Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jorge Cham's talk brings laughs and a meaningful message

Beatriz E. Rios - Grad Student, Southern Methodist University

What brought together so many different people from so many different parts of the world on a Monday night at an ACS national meeting? No, not SciMix. Rather, it was the same miserable experience that unites graduate students from all walks of life, bridging cultural gaps and language barriers. It’s not that we hate what we do, but Jorge Cham (creator of PhD Comics) has a brilliant perspective on the seemingly never-ending struggle that is the Ph.D. process.

Jorge’s comics have united graduate students from around the globe and across fields, giving us all a break from our daily monotony, a brief moment (or maybe a few hours) to read Piled Higher and Deeper. The lecture hall filled with hundreds of graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members eager to hear him speak.

His talk was mostly lighthearted and funny, but it had a deeply important message. Take some time to procrastinate; take some time for yourself. Putting work aside for a moment to keep your sanity and happiness does not make you lazy or a bad person. This message really hit home when he highlighted the statistics about graduate students who are depressed and have attempted suicide. After the lecture, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Jorge and help with his book-signing.

There were so many people in line anxious to buy his books and get his autograph that we ran out. But no matter how long the line, Jorge happily took time to chat with everyone, hear their brief stories, and pose for pictures. We can all learn a valuable lesson from Jorge. Only you know how to make yourself happy. And perhaps we should all take the time to make sure that we are, indeed, happy.

Beatriz E. Rios is a 4th-year graduate student at Southern Methodist University where her research focuses on phosphorus-based calix[5]arene ligands and their transition metal complexes.

The Graduate Student and Postdoc Reception a great opportunity to network

Joe Z. Sostaric - Program Manager, ACS Office of Graduate Education

Having enjoyed an hour of laughs and reality with Jorge Cham, an estimated 700 graduate students and postdocs turned out for the ACS Graduate Student and Postdoc Reception held just prior to SciMix.

Now, if you were fortunate enough to attend the Jorge Cham lecture, you might be of the impression that any event that involves food and drink would be expected to draw a crowd of graduate students. However, from the surveys that we took of reception attendees at the spring national meeting in San Francisco earlier this year, 70% of attendees came to network with their peers and with representatives from the 20 cosponsoring ACS technical divisions.

Think about this for a moment. Why are you going to graduate school or doing a postdoc? Presumably it’s so you can have a career in chemistry that will be rewarding in all aspects of your life. So how do you get that career started? HINT: Don’t spend too much of your time searching through the classifieds! Networking people, it’s what you have to do. What better way to spend your time then to introduce yourself to the very people in your research field that could one day be on the search committee for the position for which you apply?

The ACS graduate student and postdoc reception is held every Monday evening, just prior to SciMix, at every ACS national meeting. If you attend the national meetings, take advantage of this time to meet with division representatives and with your peers, because you never know. And what the hay! Enjoy some good food and drink too!

Joe Z. Sostaric is program manager in the Office of Graduate Education at ACS. He obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Reflections from the Division of Agriculture & Food Chemistry Sessions, SciMix and the Expo

Eleni Yiantsidis- Grad Student, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

This year's ACS Fall National Meeting was my first real, formal, put-yourself-out-to-the-chemistry-community meeting. I have never had this much scientific exposure before, and the thought of this large an audience was nerve-wracking! My labmates and I prepared for everything (with the help of our fabulous adviser), and we drove up to Boston, coffees in hands, ready to battle the crowds and the Boston traffic.

We were part of the Division of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (AGFD), so we listened to talks about cranberries, raspberries, sugar maple, walnuts, colon cancer cells, brain aging, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and more. The speakers were all energetic, knowledgeable, and passionate about their research. I was surprised by how many presenters were from outside of the USA; I never realized how much research takes place around the world, and on so many different topics. The SciMix, where we presented our posters, had so many researchers with expertise in other fields, and their questions and thoughts on my project definitely gave me new things to look for and think about. I definitely enjoyed making friends and exchanging ideas with people who do similar research.

The Expo included several hundred companies, all giving information about their products and services. The vendors were all very friendly and eager to talk; we even entered into several drawings for prizes! My group had a lot of fun talking to everyone, and we enjoyed each company’s games and displays.

