How I Got My Job
 
 

How I Got My Job


When we invited readers to tell us how they found their current job, we received a flurry of interesting stories. Participants were entered into a random drawing for a $200 Visa gift card. Congratulations to the lucky winner of that drawing: Laura Basgall, a process engineer at Dow Corning.

Jump to Entries:
Mike Tarselli | Margaret E. Grow | Lisa Balbes | Matthew Meredith | Louise Hellwig | Jonathan Shirley | Justin Scherzer | Lacey Fitts | David Lavenson | Jack Driscoll | John McCarter | P. Sundararajan | David van der Wiel | Jeanette Greenlee | Daniel Udwary | Rachel Harvill | Megan Link | Ethan Pulliam | Sara Paisner | Mike J. Idacavage | Paige Krzyskowski | Timothy Rossetto | Laura Basgall | Norman R. Schmuff | Alan Harpell | LCDR Lana M Rossiter | Natalie LaFranzo | Amber Evans

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Mike Tarselli

Mike Tarselli


Title: Senior Principal Scientist

Company or Employer Name: Biomedisyn

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Ph.D. UNC-Chapel Hill, 2008; post-doc Scripps Florida, 2009-2010

How I Got My Job:


I work at Biomedisyn, a small biopharmaceutical company outside New Haven. We discover and develop small molecule therapies to treat neurodegenerative disorders.

With everything that went wrong during my interview, I'm still surprised to be working here. Flight? Delayed. Rental car? Unavailable. I got lost driving into New Haven at night.

The day of the interview, I realized I hadn't brought a suit, so I wore day-old khakis and a faded blue polo shirt for my formal research talk!

On the way home, I got halfway back to the airport before I realized I had left a suitcase in my hosts' car. I quickly reversed course, and met them halfway at a Dunkin Donuts. I made it on to my return flight with minutes to spare.

One week later, I got the offer.

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Margaret E. Grow

Margaret E. Grow


Title: Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Company or Employer Name: Morgan State University

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Ph.D. Chemistry, UMBC, 2012; BS Chemistry, Villanova University, 2006

How I Got My Job:


I graduated in August, 2012, but did not start working at Morgan State until ten months later. I had gone on two different job interviews for government positions before I graduated, and both had gone very well - so well, in fact, that I was sure that I would have a job by October 1. Unfortunately, between the election in November, the fiscal cliff in January, and ultimately, sequestration in March, those jobs were pushed into limbo. I began scouring the internet, searching and applying to any position that I scarcely qualified for. I cold-called professors whose research I was interested in, only to discover that they had no room in their labs. I was getting frustrated and disappointed with all the negative responses, or lack thereof, that I was receiving. It wasn’t until I went back to UMBC, my graduate institution, and spoke with my advisor and visited with some of my old professors. I found out that one of my professors had received word about an opening at Morgan and told me that she would email a letter of recommendation for me. I then received an email about a week later from my current boss asking for an interview, saying that I had come highly recommended to her. I interviewed shortly thereafter and received the position in her lab. I started work in June, 2013, and am grateful for the opportunity to learn something completely new while expanding and cultivating my current skill set.

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Lisa Balbes


Title: Chief Scientist

Company or Employer Name: Balbes Consultants

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: PhD, University of North Carolina, 1989

How I Got My Job:


I relocated for a job that turned out not to exist (they did not get their grant, so could not pay me). I was known to the tech support people at a company whose products I had been using, because I would regularly report problems and workarounds to them. They needed someone to evaluate a new product, and figured I would be good at finding problems, so asked me to beta test it for them, and they would pay me for it. They liked what I did, that one project led to another. I found I enjoyed the variety of the work, and over time refined my consulting business, specializing in scientific documentation services. Over time, more and more people got to know what I did, and referred their friends/colleague to me. This has continued to do so for almost 22 years.

