharlene (Ph.D. in biophysics, 2009) has found that the greatest need in K-12 STEM education is for more inquiry-based learning. “The way science is taught, it’s as though everything has already been figured out,” Sharlene said. “When children leave the classroom, they don’t feel empowered like they could actually contribute something to science, and I think that’s a huge problem.” The reason it’s a huge problem is because these kids are the future of our country. If they’re not prepared to take on scientific challenges, or have misconceptions about what science is all about, what then is in store for the future of science? Sharlene has set out to make a career out of crossing academia with K-12 outreach. She loves working with kids and says her goal is to become a professor that helps bridge the gap between research scientists at the university and kids in grades K-12. There aren’t many people in academia doing that sort of thing. But that’s one of the things she wants to help change. One of her goals is to help people in academia find ways to “participate effectively in...

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