February 21, 2024, 01:08:00 PM
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Topic: Jobs for a disabled chemist  (Read 1030 times)

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Offline OrganicDan96

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Jobs for a disabled chemist
« on: January 08, 2024, 12:15:17 PM »
Hi guys. I hope this is the right place to post this.
I have recently completed a PhD in organic synthesis. during this time I have found myself becoming physically disabled due to a progressing congenital health condition. before this, I was an extremely passionate and skilled laboratory chemist and I was extremely good at it. more lately with chronic pain, I have found it harder and harder to do lab work, but I pushed through the excruciating pain to complete my PhD project. I then naively took a great job with excellent pay as a synthetic organic chemist at an industrial biochemical company. unfortunately, I underestimated how bad my medical condition was and I was in just too much pain every day so I quit. I'm now in a situation where I just don't know where to go with my career. I have never met another physically disabled chemist so I don't know what reasonable adjustments in an organic chemistry lab could be, or if lab work is completely impossible what sort of careers exist that would allow me to really utilize the passion i have without the physicality of lab work.

most people i have spoken to have suggested scientific writing, but this was by far the weakest and least enjoyable part of chemistry (I'm dyslexic). others have suggested computational chemistry, but I have minimal experience in this. my hope would be that I can find a way that would allow me to do synthetic chemistry whilst using mobility aids. i understand this is extremely unlikely.

I am really at a loss right now and could do with some advice from fellow chemists.

many thanks

Offline Corribus

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Re: Jobs for a disabled chemist
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2024, 01:09:47 PM »
There are plenty of desk jobs that employ chemists, particularly at government agencies with regulatory responsibilities. If you are in the US, I suggest looking at usajobs.com for government jobs at USDA, FDA, EPA, etc. A lot of them will be lab jobs but a lot of them will have no lab component. A perk in your case is that most government positions/workplaces are required to be ADA compliant.
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

Offline OrganicDan96

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Re: Jobs for a disabled chemist
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2024, 01:44:29 PM »
thanks, i'm based in the UK, but a government/regulatory or even defence job might be quite cool. i have also thought that chemical suppliers would be a good place, I just have never seen a job crop up that would suit

Offline Corribus

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Re: Jobs for a disabled chemist
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2024, 02:07:56 PM »
UK and EU both have agencies complimentary to those I mentioned, as you probably know. I don't know much about their hiring practices but I assume they would be similar.

Anyway, the point isn't so much government work as to say that a good % of chemistry PhDs have jobs that never require them to go into a laboratory. Hell, for that matter, have you considered applying for professorships? You can have students go into the lab for you :D

In seriousness, one mistake I think a lot of PhD holders make when looking for jobs is excluding themselves from consideration because they don't think their background is a perfect match to what is being advertised. People come out of PhDs with an incredibly narrow set of technical expertise. If you are looking for an opening that needs just that specific set of skills, you will be looking for a while. What recent PhD holders don't realize (I certainly didn't) is that a lot of places hiring PhDs are looking for the problem solving and other skills advertised by the PhD itself, not for someone with a background is some exotic form of LC/MS. It took me a while to learn this on the other side of coin as well - as a hirer. When I first starting hiring people (for lab positions), I agonized that I couldn't find an applicant with the exact technical skills I needed. The point I was missing is that a PhD implies that even if the person doesn't know that exotic form of LC/MS, they will be able to learn it without me. I no longer look for technical backgrounds when I choose candidates. I look for people with the best all-around CV, whether it's the greatest technical match or not. That strategy hasn't led me astray.

This applies even more-so to non-laboratory jobs, where your technical skillset just doens't mean a whole lot. So, I guess my advice is to apply for anything that seems interesting and is a reasonable fit to your background as formulated in broad terms. I mean, don't apply for something if they're looking for someone with a PhD in astrophysics, but you should feel reasonably confident applying for any nonlaboratory position that requires a degree in chemistry, and certainly organic chemistry (whether its synthetic or not). Don't exclude yourself from contention before the hiring manager even has a chance to look at your resume.

(As a personal anecdote, I came out of PhD doing ultrafast spectroscopy of conjugated organometallic complexes; the job I applied for, and got, was in polymer packaging, no spectroscopy, no organometallics. And that was a lab job. But I had a PhD. I adapted.)
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

Offline Babcock_Hall

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Re: Jobs for a disabled chemist
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2024, 07:45:28 PM »
My recollection is that Todd Blumenkopf was wheelchair-bound, but he had a productive career.  I am not sure that this is germane to your question.

Offline marquis

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Re: Jobs for a disabled chemist
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2024, 01:18:28 PM »
Instrumental analysis was best for me. My issues are nowhere near as bad as yours(mine are epilepsy and strokes). But there is a definite hesitancy for most employers to hire, even government.  Good luck!

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