Monday, May 6, 2024

C&EN: Survey indicates the most desired skills for entry-level chemistry from industrial chemists

Also in this week's C&EN, this very interesting news about a survey (and J. Chem. Ed. paper by Hamilton, Castillo and Atkinson) (article by Krystal Vasquez): 

...To answer this question, Hamilton and his colleagues surveyed chemists from 80 chemical-related companies. The researchers found that professionals want chemists with bachelor’s degrees to have some expertise in mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, gas chromatography, ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, and infrared spectroscopy (J. Chem. Educ. 2024, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.3c00990).

They also value chemists that have good communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

The researchers then compared their survey results to existing literature about instrumentation and other skills being taught in undergraduate courses. Hamilton says that most undergrad lab courses do “a decent job” of giving students access to most of these top-five instruments. “But I think we could definitely be doing a better job.”

It's not surprising that LC and GC are up there, but I'm a bit surprised that mass spec is up there as well. What is weirder to me is that basic maintenance was not a skill set (sub skill set?) that was not called out in the article and/or the survey results. Nevertheless, it sounds like there wasn't a lot of data out there about this, so this is really great that the authors put together this survey. 

(...why doesn't ACS do this?...) 


  1. "why doesn't the ACS do this?"

    If it's a useful skill for them to help communicate, then I would flip it to say "why WOULD the ACS do this?"

  2. Being an optical spectroscopist, I'm rather surprised. I get the sense that, in my company at least, we're a dieing breed.

  3. Basic maintenance and troubleshooting are more important than anything else. I know a lot of people are trashing the younger generation excessively, but parents today are depriving kids of troubleshooting skills when they swoop in and solve every problem for them.

    I expect that a new BS grad chemist can be trained on any instrument. A list of instruments on their resume is usually instruments they ran once or twice in a lab course rather than one they used routinely in undergrad research and have good familiarity with.

  4. Seems like demand for analytical chemists is on the rise. Guess organic synthesis isn't highly valued these days.

    1. When I was in grad school in the early 2000's, the ultra-competitive Type A personalities gravitated toward organic synthesis. Can anyone comment on the current situation? I'm guessing that with the demise of lucrative pharma jobs, synthesis is losing its appeal.

      Most of my undergrad chemistry classmates who got jobs rather than continuing to grad school ended up in pharma. This was right at the end of the good times in the pharma industry.


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