Articles by: boyie

Out and about

So let me tell you all of a story. Back in undergrad, there was someone who was in the closet as a chemist. There was no one else he could really look up to as there weren’t many out and about chemists,even though he went to a very liberal school. He tried to remain in the closet, but eventually came out to his friends and was accepted right away (as they pretty much had a feeling anyway). Now this person’s undergraduate research advisor was well, not that accepting and there was lots of drama. Too much drama really. Eventually fired from his position (for a really bullcrap reason) and after almost losing a summer fellowship due to comment by former advisor, he went back into the closet even though word had spread and had become a bit ostracized in the department.

Years later this undergrad would go to grad school. Again, he came out to a few folks when starting. But it didn’t last long as the department which was said to be quite friendly to the LGBT community seemed as such in the beginning. However, there would be more drama later on and decided to pursue other avenues instead of chemistry.

Alas, that is my story. Sure I’ve been writing here for a while, but there’s a reason why I decided to go an alternative career route instead of traditional chemistry. Considering I have had people try to change who I am, and the way I live, I have decided to leave academia for a bit. Might I return? Who knows, but alas, I am a jaded and cynical chemist now.

It surprises me that as liberal and as open minded many chemists are socially and even fiscally, the topic of LGBT scientists still causes some squickyness amongst their peers. There are far too many gay grad students and undergrads who are in fact scared. Sure there may be some places with out faculty (though my grad school only had them at lecturer positions), the heterohegemony still remains a strong force in academia. The program Safespace can only do so much, as even students who I knew were bi-curious/questioning/gay/lesbian/transgendered didn’t feel comfortable talking to various faculty members who had the stickers.

Then there’s also the GLBT scientists groups.  Sure, they exist,but there are no real open member directories. Why? How can young struggling scientists talk with someone who already went through what they are going through now? Where is the support structure? How can you find someone else who shares your struggles? In the end, some students just feel alienated and go through their struggle alone and sometimes even dropout of programs.

While younger chemists are more accepting, trying to get a career in industry or academia is very difficult. When applying for fellowships, I asked, should I come out? No one told me to come out.  In fact, everyone I spoke with said that the statement would detract from my application and would probably cost me a fellowship.

I followed their advice begrudgingly. I got a fellowship. But at what price? To not be true to myself in the lab setting and to constantly worry in the back of my mind wondering who might know or suspect and what would they do about this information?

So now I am out and about. I’m looking for new avenues to continue my career path. Hopefully one day, chemistry will be as open to the GLBT community as it is to other minorities.

That’s all.

By November 24, 2009 14 comments Uncategorized

The Periodic Table Song! Memorize them all and win the Nobel Prize!

There was a post on another blog that talked about the elements. It seems the same thing is going on in Japan. There’s an anime called Element Hunters where a bunch of kids have to find the various elements for some reason. I really havent watched beyond the first episode, but it’s actually quite amusing and it teaches chemistry! Really, it TEACHES chemistry in a way little kids can understand it. So.. I give you the closing song (it’s in Japanese with subtitles, but when they give you the elements to memorize, you’ll know the words then). As the series progresses, there are more elements so if you put all the songs together, you’ll know the entire periodic table!

Element Hunters Closing 1

Edit: Various other topics they talk about in the upcoming episodes.. superconductivity, carbon nanotubes, Bose-Einstein condensates, magnetism, paramagnetism, and superfluidity with Helium II. I’m serious, this is a kid’s show. I am in love.

By September 16, 2009 2 comments Uncategorized

Like Natalie Imbruglia’s One Hit Wonder, I’m Torn

So it’s been a while since my last entry, but grad school has eaten me up. But over the past several months, I have been getting seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. No, I’m not talking about industry, I’m talking about another entity entirely.. the world of intellectual property law.

OMGWTFBBQ? That’s probably your response right now, but as someone who has been rather myopic in my career path due to academe being the only thing I know, (and me not really feeling like a perfect fit in industry), the seductive path of law school is in the way.

One of the things I have learned through informational interviews with my local alumni is that law schools LOVE technical backgrounds and patent law is one of the hottest and fastest growing fields at the moment. Of course, things are cyclical which means it might not be great later, but the past 5 years has seen tremendous growth.

