Can’t say enough excellent things about a
book I acquired at the ACS Philadelphia
“Write like a chemist,” by Marin S. Robinson,
Fredricka L. Stoller, Molly S. Costanza-
Robinson, James K. Jones, Oxford University
Press, Oxford, 2008.
It is so well designed especially for professionals
interested in R1 (research intensive) and PUI
(principally undergraduate institutions) since
it creates a user friendly framework for
constructing essential documents critical for
success in an academic environment, namely:
- research proposal
- journal article
- conference abstract
- scientific poster.
Since these are such decision-making
documents for faculty applications this soft
covered book is highly recommended
The book contains three top level concepts
that are right on target:
- strong organizing discussion with helpful
- “move structure” frameworks
- writing conventions for various audiences
While this text does not address all the
business audiences and purposes, it fills
a real need for ‘a line in the sand’ for
professionals to refer to.
An earlier blog post shared an innovation developed
from a workshop on Overcoming barriers at LSU.
It suggested the formation of a local university list-
server for pointing out issues, problems and approaches
to visas for non-native Americans.
That session on Visa issues brought together only
those with a personal interest in those barriers and
involved thoughtful discussion and open sharing
of approaches some post-docs were taking.
The full-attendance workshop also included a panel
addressing cultural and bias (personal, institutional,
and non-intentional) issues. Two excellent panelists
shared compelling stories on issues they faced and
how they addressed them. The panelists were:
Evgueni Nesterov 1 2
Michelle Claville 1
and they spoke about exploring their personal
ambitions, facing their fears, special courses that
they felt catapulted their abilities to assume
increasing responsibilities (Franklin Covey’s
course on time management in particular) and
the continually improving their communication
in English. This panel recognizes the multi-
cultural, interdisciplinary, and global enterprise
that chemistry engages.
It is incumbent on students and young professionals
to seek out this broader realm as they enter their
John Pojman brought terrific insights to
a PfLAGS* segment he offered on Teaching
at a Research intensive institution (LSU).
There are the usual things like the skills
needed to be successful. He noted that
today’s students are much brighter than
previous generations and face even
stiffer challenges. He gives them credit.
He added some marvelous ideas:
- invite short term visitors to your lab
- work in the lab yourself, students like
an active lab
- organize symposia by working your
way up in complexity/leadership
- establish a listserver for your sub-field
- keep an accurate web-site with complete
list of accomplishments and what you are
doing; get a domain name
- write or co-author a book in your field
- offer to give seminars to other departments
tie it into their interests, show that you are
reliable and capable
- compliment others achievements
- teaching idea: end each day with what
the students learned and what question they
have from the day.
* PfLAGS = Preparation for life after
In individual review sessions at a seminar
at LSU last week, a group of students
were of particular concern. They recently, I mean,
in the last week, learned that their adviser will
be moving on in a couple of weeks.
What does that mean for them?
While they were assured that he would be
there to help them finish up and defend
their theses, several barriers will appear
for them since he will not be present at the
We talked about identifying mentors,
if they have not done so already.
A recent article on this topic appeared in the
“Job Talk” by Dale and JT.
Highlighting the article are some points:
- identify people who have consistent
goals and track records (you don’t
have to figure out what you want to do.)
- be flexible: many people who mentor
appreciate people who are flexible and
work to their schedule.
- be able to state your current condition
clearly and what motivates you
It is a good practice to go outside your
thesis adviser and your thesis committee
for mentors. Being a mentor should be
confidential between you and your mentor.
Consider learning from more than one
Today, a workshop was conducted on Overcoming
Barriers by Foreign national chemists as part
of a Preparation for life after after graduate
school. It built on a program initially
developed by Joel Shulman (University of
An innovation the workshop created was the
start of a student-run, student-serving list-serve
of chemistry graduate students to keep up to date
with the evolving picture of visa issues for foreign
students. This workshop provided the LSU
students with a first time discussion of visa issues
in this kind of program providing including a
mechanism for keeping all graduate students
aware of new regulations and the evolving picture
of citizenship. For further information, contact
Dr. Zakiya Wilson the Graduate Student
A good friend and I had an interesting
conversation about what people wear to interviews.
Being from the west coast and in a high tech business
role for several years, including applied R& D and
marketing and bringing products to market internationally
he has seen quite a bit.
His observation was that he would rarely wear a tie
to an interview now, as a senior person interviewing
in companies. He would wear a solid colored,
collared shirt (not polo shirt or shirt without a collar)
with conservative dark sport coat and trousers (not
khakis or jeans). Some situations, might urge him to
consider wearing a tie, but for the most part ties reveal
being out of touch with the culture. He would inquire
with his network about this.
