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Topic: War Stories  (Read 15538 times)

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Offline gregpawin

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War Stories
« on: April 02, 2004, 05:37:59 PM »
I was wondering if anyone knew or could share some stories about what they did once they got their degree and the current or previous job market at the time.  What kinds of fields were avaliable to you and intense zeal for chemistry aside, might have better off financially doing something else (ie. pharmacy, law, etc).  It would be of great help of to us chemists in training.
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Offline gregpawin

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2004, 05:46:33 PM »
Lemme just first start the first one.  First of all, I guess I would consider myself a physical chemist based on the research I do but I hear bad stuff about becoming a physical chemist.  

According to a doctorate student friend of mine, he was approached by so many people telling him not to go down the PhD in chemistry route.  They told him to go to pharmacy school immediately.  He told me stories of how his other friend went to go work for some kind of organic chemistry lab and now drives a lot of imported sport cars. But my friend lamented on the boredom synthesis gives him.  He described his previous work in the field as just doing the same reaction and changing every possible variable (temperature, reactant ratio, heating time, etc) to get maximum yields for a reaction.

I don't want to get trapped in something I don't like, but at the same time I don't want to be gloriously overqualified and underpaid for everything I do.
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Offline jdurg

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2004, 05:59:40 PM »
Well, I graduated from school in May of 2002 with a B.S. in Forensic Chemistry from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.  Upon graduation, there was absolutely nothing in terms of jobs available.  While forensic chemistry sounds like an incredible career field, the number of available jobs in the field are incredibly small.  Most of the jobs go to people in the millitary or law enforcement fields as they have familiarity with the laws and regulations.  Getting a job with no experience in law enforcement or millitary service really puts you at a disadvantage.  I think having Forensics as a secondary major is a good thing to have, but having it be your primary major isn't going to help you too much in the job market.  

I also had problems with the job market upon graduation because my expertise in organic chemistry is not that great.  I know a great deal about the analysis of trace samples and some toxicology, but organic synthesis is still pretty foreign to me.  A lot of the chemistry job market is in organic synthesis and biological chemistry.  Organic synthesis plays a huge part in the pharmaceutical research fields and in drug discovery.  Those are where the high paying jobs are at the moment.

If your love of chemistry is in working with chemicals and whatnot, then perhaps the chemical engineering field is for you.  That field tends to have a few more jobs open as well as some high paying positions.  

I currently work for a Clinical Research Organization as a Data Processor.  Sadly, the salary of around $12.00 an hour is nothing compared to what I was hoping for when I entered college.  My chemistry and toxicology knowledge does come in handy every now and then, and it will allow me to have an easier time moving up in the company.  Sadly, however, it's nothing like what I wanted to do when I went to college.  My element collection is what I use to keep me in the "chemical field" and this website is a big plus as it allows me to still use my knowledge every now and then.  My dream job is to work with the synthesis of explosive compounds and the forensic analysis of blast sites, but that's an incredibly difficult field to get into and my being a type I diabetic makes that even tougher.  
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Offline gregpawin

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2004, 06:24:23 PM »
Gosh that sucks.  I think forensics is one of the most exciting of chemisty careers since they get a lot of their fame from crime shows where forensics experts show without a shadow of a doubt who the guilty party is.  But I remember taking a seminar on chemistry careers and a forensics guy came in and told us about the importance of the work that they do but said that unfortunately they were not hiring at the moment.  I think this is due to the general state that most government jobs are in.  Most states are pretty strapped lately (*achem* politics) and don't have the resources to hire new people.
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Offline jdurg

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2004, 06:41:50 PM »
Gosh that sucks.  I think forensics is one of the most exciting of chemisty careers since they get a lot of their fame from crime shows where forensics experts show without a shadow of a doubt who the guilty party is.  But I remember taking a seminar on chemistry careers and a forensics guy came in and told us about the importance of the work that they do but said that unfortunately they were not hiring at the moment.  I think this is due to the general state that most government jobs are in.  Most states are pretty strapped lately (*achem* politics) and don't have the resources to hire new people.