There are lots of other scientists going to the other side, but here’s my dilemma…

There are firms that offer patent agent programs to seduce scientists to law. What is this patent agent program? You work at a firm (with zero to little experience in law) and get trained as you work. You get paid a great salary (think average 2.5 to 4 times the highest grad student stipend depending on where you go), with amazing benefits (401k plan, full medical/dental/vision benefits, etc), get to work in a fancy office, feel like a real world adult, get to dress up in fancy clothes and get trained. After a year, you’re probably ready for the patent agent exam, and if you pass, said firm will offer tuition reimbursement if you attend law school.

Yes, they’ll pay for expensive law school. Then you go back to the firm as a full J.D/(M.S. or PhD) as well, get promoted and commit for a few years, then you can go around to other firms as well!

So what’s a chemist to do? I do love research and academe, but my pragmatic side is telling me to join the dark side.

I know I’m not the first to be seduced, and I definitely won’t be the last! Intellectual property law, when it concerns chemistry, is actually quite fascinating. It’s like being a grad student with all the reading, researching and writing you have to do, but you get paid way more and you’re not inhaling chemical fumes. It’s another career path available out there for grad students in chemistry, and I know I hadnt considered it before and just recently learned about it, so I’m throwing it out there, so like me, perhaps your blinders can be taken off and you might consider more options post PhD!

That’s all! I’ll let y’all know what I do in the coming months! For now I have lots of thinking to do.

By September 1, 2009 7 comments chemical education, opinion

Adopt a Chemist

In the spirit of Web 2.0 I’ve been inspired by the SPS (Sigma Pi Sigma) Adopt a Physicist. I was wanting to do something like this except for chemists, so I’m looking for chemists who wouldnt mind being ‘adopted’ by local high school chemistry classrooms so that they can ask questions about careers, chemistry, etc. I think the Chemistry Forum might be a good way to do this, but who knows, I’m just throwing this idea out there.

Here’s what the Adopt a Physicist is…we should do the same thing…or at least try to?

Adopt-a-Physicist connects high school physics students to people with bachelors degrees or higher in physics via online discussion forums. Through their interactions, students can find out about the careers, educational backgrounds, and lives of current physicists.
Adopt-a-Physicist Goals

* Expose high school physics students to the range of careers open to people with degrees in physics.
* Advance the dialogue between the physics and the high school education communities.
* Introduce physicists and teachers to the ComPADRE network and its resources.

Project Summary

Download the Program Packet

Physicists and students interact through discussion forums for a three-week period. Before the three week period begins, the physicists and classes (via the teachers) each create a brief introduction page. After registration closes, teachers choose some physicists for their classes to interact with, preferably from different career categories.

The physicists each host a discussion forum where students dialogue with them about careers, educational level, current projects, and other topics of interest.

This structure lets students interact with physicists and learn first-hand what people with degrees in physics are doing. In addition to dialoguing with their assigned physicists, students can also read conversations between other physicists and students.

Registered teachers will receive an Adopt-a-Physicist Teacher’s Guide that provides practical suggestions for implementing Adopt-a-Physicist in the classroom and suggested student assessments.

Adopt-a-Physicist is a service provided by Sigma Pi Sigma (ΣΠΣ), the physics honor society, in collaboration with the American Physical Society (APS), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), and ComPADRE. It is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the American Physical Society Campaign for Physics. Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of ΣΠΣ, APS, AAPT, or the supporting institutions.
The Adoption Process

* Registration: Physicists and teachers register and create a profile. This requires a ComPADRE login. ComPADRE accounts are free, require only a name and email address, and give the registrant access to all ComPADRE resources. Further information such as school/employer and contact information is required for Adopt-a-Physicist, but will not be used for any other purpose.
* Physicists Adopted: Once registration has closed, teachers can search the profiles of registered physicists (by career, research area, degree level, etc.) and sign up their classes for discussion forums. Registered teachers will be notified when it’s time to choose their physicists.
* Discussion Forums Open: Students and physicists dialogue over the three week period that the forums are open. Teachers are encouraged to monitor the discussions.
* Discussions Archived: The discussion forums close after a 3-week period; however transcripts of the conversations are archived and will remain accessible.

By April 2, 2009 6 comments chem 2.0