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Matthew Meredith

Matthew Meredith


Title: Senior Chemist

Company or Employer Name: Huntsman

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: PhD, University of Oklahoma, 2010

How I Got My Job:


I was continuously on the lookout for jobs during my 1.5 year post-doc, not because I didn't like it but because I knew it was temporary. I applied to my current job through a posting on monster.com. I did not know anyone in the company beforehand. I had one phone interview and one on-site. The interviews went well, and I got the job for three reasons: They were looking for young chemists to train, with no experience in the specific area of research; I had a good publication record and good speaking skills, and I am originally from the area where my job is located, so that made me a minimal flight risk. I started this job in February of 2012.

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Louise Hellwig

Louise Hellwig


Title: Lecturer

Company or Employer Name: Morgan State University, Chemistry Department

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BA Swarthmore College 1971, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin Madison, 1978

How I Got My Job:


Sometimes a Job Falls in Your Lap

I had previously taught at two local universities, so I guess my name was known, but I was not working in 1991. One Tuesday the chair of Morgan State’s Chemistry Department phoned me, introduced himself, and asked if I was available to an Organic Chemistry lecture section. I said I was and asked when Morgan’s semester started. He replied, “Yesterday!” I asked him what he had told the students yesterday, and he replied that he told them their instructor would be there on Weds. And I was! He then found several lab sections that needed an instructor, and I began teaching full time at Morgan the next day. I’ve been there ever since.

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Jonathan Shirley


Title: Research Scientist II

Company or Employer Name: AMRI

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BS Chemistry, Juniata College, 2005; MS Organic Chemistry, New Mexico State University, 2008

How I Got My Job:


I started searching for my first job while finishing up the work for my Master's thesis in the spring of 2008. I started using various online resources with the ACS Careers website being the most commonly used job board. Through the ACS Careers website I had several job interviews at the ACS National Meetings in 2008 in both New Orleans and Philadelphia but nothing came out of those interviews. Of course, in the middle of searching for a job the economy crashed which made finding a job even more worrisome. I kept sending out resumes and applications for everything that sounded like a possible match and had little success. I had very few contacts I could use, as most of my classmates were either also in graduate school or had just started in their first jobs. I eventually was offered an interview from AMRI, which I believe was through an application I submitted online. I had no contacts with AMRI and I think I just happened to have the right mixture of qualifications they were looking for plus a willingness to move across the country to upstate New York for a job. It also helped a lot that my graduate advisor believed in individual work for his MS candidates so that I had something all my own to present at the interview. The group also believed strongly in being well-prepared for presentations and that was a great help. I started my current job in December 2008.

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Justin Scherzer


Title: Analytical Chemist

Company or Employer Name: Dow Corning

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Saginaw Valley State University

How I Got My Job:


I knew to start off that I would have an uphill battle to find full time employment with a major chemical company, since my degree was not obtained from a major university. I knew that I would have to have good grades and some type of relevant work experience to have a good chance of becoming employed. So, I obtained a co-op position with Dow Corning and applied and received an internship with Dow Corning a year after my co-op position started. One of the benefits to having an internship is that you receive an interview for full time employment. Knowing that there were a limited number of chemist positions available for my hiring class it was important that I prepared myself the best I could for my interviews. After my internship interviews I returned to my co-op position with Dow Corning. About a month after interviewing I received a call from the Analytical Science's department saying they had one position open and would like to interview me as a possible candidate. I accepted the offer and interviewed with the hiring managers for the department. After the interview I walked back to my desk (about a 2 minute walk) and within that time they had called my work phone to extend an offer of full time employment. With excitement I accepted, knowing that the hard work I put at school and the pro-active attitude I had for finding employment and gaining experience as a co-op had paid off.

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Lacey Fitts


Title: Instructor of Science Education

Company or Employer Name: Delta State University

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: MS Inorganic Chemistry, Vanderbilt University, 2007; BA Chemistry, Mississippi State University 1998; EdD Higher Ed/ Ed Leadership, Delta State University, ABD 2013

How I Got My Job:


I have a passion for science outreach that has guided my career choices over the last decade. As an NSF teaching fellow at Vanderbilt University, I was able to bring "real" science into local middle school classrooms. This fueled my passion for teaching and I taught high school science courses before moving to the rural MS Delta. In my current position, I have the opportunity to help teachers get the resources they need to be successful and I get to train our next generation of science teachers. I LOVE my job. When I interviewed for my position with DSU, I was asked to give a talk to the students and faculty. In that talk, I wowed the crowd with a science demonstration that involved creating a fireball in the front of the classroom. I think that they were able to see my enthusiasm for science education and understood that my life experiences had equipped me well for working with students from the rural MS Delta region. I am not saying that every chemist should blow something up on their interview, but it worked for me.

