The Department of Chemistry offers and collaborates with multiple programs to ensure that chemistry graduate students have opportunities to explore different career paths, gain authentic experiences, and meet with employers before they graduate.
Professional Development Programs
Graduate students in the Department of Chemistry are encouraged to take full advantage of the many professional development opportunities that the Ph.D. Plus program at UVA provides. For more information, please go to: https://phdplus.virginia.edu/ .
UVA Wise Teaching
This program offers an extensive training and development opportunity focused on the advancement of teaching skills. For students interested in academic positions, this is a tremendous opportunity to develop meaningful teaching experience and to add an impressive credential. The program has been developed jointly by UVA's Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, the Departments of Chemistry at UVA and UVA Wise, UVA's Center for Teaching Excellence, and UVA Wise's Center for Education Excellence and Innovation. One student from UVA Chemistry is selected as the Wise Teaching Fellow to participate in co-teaching of the General Chemistry course and laboratory (UVA Wise CHM 1010/1011) during the Spring semester at UVA Wise. The Fellow receives housing accommodations at UVA Wise as well as salary compensation. The position requires relocation to UVA Wise for the Spring semester.
The Wise Teaching Fellow will obtain training the semester prior to arriving at UVA Wise (Fall semester) as well as during their time in Wise. Pre-internship training will be required through the UVA CTE and UVA Wise CEEI to provide the intern with resources to ensure a mutually beneficial experience for interns, faculty, and students. The intern will participate in a mentoring program alongside first-year faculty, and community engagement activities as part of the undergraduate first-year program at Wise to assist in their development and provide a sense of belonging to the Wise community.While at Wise, interns will assist in a general chemistry lecture section and lab section alongside a UVA Wise faculty member. In accordance with SACS requirements, Interns will not be instructors of record or responsible for independently grading students. The intern and faculty mentor will work together to reflect on and develop the intern’s skills in preparing and presenting lecture materials, engaging undergraduate students in lecture courses, preparing exam materials, and other classroom responsibilities, using the UVA Wise Teacher Education Program “Teaching Internship Manual” as model for evaluation. Thus, this experience will go beyond the typical experience of a traditional TA position in the sciences as the intern will engage in lecture development, presentation of lectures, and preparation of assignments. Interns will also hold regular office hours to provide additional opportunities for students to obtain support in chemistry coursework.During the Fall semester, the Fellow will participate in a series of workshops, led by UVA's Center for Teaching Excellence and UVA Wise's Center for Education Excellence and Innovation, designed to prepare the Fellow for a successful teaching experience. The UVA Wise Chemistry faculty mentor will participate in this preparation and development period. An important aspect of this program is the co-teaching aspect. Thus, the Fellow will work closely with the UVA Wise fauclty member to develop and implement lectures, assess student learning, and manage other aspects of the course.T
A relevant note is that UVA Wise has research resources, and it could be feasible for the Fellow to continue some aspects of her/his research during the semester experience at UVA Wise. If there is interest, this could include working with an undergraduate from UVA Wise on research, but this is not a requirement. The details will depend on the research area.
A statement about UVA Wise's mission and history can be found at: https://www.uvawise.edu/about/our-mission-history
Career-related professional development
UVA Graduate Career Services
The Graduate Arts & Sciences Career Services at the University of Virginia is a centralized resource for all GSAS students. Our purpose is to assist Master’s and PhD students with decision-making and planning for career pursuits within and beyond academe by providing advising services, workshops and other programs, and referrals to up-to-date electronic and print resources. GSAS Career Services actively seeks to develop new resources that can help graduate students make informed career choices and conduct effective job searches.
Career Seminar Series
Started in 2021, the Career Seminar Series aims to provide Chemistry graduate students with opportunities to learn from and connect with Chemistry PhDs who have pursued non-academic careers. Seminars usually last 45 minutes with interactive Q & A sessions and 1-on-1 opportunities to network with the presenter(s) after. Previous speakers have worked for Dow, HemoShear Therapeutics, Contraline, Cerillo, CvilleBioHub, and the British-Embassy in Washington, D.C. Contact Zoe Gehman (email@example.com) for more information.
