These alternative careers? Maybe not so much.
Nov24

These alternative careers? Maybe not so much.

Today for your reading pleasure, we've got a guest post from the ever witty Chemjobber. According to him, not all alternative jobs are good ideas. . Leigh's always writing about good alternative careers for chemists; here, I suggest a few bad ones for those of you contemplating leaving graduate school or a postdoc for something, anything else. Don't try any of these: . 1. Counselor/psychotherapist: I can only imagine it: "Hey, dude -- your Dad doesn't like you? Cry me a river -- I worked for a guy for five back-breakin' years and all I got was this lousy sheepskin and a postdoc at East Butterfinger State College." Chemists just aren't big on sympathy. . 2. Singer: Sure there are some pretty decent folks who can sing along to the radio, but for every one of those, there's ten people screeching "Every Rose Has A Thorn" at the top of their lungs while running a column. Face it, none of us are going to Hollywood. . 3. Traffic cop: "Yeah, I don't really know how fast you were going, either. Probably 45 mph, plus or minus 5 or 10. What is the margin of error on this thing, anyway?" . 4. Organic farmer: The confusion between organic food and organic chemistry would be enough to make your head explode. Don't even attempt it, especially if you snicker every time you see "organic" written at the grocery store. . 5. Nurse: See #1. . 6. Temperance campaigner: Have you ever seen us before a departmental seminar or a Friday happy hour? Keep moving, folks. . 7. Diplomat: "You see, Senor Presidente, the reason we're invading you is, well, we just don't like you. And you rejected our paper a couple years back. Yeah, no, we haven't forgotten. Enjoy!" . 8. Motivational speaker: "So the reason that you should live your dreams and strive for excellence is... is... is... 'cause I've been here 5 years and I desperately need a job! Kids, I'm your role model!" . 9. Dancer: It's Thursday night, the chemists are out drinkin' and jerking their bodies around dancin' , and well, not really doing the field any favors. Cutting a rug, so to speak, isn't something chemists are good at (even though there are rare exceptions). . 10. Fashion designer: "So for this year's spring fashions, T-shirts! In all different colors: blue, blue, blue and blue. Don't forget these awesome acid holes! This one, that'll get them talking in Milan!" . Thanks so much to Chemjobber for his infinite wisdom. Oh, and this blog post. And speaking of thanks, if you're American, have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow!...

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Profile: Chemistry Librarian
Nov17

Profile: Chemistry Librarian

If I had to do it all over again, I think I'd be a librarian. They just tend to kind of awesome, you know? (If you don't believe me, check out the winners of last year's ALA Book Cart Drill Team World Championship.) Today we have a guest post by librarian Donna Wrublewski, who's in charge of the chemical sciences collection at the University of Florida. She may not play with book carts, but I think how she got interested in science qualifies her for the awesome badge as well. It all started when my mom and I discovered Doctor Who when I was about 5 or 6. I wanted to be a “mad scientist” who ran around saving the world. Science in general, and astrophysics in particular, captured my imagination. When I learned that fireworks were the result of chemical reactions, I was sold on chemistry. I felt an engineering degree would be more practical than a chemistry degree so I studied chemical engineering as an undergrad at MIT. However, all the pipes and numbers didn’t really agree with me, but my polymer science classes did, so that’s the direction I went in for graduate school. I went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for my master’s and doctorate degrees, and worked mainly on mechanics of polymers. I learned all aspects of polymer chemistry, physics, and engineering, which made me very well suited for my current position – a librarian! I had been considering information science for a while, particularly after having experience with traditional academia and industry - neither one felt a perfect fit. Academia felt too “cut-throat” and single-track. I took time off from graduate school to work in industry, and it felt equally as single-track, as well as too dependent on the economy. I found my current job posting on Twitter, which was a perfect metaphor for my job talk (Chemistry and Web 2.0 technology, and how it applies to libraries). I learned all the resources I am now teaching to my patrons by actually being a graduate student in chemistry. I know where to direct them for reference questions and help them find the info they need, because chances are, I once needed the same thing. When I started, I immediately had a good rapport with graduate students because at the time, I technically still was one (I just finished my PhD this summer, after starting at UF in January). Having advanced degrees in chemistry has helped me interact with the faculty as they value the subject expertise I bring to this position. And the library faculty and staff are wonderful, especially because now...

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Chemist as cook
Oct29

Chemist as cook

Hi ho there folks. This is the first of a two-part series about cooking and chemistry, a lovely guest post by the illustrious Chemjobber. So without further ado... Leigh's profiles of people are typically folks who use the problem-solving or thinking skills they learned from being chemists and applying them to other equally cerebral tasks. But what about the equally important hand skills that chemists develop? The hands that can pull TLC spotters, poke them through a tiny 18-gauge needle into a reaction and spot them on a TLC plate can surely do something equally complex, no? One of my favorite books of all time is Bill Buford's Heat, where Buford tells about his adventures in being a prep and line cook at Babbo, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Mario Batali. In it, Buford goes from complete newbie (slicing himself while deboning duck leg quarters) to being able to hold his own in the middle of a rushed meal service; to me, that sounds like the process of becoming a chemist in a busy laboratory. Buford mentions a few things common to cooking and chemistry: Repetition: "I was reminded of something Andy (a more senior chef) had told me. ‘You don't learn knife schools in cooking school, because they only give you six onions, and no matter how hard you focus on those six onions there are only six, and you're not going to learn as much as when you cut up a hundred.’ One day I was given a hundred and fifty lamb tongues. I had never held a lamb's tongue, which I found greasy and unnervingly humanlike. But after cooking, trimming, peeling and slicing a hundred and fifty lamb's tongues I was an expert." Complexity in combinations: Buford describes the grill station prep: "There were 33 different ingredients, and most had to be prepared before the service started, including red onions (cooked in beet juice and red wine vinegar), salsify (braised in sambuca), and farotta (cooked in a beet puree). There were six different squirter bottles, two balsamic vinegars, two olive oils, plus vin santo, vin cotto, and saba, not to mention the Brussels sprouts and braised fennel and rabbit pate - and damn! Today, I look at the map and am astonished I had any of it in my head." The joy of creating: "I found, cooking on the line, that I got a quiet buzz every time I made a plate of food that looked exactly and aesthetically correct and then handed it over the pass to Andy. If, on a busy night, I made, say, fifty good-looking plates, I had fifty little buzz moments, and by the end of service...

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