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David Lavenson

David Lavenson


Title: Research Scientist

Company or Employer Name: Chevron

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: MS & PhD, Chemical Engineering - UC Davis; BS, Chemical Engineering, Lehigh University

How I Got My Job:


My story starts about 6 months before I had planned to file my PhD dissertation. I knew that I wanted a job in industry so I started networking in person (conferences and meetings) and through LinkedIn. I refined and polished my resume/CV with the help of various resources. LinkedIn was my initial place for obtaining legitimate contacts for positions, as well as job postings that were relevant. From here I learned how to present my skills that I'd developed in my graduate work to illustrate the value I could provide to a potential employer. I developed a strong sense of where and how I could fit into an industrial position and began to refine my search.

Ultimately, it was through a professional organization that I was referred to my current job. The organization sent out emails to members who wished to receive information regarding job openings in the related field. The posting had no direct contact but I immediately found ways, via LinkedIn and other networks, to contact the hiring manager to establish a connection. From there I was selected for an interview and, as the cliche goes, the rest is history. I've been working at Chevron for more than a year now and really enjoy it.

Staying involved with professional organizations and maintaining a strong online presence were what gave me the advantage in obtaining my position. Without the preparation I put in beforehand, I don't think I would have found my current job.

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Jack Driscoll

Credit: Suffolk University Magazine

Jack Driscoll


Title: President

Company or Employer Name: PID Analyzers, LLC

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Suffolk University - Sawyer School of Management DCS, Business 1993 – 1993 Northeastern University Northeastern University Theoretical Physcial Chemistry 1968 – 1969 Boston University Boston University MA, Physical Chemistry 1965 – 1967 Suffolk University Suffolk University BS, Chemistry 1963 – 1965

How I Got My Job:


My first job out of college involved synthesizing organic chemicals but the best part was using instrumentation for identification. After graduate school I worked at GCA Corp. in the applied physics lab (photoionization mass spectrometry) and in the applied science lab (lasers and air pollution). After nearly 10 years in government contract research with instrumentation and methods development, I wanted to get into instrumentation manufacturing. I joined a small instrumentation company to learn about manufacturing but after a short time, I decided I would only be happy if I started my own company. I met many good engineers there and convinced one of them to join me to develop environmental instrumentation based on photoionization (PI) technology. We developed the first commercial instrumentation using PI for worker protection from hazardous chemicals and for drinking water and we have sold more than 50,000 instruments. Several years after we started, we had added an engineer and a scientific sales manager from our old company and were approached to develop a clinical instrument. We found a clinical distributor who was interested in working with us and would make an investment. We have built Nova Biomedical into the largest privately held “in vitro” diagnostic company in the US where we employ more than 100 chemists. I am an owner and board member. I operate PID Analyzers, LLC with my daughter, Jennifer Maclachlan, as we celebrate 40 years of operation. I could not find the job that I wanted, so I started my own company.

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John McCarter


Title: Director of Business Development

Company or Employer Name: Soluble Therapeutics, Inc.

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BS - Marketing - Va Tech 2002, BS - Chemistry - University of West Alabama, 2009, MSc - Biotechnology - University of Alabama Birmingham, 2011

How I Got My Job:


I got my job by totally reorienting my career and going back to school starting in 2007. During my master's program, I interned with Soluble Therapeutics and was brought on full time in a hybrid Research Associate-BD role upon my graduation. I still get in the lab some when needed to keep projects moving forward, however, as Director of BD, now, most of my time is spent traveling for business purposes.