Started by Professor Robert Gilliard in 2021, ChemRISE is a professional development seminar series aimed at both undergraduate and graduate students. Presenters at the ChemRISE seminars are Chemistry degree holders who have gone on to diverse careers in government research, university administration, patent-law, public policy, entrepreneurship, consulting,publishing, science communication, and much more. Presenters share their experiences in graduate school and their careers and participate in Q & A sessions with students.
UVA ChemSciComm Job and Career Resources
As you approach the end of your time in graduate school, it is important to begin a job search and develop relevant materials to assist in applying. The following links provide information and resources to better assessing your interests and preparing the materials you’ll need to advertise yourself! In particular, ACS Career Services is an excellent starting point, as is developing an effective LinkedIn Profile. Good luck!
How Should I Create a CV and Résumé?: https://phdplus.virginia.edu/sample-app-materials
How Should I Start a Job Search?: https://phdplus.virginia.edu/job-search
ACS Career Planning Tool – Includes Quiz to Identify Possible Careers: https://chemidp.acs.org/
ACS Career Services Consulting: https://www.acs.org/careers/personal-career-consulting.html
ACS Career Services Résumé Review: https://www.acs.org/careers/personal-career-consulting/resume-review.html
How Can I Make a Better LinkedIn Profile?
The Importance of Networking
Networking on the Network: A Guide to Professional Skills for PhD Students , by Phil Agre (excerpted from Why is Networking Important?
The truth is that the world is made of people. People out of communities are like fish out of water or plants out of soil. Research of all kinds depends critically on intensive and continually evolving communication among people engaged in related projects. Networking cannot substitute for good research, but good research cannot substitute for networking either. You can’t get a job or a grant or any recognition for your accomplishments unless you keep up to date with the people in your community. Establishing professional relationships with particular people and involving yourself in particular professional communities will change you: not only will you internalize a variety of interesting points of view, but you will become more comfortable in your writing and speaking because you will be engaged in an ongoing conversation with people you know. And if no community is waiting for you, you will have to go out and build one — one person at a time. This “overhead” can be a nuisance at first, but none of it is terribly difficult once you get some practice and really convince yourself that you cannot sustain your professional life without devoting some time to it.
Finding a Postdoctoral Position
Philip E. Bourne and Iddo Friedberg (PLoS Comput Biol 2(11): e121. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0020121)
You are a PhD candidate and your thesis defense is already in sight. You have decided you would like to continue with a postdoctoral position rather than moving into industry as the next step in your career (that decision should be the subject of another “Ten Simple Rules”). Further, you already have ideas for the type of research you wish to pursue and perhaps some ideas for specific projects. Here are ten simple rules to help you make the best decisions on a research project and the laboratory in which to carry it out.
Rule 1: Select a Position that Excites You
If you find the position boring, you will not do your best work—believe us, the salary will not be what motivates you, it will be the science. Discuss the position fully with your proposed mentor, review the literature on the proposed project, and discuss it with others to get a balanced view. Try and evaluate what will be published during the process of your research. Being scooped during a postdoc can be a big setback. Just because the mentor is excited about the project does not mean that you will be six months into it.
Rule 2: Select a Laboratory That Suits Your Work and Lifestyle
If at all possible, visit the laboratory before making a decision. Laboratories vary widely in scope and size. Think about how you like to work—as part of a team, individually, with little supervision, with significant supervision (remembering that this is part of your training where you are supposed to be becoming independent), etc. Talk to other graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the laboratory and determine the work style of the laboratory. Also, your best work is going to be done when you are happiest with the rest of your life. Does the location of the laboratory and the surrounding environment satisfy your nonwork interests?
Rule 3: Select a Laboratory and a Project That Develop New Skills
Maximizing your versatility increases your marketability. Balance this against the need to ultimately be recognized for a particular set of contributions. Avoid strictly continuing the work you did in graduate school. A postdoctoral position is an extension of your graduate training; maximize your gain in knowledge and experience. Think very carefully before extending your graduate work into a postdoc in the same laboratory where you are now—to some professionals this raises a red flag when they look at your resume. Almost never does it maximize your gain of knowledge and experience, but that can be offset by rapid and important publications.
