Tuesday, September 9, 2014


The CHEMIST Podcast: Organization for Cultural Diversity in Chemistry at UCLA

Diversity in Chemistry

Steve Lopez
OCDC Co-President
Crystal Valdez
OCDC Co-President

Co-hosts: Corrie Kuniyoshi and Loren White
Presented by ACS Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholars Office
In an effort to better get to know the various Chemistry Graduate Student Organizations (CGSO) that exist in universities around the country, we recently asked officers of such groups to send us information on their activities and histories. Our hope is that the information shared on these podcasts will succeed in inspiring some of the listeners to join their local group, get ideas on how to improve their existing CGSO, or receive information that can help serve as a guide for those wishing begin their own CGSO. Our first such conversation, and the subject of this podcast, is UCLA's CGSO, named the Organization for Cultural Diversity in Chemisty (OCDC).

OCDC - note: not all members are present in photo

See the special feature for the UCLA Organization for Cultural Diversity in Chemistry group in the Chemist.

Monday, September 8, 2014

ACS Science Coaches

The CHEMIST Podcast: ACS Science Coaches

Help a teacher. Inspire a student.

Patricia Galvan
ACS Science Coaches
Stephanie Prosack
ACS Science Coaches

Co-hosts: Loren White and Corrie Kuniyoshi
Presented by ACS Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholars Office
See the ad and learn more about Science Coaches from one chemistry graduate student's personal experience in the Graduate & Postdoctoral Chemist Magazine

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Graduate Students & Postdoc Events for 248th ACS National Meeting in San Francisco

With ACS’s Fall National Meeting right around the corner, those attending will be starting, if they haven’t already, to map out a rough itinerary for what events they want to attend. With so many great symposiums, workshops, and networking events, it can be a difficult task deciding which are the most pertinent to your aims and interests.  With this in mind, we wanted to create this short blog post offering you highlights of events happening in San Francisco.

August 10, Sunday
To start off, on Sunday evening there will be a “Journey to the Dork Side” show where you can enjoy the comedy stylings of Dr. Pete Ludovice. This will be held 7:00-8:00 PM in Moscone Center, Esplanade 305. If you are a graduate student, you should have received a ticket for this event in your registration packet.

August 11, Monday
There will be three really great events being offered on Monday. The first is the 10th Annual Fun Run, sponsored by the ACS Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) and ACS Member Insurance that will take place at 7:00 AM. Those interested should register, purchase tickets ($35 for regular ticket and $20 for students), and pick up their materials from the Fun Run desk, located in the Moscone Center North Lobby on Saturday, August 9th and Sunday, August 10th, between the hours of 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM.

The over event is entitled “Opportunities for International Careers and Studies” and will be held at the Moscone Center in Room 135 between 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM. This event will provide attendees the chance to meet professionals from international embassies and consulates, as well as private funding organizations, who will explain how international experience (internships, scholarships, or exchanges) can benefit your future academic and professional endeavors. This event is being organized by the ACS Office of International Activities.

The last event on Monday the 11th is the “ACS Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholars Reception.”  The reception will run from 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM and will also be located at the Moscone Center in Room 135. It will provide excellent opportunity to network with graduate students and postdocs, as well as ACS Division, YCC and Evonik representatives! If that wasn’t enough incentive to attend, the reception will have free food and drinks (including beer and wine), with a number of prizes (including an iPad or two) being handing out to some lucky winners. This event is co-sponsored by ACS Divisions, Young Chemists Committee (YCC) and Evonik Industries.

August 12, Tuesday
On Tuesday, between the times of 8:30 – 11:35 AM and 1:30 – 4:40 PM ACS’s Division of Chemical Education is sponsoring the Fall 2014 Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC) Symposium at the Moscone Center in Ballroom 304. This symposium is titled “International Collaborations with International Impact: Chemistry for Global Change” and will feature a group of graduate students from the University of Washington. In this symposium the presenters will be spotlighting international research collaboration and the impact it has on global philanthropic chemistry efforts

August 13, Wednesday
CHED is also sponsoring the “Perspectives on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences” symposium Wednesday, August 13. This symposium will highlight results from the 2013 ACS Graduate Student Survey wherein graduate students from over 260 universities provided feedback on their graduate programs. In addition, speakers will discuss using individual development plans, research centers, chemical information literacy, and blog writing to enrich the graduate student experience. The event will be located at the Moscone Center in the Esplanade Ballroom 304 and will take place between 1:30 – 4:45 PM.