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P. Sundararajan

P. Sundararajan


Title: Professor

Company or Employer Name: Carleton University

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Ph. D., D. Sc. Madras University, India, 1969

How I Got My Job:


I was with Xerox Research Centre in Mississauga, near Toronto for 25 years, as a member of research staff, then Manager and then Principle Scientist. Companies in those days allowed their scientists to attend conferences, publish papers etc. I was interacting with the academic community, and published a number of papers. I was an adjunct professor at University of Waterloo for seven years. As the American companies were beginning to trim their headcount, during one of those moments in Fall 1999, I sent an e-mail to my friend at Carleton University (Ottawa) asking “what are the prospects for someone like me in your university?”. He took that e-mail to the VP Research. The latter wanted to explore the possibility of convincing Xerox to fund for an Industrial Research Chair with NSERC (the Canadian funding agency). It went amazingly fast: the chief of the research centre said OK and committed $100K a year for five years. NSERC approved the Chair by May 2000 and I retired from Xerox and became a tenured professor with NSERC-Xerox Industrial Research Chair in September 2000. After five years, I have been successful in getting grants from NSERC to continue my research activities. Since 2000, a number of scientists in Xerox were encouraged to depart. I was perhaps the luckiest. I not only left before things got worse, but got funding as well for five years to continue my career in academia. Moral: even when in industry, interact with the academia.

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David van der Wiel


Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

How I Got My Job:


I found my way into my current position by turning down a previous offer from my employer! I've always tried to keep a finger on the pulse of local or regional job markets, even while gainfully (and happily) employed. For me, this isn't due to wondering if "the grass is greener" elsewhere; instead, monitoring the local job market in my professional, as well as those of other regions, lets me know how I stand. Are my skills in demand? If so, are they more in demand locally or in another region? Am I lucky to just have this job? For me, this has been a way to feel secure about my position and give me a frame of reference when thinking about issues like my wife's job, housing markets, and upward mobility. In fact, it was the latter issues that brought me to my current position. In my previous job, I felt under-utilized and saw no path for growth. Yet I enjoyed my job, the environment and I had a great boss and co-workers. When one of my automated searches (I have several specific keyword web searches, including ACS's) presented a local job opportunity with more responsibility and growth potential, it was easy for me to be honest and tell them, "Look, I'm not actively seeking a new position, this one just looks interesting to me." Ironically, I turned down their first offer only to be approached by the same company a few months later when a different position opened that offered the leadership responsibility I was looking for! So I suppose another lesson I learned was to be gracious and honest in your job search.

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Jeanette Greenlee

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Jeanette Greenlee

Jeanette Greenlee


Title: Manager, Greenwood Research Laboratory

Company or Employer Name: FUJIFILM Manufacturing USA Inc

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BS, Chemistry, Augusta State University, 1998

How I Got My Job:


After being laid off from Savannah River Site, in the spring of 2005, I had 6 months of unemployment, a bit of severance and plenty of optimism. Enough, in fact, to go ahead with my long-planned vacation to London (justified with a visit to an ACS Jobs event at Rutgers when I returned in June). I was able to keep my ACS membership due to the unemployed member benefit, and steadily looked for career advice and jobs online.

I looked for work online, and applied for jobs daily, but my optimism began to wane. Because I had experience working with National Chemistry Week events, in July I decided to volunteer at a local National Science Center. I could still be available for any potential interviews, and continued to look for openings, but now I had somewhere to go, and still work with science. I met lots of really great people there and had a great time doing demonstrations.

At the end of August, the Fall Meeting was held in Washington, D.C., and the ACS unemployment benefit meant that I could go. I booked a cheap flight and a fleabag hotel and scheduled 3 interviews. When I went to my first interview, I was kicking myself for scheduling it for a Sunday morning. After the interview turned into a conversation, I had a good feeling about it. Sure enough, in a few weeks I had an on-site interview resulting in an offer to start the week after my unemployment ran out.

