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Positive View Of A Chemical Education

April 30, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 18

I am absolutely flabbergasted that Barbara Flohr would make such negative comments about science education, criticizing a nonprofit organization for encouraging students to participate in science fairs and deriding President Obama’s efforts to increase funding for basic science research (C&EN, March 26, page 4).

I understand the frustration of having a loved one unemployed. But such an attitude is counterproductive. Although it is true that ACS members are experiencing the highest level of unemployment since 1972, that level, 4.6%, is relatively small when one considers that the overall unemployment rate in the U.S. is currently 8.3% (C&EN, March 26, page 10). The glass is 95.4% full, yet Flohr is focusing on the empty portion.

Instead, Flohr should focus on encouraging her daughter to take some positive steps that could enhance her career, such as the following: Consider earning an advanced degree at a top college; concomitantly broaden that chemistry background (e.g., pharmaceutics). Intern at an institution that advances one’s knowledge base and marketability. Participate in professional organizations and become an invaluable member of committees. Develop an international network of professional friends. Publish and present at every opportunity. Be open to moving anywhere in the world to get a job that advances one’s career and knowledge base. If the job is outside the U.S., learn the language and culture. Ensure that the résumé is complete. Remember that human resources personnel may be searching for keywords, which they may not understand. Your résumé may be selected based on acronyms like IR, HPLC, NMR, GC, MS, IND, NDA, PLGA, MAA, etc. If infrared spectrometry appears in the résumé but IR does not, there is a fair likelihood that that keyword will be missed on an HR search.

Above all, keep a positive attitude. Institutions want to hire scientists who are not just smart but also enthusiastic, energetic, and hardworking.

Since 1976, when I received my doctorate, my career changes have always been focused on finding jobs that challenged me to learn new fields within science. My first six years after graduation were financially quite difficult. But I broadened my career; I learned to synthesize new drugs, test them in vitro and in vivo, radiolabel the molecules, and follow the pharmacokinetics of key actives. I loved that poor-paying job!

Science has given me a wonderful career! My advice: Seek knowledge, love science, and all else will follow.

By David A. Marsh
Irvine, Calif



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