In addition to the one day only events, between Sunday and Wednesday, August 10-13, the Career Pathways Workshop series is being held at the Parc 55 hotel. Over the course of these four days there will be over 20 different workshops offered. These will include workshops such as “Finding Your Path”,Working in Government”, Acing the Interview”, Working in Higher Education”, and ”Working in Industry.” To view a complete list of these professional development workshops being offered, please visit the Career Pathways Workshop website.

We Look Forward to Seeing You!
As always, there will be a variety of excellent events being offered at ACS’s National Meeting. These events are so numerous that it is not possible to give an exhaustive accounting of them here. So if you would like to get more information on the National Meeting and its various events, please check out the ACS Graduate & Postdoctoral Chemist which will contain a comprehensive meeting guide for grad students and postdocs.

By Loren White

Friday, March 14, 2014

Don’t Miss These Events at the 247th ACS National Meeting

Howdy! The 247th ACS National Meeting is well on its way, with an opening date on Sunday, March 16. We get it, you are going to be busy in Dallas meeting with peers, presenting research, and hearing discussions at symposia. Here are some additional, informative and fun events you can add to your schedule, if you like.

                  1. Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholars Reception
            Monday, March 17, 7:00-8:30 PM
            Dallas Convention Center, C2
Now a staple event at ACS National Meetings, this reception will allow you to speak with peers, network with experienced chemists, and form professional bonds to help you excel throughout your career. There will be tables of free nibbles, drinks, (including alcohol). Did I mention you will be entered to win a brand new iPad?!

                  2. Alternative Career Symposium
Tuesday, March 18, 9:00-11:35 AM
Dallas Convention Center, C156
As a result of your many moons spent in the lab, you may be looking for ways to apply your chemistry background to a career other than the stereotypical professions. Join key speakers and professionals who did just that, chose a job that was nontraditional to the chemistry field, to hear their advice, stories and even ask questions based on your personal ideas.

            3. GSSPC Symposium
Tuesday, March 18, 9:30-12:20PM, 2:00-5:00PM
Hyatt Regency, Reunion Ballroom E
Support fellow graduate students by stopping by the spring 2014 Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC) event. The University of Texas at Austin is organizing the symposium at the ACS National Meeting in Dallas. Their event, Elements in Transition: Is Chemistry Facing Revolution or Recession, focuses on the ways chemistry is adapting for the future.

                  4. Career Pathways Workshops
Sunday-Wednesday, March 16-19
Omni Hotel, Art District 5-7 and Greenville Avenue
These workshops are designed to guide and help you through every spectrum of your career trajectory. Some workshops are general and help participants to highlight their strengths and aspirations. Others highlight specific career details, for example, providing a guide to write killer proposals. The most popular workshops focus on working in industry, government, and industry, and interview advice.

By Stephanie C. Prosack

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Participants Share Tips for AEI Success

by Stephanie Prosack

Even the most successful new faculty members could have improved on the steps they took to obtain their dream jobs in academia. We found the best advice and tips from former participants in the Academic Employment Initiative (AEI)—a program that allows faculty candidates to network with university recruiters—so you can make the most of your next poster session. From preparation to networking, these tips will make you a star at your next academic presentation.

Be Your Own Investigator
You may perform chemistry research for hours during your day job, but remember, research pays in the job search as well! The top piece of advice from past AEI participants was to investigate relevant information prior to the AEI event. Gather the details important to you about institution type and job criteria, and then see which schools offer the same. “I used AEI as an opportunity to find out if the school was a good fit for me before I invested a lot of time in the application process,” says Lenny Demoranville, an AEI 2013 participant who is now a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Centre College. Another way to investigate the potential recruiter pool is to remain active in online social media forums, such as the LinkedIn AEI Group. After seeing who some of the recruiters would be at the poster session, Demoranville performed homework on his flagged schools. “I also had individualized questions for the schools that I was really interested in. These questions were both important to my decision on whether to apply or not, and showed that I was really interested in teaching there.”

Make Your CV and Poster Pop
After you consider your goals for the poster session, crafting CVs and posters to clearly reflect your interests will help to make the AEI more purposeful. Saliently display details including your background, research, and career aspirations. However, do be mindful of the amount of content; the easier it is for recruiters to read your poster the better! Demoranville, interested in primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs), created his poster by choosing “to submit an abstract that highlighted an interesting lab activity I had developed,” he says.

