If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Career Ladder

Career Ladder: Andrew Davis

This polymer chemist puts his industry background to work preserving documents at the Library of Congress

by Arminda Downey-Mavromatis
August 29, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 35


Early education in chemistry

Young Andrew Davis with large headphones on.
Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Davis

Born to a journalist and an educator in Virginia Beach, Va., Andrew Davis says his parents were supportive and lovingly amused by his interest in the sciences, watching as he would “play with increasingly complicated technical toys and books.” He began his schooling at a local Hebrew day school, but his public high school is where he learned to love chemistry. “We had a chemistry teacher who would let us perform almost any experiment we wanted to—within reason—with the caveat that we had to explain why whatever happened happened.”

Finding a good fit

Davis leans over a petri dish on a desk.
Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Davis

Davis holding a large flask.
Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Davis
Davis standing in a lab at the Library of Congress.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

Davis stayed nearby for college, majoring in chemistry and minoring in materials science at the University of Virginia. Early on “there was a research group in the chemistry department that let me latch on and do a little bit of computational chemistry work, which was really great because it convinced me that I had no interest in computational chemistry,” he says. After graduation, happenstance led him to the corner of chemistry that would define his career. Davis did research in the summer of 2008 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, working in the polymer science and engineering department. “I was lucky to be a part of it,” he remembers. He ended up staying there for five years, eventually getting his Ph.D.

Far from home

Davis’s first job was at the research laboratories of 3M in Minnesota, where he was a senior research engineer working on adhesives and photochemistry. His time in industry, especially the focus on results, left a lasting impression. “Measurables are something that I still think about from my industry days,” he says. After two years, Davis and his partner, a crop and soil scientist, wanted to relocate to the East Coast to be closer to family. They narrowed down a list of cities that could solve their two-body problem. Washington, D.C., made the list. Davis set up a job alert on USAJobs, a government recruitment platform. Then came a life-changing alert: The Library of Congress was looking to hire a polymer chemist.

Transition to preservation

Davis now works as a chemist in the Library of Congress’s Preservation Research & Testing Division. His training, while a good background for his position, was not preservation specific. So he learns from those around him: art historians, cultural heritage experts, preservationists, even other chemists. “It takes a little bit of figuring out how to adapt, say, a polymer science technique ... to cellulose-based papers in the library. But it gives a different vantage point and new ways of answering the same question.” In contrast to his time in industry, Davis enjoys being able to share the nitty-gritty of his research with scientists in industry and academia. “I think that’s one reason why I enjoy being at the library so much is that the library’s bigger mission is making knowledge accessible, making its collections accessible.”

Know a chemist with an interesting career path? Tell C&EN about it at

Check C&ENjobs for the latest job listings, as well as featured videos on what chemists do.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.