A reader we'll call "W.O." writes in to ask a few questions about getting a bachelor's-level position as a synthetic chemist:
1. What kind of skills are expected of an incoming B.S. chemist? What keywords are needed on one's resume?
2. What kind of skills will make a resume float to the top of the pile?
3. Do employers look at classes that you're taking or you're going to be taking?
4. Do I have to worry about competing with more experienced and/or more educated (M.S.) chemists?
Here are my answers:
1. I would expect a B.S. synthetic chemist to be able to competently synthesize, isolate, purify and characterize organic molecules. I would also like some ability to search the literature for reaction conditions.
2. Things that I would be impressed by:
- Publications (no matter how humble) where the student was a participating author
- Able to plan chemistry, troubleshoot reactions or identify alternate synthetic routes
- Able to work with others (i.e. a recommendation from a mentor in the lab.)
3. No, I don't really think employers care about coursework. But maybe I'm wrong.
4. No, I don't think new B.S. chemists have to worry about competing with more senior chemists. You're going to be expected to be somewhat competent at the bench, be able to learn and follow directions and be able to work independently just a little. That's a different skill set than I'd expect out of a more experienced chemist. Assuming that the relevant job posting desires new B.S. chemists, that's what they're looking for.
Beloved readers, collectively you've got much, much, much more wisdom and experience than I do. What would you tell "W.O."?