For recent graduates or people who do not have
networks into west coast firms, a conservative coat
and tie with collared shirt is best advised.
No tie and collared shirts might also be considered at
start up firms in certain industries in certain places.
Ladies should consider dresses, dress suits or pantsuits
in both east and west coast. The style is neat, well
fitting with conservative accessories.
The heels of shoes should be less than 2″ and legs and
other exposed areas hair-less.
Men interviewing, going east in the US, should consider,
almost require, more conservative attire involving wearing
a tie, as is typically recommended in many places.
Moving east to European interviews, which should be
mentioned, dark, single breasted suits without patterns
with conservative tie is offered. Avoid classic stripes in
Great Britain in ties that might be used in Germany.
Business attire for ladies are conservative employing long
sleeved blouse with a dress or pantsuit and closed-toed
pumps and stockings. No accessories other than wedding
ring and modest posts are suggested in England.
More attention is paid to style in Italian interviews. Note
men would use ties with large knots, cuff links, watches and
well polished shoes. Women should reveal fashion in clothing
Similar attention to attire as in Italy is expected in France
for the most part.
Japanese expect a neat and fit appearance. One’s socks
should be in very good order as shoes are removed for
meals. Women interviews should not reveal undergarments
and not be tight fitting. White is not recommended.
Chinese expect typical business attire in conservative colors
for both men and women. Flashy or pastel colors are not
favored. Taller women should consider wearing flat shoes.
A request came in from a recent hire–
what should I do about 401K sign-up.
The person did not say much about student
loans coming due, car, rent, insurances
and requirements. But then everyone
says Social security is going to run out.
The clincher was that her father had no
experience with 401Ks. Karen Blumenthal
wrote a piece addressing the third of three
key factors in her participation. The factors
1. how much is the company match? if 0,
it is reduced to a lower rating than making
sure the credit card bills are paid every month
and having 9 months pay in the bank.
2. what are the investment choices? if they
are company stock and poorly rated, high fee
funds, then credit card bills, 9 months in the
bank and highly regarded IRA (roth or
traditional based on your tax situation.)
3. how high are the fees for the 401K?
It is hard to find out the details but Karen
addresses loads, guidelines and changes
in disclosure guidelines.
With the consultee’s options (no company
match “ever,” student loans) and the
investment choices offered at the present
time, her best move might be keep
her credit card balance at
bay, create an ‘emergency fund’ and
contribute to a highly rated IRA plan.
That can be done before April 15, 2009.
C. Company stability
- Current customers - major and local
- Current competitors
- Company owners- privately held, private
equity, corporate ownership, shareholders,
- Company managers - management team,
length of tenure, background
- Company size - revenues, balance sheet,
employees, contractees, rates of change
- Lawsuits against the company? Why?
The following is an exchange concerning post-
screening interview questions and response
Thanks,…. The first draft of my thesis is done
I have ‘not heard anything’ from the two companies
who interviewed me in Philadelphia (Aug. 17-8).
[One representative]…said that I should hear back
…in approximately a week and to email him, if
I didn’t hear from him. Two emails have been
sent , [one thank you and the second a reminder]….
A response was received from the second company
after my ‘thank you’ note.’ …on August 25…that
they would be reviewing resumes with the hiring
managers over the ‘next few days’ and then
contacting people that they were interested in.
…Is there anything that I should be doing at this
point or should I just be waiting. Or, do I assume
that this means that they are not interested?
Thanks for the note. Of course we want both
companies to call
you for an on-site interview.
Compliments on finishing your thesis
Have you set up your definite defense date?
What will you do
after that at school?
Are you supported in some fashion?
have the task now of
rationalizing their openings, determining
who they want
to bring in based on their
near term needs and determining their interview
You have done your initial job–
interviewing and following up indicating that
you would love to work with them for their
company. (Please note the words…)
Have you done an assessment of each interview?
- What did you do very well?
- What could you do better in the interview?
at the start of the interview, the closing, in presentation
of ideas, responses to certain questions….
Think hard about this…Why? Should you hear back
from a company that you are not a candidate in this
round, you may wish to contact them asking where
you came up short in the interview process. It would
require a short conversation. Between you and me,
please practice being more confident and engaging
(in a business way) on the phone.
A. Find out more about the companies.
B. Go to your alum organizations,
LinkedIn, other places who you know who
might know about
C. Look at the business news about the
companies. Have a
file collecting data
on them, so that when you are invited to
on-site you have business related questions.
D. Develop your on-site
What particular aspects are important to
them based on your
E. Come up with a proposal to put forward
when they call for you to
When, have your personal calendar ready to use.
F. Develop your list of questions to ask.
What is important
G. Do you have business attire to wear,
travel bags? Are you ready to go, if
you were asked to come in in a
H. What will you do if they call your
contact number? [It is similar to a
telephone interview. Remember,
have them call when you are best able
to do your best. You can arrange a
they are formally making the next move.
