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ACS: The Professional Home For Grad Students And Postdocs

by Valerie j. Kuck , Joel I. Shulman
October 3, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 40

Valerie J. Kuck, ACS Director-at-Large
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Valerie J. Kuck, ACS Director-at-large
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

As a graduate student or postdoctoral scholar, are you aware that the American Chemical Society is here to help you prepare for the next steps in your career? Read on to learn about the society’s numerous programs and other resources for grad students and postdocs, and visit for your online gateway to ACS.

Joel I. Shulman
Credit: Courtesy of Joel I. Shulman
Joel I. Shulman, Vice-Chair, Graduate Education Advisory Board
Credit: Courtesy of Joel I. Shulman

Theis published online monthly. It features announcements about travel grants, scholarships, and fellowships; articles on career- and chemistry-related topics; and information about ACS national meetings and other important conferences. You can subscribe to the Bulletin at

“Preparing for Life After Graduate School” (PfLAGS) is a two-day workshop that compares careers in government, academe, and industry and provides information on résumé preparation and interviewing. The on-campus workshop explores how and why to obtain a postdoc, how to conduct a successful job search, how to respond to common interview questions, and what to expect during the first year on the job. Attendees can have their résumé reviewed and receive feedback on their answers to interview questions. For details on hosting a PfLAGS workshop on your campus, contact the society’s Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholars Office at

Looking for an academic position? The “Postdoc-to-Faculty” workshop is offered every year in conjunction with the fall ACS national meeting. Participants learn the nuts and bolts of the academic search process and the roles and responsibilities of faculty members at different types of institutions. Postdocs are also introduced to interactive teaching pedagogies so they can become familiar with some of the research-based approaches to teaching. Academic job seekers are encouraged to participate in the Academic Employment Initiative, a poster session that is held during Sci-Mix at the fall national meeting. This event gives job seekers for academic positions the opportunity to present their research findings and interact with faculty recruiters in an informal setting.

Networking can be crucial in securing a postdoctoral position and learning about industrial and academic job opportunities. We urge you to check out the graduate student and postdoctoral receptions that are held on the Monday evening of every ACS national meeting. In addition to door prizes and free refreshments, these receptions afford an opportunity to meet representatives from ACS technical divisions and to share your experiences with fellow grad students and postdocs. Joining a technical division is a great way to extend your network of professional colleagues in your subdiscipline or other areas of interest within the chemical sciences.

Don’t forget about the ACS local sections as a source for expertise and a means to expand your network. The society’s 187 local sections bring together chemists and chemical engineers to exchange information about the latest advances in chemistry and ongoing efforts to reach out to the general public and legislators. Attending local section meetings is a good way to make connections; in addition, many local sections have job boards to assist members in their job search. ACS’s local sections, technical divisions, and committees also provide extraordinary opportunities for members’ leadership development. Also, the ACS Leadership Development System offers a combination of online and face-to-face courses that equip chemists to be successful leaders in both their volunteer and professional communities.

ACS offers a wealth of information about and advice on careers in the chemical sciences. By going to you can learn about those career activities. They include ACS Short Courses that are offered on-site, online, and on demand; recent articles in C&EN relating to employment; and the recorded series of ACS Webinars. An ACS member can request that a volunteer career consultant provide free advice on résumé writing, interviewing techniques, and job search strategies. The website also has information on on-site and virtual career fairs that bring together job seekers with prospective employers.

The Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee is a grassroots effort to engage graduate students in planning symposia by and for graduate students at ACS national meetings. The graduate student teams responsible for planning symposia gain important leadership and networking skills through topic selection, speaker recruitment, fund-raising, and mentoring the next planning group. The symposium organized by students at California Institute of Technology for the spring 2012 ACS national meeting in San Diego will focus on “Chemical Biology: When Two Heads Are Better Than One.”

Later this fall, ACS will survey graduate students in the chemical sciences to learn more about the graduate experience from the student perspective. We urge you to complete this survey, which will help guide both chemistry departments and ACS in better serving the needs of graduate students. ACS welcomes your input as to how the society can best serve the graduate student and postdoctoral scholar communities, and we encourage you to submit your ideas to



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