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

September 2021
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Undergraduate class. Future of chemistry careers
Filed under: Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 11:21 am

Yesterday, I was invited to offer a class to freshman chemistry
majors.  Instead of lecturing what I thought they should know,
we did something different.  We asked:  what are your
questions and concerns?

The whole class involved fielding their questions.  This
entry includes several of their questions and a short
summary of our discussion.

Q:  Which fields in chemistry are relatively new
and unexplored in terms of research?

-  energy sources:  biofuels, new processes from non-food
sources;  nuclear ; ’smart roofs’
-  food:  nutrition, nutriceuticals;  safety, toxicology
-  future cities: nanotechnology for sustainability ; 
choices for a reduced ‘carbon foot-print’
 -  human health:  genomics and disease prevention;
public health ; fast, accurate tests
-  water and air:  desalination and electrified nano
filters  ; reducing disease sources  ;  complex
photochemistries of NOx and aerosols
-  raw materials:  biodegradable plastics ; conservation
and recycling of scarce resources  ; sustainable designs
decomposing unsustainable chemicals

Q:  What opportunities are available for chemists
outside of a research lab?

-  Referred the class to a page in Nov., 2012, The

Q:  Will jobs in chemistry be sent overseas?
-  This is not a problem;  this is an opportunity.
Let em explain why.   We live in a globalized,
mostly open, free market economy.
-  General conditions were set up by a series of
negotiated “free trade agreements.”  [eg, NAFTA]
Jobs move to where they make the most economic
sense.  Lower wage jobs move to locations where
it makes economic sense, to lower wage locations.
-  Globalized economies result, affecting nearly
all business areas.
-  Build on strengths of the US:  available
capital, markets, free enterprise, rule of law,
entrepreneurial spirit, educational system.
foreign languages, work in multicultural
environments and programs, apply for and seek
internships, learn to become adaptable
  committed networking
  wise skills

Q:  What kind of start up company would be
the best to start if you are a chemist?

-  Today’s WSJ had a great example —
company Kurion
entrepreneur  Mark Denton

2 Responses to “Undergraduate class. Future of chemistry careers”

  1. site admin Says:

    This class taught me a lesson that I wish to share.

    To have young minds participate more in seminar classes,
    less lecturing and more questioning in a “reverse Socratic”
    approach might help.

    Since the whole class was driven by the class’s questions,
       it engaged them from beginning to end,
       each person had a chance to specifically take ownership
    and follow their own line of inquiry,
       they could choose to learn more in depth or breadth.

    More classes of this sort should be encouraged especially
    where beginning students develop the skills to ask questions,
    by using
       divergent thinking [creating lists of ideas, having free and
    open discussion offering diverse views with no criticisms]
        practice giving open questions (know the difference with
    closed-ended questions)
       later, help them use convergent thinking processes
    (categories, key points, agreement, priority).
       then turn the results into their next questions.
  2. site admin Says:

    The feedback from the session revealed the class liked
    hearing about growth in

      health - personalized medicines, targeted therapies
    using genomics
      careers outside the lab

      optimism for scientific and engineering careers
    using evolving strategies (creating ‘verbally state
    goals” and adapting)

      comparison of what to expect working with a BS or
    advanced degree and in academia vs. working in
    industry or government

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