But there are many things you can
refine, line-up in advance, or even ask
questions so that you
can go to the next
L, …It does not seem to make sense for me
to encourage you to call
them, unless you
had some indication of a strong desire to
Line up your preparation for your next steps.
Develop your “target company plans.” While
it was nice to meet with 2 firms in Philly, neither
were on your key target list.
How much do you expect to make, the
interviewer or recruiter will ask you…
What do you say?
Several posts have addressed this.1 2
So, do you say what you find at one
site? No as we have mentioned, check a
But don’t just run the numbers, do a
“sanity check” on the numbers.
Recently, I went a reputed high value site
and used the salary comparator. I compared
several different jobs which I expected to
come up differently, like process chemical
engineering with 20 years experience with
a health and safety principal engineer. Guess
what? Same numbers…
It suggests the database does not have enough
data or does not separate the job titles enough,
or regions of the country. This means that any
data from this kind of search needs to be
Certainly, I complained to the association. I
do know that they have severely cut back
on providing this service for members as it
is not a revenue producer. Members need
to indicated dis-satisfaction. However we
need to also look at sites like salary.com and
others that may help.
At the Philadelphia ACS meeting, RDMcC
was one of the very interesting people who I
met. He is a mid-career chemist who
worked hard and contributed for nearly
two decades to the profits of a company
and was recently on the short end of the
stick in a downsizing.
RDMcC is a graduate of the same undergrad
institution as I and so we struck up a conversation
about that institution, as fellow alums can
He got the feeling, and it was true, that that
special connection gave us a tie that could
provide an edge, I remembered him. We
encountered each other several times in the
meeting and got updates.
PDMcC was encouraged to contact the university
and get reconnected with the department alumni
network, as I had done this past May.
He was encouraged to consider niche recruiters
in the particular area of the country where he
wished to continue working Sarah Needleman
mentioned several in her article in WSJ.
Above many things to do is obtain excellent
letters of reference from people he knows
in the field and who know him. The references
could lead to broadening his network and
valuable contacts. How would he find out
where people are and how to contact them?
Use professional social networks like LinkedIn.com
So he invited me to join his network based on a
We are all unnerved when these kinds of
events happen to us. Learn how to gain personal
calmness, portray strength and confidence and
develop the new and ’state of the art’ skills that
will help him be able to step in and help his
new employer quickly.
Sarah Needleman wisely pointed out that
overcoming any predilections of slower or
lower energy can be addressed by adopting
healthful lifestyles and using them to your
strengths. So when returning a call to a
telephone interviewer or recruiter, mention
:I’m sorry I wasn’t in when you called…I was
in the middle of a six mile run….” or other
At the Philadelphia National ACS meeting, I was
pleased by the number of candidates who provided
a business card when we met. The number at this
meeting was double the number I have observed in
previous and is a good sign.
While readers will not be able to view the cards,
the descriptions should reveal what I am looking
at and what is either objectionable (bold) or good.
(underlined) This post is a critique on the cards…
starting with mine first.
- font size of my email and blog addresses could be
either larger or in a “non-serif font” like Arial
- the address on the business card is not real
mailing address. It is of the association and it is
not easy for mail sent there to get to me.
- Association with well known organization with
its emblem stands out and distinguishes it.
AEH (from Patents Workshop)
- while pointing out degree and all appropriate
contact information, does not show law school
- font size clear and readable, consider some
emblem of school or association if possible to
AJM (from Mock Interview)
- while name is clear, font size of position and
address is 2 font sizes too small.
- school emblem makes it stand out.
MCM-E (from Mock Interview)
- while all type print is clear and well done,
the emblem of organization is too small to
- square brackets of the design seem to have
no logical purpose
JDS (from Mock Interview/ Resume review)
- no negative impressions
School emblem and colors on card
Well designed readable Arial typeface with all
LRK (from Mock interview and resume review)
- no negative impressions
School name, location along top
Simple design with clear font.
Good white space.
This last design is a standard design (seen
a couple of identical cards, different names)
with affiliation on top, Name underlined
and five colored squares at the top,
one-third point on the card and formal
address listing on the lower half,
left side. Ph.D. candidate listing under
Several entires have mentioned approaches
and strategies to balancing one’s personal
life with his or her career. Situations are
quite varied and can involve live-in children,
children not in custody, and parents.
Ellen Ostrow’s article provides questions for
general considerations, rather than the
specific ones, as above.
- What does having and being a partner mean to
- What are your most important life dreams?
- Can you be influenced to change your mind?
- How good are your coping skills to offset
This is another perspective that might be helpful.