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Daniel Udwary


Title: Senior Scientist

Company or Employer Name: Warp Drive Bio

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: PhD, Johns Hopkins University, 2003

How I Got My Job:


Two years after starting as an Assistant Professor, a colleague showed me an article describing Warp Drive Bio, a biotech startup that was conducting research remarkably similar to mine, and which I was struggling to get funding for. In order to keep an eye on them, I set up a Google alert. A year later, my current boss posted a job ad on LinkedIn, and I applied, despite the posting being for a somewhat low-level position. Ultimately, I was hired as a Senior Scientist in June 2013, and have never been happier.

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Rachel Harvill


Title: Lab Technician

Company or Employer Name: Through Key Personnel, a recruiting company, I have a contract position with Chevron Phillips Chemical’s Research & Technology Division

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BS Chemistry, Texas A&M University, 2012

How I Got My Job:


I graduated in December of 2012 with my job hunt well under way. I posted my resume everywhere I could and applied for every opening that I felt I was qualified for. After eight more months of searching for a job on online job boards and through the Texas A&M University career center, I was called for an interview. I found the job through Tulsaworld.com, the online version of the Tulsa newspaper. I started August 5th, 2013 as a lab technician. My undergraduate research in an analytical chemistry laboratory and experience in the excellent undergraduate lab classes at Texas A&M ultimately gave me the edge in landing this job.

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Megan Link

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Megan Link

Megan Link


Title: Associate Scientist - Chemist

Company or Employer Name: Halliburton

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: B.S. Chemistry, Texas A&M University, 4 years

How I Got My Job:


Job searching is a speed course in self-marketing. At the time of my job search, I did not have any specific industry or position in mind. I used the strategy: cast your net wide. The goal was to get a job; hopefully a good one. I applied to countless positions I found online and became an expert in online questionnaires because of it. Although, I did not hear back from many, if any, positions through that avenue. The most success came from applying for jobs through mass emails from my department advisor; indicating that So-and-so Company is looking for an entry level chemist. These are the companies that are activity seeking new hires; who knows how often online postings are checked. In the end, I submitted a resume to an email provided for a company, Baroid, in Houston, Texas. I knew nothing about the company but did my research, went to the interview, and walked out confident I had landed the job. How did I make myself competitive in a company that I found in my research is a product service line of Halliburton? I had experience I could pull from my undergrad that could apply to situations posed for this new position. An internship at a chemical company, working at an analytical lab, and completing undergraduate research on the academic level provided me a stocked tool box of experience to convince my future employer that I am a competent, eager, and capable individual.

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Ethan Pulliam

Ethan Pulliam


Title: Assistant Manager

Company or Employer Name: Wal-Mart Inc.

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: B.A. Chemistry- Texas A&M University, May 2013

How I Got My Job:


After several interviews for positions where I was unsuccessfully competing with engineering students and deciding that research just wasn't for me I decided to try a different route. Being a retail manager has nothing to do with chemistry but I already had leadership experiences from being in the army and the Corps of Cadets. I applied through the university career center and used my experiences rather than what I learned from classes during the interview and received an offer within a few days to start whenever I was ready.

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Sara Paisner

Credit: Photo courtesy of Sara Paisner

Sara Paisner


Title: Director of Marketing

Company or Employer Name: Portfolio Decisions

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: PhD, UC Berkeley (2001), MBA UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (2013), BA Dartmouth College (1996)

How I Got My Job:


In 2011 I started an LED lighting company and then started business school a few months later. While at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I joined the 'Launch the Venture' course for my start-up company. During the course, one of the coaches, himself an owner of a small company, became a great mentor and sounding board for ideas. When I left my start-up to look for a full time position, my mentor called me one day to ask if I'd be willing to put together a business plan for his company, a 17 year old consulting and software firm. He shared with me that they wanted to grow in a step-change manner and felt an equity investment would be the best way forward. Since he had just watched me prepare a strong business plan (we won the pitch contest in our course)for my own start-up, he felt confident I could create one for him. One of the realizations we came to as we worked through the process for creating a business plan and pitch deck was that his company was in need of a marketing lead. Around a month and a half into my work on the project he offered me a full time role as Director of Marketing. I started in August and love what I'm doing as I not only get to drive the marketing of highly technical products, I get to expand my knowledge into new industries where chemistry matters as we expand client base into the pharmaceutical industry.

