Web Site Review: Careerchem.com

In a recent article in Canadian Chemical News, lecturer John Andraos of York University in Toronto commented, "Outreach activities can attract young people to a career in the chemical sciences, but something more is needed to keep them there." Andraos has backed up his contention by creating the first free online guide to chemistry departments in Canada, careerchem.com.

More than simply a who-is-where directory, careerchem.com provides useful career-related information for chemistry graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in Canada. The site is designed to help students and postdocs identify potential advisers or employers among the leading scientists listed in the directory, or even discover patterns of recruitment trends at chemistry departments in Canada. Andraos hopes that faculty members might also use the directory to identify possible collaborators.

The aesthetics are plain and simple (there are no graphics), and the navigation is straightforward, with submenus in the left frame only. There is no onsite search tool and no capacity for users to download a stand-alone version of the entire directory. The site?s content (and be warned, there?s LOTS of it) is archived under eight main categories:

  • Overview. Outlines the purpose of the directory, the intended audience, and how Andraos assembled the site?s information.

  • Choosing Advisors. Explores approaches to choosing an advisor in academia or industry, and provides a lengthy and useful checklist of questions for students to ask potential mentors.

  • Department Profiles. Offers profiles of chemistry departments by region. This section also includes a checklist for evaluating department Web sites as well as individual faculty members? pages. Andraos asserts--entirely subjectively--that the quality of the latter is indicative of the extent to which faculty members are "supportive of their students'" and take responsibility in guiding their students' professional careers.

  • Women Faculty. Provides particularly interesting and revealing data on the recruitment patterns and gender profiles in different chemistry departments. According to the statistics Andraos presents, Canada has the highest number of female Ph.D. faculty members in the G7.

  • Recruitment Trends. Looks at stats on faculty members who have been productive in spawning future faculty ("Most Sought After Supervisors"), who hold Canada Research Chairs and other awards of distinction, and who are still active.

  • Indexes & Faculty. Gives further information on the track records of different advisers, listing how many of their former students went on to become postdocs or faculty members in Canada or the U.S.

  • Links & Databases. Lists several online databases containing grant and fellowship information, dissertation abstracts, and a who?s who of chemistry, as well as a host of other useful career-related links.

  • Survey/Feedback. Releases the results of the author?s own April 2001 fact-finding survey of how graduate students and postdocs view their careers in the chemical sciences.

The site is relatively new (it is less than 2 years old) and, judging by the views counter on the homepage, is little known. It also lacks the networking requisite of a forum or a listserv, devices that tend to generate lots of visits as well as providing a virtual water cooler by which chemistry trainees and professionals can explore each other?s experiences and random insights.

So far, careerchem.com is "freely available on a trial basis"; however, Andraos suggests that "future restrictions may apply." He says that he will update the information annually to coincide with the beginning of each academic year.

Collecting and assembling all of the data that have gone into this site must have been a significant undertaking for Andraos, but as he explains in his overview, he strongly believes that "getting connected with the right people at the right time is the key to successful career development."

Although this Web site has an emphasis on academia rather than industrial research or any of the other careers open to chemistry graduates, careerchem.com represents a great starting point for Canadian chemistry trainees who need a little guidance while mapping out their career path.

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