Katie Walker, a fellow 2013 participant, prepared her poster by doing extra leg work. First, she reached out to a past AEI poster session participant to gather ideas about how to best make her own poster sparkle. Then, Walker highlighted her positive attributes in a way that confidently represented what she could bring and add to an institution.

The poster acts as a great visual for a recruiter, and it allows you as a faculty candidate to make a first impression, in person, with representatives of institutions currently hiring new, fresh faculty members. In addition to presenting an organized and distinctive poster, keeping a stack of crisp CVs available (for both the recruiters you speak with and those you don’t) can also make the AEI more of a success. Not only will your background be displayed in a tangible form on the poster, but CVs will also give recruiters contact information to take with them so they can interact with you at some later date at their discretion.

Throughout the AEI poster session, interactions with a variety of people—colleagues, fellow presenters, and recruiters alike—and genuine communication after the poster session can work in your favor.

Business cards can aid networking in a big way. It is not only important to make sure to collect business cards from recruiters; in addition, handing out personalized cards of your own allows chemists interested in your capabilities to connect with you later. In addition to serving as memory prompts, cards can prove useful if you are unable to speak with someone on the spot.

Keep networking after the event. Following the 2013 poster session, participant Judy Jenkins made time to meet and follow up with interested recruiters. Jenkins remembers, “Plan so you can be available after the poster session for informal meetings. I went to dinner with one recruiter following the poster session and I visited with a recruiter the following day as well.”

Of course, participation and communicating with recruiters during the AEI does not guarantee a faculty position, or even an invitation to interview. It does, however, allow you to demonstrate your qualities, establish connections with fellow chemists, and learn about specific details presently valued by institution representatives.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Top Chemistry Stories 2013 C&EN Google+ Hangout

By Stephanie Prosack

The past year was an exciting one for chemistry. Join Chemical & Engineering News reporters Carmen Drahl and Lauren Wolf, along with guests Laura Howes and Ashutosh Jogaleskar, to discuss watershed chemistry stories and achievements of 2013--and what to expect in 2014. On Thursday, January 9, 2014, at 3 PM EST, the chemistry enthusiasts will be hosting a Google+ hangout to discuss the top chemistry moments of 2013. Subjects for discussion include research C&EN selected to highlight in its year-end issue, in addition to topics publications such as Wired and Science magazines chose as top science of 2013. The event will be monitored on Twitter, and folks may interact and pose questions using the hashtag: #topchem.

To view live-feed of the hangout, select here once the session starts: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cttcfipn0sg1lg2fimmot11bb00

Currently serving as editor of Science in School, Laura Howes was previously a science correspondent for Chemistry World magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @L_Howes. Ashutosh Jogalekar is a computational chemist employed by Ensemble Therapeutics, and blogs for Scientific American at The Curious Wavefunction. Follow him on Twitter: @curiouswavefn

Senior editor at C&EN, Carmen Drahl may be followed on Twitter @carmendrahl. Lauren Wolf is an associate editor at C&EN, and may be followed on Twitter @laurenkwolf.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Influencing Change through Science Policy Fellowships

Science Policy Fellows share their experiences and their reasons for applying 

It wasn’t the most auspicious start.

In August 2013, Sam Bockenhauer received his doctorate in chemistry from Stanford University. He applied for an American Chemical Society congressional fellowship and got it—starting his tenure one month after graduation.

Bockenhauer’s experience has been good. He’s a science policy fellow, a participant in a program that places chemists and other scientists in roles within the federal government. He works in the office of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), and conducts meetings with interest groups and constituents, writes memos on policy topics, and drafts letters on behalf of Sen. Franken.

Tackling Big Problems with Broad Impact
“My chief reason for applying for the fellowship was that I wanted to work on complex problems,” Sam explains.

Tasks can be as straightforward as working on a brief about nuclear energy, or as unexpected as exploring forensic science. The rules—both rigid and amorphous—set the boundaries for existence in our culture.

Attracting Scientists from All Career Stages
Fellowships in this area abound, with the lion’s share specifically connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS works with more than 30 scientific and engineering professional organizations—including the American Chemical Society— to administer a large number of science policy fellowships. 

Laura Pence belongs in the middle group. Pence, a faculty member, decided to do a congressional fellowship mid-career. In 2012–2013, she worked in the office of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.). After a few months of cutting her teeth on the job, she narrowed her focus and became responsible for any issues pertaining to water.