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Mike J. Idacavage Mike J. Idacavage

Mike J. Idacavage


Title: VP Business Development

Company or Employer Name: PL Industries

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BS Chemistry Drexel University 1975; PhD Chemistry Syracuse University 1979

How I Got My Job:


In the late 1980s I worked with the head of QC for our major supplier in solving a critical problem. After that success we both went our separate ways. Fast forward about 23 years. I was downsized from a company that I was at and was looking for a new opportunity. While I was involved in my job search, I had volunteered to coordinate the technical program for a 2 day conference in my specialty. As the conference was a considerable distance away from home, I planned to coordinate the sessions and speakers but not attend due to financial reasons. A week before I was talked into attending. While I was up at the podium introducing the various speakers, the person I had worked with previously came in and sat in the audience. He had left his previous company and was early in his new role as President of a different company. He turned to someone he knew in the audience and mentioned that he had not seen me for many years and he wondered what I was up to. That person replied “he is looking for a job!”. After the session was over, he came up to me, and said that we should talk. It turned out that he was looking for someone with my experience. Based on our earlier interaction, he felt I was a perfect match. About 2-3 weeks later, I was ready to start a very positive new career with his company.

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Paige Krzyskowski

Credit: Photo courtesy of Paige Krzyskowski

Paige Krzyskowski

Credit: Photo courtesy of Paige Krzyskowski

Paige Krzyskowski


Title: Research Chemist

Company or Employer Name: Dow Corning Corporation

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Bachelors of Science, Chemistry, Saginaw Valley State University, 2008-2012

How I Got My Job:


I met with a SVSU career advisor as a freshman and expressed my love for science, but that I had no idea what career path to take. A year later, my career advisor accepted a HR job at Dow Corning. When a laboratory co-op position opened to SVSU students, he passed along my contact information. I received a phone call and interviewed right then. It was a perfect opportunity to see what an industry chemist does day-to-day. I did co-operative education under the same R&D chemist for two years. He happened to be a recruiter and helped me with interview preparation and resume building. In my senior year he suggested I interview with his recruitment group. I knew it would be difficult going against students from many of the top chemistry schools. During the interviews I drew from my extensive experience as a co-op and my independent research at school. I got to the interviews and felt more at ease when I realized I had done work with a couple of the interviewers already. When I handed the interviewers my resume, I also gave them a copy of my research thesis and provided an example lab report so they could see my technical writing skills. Needless to say, I was hired before I graduated and started working two days after I walked across the stage. I truly believe it can all be attributed to help from my boss, networking, independent research and having many experiences to draw from during interviews.


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Timothy Rossetto


Title: Process Design Engineer

Company or Employer Name: Dow Corning Corp.

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BS Chemical Engineering, Michigan Tech. Univ., 2013

How I Got My Job:


The day after the career fair is typically a day full of interviews; this was no different. My day was full of interviews where one would end and the next would start at the same time. My second to last interview ran over by 10 minutes and was a half mile from my next interview; luckily I had my bike and it was downhill. It had taken me only a few minutes to get there, but I was too late. I arrived and was told that the next interviewee had arrived early and they moved on. They then asked if I was willing to wait and I obliged. The interview went well and I was later called for an on-site interview, which is great news! The trip for the interview was entirely set-up by the company; including airfare, hotel, and transportation between the airport, hotel and interview. The morning of the interview started with breakfast followed by a stressful attempt at tying a tie. The provided transportation was waiting for me when I reached the lobby and they supposedly knew exactly where to go. I was dropped off at the corporate site, apparently not where my interview was. I had to find the hotel’s phone number to get the driver to return and take me to another facility, where my interview was. I arrived to the interview almost half an hour late. The day went by much better after that and I was offered the job a few days later.

