Monday, June 30, 2014

The good old days

I wonder if C&EN should have a routine feature of industrial chemists talking about days gone past. This letter to the editor by David Rorabacher is a nice example:
...Having enjoyed both high school biology and physics, I became a biophysics major in college and, as such, finally took an introductory chemistry course as a sophomore. There I was turned on as much by the glassware and equipment as by the chemistry itself. By the end of my junior year, I concluded there were more job opportunities in chemistry than in biophysics or biology and changed my major. I took three chemistry courses with labs each semester of my senior year. After graduation, I was hired by Ford Motor Co. and given responsibility for solving real problems in various manufacturing plants, meeting occasionally with plant managers, and so on. This heady experience led me to claim that “I didn’t know I wanted to be a chemist until I was one.” 
Subsequently, as a Ph.D. student at Purdue University, I was exposed to the challenge of fundamental research, which led me to a 43-year career in research and teaching at Wayne State University. I encountered many students who became enthusiastic about chemistry during their undergraduate years, particularly those who engaged in real research projects. For me, an ideal 21st-century chemistry set would provide materials that students can apply to their everyday environment. Even the best-designed canned experiments will not always excite an inquiring mind. 
David Rorabacher
Traverse City, Mich.
I wonder if Ford hires B.S. chemists anymore? And if they do, whether or not they give them as much responsibility as Dr. Rorabacher seemed to have? Neat story.  


  1. Someone in the natural sciences describing one positive job experience after another, full of positive interactions with others in their field, is completely alien to me.

    For me I'll be happy if someone pays me 1/2 of what Im worth and everybody else just leaves me alone, since they cant really help me anyway.

    In the words of The Cars: "I'm America's misfit kind, still wondering what I did...."

  2. Having gone to grad school both before (unsuccessfully) and after (successfully) working in an industrial position, any position, i think that would help a lot of grad students either know whether they want to do it or not; accept the position as something other than an extension of their undergrad halcyon days; as well as give some experience with actual lab safety.

    Still, the problem is it's easier to get into grad school then a job, it seems.

  3. The Good Old Days weren't always good, and tomorrow aint as bad as it seems....

    -W. Joel