Monday, April 2, 2012

Mother of unemployed chemistry grad writes into C&EN

I can't believe that I missed this, but thankfully, @fianros caught it in last week's C&EN:
Why Aspire To Science? 
C&EN wasted valuable space in its Feb. 20 issue (page 49). How wonderful that Science Buddies “hope to attract aspiring young female scientists.” I am one of those parents who fell for the advice to encourage my daughter in math and science. She is a 2011 summa cum laude chemistry graduate without a job. She has lowered her expectations considerably and now wonders every day if she made a stupid decision to study chemistry. So do I. 
I feel it is misleading and even deceitful to nurture a budding interest in chemistry these days. There are very few jobs—and a great deal of competition for those that come along. Perhaps this space should have been used to advise “aspiring young female scientists” who are already educated how to get their careers started. 
Thank goodness President Obama plans to throw more money at science education (C&EN, Feb. 20, page 7). That will fix everything! 
By Barbara Flohr
Crosslake, Minn.
It's perfect CJ-bait -- #chemjobs and "STEM shortage" issues rolled into one!

27 comments:

  1. I just can not believe Rudy would publish something like that.

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    1. I loved this letter. I especially loved the first sentence of the second paragraph.

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    2. Uh, because it's C&EN? The place where the editorial policy for years (well, perhaps until the advent of Dr. Gore) has been predicated on the notion that no cost is too little when it comes to increasing numbers of wis?

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    3. @Anon,
      C&EN does a great job of publishing letters to the editor (whether pro or anti) and are to be commended for that.
      That being said, I think all of us want to see a greater dose of "reality" out of the editorial page when it comes to the job situation. In my opinion, they are slowly getting there (perhaps way too little way too late). But that is a different argument than the one you make. Also, it should be noted that C&EN does have really good people (@Bethany being one of them) taking a hard look at the available job numbers. (Again, there is an argument to be made about the quality of these numbers ... but this isn't the argument that you are making).

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    4. @Matt

      Numbers? ACS? Argue? I'm sorry, but if I decide to battle fantasies I'll choose an opponent who's not quite so full of it, I don't know, may be ID people?

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  2. There's the gender/minority angle, too. Is society (via ACS) serving under-represented groups by signalling the wrong message...i.e. that certain careers are better than the data would indicate?

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  3. It would be interesting to know where this girl went to school and what type of job she is looking for/where she would be willing to move to. Northern Minnesota isn't exactly a hotbed of chemistry.

    Good fishing, though.

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    1. It takes about 5 minutes to figure out who the girls is and where she's graduated from.

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    2. Wow, down boy. Just because her mother lives in Northern Minnesota, doesn't mean the student does. Plants and businesses in the Midwest are not exactly stacked on top of each other. Yes, most people expect to drive and often move a lot.

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    3. I personally would quite enjoy a chemistry job in northern Minnesota, with the exception of the summer mosquitoes.

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    4. What chemistry opportunities are there in Frostbite Falls?

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    5. The Twin Cities are less than 3 hours away and are home to a good number of chemical employers. A bit further south is the Mayo Clinic in Rochester if bio/medical was what you were after.

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    6. Aww, CJ, haven't you read John Sandford? Northern Minnesota is a hotbed of crime!

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    7. And most of the movie "Fargo", including the woodchipper scene, took place in Brainerd, only 30 miles away from Cross Lake.

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  4. I'd be curious to hear what people think Ms. Flohr's daughter should have majored in to be guaranteed a job after graduating from college in 2011.

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    1. Ok, question answered - I now know how this letter got published - editors either did not read or could not comprehend it.

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    2. I think you are being a bit disingenuous. Nobody here is arguing that there is a guaranteed job for any particular major. It is one thing to argue that chemistry is no worse than any other major in a recession. I think you would have a tough time finding supporters for your argument, but it is a valid position. There are plenty of fields where Ms. Flohr's daughter would have a much better chance of finding employment, and there is actual data to back that up.

      It is an entirely different thing to argue that the society's persistent drumbeat encouraging more and more students to persue the field of chemistry has not ruined many lives.

      There is record unemployment for chemists, yet we continue to see articles in the CE&N discussing the never ending shortage and whitewashing the real data. There is not a shortage of chemists, we don't need a society that will continue to encourage students to devote their lives to chemistry.

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    3. Accounting. I have many friends that graduated and became CPAs, and all of them have had steady employment ever since. Boring as hell? Yes. Steady? Yes.

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    4. I know a CPA that's unemployed.

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    5. Wow, just A CPA. I know Chemists that are unemployed ;-)

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    6. Instead of chemistry, she should have gone into Engineering, Finance, Business,etc...anything but life/natural science!

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    7. From CNN today:

      http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/03/pf/college/graduates-jobs/index.htm?hpt=hp_t2

      Briefly, the majors highest in demand are engineering, business, accounting, computer science, and economics.

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    8. Technically FurloughedApril 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM

      I would study communications along with computer science and business/economics if I could do it over again. No question about it.

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  5. Her enemployment may be a blessing in disguise. If she graduated Summa Cum Laude, she probably can get into medical or dental school, and will be better off in the long run.

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    1. yes, Summa Cum Laude should get her into med/dental school. Lets hope she doesnt go to chemistry graduate school and dig herself deeper into the hole. LOL, chemistry is whacked!

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  6. I agree wholeheartedly with ac's post above. The constant drumbeat for encouraging even more students to major in chemistry is mind-boggling. When I see one of these articles in C&E News - and there's one of this type every 6-8 weeks - I can't bring myself to read it. I would prefer they not run any more of these. Or at least balance them out with an article entitled "Would you want your son/daughter to become a chemist?"

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