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A Young Chemist Seeking Advice

  1. Aug 21, 2012 #1
    I am a recent graduate with my BS Chemistry degree. Because I did not want to move and some other factors I do not care to discuss here I ended up in a less than desirable position at a local analytical laboratory. I log samples and deal with customers. This saddens me because not only is my degree more qualified for the work they do than many of the other employees but many of the other employees do not even have the passion that I do for the science. It is rare that they can answer my questions about what they are doing.

    But I digress, I cant expect the director of the lab to move someone out of a position when they are fulfilling their duties simply because he has someone who would enjoy the position more.

    I have another job I am looking at. This would be at another analytical lab that is also close to where I live. The pay is slightly better and I would most likely be doing ion chromatography. My current lab director spoke to me recently (without knowing that I am seeking other employment) and said he would like me to start reading up on the standard operating procedures for running the various HPLCs we have. This would also come with a nice pay bump. He said he does not know when he will be able to move me, but that is the direction he wants to go with me. A bit of background, the person who's position I took was there for two years before she was finally put on a GC-MS.

    The reason I am not in graduate school right now is because I dont know precisely what field I want to go into. I love physics, but I also love chemistry. If I were to choose chemistry for graduate school I am not sure what field I would even be most happy with. For that matter, I have no idea what fields of physics I would be most interested in outside of the fact that I was enthralled with quantum mechanics. I am looking to return to school fall 2013 or spring 2014. Thus, I am looking for the most experience I can get between now and then. Money is an issue, because I am barely making a living wadge, but it is not my priority. My priority is what will give me the best bump for having industry experience after I obtain my PhD.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2012 #2
    I was in your position... getting HPLC knowledge is pretty important if you're going to go into analytical or even some sorts of physical chemistry (stuff like size exclusion chromatography is big in polymer analysis because it gives you chain length statistics). Its widely used in many areas of industry from environment to pharmaceuticals.

    For grad school, I think you might like physical chemistry? You'll be using quantum mechanics very heavily in an applied setting. Physical chemistry also ties back into analytical chemistry when for spectroscopy, NMR, nanosensors and stuff like that so the employment prospects aren't bad.
  4. Aug 21, 2012 #3
    That is what I am thinking. I have ran HPLC and GPC before, but am by no means proficient and well rounded. However, I dont have 2 years to wait to get that knowledge and experience.

    I also do like P-Chem. In fact, I got an A in my P-Chem class. I tried to get into his lab for undergrad research but he was having a kid at the time and every meeting fell through. I did not really care for the other P-chem related professors and one in particular did not care for me because I was rather vocal about the academic advisers they employed (he was chairman of the chem dept board at the time).

    I ended up doing undergraduate research in the polymer chemistry lab and found it to be very interesting as well. I didn't find myself studying it for the hell of it, but if I could cross the two fields in some manner I think I would have hit the nail on the head. I also heard through the grape vine that the professor I did research for wants me back because three of her grad students recently got their PhD's and one got pregnant and she saw potential in me. She told it to my face and my good friend (and former P-Chem lab partner) who just started his TA position and path to his PhD under her. He and I worked really well together but I want to ensure I make the right choice which is why I am not ready to jump the gun on this one yet.
  5. Aug 22, 2012 #4
    You can think about schools other than your alma mater, if there are any that exist nearby.

    If you offended the chair of the department though, that's bad. They make alot of important decisions and may have very significant influence on admissions.
  6. Aug 22, 2012 #5
    I am definitely looking at other schools. If I go to my Alma Mater it will be for polymer chemistry and material science under the professor I did undergrad research with. Also, he is no longer the chairman and I only stated what every student and many of the faculty felt. I had chemistry advisers that had never taken a chemistry course. I had other advisers that neglected to inform me of requirements and pre-reqs I hadnt fulfilled and that caused me to get a 5 year degree. After I contacted the chair and some of the board members the very next year they changed the pre-req that had affected me to a co-req. Though I had been brutally honest. Analytical chemistry was a pre-req for methods of instrumental analysis. Analytical chemistry is general chemistry with statistics in my eyes and the professor they have teaching it is a younger Chinese woman that no one can understand due to her heavy accent (she was very soft spoken as well). She makes attendance a requirement. Most likely because people could read her slides and the book on their own and get an A with out issue so they woudln't attend class because they couldn't understand her. I believe my exact words were "bull ****". This put me 9K in debt and held my career back by a year. I was understandably pissed off.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  7. Aug 23, 2012 #6
    sometimes you just have to work with difficult people. i've had ultra anal TAs for critical classes before (offered once a year, required, senior level classes)... and gotten on their bad side. That's quite a bit worse than having a teacher with an accent (had those too). Also been given an F in research (big red flag for most grad schools) by my first professor.

    The professors with accents are usually nice people, and seriously, for a class, I just care if the professors nice. See, the point of the professor being there isn't really so you can learn. You're supposed to teach yourself. They're less like a teacher and more like an evaluator and motivator. In undergrad, the syllabus for all classes is the same and I go to lecture to do homework anyways. In grad, I just want to get the classes over with so I can get into the lab and running experiments, and getting low grades in classes is detrimental to that (but not learning much for most classes, not directly related to research, *IS NOT* for most experimenters who don't require knowledge of say mechanics, EM, biochemistry, whatever).
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