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Newswise — INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 9, 2013 — Even though the Great Recession officially ended more than three years ago in the U.S., lingering effects continue to impact careers for thousands of scientists. Advancing those careers for chemists and other scientists is the topic today of a special presidential symposium at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.
“We’ve just experienced one of the most difficult economic times in our country’s history, and chemists were not immune to its effects,” said ACS President Marinda Li Wu, Ph.D. “This symposium will explore the many career advancement opportunities that exist for chemists and scientists who work in other scientific disciplines that involve chemistry. Careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM disciplines — are among the most fulfilling personally, leading to important contributions and benefits to society. This symposium highlights and describes the rich variety of such opportunities.”
Entitled “Career Advancement Opportunities,” this symposium is among Wu’s special presidential events at the meeting, which continues through Thursday in the Indiana Convention Center and downtown hotels. It is among the latest in Wu’s focus on employment and careers. At the ACS National Meeting & Exposition in New Orleans earlier in 2013, for instance, Wu launched the International Employment Initiative, connecting job seekers with global opportunities. Another new member benefit, the ACS International Center was also introduced to offer valuable information and guidance to members and the global chemistry community regarding jobs and exchange programs overseas. This week’s meeting also continues the ACS Virtual Career Fair, which connects job seekers and employers who cannot attend in person.
Speakers at today’s symposium discuss the following career areas for scientists:
- Business and industry
- Societies and associations
- Venture capital and start ups
The latest annual survey of employment in chemistry, conducted by Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’s weekly newsmagazine, found an improved employment picture. Unemployment among ACS’ more than 163,000 members, for instance, was down from a peak of 4.6 percent in 2011 to 4.2 percent in 2012. But the median salary for chemists dropped more than 1 percent during that same timeframe, hitting those with a Ph.D. the hardest.
Abstracts featured at the symposium appear below.
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A chemist strategizing for chemists: careers in societies and associations
There exist many opportunities for scientists to build a successful career as an association professional. Scientific societies and professional associations connect the world of the researcher with public policy, research funding, career development, collective advocacy, and much more. This presentation will use the presenter’s career as a case study of the available opportunities in this profession, how one might make the transition from the lab to the association office, and what are the key personal values and skills which are especially useful and transferable. It will explore significant jobs held by scientists throughout the ACS and at other associations. The presentation will conclude with advice about specific approaches that can help to land such a job.
Career advancement opportunities in the government sector
About eight percent of ACS members are employed by federal, state or local governments; however, government is an often-overlooked employer of chemical scientists and engineers. Opportunities for chemical practitioners in government span a broad range, from research to regulation to policy, often with the freedom to move between different areas over the course of one’s career. These opportunities will be discussed, along with the resources ACS provides for chemical scientists or engineers who are or might be interested in government employment. Dr. Kristin M. Omberg is a Program Manager in the Defense Systems and Analysis Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she works on a broad range of homeland security and defense programs for the US government. Prior to joining LANL, she was the ACS Congressional Fellow, where she worked on the staff of the US Senate Committee on the Budget. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with a Doctoral Certificate in Public Policy Analysis. She also holds a BS in Chemistry and a BA in Philosophy from Gonzaga University. She is honored to be a Fellow of the ACS.
From the lab to a career in business development - an unexpected career transition
By identifying and responding to a critical, but unexpressed company need, a career envisioned to be spent entirely in the organic chemistry lab was put on a transition path into business development. This eventually led to exposure to the global pharmaceutical, agricultural, and industrial chemical marketplaces and much more chemistry and influence than staying in the lab – just not hands-on lab work anymore. This presentation will follow this unexpected career transition and highlight the skill set that qualifies most chemists to enter the area of business development, and what additional skills and mind set will need to be acquired along the way to be successful.