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Laura Basgall

Credit: Photo courtsey of Laura Basgall

Laura Basgall


Title: Process Engineer

Company or Employer Name: Dow Corning

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, Kansas State University, 2012

How I Got My Job:


The fall career fair can be a stressful time for any upperclassman, and I was no different. My search for an internship had been unfruitful the previous year, but with a summer research experience in my pocket, my new resume was sure to impress. I was attracted to Dow Corning because of their brochure, speaking of the opportunity to scale up from the lab to production (we were, after all, just learning about that in class!). The recruiters at the information session were both alumni, although the company is headquartered states away in Michigan. They were very enthusiastic about the company, and were able to relate what I was learning to what I could work on in an internship. After a good interview, I landed the internship. I was then able to work on a research project sponsored by Dow Corning during the spring semester prior to starting my internship. Through the project, I worked with the lead recruiter for our school, several project leaders, and even presented our findings to a Vice President! While up in Michigan during the internship, I met more alumni, one of whom had lived in the same small scholarship house that I did. After a successful summer, I interviewed for a fulltime position and was offered a job with the same group where I had interned. Exposure through the additional research project and the opportunity to meet active alumni were helpful in securing my fulltime role after my internship.

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Norman R. Schmuff

Norman R. Schmuff


Title: Associate Director for Product Quality

Company or Employer Name: US Food and Drug Admin

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: PhD Univ of Wisconsin, 1982

How I Got My Job:


In 1990, after dropping out of law school, I was doing some consulting and writing in the chemical information field, and not looking for a permanent job. I got a call from Steve Miller, a Wisconsin grad school colleague who was working at NIH in Bethesda. He had filled my slot there when I left NIH, a few years earlier.

Another former UW grad student, Chi-wan Chen who was at FDA was looking to hire chemists for the newly formed Division of Antiviral Drug Products. She contacted Steve, but he was interested in staying in research at NIH. He was wondering if I was interested. I took the job, and have been at FDA ever since. It was an exciting time with some drugs approved or in the pipeline for opportunistic infections, but no approved drugs to treat HIV. It was also the era of some influential and effective AIDS activist groups like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Subsequently, Steve was convinced to join FDA. Subsequently Chi-wan hired a UW postdoc George Lunn. At one time Steve was my boss, later I supervised both Steve and George. Currently I am in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s Office of New Drug Quality Assessment, which is soon to disappear due to a reorganization.

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Alan Harpell


Title: Senior Research Associate

Company or Employer Name: FMC Corporation, Food Ingredients

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Florida Institute of Technology; University of Maine; no degree earned

How I Got My Job:


I am now a Senior Research Associate for FMC Food Ingredients, but I got here in an untraditional way.

While I received some higher education, family obligations prevented me from completing a degree. Instead, I applied to be a production worker at Marine Colloids in Rockland, Maine, with no past experience. I completed eight hours of intense labor and came back the next day, so I was hired.

The production work and subsequent training in the Quality Control Lab enabled me to understand the differences in carrageenan products as well as the characteristics each product imparted to viscosity, gelling and stability.

I moved through departments and believe the progression from production to basic extracts to blended products to applications development seemed like natural steps to develop the knowledge needed to be of value to the customer using the finished product.

When FMC Marine Colloids and FMC Food and Pharmaceutical Products Division merged, I became part of the Technical Service group of the FMC Food Ingredients Division.

I am now a Senior Research Associate. Considered one of FMC’s premier technical resources on ingredient functionality, I have lectured at major universities around the world on carrageenan, microcrystalline cellulose and alginates. Mentors explained to me that an employee who wants to become valuable will try to learn as much as possible each day. While a degree would be necessary in today’s world, I made the most out of every opportunity to learn, ask questions, and become the well-respected research associate I am today.

