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ACS Careers Industry Forum Teleconferences

by Corinne A. Marasco
December 1, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 48

IT'S OFTEN SAID that experience is the best teacher. Now, ACS members can learn firsthand from the experiences of top industry leaders just by picking up the phone.

The ACS Careers Industry Forum is a monthly teleconference that features industrial chemists who reflect on their own career paths and experiences and then participate in a question-and-answer session with listeners (C&EN, Nov. 17, page 79). ACS members can participate in the calls free of charge, but advance registration is required at

Michael E. Strem, president of Strem Chemicals, in Newburyport, Mass., was the featured guest this month, along with Ephraim Honig, Strem’s chief operating officer. Strem reflected on the experiences and lessons he learned in his career as the founder of a small chemical company that has been in business since 1964. Strem Chemical is a privately held company that manufactures specialty chemicals and sells them to industrial, government, and academic R&D laboratories, as well as to commercial-scale businesses in the pharmaceutical, microelectronics, and chemical and petrochemical industries.

Strem started his company immediately after receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. After getting the degree, he said, he considered working in academia, working in an industrial research position, or “something else.” Strem decided that the “something else” was to start a business in organometallics, especially metal carbonyls. “Do what you are good at in an environment where you can use those skills because that is what will make you happy,” he counseled.

Strem also offered listeners several hints for success. Among them was to pick products that people want and to establish a leadership position; to hire and retain good people; and to stress safety, quality, and customer service. “Entrepreneurs are not born, they can be made,” he said. Even if you have no business background, “find a role model to emulate, network, and strengthen your communication skills,” he advised.

Past participants in the ACS Careers Industry Forum include Carolyn Ribes, technical leader for core research and development at Dow Benelux BV, in the Netherlands, and Magid Abou-Gharbia, former senior vice president and head of chemical and screening sciences at Wyeth Drug Discovery, now at Temple University’s School of Pharmacy. Text transcripts and PowerPoint presentations for all teleconferences can be found at No teleconference is scheduled for December. ACS President-Elect Thomas H. Lane is the featured speaker for January’s forum.



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