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ACS launches career planning tool for graduate students and postdocs

by Linda Wang
March 21, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 12

The ACS Education Division has launched the Chemical Sciences Individual Development Plan (ChemIDP) project, which includes an online tool to help graduate students and postdocs plan and prepare for their career goals.

“A lot of the advice that students get about career planning comes from their adviser, and every adviser is going to approach this in a different way,” says Steve Corcelli, chair of the ACS Graduate Education Advisory Board and an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame. “Having a tool like ChemIDP helps create a uniform experience where students can get information about lots of different careers.”

Credit: ACS
One-stop shop for career information.
Screen crab of a website for the ACSChemIDP.
Credit: ACS
One-stop shop for career information.

The idea for ChemIDP came out of recommendations from the ACS report “Advancing Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences” as well as results of the 2013 ACS Graduate Student Survey, which highlighted a need for more comprehensive career guidance and resources. The ChemIDP workshops and online tool, developed through surveys of more than 125 graduate students and postdocs, helps users navigate through a process of self-assessment, career exploration, skills strengthening, and goal setting.

Interest in the use of IDPs continues to grow. The National Institutes of Health, for example, now requires that principal investigators receiving NIH funding report how they are using IDPs to identify and promote the career goals of their trainees.

Other tools for creating IDPs exist, but ChemIDP was created specifically with people in the chemical sciences in mind, says Jodi Wesemann, ACS assistant director for educational research. The online tool integrates existing career resources available through ACS, such as profiles of chemists working in different fields.

“There’s a big difference between hearing that this is a career that one might have and being able to see the salary information, the typical responsibilities, and the skills you need in order to get that kind of a job,” says Nancy Goroff, a chemistry professor at Stony Brook University, SUNY, and a mentor on the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps grant that supported the ChemIDP project.

Wasiu Lawal, a fifth-year doctoral student in environmental science at the University of Texas, Arlington, says it’s that kind of specific career information that makes ChemIDP particularly useful to him. “What I really like is that it provides links to actual career information, gives me ideas of career paths that I hadn’t previously thought of, and suggests skills I may need to improve on,” he says. To explore ChemIDP online tool, visit

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