Monday, September 20, 2010

Does chemistry make you happy?

"Ryan Bingham: Your resume says you minored in French Culinary Arts. Most students work the frier at KFC. You busted tables at Il Picatorre to support yourself. Then you got out of college and started working here. How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?

Bob: Twenty seven thousand a year.

Ryan Bingham: At what point were you going to stop and go back to what made you happy?" - from "Up in the Air"
The other day, I watched "Up in the Air"; for those of you who don't know, it's a movie about a man (Bingham, played by George Clooney) who flies around the country meeting with people who are about to get laid off. Despite the rather cruel job, he's quite humane about it.

Contra the above exchange, someone paid me a lot less to go to graduate school and chase my dream. To be stereotypical, I think Hollywood is full of people who feel a tad guilty and smug that they get to do what they like, while the rest of America slaves away in a cubicle or stands behind a cash register. But this guy (two thumbs pointed at me) mostly loves what his hands have been doing for the past ten years or so. While I might wish to change some details of my working situation (and who doesn't?), I like my job and the people I work with a lot. I don't find myself daydreaming about what I might do if I won the lottery.*

I'm sure that, for some, chemistry is 'just a job'; however, I've mostly met other people who really like chemistry too. It's really sad that, in our tough time, chemists can't find jobs doing what they love.

So here's to chemistry, a job that makes me happy. I hope it makes you happy, too.

*I don't play the lottery.


  1. I saw this movie about a week after being fired on moments notice. Poignant and funny.

    Pursuing the dream: when I was young I thought there will be a reaction one day named after me or a reagent that everyone loves to use that i came up with. Now (some decades later), I would settle for working on a drug project that has made it all the way to the approval. But not for a big pharma.

  2. I love chemistry. However, the current job outlook reminds me of something said by the
    Rolling Stones.

    You can't always get what you want
    You can't always get what you want
    You can't always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes you might find
    You get what you need

    Many chemists I know are currently struggling to get what they need and not for lack of trying.

  3. What field is doing wonderful these days?

    Bankruptcy attorney?

    If you gave me a job tomorrow that would double my salary, with 80% the hours, responsibility and work load, (and preferably non sexually exploitative), I would probably jump at the chance. I'm just as hungry, broke, overworked, lonely and in debt as the next young chemist of our age. Yet when I take glimpses of the big picture, I can't think of anything else we should be doing. Well ... Accountants aren't hungry these days, maybe nurses.

    I like chemistry, because it struck me as a blue color smart job. You get to work with your hands and craft things, but also be smart as well.

    It just saddens me that my (and perhaps many others) unsatisfied human needs are tainting my passion for a science that is essential to perpetuating our modern society.

  4. Don't daydream about winning the lottery? If you like chemistry so much, wouldn't you want to be able to set up your own lab and be your own boss?


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