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Moving into analytical

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:31 pm
by Steve
I am currently employed by a large multinational chemical company where I work in product development. For a number of reasons I have decided it is time to move on. My background is in physical chemistry with a materials/polymer/surface science slant.

I recently interview with a *major* chemical company (that makes my company look small by comparison) for a position in the analytical lab (which is run as a service lab). I would be a more senior person (Research Scientist or equivalent) and would be working on cases on a day-to-day basis.

This is very different from my current and past experience of working on projects which ranged from 3-4 months to 2-3 years (PhD and post doc).

I'm curious if anyone else has made this move and what your thoughts were? The environment is great, the potential boss is great, the lab is great, there is the potential for upward mobility, it's just the day-to-day thing which makes me question this position. There would be the possibility of moving within the company either to a group leader position (within 2-3 years - something I want) or moving to another
site after 1-2 years.

Any thoughts?

Moving into analytical

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 11:49 pm
by Andrew
I've been in Analytical since I started in industry. Its fast paced, projects of scope 1-2 months at the most (though there is sometimes longer term support), and a lot of handling emergencies. You will be generally in a supporting role in NPD, not central to the team. On the other hand, you'll be involved in nearly everything the organization does and have a larger overview of all the R&D projects than any project leader. The work is always new and you get to help a lot of people. I have a background similar to yours. Send me an e-mail and I'll go into more details.

Moving into analytical

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 2:29 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Steve,

Good to have you on the forum. In particular, I was pleased to see that Andrew responded so positively to you. You won't get as many total responses here as in the usenet groups, but the ones you get will be serious contacts who are offering their help.

My comments are these . . . Moving to an analytical service laboratory can be fun because you get to work with just about everyone in the company at one time or another, and you get a lot of broad experience. But, it can also be frustrating at times when you are working with the same procedures over and over.

Most analytical chemists that I know judge their job satisfaction by how much method development work they get to do. If you are doing 75% routine analytical work but you get 25% totally new and inspiring work on new methods, that may be OK. Everyone has their own mix there.

Dave Jensen, Moderator

Moving into analytical

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 11:00 pm
by John Fetzer
Let me add what will probably be a very long response since I was an industrial analytical chemist for a large company for over two decades. First, the other responses were true to a degree, but overall the field is much more challenging. You will have a huge variety of projects in every part of your company. The development chemists will need to know what is going on in their lab-scale work, then when it gets scaled up to pilot plant size, then to manufacturing. This leads to trace analyses to get regulatory approval (in the US that is FDA, EPA, and OSHA). You get called in on allsorts of plant and product problems, such as off-spec product or low yields in a plant. If the problem is recurring and has a big economic impact, you are involved in problem solving of a more fundamental sort - I have three patents on projects of that sort. In many instances you are teams made up of engineers, sales or other people and your role is to be The Chemist.

As far as supervision, team leading, and managing, a large company has several analytical labs specializing in each area - chromatography, mass spectrometry, atomic spectrometry, and so on. You can run one of those and later move into running several as a group or all as a manager of a hundred people woth a multimillion-dollar budget.

In industry there is a greater need for analytical chemists than there are trained ones coming out of universities. Most people doing analytical were organic, inorganic, physical, etc.

Dave's comment is only true if you let yourself get pigeon-holed and obsolescent. Analytical techniques pop up and become very hot. The mass spec techniques like time-of-flight or MALDI are old stuff in the analytical world, as are all the electrophoretic separations. New variations have led to new applications. Over 90 % of the people doing those learned on-the-job. I started out as a GC-MS person in grad school, did HPLC at first in industry, branched out into fluorescence and UV spectrometry, and still expand (I also dabbled in organic syntheses when needed - making unavailable standard compounds, NMR and IR, using an atomic spectrometer as a chromatographic detector and a few other areas. In industry you answer the big-dollar questions however you can.

I could go on and on, but send me a note if you need more.

John