By Lori Johnson
Oftentimes, students find themselves struggling to pick a direction to take once they have received their degree. On October 2, 2015, the Chemistry Alumni Board helped to answer some common questions students may have about life after graduation during an informal luncheon with the chemistry graduate students. All graduate students were invited to attend and chat with some alumni board representatives about their respective fields and the paths they took to get there. There were four alumni board members in attendance: Peter Nickias ‘87, Amy Wong ‘94, Jeff Lomprey ‘93 and Hugh Huffman ‘72. Together these individuals represented the wide spectrum of options students may choose from upon entering the workforce.
A large portion of the discussion gravitated towards being a post-doc, and if that was necessary and valuable or if a young scientist could be accepted directly into the workforce. Peter Nickias, who works at Dow Chemical, made a point to note that for him, it was more about a scientist’s trajectory than if they had a post-doc. Others made comments on the importance of a post-doc, and the valuable experience and opportunities that may accompany them. The students also asked questions about the difference between national labs and academic labs as far as being a post-doc. Amy Wong, who works for Los Alamos National Laboratory, was able to speak to this and discussed some of the perks that accompanied working at a national lab, as well as some of the reasons it may not be suited to some individuals.
Naturally, the discussion progressed to job readiness. This included everything from tips on handling resumes and cover letters, to basic advice about maintaining a good image and reputation. Jeff Lomprey, who is a patent attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP, gave a good tip for making sure a resume is reviewed. His suggestion was that the students attempt to make a contact at the organization they’re interested in. If they are able to do that, then they have a direct line for their resume; this is often more effective than hoping someone in HR likes the key words that would pass the resume to the next level. The alumni also stressed the importance of soft skills. Hugh Huffman, who worked at Exxon Mobil prior to his retirement, praised the seminar program at UK for its ability to develop strong communication skills alongside solid technical skills. The alumni also gave some tips from the interviewer’s side, and recommended that the students look up Dennis Guthrie’s broadcast “Secrets from the other side- What Recruiters know that you don’t.”
Overall, it was a successful and informative event. This was the second year the Alumni Board hosted a discussion similar to this, and they hope to make it an annual occurrence. The Department of Chemistry is fortunate to have such strong ties to its alumni, which provides their students with unique opportunities to develop into excellent professionals.