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LCDR Lana M Rossiter

Credit: Photo courtesy of C.L. Rossiter

LCDR Lana M Rossiter

Credit: Photo courtesy of C.L. Rossiter

LCDR Lana M Rossiter


Title: Regulatory Scientist

Company or Employer Name: US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Food and Drug Administration

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: B.S., Emory University, 1992; Ph.D., University of Oregon, 1998; Post doctoral fellowship, Eli Lily, 1999-2000

How I Got My Job:


I was seeking an opportunity to apply my chemistry knowledge outside of the lab and set my sites on a job at the FDA. To that end, I applied to become an officer in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, one of the seven uniformed services of the US (along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and NOAA). However, only a few weeks after I submitted my application, before it could be processed, I was laid off from my job of 10 years. Fortunately, through the ACS, I had two offers for jobs within 3 months of being laid off and took a job in a small company in Michigan. However, I didn't stop pursuing my goal of becoming an officer and serving at the FDA. Four months after beginning my job in MI I was accepted for a Commission, but there was a hold in calling new officers to duty, and I still needed to secure a position within the FDA. Three months after I was accepted the hold was lifted and two months after that, through applications to usajobs.gov I secured a position into which I could be commissioned. It took another 6 months to complete the process, but everything worked out- my job in MI ended (company closed) but I was already set to begin my current position at the Center for Tobacco Products in the Food and Drug Administration. As a Lieutenant Commander, I serve as a chemistry reviewer examining tobacco product applications.


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Natalie LaFranzo

Credit: Photo courtesy of George Hartmann

Natalie LaFranzo

Credit: Photo courtesy of Cofactor Genomics

Natalie LaFranzo


Title: Project Scientist

Company or Employer Name: Cofactor Genomics

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: BS Chemistry, Bradley University, 2007; PhD Chemistry, Washington University in St. Louis, 2013

How I Got My Job:


Through the BALSA Group, a student/post-doc run consulting group at Washington University, I had the opportunity to interact with a number of local start-up companies during graduate school. This inspired me to pursue a non-traditional career within industry, where I could leverage both my scientific knowledge and the business acumen I had acquired. In particular, I enjoyed the environment of small, start-companies. However, many start-ups and small companies do not have enough funds to hire a full-time scientist. It was difficult to identify positions to apply for, and companies which were hiring. I was constantly attending networking events, and scouring LinkedIn for open positions. In the end, I found my current employer and position through a posting on Craigslist! Sometimes posting jobs on other sites are expensive, and Craigslist is a great resource for small companies with tight budgets. And, often large companies post positions on Craigslist, too. These vary from traditional research positions to sales, tech-support, etc. Don't discount any venue for job postings - use every resource you have available to you!

After submitting my application, I was able to meet with employees at Cofactor at a Career Fair on campus. And, when I interviewed with Cofactor in late 2012, I had the opportunity to discuss real-world experiences and lessons learned through my interactions with clients and industry within BALSA. This was an invaluable tool, and made the interview process much easier than if I only had my graduate school experiences to discuss.



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Amber Evans

Credit: Photo courtesy of Amber Evans

Amber Evans


Title: Product Development Scientist

Company or Employer Name: BASF Corporation

Degree(s), institutions where degree(s) were earned, years earned: Ph.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences with an emphasis on Cosmetic Science, University of Cincinnati, 2011; B.S., Chemistry, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, 2005

How I Got My Job:


I attained my current position at BASF by networking. I initially applied for a generic Postdoctoral listing because there were no listings for permanent positions in my field, personal care technology. After a month passed with no response, I realized that I would have to take a more aggressive approach to landing a job than the traditional applying online, following up and waiting for the callback. Hence, I decided to contact a BASF employee/potential hiring manager and industry expert via email. In the email, I introduced myself as a recent graduate and fellow scientist, praised his contributions to the field, and inquired about career opportunities at BASF. I was nervous about contacting him in that way, but I knew the importance of being a “go-getter” in the tough job market, and I couldn’t miss out on the potential opportunity to work with him. He responded with information about an open permanent position and the Postdoctoral/Professional Development Programs, and he eventually made an internal request for a postdoctoral scientist. The request was put on hold, but I continued to follow up with him about every two months or so. Eight months after our initial contact, I received an email stating that a position was open! The interviews were arranged, and an offer was extended the day after the on-site interview. I am proud to say that those initial emails between two strangers, a helpful employee and a determined job seeker, ultimately turned into communications between a manager and their direct report.

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