“I had no documentable expertise in it, but some of the things that a chemist brings to Congress is knowing how to research something,”

Perspective Change
 “Most fellows are going from grad school, where you get very little respect, and then you do a fellowship where you are respected for your knowledge,” Brittany Westlake explains.

“I did a fellowship straight out of grad school, and at first, it was definitely a big cultural jump from a lab in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to a professional office in Washington, D.C.,” Westlake says.

Advice for New Candidates
There are a few more things would-be fellows can do to prepare themselves—and make themselves good candidates.

“Think about what you want to do with your Ph.D., and think about where it’s going to take you,” offers Kate Stoll, a 2013–2014 ACS Congressional Fellow. “If you decide that you don’t want to stay in academia and follow the tenure track, then you might want to consider getting some of these transferable skills early in your career.”

Bockenhauer adds, “I’d recommend looking for opportunities to broaden your experience outside of science. I participated in conferences, graduate student organizations, and took courses in areas ranging from patent law to biosecurity.”

[Author Bio] Wendy Hankle is a writer living in Ithaca, New York.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

All Work and No Play

By Mathew Fhaner, Postdoc USDA

This piece was originally published in the July 2013 Graduate & Postdoctoral Chemist. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the American Chemical Society. Some names and events may have been changed to protect privacy.

Often times, graduate school feels like a never-ending ocean of work, classes, seminars, presentations, and teaching; need I go on? In the whirlpool of our ongoing to-do lists, free time seems to be as elusive as obtaining data that will make our PIs crack a smile. There is, however, an oasis tucked away deep inside the graduate school desert. I will tell you about the day I discovered the hidden gem and the impact it had on my graduate school career. At the end of my second semester in graduate school I was asked to participate in an event organized by our local ACS section’s Younger Chemists Committee (YCC). The event was at a local science museum in celebration of National Chemistry Week. It was a simple demo: Children walked up to my booth and gazed in wonder as I made a marshmallow expand and shrink using a vacuum chamber. I soon realized that the act of changing the size of the sugary treat, which seemed mundane to me, was an act of pure wizardry to these kids. I was sold. Within six months I had taken over leadership of our local YCC; and with a small group of friends, we began to grow our group’s influence.

Creating a Sense of Community

In the past four years, our local section’s YCC has grown from doing two demos during National Chemistry Week to becoming a nationally recognized group. We took part in creating and proctoring
chemistry events for our state Science Olympiad, traveled to local elementary schools to put on demos, hosted social events to create a sense of community within our department, and collaborated with other local sections in an effort to bring undergraduate chemistry clubs together to test their knowledge.


Rewarding in Multiple Ways

All of these events took many hours of correspondence, phone calls, meetings, preptime, traveling, and, of course, putting on the various events. Yet, it never felt like work. I realized that it was because I was having fun—Being surrounded by my friends made the experience enjoyable, all while increasing interest in chemistry among thousands of people of all ages. The hard work was handsomely rewarded through grants, fellowships, and national recognition by the ACS. However, what has stuck with me the longest are the memories created with my friends, which helped relieve the stress that is symbiotic with graduate school. During my orientation week, one of the faculty members was explaining that graduate school was what you made of it. After my time in the YCC, I couldn’t agree more.

Matthew Fhaner, Ph.D, performed his graduate work at Michigan State University and recently graduated with his Ph.D. in analytical chemistry. He spent four years as a member of the MSU Younger Chemists Committee and plans to continue outreach work after graduation.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thank You for Being a Horrible TA: Pointers from an Undergraduate Chemistry Major

By Marisa Sanders, New Graduate Student, Princeton University 
The people mentioned in this piece are an accumulation of various undergraduate students’ experiences collected by the author.

This piece was originally published in the July 2013 Graduate & Postdoctoral Chemist. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the American Chemical Society. Some names and events may have been changed to protect privacy.

Teaching Assistant. Few terms conjure up such a wide range of emotions as this one. While I’m sure we’ve each had our fair share of TA success stories, I’m here to share my TA horror stories—the hair-pulling, gut-wrenching, eye-rolling, frustrating moments we’ve experienced as undergraduates at the hands of sleep-deprived and overworked graduate students. My aim is to provide constructive criticism for current and future TAs (myself included). After all, no one deserves to endure class or laboratory (or both!) with a horrid teaching assistant.