And then the wind changed
I was newly married, living in Amherst, Massachusetts, after laying out for my wife a rosy future with me as a faculty member and then maybe university President. And the wind changed
We’re in Berkeley; I’m getting a Ph.D. in biochemistry. And the wind changed
We’re in Ottawa, Canada; in the Canadian counterpart to the NSF as Director of Programs. And the wind changed
We’re in Vancouver, Canada; I work as a venture capitalist. And the wind changed
Now we are in Tallahassee Florida at Florida State University, where I was elected President of our professional association, AUTM and travelling the globe ‘communicating the value’ of university research to make a Better World.
As a result, I have had a very eclectic a career - private sector to government to universities and back. Never underestimate the value of a good degree, but you need to always be on the lookout for interesting opportunities. Such an opportunistic approach does not make you fabulously wealthy, but it’s worthwhile.
Venture capitalist planning is irrelevant to successful entrepreneurship in cleantech and chemicals
In 2010, Dr. Hongcai ‘Joe’ Zhou and cleantech commercialization firm J.M. Ornstein explored the possibility of licensing Metal Organic framework materials funded by ARPA-E through Texas A&M University as the foundation for a new startup. The founders felt that the underlying technology was ripe for early commercialization and in support of Federal funding desires, thought that the time was right to stimulate future jobs growth through entrepreneurism. But there are specific qualities of the cleantech and chemicals sectors that limit their appeal to venture capital by pressuring their J-Curve; these include high upfront research and development costs and the long-term nature of time to a liquity event**. To counter these challenges the founders established a low cash burn plan for the fraergy TM by leveraging university assets and making costs a priority. framergy TM was able to execute a market valuable license with Texas A&M university and strategic plan leading to seed funding of $250,000 in 2011 and Series A funding of approximately $1,600,000 in 2013. Many great frontier chemical sciences can reach the market through entrepreneurism if they match market realities with cost management.
Industrial careers: obtaining a job and succeeding in industry
Obtaining a job in industry and then succeeding in it takes a somewhat different skill set than succeeding in academe. Industrial interviewers probe for professional skills such as teamwork, nontechnical communication skills, leadership potential, and risk-taking, in addition to the more obvious technical and problem-solving skills. Information on these skills and other “key performance factors” is developed using a technique known as behavioral interviewing. Once you have obtained an industrial job, you can get off to a fast start and begin a successful career by learning the culture of the company, networking, communicating well, and, of course, working hard and smart. This talk will outline what companies are looking for in their future employees and will suggest strategies for embarking on a successful career.
Perspectives from a CEO
Academic opportunities and considerations for a successful career in an evolving institution
The goal of this presentation is to provide a framework for understanding what it takes to secure a faculty position, successfully advance in this career path and plan for a sustainable career. Academic scientists advance and disseminate knowledge through their research, teaching and service activities. These pursuits build on the scientific foundation provided during pre and postdoctoral training but also encompass an increasingly diverse set of roles, opportunities and responsibilities. An introduction to various aspects of the professorial career path will be provided. In addition, a case will be made for the importance of individual and institutional interconnection with partners outside the university, as these relationships are critical to effective translation of and, increasingly, funding for research. Expectations for both traditional and emerging ideas about faculty roles and responsibilities will be discussed.
Career Advancement Opportunities
Connecting with a most powerful ally of science
Business and science have been amazing engines for prosperity. They are intimately interwoven, including the methodologies behind them. However, the evolution of division of labor has led to the limiting set of choices for young people today “science or the arts?” “business or technology?” As a mentor of the USA gold medalist at the 44th International Chemistry Olympiad, I have observed that the strength of the connections across disciplines is often not recognized hindering the potential of what could be realized with a broader perspective. This talk will discuss how the world’s foremost scientific association could encourage the understanding of the synergistic links between business and science which is a pillar for entrepreneurship and exciting career paths. In addition, the process of conceiving and implementing a successful Leadership Awards program at New York Section designed to improve public outreach, enhance ACS’ image and obtain strong support for STEM education will be described.