Rule 4: Have a Backup Plan
Do not be afraid to take risks, although keep in mind that pursuing a risky project does not mean it should be unrealistic: carefully research and plan your project. Even then, the most researched, well-thought-out, and well-planned project may fizzle; research is like that. Then what? Do you have a backup plan? Consider working on at least two projects. One to which you devote most of your time and energy and the second as a fallback. The second project should be more of the “bread and butter” type, guaranteed to generate good (if not exciting) results no matter what happens. This contradicts Rule 1, but that is allowed for a backup plan. For as we see in Rule 5, you need tangible outcomes.
Rule 5: Choose a Project with Tangible Outcomes That Match Your Career Goals
For a future in academia, the most tangible outcomes are publications, followed by more publications. Does the laboratory you are entering have a track record in producing high-quality publications? Is your future mentor well-respected and recognized by the community? Talk to postdocs who have left the laboratory and find out. If the mentor is young, does s/he have the promise of providing those outcomes? Strive to have at least one quality publication per year.
Rule 6: Negotiate First Authorship before You Start
The average number of authors on a paper has continued to rise over the years: a sign that science continues to become more collaborative. This is good for science, but how does it impact your career prospects? Think of it this way. If you are not the first author on a paper, your contribution is viewed as 1/n where n is the number of authors. Journals such as this one try to document each author’s contributions; this is a relatively new concept, and few people pay any attention to it. Have an understanding with your mentor on your likelihood of first authorship before you start a project. It is best to tackle this problem early during the interview process and to achieve an understanding; this prevents conflicts and disappointments later on. Don’t be shy about speaking frankly on this issue. This is particularly important when you are joining an ongoing study.
Rule 7: The Time in a Postdoctoral Fellowship Should Be Finite
Mentors favor postdocs second only to students. Why? Postdocs are second only to students in providing a talented labor pool for the least possible cost. If you are good, your mentor may want you to postdoc for a long period. Three years in any postdoc is probably enough. Three years often corresponds to the length of a grant that pays the postdoctoral fellowship, so the grant may define the duration. Definitely find out about the source and duration of funding before accepting a position. Be very wary about accepting one-year appointments. Be aware that the length of a postdoc will likely be governed by the prevailing job market. When the job market is good, assistant professorships and suitable positions in industry will mean you can transition early to the next stage of your career. Since the job market even a year out is unpredictable, having at least the option of a three-year postdoc fellowship is desirable.
Rule 8: Evaluate the Growth Path
Many independent researchers continue the research they started during their postdoc well into their first years as assistant professors, and they may continue the same line of work in industry, too. When researching the field you are about to enter, consider how much has been done already, how much you can contribute in your postdoc, and whether you could take it with you after your postdoc. This should be discussed with your mentor as part of an ongoing open dialog, since in the future you may be competing against your mentor. A good mentor will understand, as should you, that your horizon is independence—your own future lab, as a group leader, etc.
Rule 9: Strive to Get Your Own Money
The ease of getting a postdoc is correlated with the amount of independent research monies available. When grants are hard to get, so are postdocs. Entering a position with your own financing gives you a level of independence and an important extra line on your resume. This requires forward thinking, since most sources of funding come from a joint application with the person who will mentor you as a postdoc. Few graduate students think about applying for postdoctoral fellowships in a timely way. Even if you do not apply for funding early, it remains an attractive option, even after your postdoc has started with a different funding source. Choosing one to two potential mentors and writing a grant at least a year before you will graduate is recommended.
Rule 10: Learn to Recognize Opportunities
New areas of science emerge and become hot very quickly. Getting involved in an area early on has advantages, since you will be more easily recognized. Consider a laboratory and mentor that have a track record in pioneering new areas or at least the promise to do so.
The authors would like to thank Mickey Kosloff for helpful discussions.
Resources for finding a Chemistry Job
1. Scientific Society Job Databases:
2. Academic Specific Databases
3. Academic Training Opportunities at UVA
The UVA Teaching Resource Center runs a training program on how to prepare for an academic career, Tomorrow’s Professor Today, that may be interesting.
Talk to professors you know in your department and within your field. Ask them if they have any former students in high places at particular places. Could the professor forward your CV to this contact? Often applications are submitted to HR offices of companies so be sure to submit the application in an official manner as well as having your contact forward it along.