From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

March 2015
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Thinking. Role of Luck and Classifications of things that grab our attention
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 10:32 am

Two very interesting books came across my desk recently that
informed me about our thinking processes in different ways.
Good to Great by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen  2 
Riveted by Jim Davies.

We can benefit by understanding our thinking processes so that we
see the importance of analogies, strategic & tactical elements,
decision making processes, problem solving strategies, time
, and flaws .

Collins writes and speaks about what patterns and trends lead
to achievement and success
in an uncertain and chaotic
environment.  He defines an element called the “return on luck.”
Luck, as you know, is a significant event that occurs largely
independent of our plans and actions;  it is unpredictable and
results in some good or bad.
Collins indicates there are strategies to prepare for, inform
when luck happens and endure that hypervigilant people use to
manage themselves and their organizations.  They include
specific steps to
-    methodically establish empirical facts,
-    question to perform calibrations with low risk, and
-    discipline yourself to deal with adverse circumstances.

Davies classifies situations, events and objects that grab and hold
on to our attention into categories.  This study can help us
choose themes to incorporate and see in others’ presentations.
Included are:
-    things we hope for or fear
-    repeat familiar patterns
-    incongruous idioms or images
-    storytelling that incorporates useful information that ties to reality
-    connections to personhood, human condition, and human feelings,
senses and physical features.

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Career Path Considerations.
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Technicians, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 8:52 am

The situation facing many soon-to-be science and engineering
graduates, doctorates and post-doctorates can seem daunting.
What job directions or career path should I consider and figure
out how to choose?

At a recent post-doc seminar with three dozen attendees one
half chose, at first, academic and industrial career paths.  Many
of those had little clue about what they would value doing.

The other half did not have a firm idea and did not know where
to begin.  As Al Sklover points out:  “good counsel requires
personal knowledge”– strengths, hard and soft skills, what
motivates you, your values and ‘likes and dislikes.’   So, a
personal self assessment might start your screening process.

Then, a couple of useful processes before interviewing in your
checklist might be information interviewing positions and
organizations, networking interviews (using your elevator
pitch to market your interests and skills) and mock interviews.
This will fill your checklist with several actions and tools.

A helpful figure is presented in Vision 2025 (Marinda Wu)
offering where our technical skills can be applied.  With
slight variations this view can be applied across the board to
STEM fields– For chemical enterprises (substitute bio,
physics, geology, computer, biomed, etc.):
1)Chem focused jobs, 2)Chem-based services and regulatory,
3)Science & Engineering management, legal and policy,
4)Science & Engineering inspired government & business.

Consider using other resources in your search as you gather
relevant information and trends in a “Levy flight search
which recognizes the importance of the “long tail“.
Besides the CHEMISTRY JOBS section of the Yellow Bar
Venture Philanthropy  2    3 

Consider not too tightly restricting your search in the
early phases.

Science Policy and Non-Profit Career Path
Filed under: Position Searching, First Year on Job, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 4:54 pm

There are multiple routes to Science Policy Career Path.
Meetings with representatives of government might be a
minor fraction of the time but offer details of what might
be expected.

Non-profits and Science Policy became one of the career
paths offered in a recent seminar on Working in your first
year seminar.  I gained background information from several
managers in a medical school Research Integrity program at
University of Louisville.
They offered that many early career researchers give short
shrift to information and training programs.  In fact, they seek
ways of increasing engagement in this fundamental yet underfunded

Research funding, scientific workforce planning, training and
diversity and communication are common topics.  Research
integrity is also a longstanding concern because of the
implications to human health and issues of impropriety.

Facts and trends
Expected skills
How to break in

Show your commitment– volunteer first.  Learn tricks and
tips to accomplish a lot on a shoestring budget and collaboration.

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Industrial Career Paths. Business Cards and Goal setting
Filed under: Networking, First Year on Job, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:28 pm

Preparing for a presentation on what happens in your First Year
and two items are part of what many face in industrial careers.

