Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chem Coach Carnival, Day Two

Happy Mole Day, everyone! With all the momentum of a rushing freight train, #ChemCoach Day Two descends upon an unsuspecting public. Could we possibly do better than the seven (7) entries from Day One? Of course! Today's crop truly dispels the notion of scientists as routine-craving critters forever chained to their benches. Read on to find out more...

8. Renee, Analytical Research Chemist, Australian Government. Wow, our first contestant outside the U.S.! Renee blogs at Lost in Scientia. She gives lab tours (!) if you're interested. Renee credits early lab experience with her future career success. The police have apparently used Renee's hood to make meth. Seriously.

9. Leigh, Freelance Science Writer / Roustabout. Leigh blogs at The Bunsen Boerner (pithy!). She's written for Reuters Health, ACS, and landed a coveted AAAS Media Fellowship. Leigh shares lots of great tips to maximize efficiency and spur networking. Her (pleasant) conversational writing style provoked strong responses from a stuffy former academic.

10. Jess, Physical Organic Chemist / Postdoc. Jess (The Chemist) blogs at The Organic Solution. She's still active at the bench, shoots coloured lasers, and is currently "in fellowship application writing hell." She is quite British. Jess almost went down the gold-plated highway to a banking job, but decided to detour to chem: "Who wouldn't want a job where you play with liquid nitrogen?"

11. Steve, Graduate Student / Blogger. Steve blogs at Scientifics. He strongly recommends actual discussion and discourse with fellow lab mates as the key to figuring out chemical problems (Who knew?). Steve fondly recalls that time he took an inadvertent 6N nitric acid bath.

12. Carmen, Science Reporter / Editor. Carmen, like Stu, dabbles in writing at The Haystack, Newscripts, C&EN, and previously at She Blinded Me With Science. Her writing covers orders of magnitude, from 140-character tweets to 1500-word stories. She even came prepared with a pie chart! Carmen advises the burgeoning ranks of young sci-writers to steel themselves for a tough job market. Ask her grandma about 'Eddy.'

13. A post with Star Trek references and one-liners? Must be mine... (lucky #13!)

14. Marc, Self-employed consultant / chemometrician, Salthill Solutions. Marc blogs at Atoms and Numbers. A statistician and programmer at heart, he spends his day analyzing blood samples by "remote" Raman spectroscopy. Never works 9-to-5. Marc previously taught at a school he refers to as "St. FX," where he overcame a "fear" of pushing electrons to conquer o-chem lecturing.

15. Chemjobber, Process Chemist (Shockingly, blogs at Chemjobber). To steal from quote Deborah Blum: "a great portrait of a chemist at work." CJ shares his experiences with bench-to-plant processes, including the joys of being on-call at all hours and the importance of in-process controls. Even if those controls are as simple as...TLC plates.

16. Steve, Senior Director of Biology, start-up. Steve blogs at the eponymous Stevil. Like many kindred spirits here, Steve is pro-internship / anti-jargon (a good combo). He points out the fantastic role that chance, random encounters, and uncertainty play in shaping modern science careers.

17. Glen, medicinal chemist, Lieber Institute. Glen blogs at Just Another Electron Pusher. Like many others here, Glen dispels the notion that anyone in biotech works a "standard day" - his day includes work as Chemical Hygiene Officer, procurement, and equipment repair...on top of designing drugs! His school 'advisor' was the great 'chemist' Bill Pullman (Lone Star!).

18. Chris, Chaired Prof., University of Minnesota. Chris "blogs" on his faculty webpage! (Seriously, though, ask him to share his "lab expectations" letter sometime). Despite his multiple highfalutin titles, he seems like a down-to-earth, approachable guy, possibly a lifetime influence of honorable military service. I'll cop his best line, re: time management: "Anyone facing a 50/50 commitment...prepare yourself for what is actually a 75/75 commitment!"

19. Andrew, Asst. Prof., "small college." Andrew's full entry below:

Your current job.

Assistant Professor at a small college teaching Organic Chemistry

What you do in a standard "work day."

Lecture about 20 students in organic chem, prep lab experiments by cleaning up the lab, making solutions etc. I work with a lot of students one on one in office hours helping with homework problems. I also help my research students in the lab most days and give directions to a work study student (lab assistant).

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there?

B.S. in chemistry and a PhD in chemistry. I had no real job experience but took free teaching courses while I was in graduate school. I skipped a postdoc and searched for college level jobs with no research or grant writing  requirements and applied at all of them.

How does chemistry inform your work?

I teach the basics every day, really and have used my science education to branch out and teach other classes like a science in popular culture course I developed myself.

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career*When I interviewed for my job I was describing energy diagrams in organic chemistry and make the comparison between spontaneous reactions and spontaneous human combustion, complete with stick figure drawings of a guy, guy on fire and ashes in a pile. I still go the job!

20. Eva, Health Care Reporter, Bloomberg News. Eva's full entry below:

Your current job.
European health care reporter for Bloomberg News

What you do in a standard "work day."
I write about pharmaceutical companies, and also do some of the basic science writing, mostly papers that appear in European journals. So my day is a combination of finding new stories, reporting the stories I found and writing up my reporting. Some of the finding is done by meeting people at conferences or just for lunch or drinks, and some is reading. Much of that reading is combing through financial releases, news releases or research papers(I love it). The reporting is either done in person or via phone calls. The writing part is based here in my office in Munich, and fueled by Bach and black tea (w/ milk, no sugar, please).

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there?
I have a MS (German Diplom) in chemistry and did quite a bit of work in biochemistry at the Max Planck Institute in Martinsried. I also have a MS in journalism from Columbia's J-School.

How does chemistry inform your work?
I find I rarely need the rafts of name reactions I crammed, but chemistry helps me in a number of different ways. The most obvious is the ability to quickly understand and evaluate new research. I also find researchers will quickly open up and talk to me when they find out a fellow geek is on the phone. Bloomberg is about financial news, and my left-brained self is really helpful to understand abstract concepts.

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career
How did I find out I don't have lab hands and decide to go into journalism? Maybe when I almost blew up a lab doing some kind of ill-informed ether distillation.


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