It was an eye opening experience visiting lecture,
laboratory and seminar sessions at a community
college recently. Chemistry professionals from
many backgrounds play important roles in this less
heralded segment of an academic career path.
Recent advanced degree graduates, mid-career people
who have transitioned from industry, scientists with
interdisciplinary backgrounds in marketing, product
development and analysis, and experienced community
college professors with a passion for instilling a strong
desire for the chemical field to curious minds are all
dedicated to this sub-field.
The excellent Preparation for Life After Graduate
school program offers Community College teaching as
one of “four” academic directions with a eye-popping
1811 institutions (~60% of the total number) enrolling
44% of all chemistry undergraduates. The roles that
this major subset of our community needs to provide
is met by incredibly dedicated staffs of professionals.
They not only teach general chemistry and organic
chemistry lectures, seminars and laboratories, but also
have important roles in preparing undergraduates in a
dozen other technical fields with interdisciplinary
foundations in chemistry. A major component of their
professional roles involves mentoring, coaching and
teaching the accountability and determination skills (grit)
that we all recognize as important.
THE STUDENTS WHO ENROLL
The “average age” of community college students is
nearer typical graduate school population of 24-26
with many more adult responsibilities that typical
undergraduates and graduates may not– families,
full time jobs, military commitments, travel and
home considerations, and more.
They often do not know where jobs are or what graduates
can do or where they can progress to the next academic
HOURS, INCIDENTS AND STYLE
A recent AHA (History) description of some differences
in teaching intensity of more sessions in survey courses
can be translated to general chemistry and organic
Community colleges manage student traffic and hours
of classes in a way that allows student to attend classes.
So often that means late afternoon through evening classes
and mid-day classes.
Classes can be longer (1.5-2 hours) and focus more on
repetition of core concepts and ideas in interactive
problem solving styles either with individuals or
Classes begin on time, yet students arrive at various times
due to conflicts with traffic and work. The teacher has
to be creative and resilient to bring late arrivers up to
speed in considered ways to be effective teachers and
LABORATORY- MAJOR DIFFERENCE BOUGHT OUT
IN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Nothing replaces the need for good laboratory instruction
in chemistry. It is hard to simulate labs without at least a
performance type of run through. I observed wonderful
listening, organization and problem solving of a half
dozen cases as students encountered set-up, execution and
laboratory report writing (incidentally, handed in on the
same day of the experiment.). A dedicated full time staff
member needs to be involved and committed to student
In addition, critical habits involving preparation, cleanliness,
safety, hazardous materials and operations need to be developed
and repeated. A one time through a process is not enough.
This is just one of several ways chemistry curricula is different
than the history community college description by John Ball.
Another way is the logical and mathematical content and
formalism of homework and examination responses. So while
there can be essays or multiple choice responses chemistry
requires critical thinking problem solving. Often times, one
can understand the descriptions, but chemistry requires sticking
to things till the end without taking shortcuts. While many
students “live on” partial credit, it is not a desired approach.
We spoke over lunch, a colleague and I, where she mentioned
one of her resolutions was to do more external committed
networking. That is, reach out to those outside her current
firm. This reminded me of an appropriate article by Jean
Cummings on “avoiding short term thinking.”
A second offering here is for those who do not often
read books about Global leadership and out of the WSJ.
As scientist we should be aware of these perspectives and
less tunnel-visioned by single issues. Pursuing true
national energy self-sustainability as a way to regain stable
global leadership is not a single issue but a mission with
A third consideration is how the DNA of bacteria in our gut
are genetic recorders of chemical history and exposures.
MID-CAREER PERSONAL MARKETING
SOURCE: J. Cummings, 10-13-14, Don’t let short term
thinking derail your career.
Jean has created a list of things mid-career technical
people who realize the higher you go up the pyramid the
fewer the suitable positions you would qualify for and
be happy doing. She lists personal marketing goals and
shorter term objectives and development plans that would
be worth investing in. As she mentions it may help avoid
a train wreck, due to unexpected changes.
SOURCES: E. Schoeniger, WSJ 11-19-14, p. B5
Sustainability: Biofuel finally breaks through
and W. K. Clark, “Don’t wait for the next war: A strategy
for American Growth and Global Leadership“
E Schoeniger wrote another in a series of pull-out ad
pieces documenting how biodiesel continues to be
a significant component of fuels for the transportation
sector. It has a large economic and environmental
impact despite its relative size compared to petro-fuels.
This is where Wesley Clark’s controversial book comes
in. Clark posits that America needs a coherent vision
and strategy that addresses the underlying military-
industrial-financial dilemma of our age– dependence
on OPEC and China. Technology now is ready “to
climb this mountain”… where it was not 40 years ago.
