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Decision Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 2:04 pm
by Will
Hello everyone,

I'm a senior chemistry student at a large public research institution. I have an almost perfect GPA (3.95/4.0) and for the last two years I have worked in a chemical biology lab. My primary experience has been with development of a NMR assay for kinetic chracterization of an enzyme. I have also done a lot of kinetics work, including inhibitor characterization. I have experience with expressing and purifying proteins in both eukaryotic and prokaryotic expression systems and basic site-directed mutagenesis. I love science, and want more than anything to have a successful career in a scientific discipline.

After reading this message board, you guys have terrified me to the point that I am thinking about possible alternate careers(despite being in my last year of undergrad!). I have applied to graduate school at several top institutions and feel that I have a competitive chance of getting in. I will have the Summer of 2006 off right now, and want to know if it would be prudent to try and find an internship at a biotech/pharmaceutical company or stick to the academic research. I don't care very much whether my ultimate career ends up in industry/government/academia, I just want to do science, have a family and live an enjoyable life.

If the internship is a good idea, can you guys point me in the direction of the types of companies where I might have a chance of getting a summer position. I also have some limited experience with programming (1 year of java programming classes).

Thank you all for the information you post here. At my institution(including me) there is never any talk of career development for undergraduates in chemistry.


*Decision* Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 2:07 pm
by Will
Sorry for the typo in the heading (wishes there was an edit post/preview function on this board!)


Decison Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 2:17 pm
by P.C.
A lot of the problems discussed on this board are relative to life science .
Chemists may not have so so many problems with over production of Phds..
But you should probably approach the professors you know directly to get a better feel of that field.

*Decision* Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 3:38 pm
by Karl
Hello Will,

please don't be to discouraged by this board. Most of the complains found here apply to life sciences. I'm a life scientist myself so I can't give you an outlook for career prospects in the chemical sector, but my general impression is that it is much more favorable than in the life science sector.

However do consider other career alternatives - don't be blinded by admission offers to prestigous school and/or a drive to make your supporting undergraduate professors happy. This is your life and commiting to graduate school is a big decision.

Maybe you would be happier with a professional degree? MD JD or PhmD? Think seriously about your future and what's most important to you - financial stability and the prospects of starting and supporting a family or taking the risky way and choosing a scientific career.

Good luck with the decision - don't hurry it!



caveat emptor

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 3:45 pm
by Karl
There's a lot of useful information about science careers on the web - let me recommend to you three essential ones:

Not Your Father's Postdoc by Benderly B..something (published in this mag some time ago)

Thanks for the postdoc bargain by Richard Freeman [a Harvard econ prof] (dito but also in a big useful special adressing the postdoc production in the science careers journal)

Supply and Demand somewhere in Science some time aga by Donal O'Kennedy Science Editor

and finally Don't become a Scientist by Prof. Katz (kind or weird and over the top but kind of hit the nail on the head)

I recommend you reading all this articles before embarking on another 5-7 years of grad school and 4-5 years of postdoc.

Good Luck!


Decison Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 4:52 pm
by Kelly
I was a chemist with emphasis in physical chemistry; my friends that remained in chemistry tell me it is worse in terms of jobs in the physical science than biological sciences. This is likely because biomedical can go into undergraduate and medical schools for academics and there are more biotech opportunities.

One of my best friends took his "first" job with a drug company with the idea of moving on and never has been able to get out of MI (he was analytical). Another friend of mine was in organic and he has bounced around thru a couple of high profile spice making companies and scent making companies. About the only place worse in terms of jobs in bio- or physical science is the humanities.

No career is a sure thing but in my opinion in a PhD of any type there is more risk, longer time in training and less assurance of anything. There are better degrees in terms of time to real job and real life.

I really don't advocate people doing PhD UNTIL we do significant reform on the training mechanism. That's what will send the message: when people recognize that it is sufficiently exploitative that we must refuse to participate.

This is why I do not take graduate students. Noncompliance works wonders.


PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 5:02 pm
by Kim
My PhD is in enzymology. I did kinetic studies of enzymes with UV/Vis, rapid kinetics, fluorescence and NMR spectroscopy. Enzymologists are generally considered to be biochemists, not chemists. I did relaxation and steady state kinetics. But you probably only have done steady state kinetics because you are using NMR.

If you are interested in your current enzymology research, I suggest you to find a lab that does high throughput enzyme screening or protein engineering.

Decison Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 5:51 pm
by Lindsey
An undergraduate student these days should not go to graduate school unless they really have a love and passion for a subject. Don\'t go if you are not sure if you want to get a PhD or not.

*Decision* Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 5:57 pm
by Dave Jensen
Will said, "Sorry for the typo in the heading (wishes there was an edit post/preview function on this board!)"

Will, of course there is. You have to be a registered user to use it. Often, people who are unregistered are just floating through. Generally they don't have the incentive to sign up because they only want a question or two answered, and then they are gone. However, it only takes about 15-30 seconds, and you can remain anonymous. You are allowed to put up your own personal page, photos, details, etc, in order for others to give you guidance that is more meaningful because they know a bit more about you. Please, sign up. Totally confidential, and you can edit your posts!

Dave Jensen, Moderator

*Decision* Time for an Undergraduate (Help!)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 6:35 pm
by Will
All of the responses are about as morbid as I imagined they would be. Depressing state of affairs...

-Will(now registered)