One is business cards.  There are many different flavors, colors
and lay-outs for these 20th century devices to network and share
our identities and contact information.  Recently Schumpeter in
the Economist wrote about this tool
that somehow survives in
the electronic age.   The main comments to the article that
help us are that they form physical reminders that bring us
to the top of a pile,
and more important remind us of the
critical realization that face-to-face interaction forms the
basis of connections in human relations

The second is the morphing of goal-setting (setting objectives
)  by individuals consistent with the organization’s goals. 
Schumpeter, in another recent piece, argued that many studies
have shown how ineffective top-down, poorly worded, annual
account checking the boxes “goals” (really objectives) to complete
annual performance reviews are. 

The article and accompanying comments point out that negotiated
objectives on a more flexible time scale that can allow for not
meeting desired deliverables is the modern day approach that
leads to successful companies.  The Google Glass example
brings this out.

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Research Mentoring. Research can get you down
Filed under: Mentoring, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 2:18 pm

A graduate student came to me feeling low, in despair and
miserable.  He had worked years on his final project to
complete his degree.  Experiments were not working
to get the results he had expected.

So, Uri Alon’s TED talk came to mind.  We talked some
more about his idealism and inadequacy for having his
results not match closely his predictions.

Don’t be so hard on yourself and your hard work! I
shared.  The experimental world is not so exact in
complicated experiments and there can be error bars
on predictions due to factors outside your control.
Let the data speak for itself.  You have already shared
that temperature has a big influence on your experiment
and you have gross temperature control.

He was feeling shame and despair much like Brene
describes (”The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go
of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who
you are,
” Hazelden, 2010).  He was not getting feedback from his
mentor that his work revealed the effects and he could not
do better unless he had $25K to improve the experimental
temperature control.  He had done one parameter at a time
experiments exploring all the other variables.

He had that “I’m not good enough” feeling and needed a
reality check that the world is full of imperfect humans.
Go back to your committee and tell them you have completed the
study and are finished and these are the results.  No need to
apologize– report what you got.  You are the expert who
designed and optimized the system and completed all the

He left, head held high and with the courage that he now
can see what research into the unknown is about through
this experience.

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Trends in Technical Careers.Human Organs on Chip, Manufacturing of the Future and T-rays for Toxic Gas Sensing
Filed under: Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 2:00 pm

Don Ingber spoke about amazing developments at the
Wyss Institute where researchers are developing
cell culture devices that simulate human organ
responses more than than cellular cultures.  A
very nicely written multi-brief and video provide
intriguing detail of cutting edge developments that
point to the future of medical research.

3-D manufacturing that is laser-based
is developing
rapidly as earlier patents on technology run out
and technology is more widely available.  High
value added precision manufactured components
in aerospace and medical technology will likely
be first as design rules for additive manufacturing
are developed and verified.

THz molecular spectroscopy of interstellar and
atmospheric gases based on vibrational and ro-
vibrational transitions is emerging as technologies
are combined.  Duke researchers suggest that toxic
gases can be detected in the atmosphere from
km distances like ammonia, sulfuric acid and
nitric acid  2 .

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Weakness: ‘Not doing well enough’ feeling
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 10:57 am

In an exercise, half of a group were asked to present their
strengths and give an example.  While the other half
presented personal weaknesses and what they are doing
about it.

Fear of Public Speaking, Being over-busy, rushed for time,
and less organized, and Shy and challenged to make
decisions were offered as weaknesses.  We have noticed
these and they are each real. 
An interesting one was offered– feeling that whatever
this person does, it is insufficient.  Being vulnerable.
The fear that when we become vulnerable we may be
considered less worthy.

Patrick Wanis and others talk about the broader cases
of this ‘vulnerable perception.’  This was a heartfelt expression
he explains as lacking a strong sense of loving and belonging.

They need to develop courage to be imperfect, accepting
themselves as they are, and be willing to make connections
with people.

The  Brene Brown TED talk elaborates well what can help
in dealing with this vulnerability issue.
What do the “wholehearted do” she asks
   - ask for help
   - take rejection in stride and learn in a organized, forgiving
   - be willing to risk failure, loss because of the opportunities
that may result
Know that the emotions connected to these behaviors can
not be “numbed out.” 
Certainty in religion and politics are expressions of this
weakness she adds.

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