This is where science technology and engineering
careers will be.
BACTERIA TO STORE EXPOSURES
SOURCE: Science Digest 11-13-14
Via SLAS Alert “Bacteria become genomic tape recorders
recording chemical exposures in their DNA“
There is something fundamental about this recent report of
storing information about our personal exposures in
the DNA of our Microbiome. Lu explores and devises
a strategy to record, store and play back chemical
It is amazing how our microbiome plays a significant role
in our health. And to think much of this direction came from
finding that a bacterium was responsible for stomach and
Original citation: Farazadfard, Lu, Science 2014 346 6211
Genomically encoded analog memory with precise in
vivo DNA writing in living cell populations
This was my fifth consecutive year being invited to meet undergraduate
chemistry majors. My host asked me to Talk about what it like for
people working in fields that a chemistry degree can prepare you
for. Our class also had a nice question and answer segment where they
asked how I got started.
I began by sharing that internships, coop programs and undergraduate
research activities really expose them to chemical problem solving
and practical aspects of chemistry and chemistry related fields.
High School. My positive inclination toward chemistry started by an
influential high school chemistry teacher who noticed my interest and
took a liking to me and recommended (sponsored) me for a job.
Summer Medical Research Internships. Near the end of my 2nd year
I got the courage to knock on the door of the chairman of the
Biochemistry Department. I inquired whether there were any
opportunities to work in his lab. Dr. Richard Winzler kindly offered
me a position through the summer in his research group.
The next three summers I was privileged to work with grad students,
post-docs and visiting faculty. It helped me get the knack of research
addressing different kinds of problems.
Undergraduate Research. In my senior year Dr. Bob Allendoerfer
agreed to have me become his first student in his lab doing undergraduate
research on my own project. Our studies involved spectroscopic
studies of a free radical stabilizer. He gave me a lot for my 3 credit
hour course and prepared me for graduate research.
So my first semester of formal graduate research I had already
experienced four kinds of research activities, knew about setting goals,
asking questions and developing proposals.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Then we talked about the different fields outside the obvious ones
where chemical knowledge is applied. Law, patents and contracts,
Customer Relations management, sustainable processes and products,
Resource recovery, medicine, diseases and therapies….
Negotiations can lose momentum quickly when our
untrained, emotional habits and fears are exposed.
We saw this in our Negotiations Seminar. Four groups
were invited to choose one of three scenarios of negotiations
and set up a two party negotiation within their group.
The seminar had covered all of the elements of the
-offer in writing, job description in writing
-set up your process, enlist a helping team, set your family’s
priorities among the possible items and do thorough research
and due diligence
-develop and practice your strategy
-develop ideas for your BATNA
-execute and adapt to situations
We had covered the Negotiations Checklist.
A. One of the comments afterward was that there weren’t clear
instructions of what to do. The response is it is an applicant’s
responsibility to show that they can create order out of an
uncertain situation. Each group should have gravitated to the
process flow chart and checklist. This was a teachable moment.
B. Another interesting observation was that there was no
strategic thinking and establishing of a priority order of the list
of things. This was demonstrated by one proposal: Will the
company pay for my student loans.
Again the point is to find out leverage points. What are the company’s
highest needs? How can you the applicant meet and exceed them?
Listen carefully after exploring their wants to develop your
leverage in the negotiation. Then, the company representative is
more than willing to pursue their BATNA ideas to have you want
to join their organization. Another teachable moment.
Instead, the question showed an attitude that might only turn the
There are organizations– the Federal government, that have certain
loan repayment provisions for specific position hires. But your
responsibility in negotiation is to explore leverage points.
Good habits: Use the negotiation process
Know and implement the Negotiation Checklist.
A very recent PhD attended the Negotiation Process
seminar. This person seemed to be both pleased
This person expressed not being aware of the importance
of receiving a formal offer letter. The list of possible
items that could be negotiated and how to form and
conduct the process were quite valuable. However,
it seems, preliminary research work for this small
company had already begun without pay or even an
Let me indicate that this entry is not focused on the
offer letter and its contents. Please refer to excellent
entries in Sklover Working Wisdom.
This person asked: What should I do now, as I have
not heard from the small start up company entrepreneur?
The verbal job offer for the PhD was $50K/ year.
This is clearly an opportunity to put the negotiating
checklist and negotiating process to work. It is
important to ask for an in person meeting to seek
a written commitment stating starting date, title,
salary and formal benefits and any conditionals
(like, receiving a grant or funding or contracts).
The person should be doing formal due diligence on
this position and its competitors, should be forming
a negotiating team to help define and evaluate, should
be establishing BATNA and all the other process
steps and checklist items.
