Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alternative careers in chemistry: information science

This week's chapter in "Nontraditional Careers in Chemistry"* is about information science. The chapter covers an academic librarian, an industrial librarian/document manager and a CAS database manager among others. It's the latter who speaks below -- after getting his B.S. and six years in industry, Val decided to get his Ph.D. What happened next:
Upon receiving his doctorate, Val again responded to an advertisement from CAS, this time for a full-time position located in Columbus, Ohio. While this appeared strange to his colleagues, including his PhD advisor, Val already had experience in laboratory, industry and university positions and had concluded that he would most enjoy a desk job related to chemical information. "The bottom line is that I never felt comfortable in the laboratory or in the plant, and my disposition was basically to have a desk job. Yet, the chemistry training and practice was essential to my success in the chemical information field." 
It appears, from all the different people profiled in the chapter, that a basic chemistry background (B.S./M.S.) is very helpful; if you're going to work in an academic library, I'm guessing that a Master's of Library Science is going to be important too.

Gotta say, I do feel comfortable in the plant and in the laboratory and have always felt a little bit guilty about time spent at my desk. Nonetheless, I absolutely would love the idea of being a chemistry information specialist. Wait, I get to find and read papers all day? Where can I sign up?

*Again, my copy was generously provided by the author, Dr. Lisa Balbes. Thanks! 


  1. Ahhhh... exactly how many job opening appear a year for chemical information science (excluding CAS)?? A handful at best- me thinks not such a good option!

  2. Judging by some of the grad students i've seen a lot of people have an "inclination for a desk job." They just may not be ready to admit it to themselves.

  3. I'm just starting down this career path after finishing my PhD in chemistry. My focus is on research data management (especially important now that NSF requires a data management plan with every grant proposal), but jobs like 'patent searcher' also fall under the information science umbrella.

  4. Kristin, if you're interested in talking about this, e-mail me at chemjobber -at- gmaildotcom.

  5. I have applied sincerely as an (over)qualified applicant for CAS positions five times in the last four years to receive one boilerplate acknowledgment per app. Phantom jobs? HR games? On the other hand, CAS will give you free calendars for the asking.

  6. When I was looking for a job out of school, I did apply with CAS. I wound up having a "pre-interview" with the interviewer where the basics of the job were explained and I was asked if I thought I could be happy out of the lab. I decided no, as I didn't want to get off the bench at the time. I still might wind up going this way, though I think I'd probably try switching from synthetic to analytical first and see if I like that better.

    I like doing organic chemistry, but there are definitely times I wish it was a hobby and not a job.


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