Incomprehensible TA 
I never thought my English minor would come in handy in my chemistry courses—until I took chemical physics with “Incomprehensible TA.” Incomprehensible TA was a soft-spoken, heavily-accented physical chemistry Ph.D. student who perhaps thought that learning to communicate in English came second to bonding with his computer over his molecular dynamic calculations. I could hardly understand anything he said.

Imagine the following situation: You’re seated at the front of the class while Incomprehensible TA is attempting to instruct you on some sort of chemical phenomenon. He refuses to write anything on the blackboard, relying solely on word of mouth. Exasperated, you sink down in your chair, place your hands on your forehead, and wait for the class to end. That evening, you look up the terms on Wikipedia and piece your notes together.
The blackboard is a wonderful medium for communication. It should be used effectively, as a guide. Even professors or TAs without a heavy accent should use the blackboard to help their lecture be more interpretable for their students.

Too Busy TA 
Organic chemistry with biochemistry Ph.D. candidate “Busy TA” was certainly an experience. The class took place after lunch in the tiniest lecture room available in the chemistry building. Couple that with post lunch-induced drowsiness and PowerPoint presentations that required all lights to be turned off. Add a stressed teaching assistant with poor time management skills, and the situation intensifies.

Busy TA had an NSF Fellowship due one month into her teaching gig, and she considered teaching organic chemistry as peripheral to her graduate school goals. This was apparent in her PowerPoint slides, which often contained incomplete reaction mechanisms and an abundance of typos. I still tremble at the thought of having to endure an entire lecture on cation-less acid catalyzed dehydration.

Busy TA’s careless attitude was obvious. She often arrived late to lecture, was ill-prepared, and ended classes early. Picture this: You’re seated at the front of the classroom taking notes on your laptop at the desk closest to Busy TA. Forty minutes into lecture, Busy TAs laptop dies; the PowerPoint presentation comes to a sudden stop, and the entire room turns pitch black. You hold your laptop charger up to Busy TA; and although she sees it, she ignores you and dismisses class early. Yay? Not quite. This is the fourth time this has happened. You’re convinced that your TA purposely brings her laptop to class with 10% battery life, just to bolt out early.
While a course like organic chemistry may be difficult to instruct, providing accurate, proofread slides is the first step toward being a great TA.Time management skills are particularly helpful in this position. Setting aside a certain time of each day to grade exams and prep for lecture would increase one’s efficiency.

Creepy Male TA 
“Creepy TA” was a seventh-year analytical chemistry Ph.D. student and the TA for my general chemistry lab. In the beginning Creepy TA came across as Helpful TA. He was on time, gave clear introductions to the laboratory experiments, and seemed interested in our learning the material. It wasn’t until about the second week that I began to notice some unsettling behavior from Creepy TA. First, he liked to stare a lot at women in the lab. Second, he was very touchy and always pushed in a little too close with female students. Third, he made innuendos that he thought were cute but just made the rest of us want to vomit.

One week, I was performing titrations when my goggles began to fog. Creepy TA sauntered by and whispered, “You’re too hot for your goggles.”“Excuse me?” I asked, confused.“I’ve had my eye on you for a while. You’re quite the chemist.” “Hah,” I responded not knowing what to say and feeling embarrassed and sickened. Another time when I had him sign off on my lab notebook, instead of simply signing his initials, he provided his phone number and a note that read “text me sometime.” I couldn’t help but feel dirty. Maybe Creepy TA believed his chemistry prowess made him desirable and his advances would be welcome. Whatever the case, I had come to learn chemistry, not to be hit on.

When I shared this story with my friends, I learned they had their own stories of creepy TAs who had hit on them. While I felt slightly relieved that I was in good company, I was displeased at how horrible TAs get away with their unprofessional behavior. Although Creepy TA has graduated, his reputation still lives on today. Perhaps somewhere he has advanced to being Creepy Professor.
Don’t hit on students. They’re not interested in you.

The Verdict 
Many of the classes taught at my institution by TAs have become a rite of passage for chemistry majors. We see each course as a “building” experience, something that allows us to develop into better, more resilient human beings. Would we have developed so much good character without such horrible TAs? We’ll never know. So we go ahead and say, “Thank you for being such a horrible TA.” At the very least, they’ve taught us how not to do it.

Marisa Sanders will be starting graduate school at Princeton University in the fall to obtain her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry. She is an associate member of the Younger Chemist Committee and looks forward to TA-ing at some point in her graduate career.