After four days of listening to talks, meeting new people, and exploring the scientific community, my group and I were worn out, but very satisfied with our experiences. There's talk about going to the next ACS meeting, and we hope that we will be able to go. This experience at the ACS national meeting was worth every minute!

Eleni Yiantsidis is a first-year graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, MA.

Highlights from the Division of Colloid & Surface Chemistry Sessions

Asma Eskhan- Grad Student, Washington State University

Well, I didn’t go on a vacation this summer, and fortunately this meeting came to give me a nice opportunity to visit Boston and have a great time there. I attended the Colloid and Surface Chemistry session, section E: Nanoscale characterization of microbes and cells. On August 25, I gave an oral presentation there: Nanoscale adhesion of silicon nitride to epidemic and environmental strains of L. monocytogenes. In this session, I got to meet many people working in my research area and take a look at their studies. I also became acquainted with my adviser’s adviser and her students. In addition, I spoke with some faculty who might help me in the future when I’m searching for a postdoctoral position; who knows? The talks in the session were impressive and the students were from different schools; chemical engineering, bioengineering, medicine, chemistry, biomolecular engineering, etc.

This meeting gave me a lot of motivation to continue my studies; it also increased my self-confidence. In brief, it uplifted me. The ACS national exposition was also a nice one. I took a look at the different companies and had a lot of fun there.

I recommend that every grad student attend such meetings because they are really helpful and enjoyable.

Asma Eskhan is a second-year grad student at Washington State University.

ACS Career Fair helps job seekers

Malahat Layazali - ACS Member Associate

The ACS career fair in Boston welcomed a thousand-plus job seekers. Representatives from 68 companies (such as Gilead Sciences, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Celanese, and many others) scheduled more than 700 interviews for 484 available positions. A corporate exhibitor on Recruiters’ Row recently told us, “We had much success finding the talent we need for our Shanghai office.”

Something in excess of 500 people took advantage of opportunities for one-on-one resume reviews and mock interviews with career consultants that were offered at the career fair. In addition, ACS presented 36 career workshops to members attending the Boston meeting.

A job seeker commented, “There were so many wonderful talks, workshops, and networking opportunities! I utilized both the resume review and mock interview opportunities and found both of the people I worked with to be of the utmost professionalism and helpfulness. The ability to actually participate in a mock interview workshop was a wonderful experience that gave me valuable feedback.”

Please join us to take advantage of more opportunities at the ACS Virtual Career Fair on November 2–3, 2010 and at the onsite Career Fair at the National Meeting in Anaheim, March 27–30, 2011. If you would like to find out more, please visit our website at www.acs.org/careers.

Malahat Layazali is an ACS member associate in the Department of Career Services and Development.

Where academic candidates met faculty recruiters

Stephanie Prosack - Education Assistant, ACS Office of Graduate Education

The Office of Graduate Education hosted a variety of events at the ACS national meeting in Boston last month. Having recently joined the office, I was happy to learn a lot of interesting and fun facts about these occasions. One of my favorites was the Academic Employment Initiative (AEI) poster session. Held on Monday evening as part of SciMix, the AEI once again successfully fulfilled its objective of allowing senior graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to showcase teaching and research goals for university recruiters. At the same time, it provided presenters with an opportunity to network with faculty and fellow candidates.

Throughout the poster session, I could see many of the 77 academic candidates enthusiastically conversing with faculty recruiters. Some candidates spoke passionately about their research goals, while others described their teaching philosophies and experiences. In between speaking with faculty recruiters, many of the candidates were mingling with each other to talk about their posters and goals, and even to make social plans for later in the evening.

Speaking with the faculty recruiters and many of the academic candidates confirmed that the event was very successful. I spoke to one very enthusiastic professor who has been attending the gathering for years and who said, “The AEI poster session is a great idea! Out of the four newest additions to my department, I hired three as a direct result of first meeting, and then speaking with them at the AEI poster session!”

The next AEI event will be held at the 242nd ACS National Meeting, to be held in the fall of 2011 in Boulder, CO. I am positive it will be just as successful, as this one—maybe even more so!

Stephanie Prosack is the education assistant in the Office of Graduate Education at ACS. In 2009, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Hollins University.