One MAJOR thing that people overlook is the fact that the stuff on TV is simply televsion.  The real forensics field is not glitzy and glamorous, and is pretty much the same thing over and over and over again.  It's generally just the running of drug screenings, immunoassay and chromatographic analysis, etc. etc.  The vast majority of your work is on negative samples, or calibration of your machines.  The media tries to portray the forensics field as this "exciting new career path" where you are constantly cracking unsolved cases and making exciting discoveries.  Heh.  That's simply not how it is.   :P  Unfortuneately, this glamorization of forensics has caused people to start majoring in it left and right, and switching careers so that they can be a part of it.  As a result, there are no jobs in the field and any that open up are either horrendous in terms of salary, or are quickly filled.  So for me, shows like CSI and the various other crime shows have prevented me from getting a job in what I majored in.   :(
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Offline gregpawin

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2004, 07:07:51 PM »
Yeah, I definitely understand how that could be... I mean most people looking for any semi-dream job must have been let down by a job really is: work.  I mean even guys who test games for a living have to test the same game over and over and never get to play anything else until they've found the bugs.

That's not to say that there should be less people majoring in forensics in my opinion.  I mean the justice system is bogged down with letting lawyers do all the convincing.  Science should play a bigger role in ruling over who lives or dies.  Anyhow, I think there should be even more forensics laboratories opening; those people switching to forensics did have good intentions though naive as they were.  There should be as many forensic scientists as there are detectives... but maybe I'm the one being naive.
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vanisaac

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2004, 08:49:46 PM »
Yeah, I was a Classics major and became an underpaid, overworked AmeriCorps volunteer tutoring kids in ... math.  So these high school students tell me that their math problems look like they're in Greek, and I just write some actual Greek on the board and let them figure it out ;D .  My chemistry background lies in me knowing something about just about everything, having lived with and being friends with chem and engineering majors in college, and hanging around with all the math/science teachers at the school I work in.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2004, 08:50:36 PM by vanisaac »

Offline Donaldson Tan

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2004, 10:24:29 AM »
Yeah, I was a Classics major and became an underpaid, overworked AmeriCorps volunteer tutoring kids in ... math.  So these high school students tell me that their math problems look like they're in Greek, and I just write some actual Greek on the board and let them figure it out ;D .

HAHA... U must had too many cornflakes for breakfast. Well.. I am not going to do a chemistry major. Anyone in pharmacy line care to share if the pharmaetical industry is worth slogging for in college? How abt the petrochemical field?
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Offline hmx9123

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2004, 05:25:13 AM »
jdurg--
  Just OOC, what interested you in explosives, specifically, synthesis and detection?  I'm always curious to find that out.

Offline gregpawin

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2004, 02:27:32 PM »
Classics major eh?  That's cool.  At my university we have an organic professor who originally was a classics major and has a degree in it but turned over to chemistry in grad school.
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Offline jdurg

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2004, 06:24:58 PM »
jdurg--
  Just OOC, what interested you in explosives, specifically, synthesis and detection?  I'm always curious to find that out.

Well, I've always had an interest in things that made very bright flashes or very loud noises.  I guess that's just an instinct type of thing.  I got very interested in the chemistry of explosives after the original World Trade Center bombing.  I found it remarkable how they could take a blast site and easily find out what chemical was used to make the explosion.  Because of that, I also wanted to learn about the chemicals that were used and how they were made.  I just find it remarkable how one chemical is perfectly stable and won't detonate, but just change one or two things in it and it's suddenly a powerful explosive.  Things like octanitrocubane, nitroglycerine, trinitrophenol, fulminic acid, nitrogen triiodide, etc. etc. just really interest me.  (In fact, nitrogen triiodide is a major reason why I have an element collection).  The chemistry of explosives is a fascinating subject, and while I'd like to discuss it in more detail here, I have to be careful of what I say since someone might take some of the information I give and have a horrible accident.
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Offline hmx9123

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2004, 06:48:13 PM »
Materials with a severe difference in energy from the norm have always interested me.  Explosives have an energy that is much greater than that of most compounds, and cryogenic liquids, like liquid nitrogen, have a severe lack of energy.  I'm still fascinated by liquid nitrogen, even though I work with it every day.  Unfortunately, we do have to be careful what is said on this forum, as people do look at it and may do something stupid.

One thing that I have always liked is pyrotechnics.  I find it an incredibly fascinating side of chemistry.  If you're interested in reading some internet things on pyrotechnics, check out rec.pyrotechnics.  It's a usenet newsgroup, and it's a bunch of amateurs (and a few pros) talking about fireworks.  It's pretty amazing the chemistry behind some of that.

Offline Donaldson Tan

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2004, 11:46:15 AM »
Perhaps one day one of us will be in the weapons industry developing a compact form of C4.. LOL.. It alwis been a childhood dream to be a member of the UN Weapon Inspection Team for WMDs..

 8)
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Offline Mitch

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Re:War Stories
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2004, 03:31:30 PM »
hmx9123 does explosives research. He scares the rest of us with his dinitroacetylene project.
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