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Young Industrial Chemists Find The Learning Curve Never Ends

Catherine Faler (Aaron Stryk/Exxon Mobil Corp)

When materials chemist Daniela Radu started looking for a job in her field, she decided to stay flexible. Her Ph.D. adviser at Iowa State University in Ames told her she would be competitive for faculty positions, but her postdoc adviser at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, said her research questions were more suited to a career in industry. She interviewed for both kinds of jobs.

When you're looking for a job and a new place to live, Radu notes, at a certain point you just feel at home. “That is the way I felt when I came to the Experimental Station at DuPont,” says Radu, who was born in Romania. She has been working at the lab in Wilmington, Delaware, for almost 2 years, developing photovoltaic materials. She is, she says, “very happy” there.

Other young Ph.D. chemists we spoke to--at companies large and small, specializing in fields as wide-ranging as pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals&--agree that life in the private sector has a lot going for it. Some say it offers a better work-life balance; others relish the challenge of developing real-world products designed to change people's lives for the better. All say their academic training prepared them well to ask good questions, set up experiments, and solve chemistry problems. But they still had much to learn, they say, about other skills needed to succeed in an industrial career, as well as major adjustments to make on leaving the research environment and culture of their universities.

The full text of this artice is found on the Science magazine Web site.

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