This fall, Chemistry and Biochemistry students from UM-Flint were invited to visit Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, for a unique opportunity to tour facilities and meet with chemists and researchers.
Throughout the day the students walked through labs filled with state-of-the-art equipment for research, development, and production; they met with Dow employees from several different areas who shared their career experiences; and they were able to have a question and answer session with a panel of scientists. The Dow employees talked about the ways in which their backgrounds and education prepared them for work in the field, and addressed some of the roles and responsibilities chemists and chemical companies have in the world.
The students learned about equipment ranging from robots to electron microscopes and x-ray diffractor instruments to can-coaters. They received demonstrations from the equipment operators and learned about their applications in everyday products like soda cans and paint.
Assistant Professor Dr. Matthew Fhaner, trained as an analytical chemist, had this to say about the visit: “I never had any experience like this during my undergraduate education. Having the ability to see industry professionals at work and learning about the positive impacts of their efforts left the students excited about their education and future possibilities. Continuing to partner with industry peers such as Dow Chemical will be an important contribution to our department and program’s future growth.”
During the lunchtime discussion, the students heard about the varied tracks employees had taken throughout their chemistry careers. One researcher told the students that what they learned during their undergraduate experience was very important, although they may not be interviewed just for specific skills. He suggested that they think of their overall education and asked, “Are you learning what it takes to be a good scientist?”
The employees talked about the wide variety of jobs that Chemistry graduates can find, noting “even our marketers have [science] backgrounds.”
One student asked an employee what the best part of his career had been. He responded, “Inventing whatever you want it to be” and added that he enjoyed the flexibility to change or maintain his role as he wished.
The day ended with the scientists giving career advice that was both inspiring and practical:
“It’s all about developing the ability to learn.”
“Follow your interests and allow them to change. Focus on your problem solving skills, communication and networking, learning to ask questions. Be flexible and adaptable.”
“Pay attention to why you enjoy certain aspects of what you’re doing. Use that to shape your career.”
“The more you can articulate what you can bring to the table and your enthusiasm — the better off you’ll be.”
“Don’t be afraid to take control of your career.”
“Communication and collaboration will be key anywhere you work — you will likely be talking to people in and out of the industry.”
“There is always something to learn.”
For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UM-Flint, and the ways in which they prepare young chemists for successful futures, visit umflint.edu/chemistry.