Kerri Smith is a graduate student and a job seeker; she tweets as @LCMSMS. Since I don't get to chat with very many analytical chemists, I thought I would ask her a few questions. (This e-mail interview was formatted by Chemjobber and checked by Kerri for accuracy.)
CJ: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
KS: I am a senior graduate student in analytical chemistry with Ph.D. focus on small molecule quantitation and protein-ligand interaction characterization by mass spectrometry. My work has been applied to preclinical studies of anticancer compounds, forensics detection of illicit drugs, as well as investigation of new combination antibiotic therapies. Besides chemistry, I make my own jewelry as well as enjoy a night out dancing to melodic house music.
CJ: What kind of position are you looking for in your job search?
KS: I would like to join a company that values and fosters creativity. I really enjoy troubleshooting in method development and mass spec in general, but have a passion for experimentation and trying new things in any application. I am a hands-on learner, so I really enjoy working in the lab.
CJ: What do you wish people knew about analytical chemistry and the instruments you work with?
KS: I wish that people realized that with a little determination, they too could run and get meaningful data from a mass spectrometer. Electricity, ionization, and liquid chromatographic separation may be the stuff of magic at first, but after some critical thinking and experimentation, one realizes that they are somewhat predictable. I have had undergraduate students that were so baffled by how a gas chromatography – mass spectrometer instrument worked, that they couldn’t get past the mental block of ‘how’ so they could ‘do.’ I always tell people that you can’t you can’t learn to cook by wondering about it, so how do you expect to truly understand mass spectrometry without touching a mass spectrometer? I’ve actually told people that they were thinking too much; they needed to get away from the computer and get to work on the bench. Mass spectrometry is a “doing” science. Yes you use your brain, but you have to eventually get up and ‘do’ to know what question to ask about your analysis next.
CJ: What do you wish synthetic chemists knew about mass spec?
KS: Not all organic solvents are electrospray ionization-compatible. If we can get the sample in a rather "benign" alcohol or even add ethyl acetate, the analyte might just ionize perfectly. Regardless, there is always a way to get the analysis done.
CJ: What are you hearing from your friends and colleagues about the job market that you're interested in?
KS: Unfortunately, I am hearing that the job market is somewhat volatile and unpredictable at the moment. I have a friend who was laid-off three times, but fortunately found a new position within the same company, in the last two years. I originally considered this friend’s field first, but now I am having second thoughts. I want a career, not just a job. As I am graduating soon, I find myself searching harder and harder for a permanent-type position.
CJ here again. Best of luck to Kerri and thanks for a great interview!