To start, going to the ACS Salary Comparator can
establish a ground state. It does not seem to me,
besides protests to the contrary, that $50K is a
reasonable starting salary for a full time PhD position.
The 2013 data assessment bore this hypothesis out.
SCENARIO Academic Commercial
Specific area N. E. outside of NYC and Boston
research Contract Profession
80 %ile $83K $109K $114K
60 %ile 73K 96K 100K
30 %ile 61K 80K 83K
10 %ile 51K 67K 70K
There is certainly room to seek a better offer just
The workshop provided 30 other negotiating factors
that in the best interest of this person should be prioritized
before the formal in person meeting.
In addition, a viable back-up plan needs to be developed
in short order.
Negotiation is not something people feel comfortable
doing for it can feel like moving from a certain offer
to a risk-laden proposal with an uncertain response.
Our minds are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Thus,
some people are shy to negotiate and aim to please the
other party (undermining their own family needs).
It is helpful then to have a working definition that
clarifies that negotiation is a process of “motivating”
another person to do something that (s)he at the moment
is not inclined to do.
The power you have to motivate is “leverage” to
excel and complete the tasks and projects assigned
to you. Thus, your approach is not “me-centric”
(ie. I want, I need….)
You can establish leverage by being likeable so that
both you and the other party feel comfortable in
sharing and more importantly listening to each other,
and clarifying interests and needs. We then agree to
understand the interests and meet and exceed
the needs which yields leverage in a negotiation.
Many successful negotiations are not “one-person
shows,” but result from team efforts, resources and
inputs to define priority needs to seek in the
Previous posts on negotiation
Using T-Charts to compare offer terms
Legal aspects of negotiations
Things to avoid
things to have– written offer
Things to ask and of whom to ask them
Do you read hardcopy newspaper for your current
events news, or watch video feeds, or employ a
browser to collect information from Flipboard,
Huffington Post, msn, or leading online newspapers?
Unintended consequences of our race to keep
informed as efficiently as we can, have others
select the content for us.
Look around and observe all the changes that
technological trends are producing by adaptation
and trial and error efforts to support ourselves.
There are many things that reveal structural
changes in our work environments that we should
be observing and paying attention to.
BROWSERS REPLACING BOOKSTORES
SOURCE: T. Teachout, WSJ 10-24-14, “Closing
our browsers: “Without brick and mortar bookstores,
what happens to browsing?”
How many times have you searched for a specific
reference and inadvertently found something even
more interesting? This possibility seems to be
rapidly going away as we become sequestered (using
a government term) into using the Internet for more
things. This leaves the old fashioned “gum-shoe”
actions of informal browsing an activity of the past.
There is more to it– this article suggests as bookstores
close and many more buy their content either
digitally delivered or via Amazon.
SHOPPING MALLS BECOME OFFICE COMPLEXES,
WAREHOUSES AND DATA STORAGE CENTERS
SOURCE: D. Fitzgerald and P. Ziobro, WSJ 11-4-14
p. B6, Malls fill vacant stores with server rooms
This article hints at multiple secondary uses of
brick and mortar facilities, that we urge readers,
provide changes and opportunities, if you are ready.
Several people I know have shared office spaces
in an old warehouse. Medical offices for records
and accounting are more often in former malls
that replace typical big name retailers.
In strategically advantaged locations (with electricity,
light, telecom connections, and suitable fire protection)
well trained computer scientists set up and run
data-farms in former retail outlets.
PETROLEUM RESOURCE RICH LOCALITIES
BATTLING FRACKING PRODUCTION
SOURCE: L. Eaton, WSJ 11-4-14, p. B1
“Fracking’s unlikely Battleground“
In the Barnett Shale region of Texas, a traditional BONUS: While “browsing” on one topic (crowdsourcing) and The new director (M. Lee) and Presidential Innovation
hotbed of pro-drilling activity, a voter initiative
to ban fracking is being tested today. It is based on
exposure to and toxicology of the chemicals in
the surrounding area to fracking facilities.
in August in San Francisco of the early determinations
and observations of the fracking revolution.
In the review, Robert Stevenson impartially discusses
the process, the concerns, the risks and elements
of regulation. If this topic is of interest or concern
this review is a targeted technical assessment.
CROWDSOURCING IN PATENT REVIEWS
SOURCE: “Anyone ever done this before? Patent
office turns to crowdsourcing“
exploring where it might lead, a mighty and helpful
“factoid” was uncovered.
The PTO is seeking ideas and strategies to examine
prior art for new patent applications in its search
for improving the patent approval process.
Fellow (C. Wong) are facilitating processes to improve
private and public sector cooperation in a beneficial
way in PTO operations.
While “browsing” on one topic (crowdsourcing) and
The new director (M. Lee) and Presidential Innovation