Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Underemployed chemistry grad gets Jon Stewart to ask for a job

From the comments (thanks, Anon!) (and also from someone on Twitter, as I recall), Jon Stewart was helping with an underemployed Boston University B.S. chemistry graduate:
Since graduating in May 2012 with a degree in chemistry, Engel has worked at several part-time jobs, including substitute teaching, running an a cappella workshop at an elementary school in Arlington, Mass., and teaching music in Nicaragua, but hasn’t had much luck landing a full-time position. Influenced by Binyomin Abrams, a College of Arts & Sciences senior lecturer in chemistry, his long-term goal is to teach high school chemistry. 
Currently in the process of applying to graduate schools, Engel estimates he’s applied for dozens of positions across the country in a variety of fields—chemistry, computer science (his minor at BU), music. “It’s been really frustrating, receiving rejections from some places or having my applications ignored,” he says. 
Stewart told Engel he had studied chemistry himself during his first two years of college before switching to psychology. “He said he changed because in chemistry they want the right answer, but in psychology they just want an answer,” Engel says. “Stewart then asked me why I haven’t found a job teaching chemistry yet, saying he was sure there were people looking for a young teacher who’s passionate. Normally his responses to these questions are really short, but we had a dialogue going.” 
Soon after the show’s taping got under way, Stewart made a plea on his behalf in front of millions of viewers, catching Engel by surprise. 
“If your school is currently looking for a chemistry teacher, I want you to call us,” Stewart said to the camera, as he opened Monday night’s show. “I got a guy over here, Boston University, seems smart—could have shaved. He’s a chemistry major, he’s looking for a job teaching chemistry…so if you need a chemistry teacher, contact us, and I will finally get this [expletive] kid out of his parents’ house. That’s what I’m going to do.”
You can watch the first segment here (after the ad, it's basically less than a minute into the show.) Best of luck to Mr. Engel -- and, no, you're not alone by any means. Best wishes to you, and to all of us. 


  1. High School teaching used to be where you went for a job b/c you were unemployed and could not get a job in your field. Seems like things have changed now. I have heard similar things in the area I live; its hard to have a BS in Chem and get a job as a HS teacher nowadays. Also, if you teach public school, they usually start you in the one where everybody wants to transfer out of, because you might have to deflect bullets.

  2. I wonder if he's doing something wrong with his CV or the application process...my wife applied for chemistry teaching positions within a one hour drive of my grad school (about 25-30 applications sent out), and had six job offers by the end of the summer. This was four years ago, so the economy wasn't that different than it is now. For those interested in teaching high school, many states have an online submission that allows you to upload your documents and then apply to a wide range of positions by clicking a button. My wife got only one offer from those postings (none from the teacher fair she went to)...the rest came from schools where she had to drop off/mail in the materials.

  3. Moreover, many states now require some graduate work in *education*- the emergency clause that used to be invoked for math/science is mostly gone due to the huge numbers of very qualified chemists migrating from the abysmal job market in industry....

  4. This raises a rather obvious question that I haven't seen answered yet; does Engel have his teaching credential?

  5. The state we're in (Maryland) has lengthy requirements for teaching in high school. To the point where the easiest way to qualify is to do one of two things: Get a masters in education, or agree to teach 3 years in the worst city schools while at the same time doing the course work for the masters. I'm a PhD working for the government, and my wife just started a faculty position 2 hours from the city I work in. We're looking into me enrolling into that school's MS in education next year, if I can't find a closer job in research. For now, we live halfway and have long commutes.

    1. Is this becoming the norm? Seems more and more likely that you must posses specific skills or jump through so many hoops.

      Baby boomers are retiring and they contribute to workforce participation(>50%)....so you'd think there are more jobs out there opening up...but doesn't show does it? Any comments on that?

    2. First Anon here. First, I'm hearing that Baby Boomers are putting off retirement as long as possible, due to their poor retirement planning. As for teaching requirements, it's becoming the norm. Why should a PhD in chemistry, and experience in a research lab qualify me to teach in High Schools? In fact, not only does my PhD not count toward a teaching certificate, but there are 5 or 6 undergraduate Education and Psychology classes that I'll have to take before the master's program would accept me. It's a solid 18 month committment, counting those classes, before I'd have a chance for a teaching job. Personally, I think it's great that my state values children's education enough to make sure their teachers actually know a thing or two about teaching, beyond the incredibly tenuous "teaching experience" that we all call what we did at TA's in grad school.

    3. Actually, I taught Chem in two HS's without a certfiicate and with a BS in Molecular biology, not Chem. How did I do it? I taught in private schools.

  6. PUI Prof
    If you have an education degree, you can teach chemistry (at least under a provisional certificate), but if you have a chemistry degree you can't teach, unless you take the mind-numbing education classes.

  7. Whoa! I can't believe I only just saw this post, months after that "fateful" show. I'm no longer an underemployed BU grad. I'm now an overstimulated grad student and student teacher. Thanks for the shoutout, Chemjobber!


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20