Click for next page ( 224

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement

Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 223
CHAPTER VII Career Opportunities and Education in Chemistry Chemistry, as a central science, helps us understand the universe around us, see our place in that universe, and respond to the needs of human society. Further- more, chemistry figures importantly in the economic fabric of our country. Hence, the pursuit of chemistry provides a fulfilling and rewarding career for young people interested in science and in service to humankind. We shall discuss here these career opportunities and the educational pattern associated with chemistry as a profession. CHEMISTRY: AN ACTIVITY OF CREATIVE INDIVIDUALISTS Today's public image of science is still heavily influenced by the reverberating impact of the World War I! Manhattan Project that brought us the atomic bomb and the Apollo Project of the 1960s that let us set foot on the Moon. But embedded in this glamorous, highly organized, and well-publicized setting, there are several scientific disciplines that have somehow maintained the highly personal character- istics of classical human creativity. (How many poets were needed to write Hamlet? How many artists to paint the Mona Lisa? How many scientists to propose relativity?) Chemistry is one of these disciplines. Somehow it has remained an individualistic and highly competitive activity that depends upon prolonged individual initiative and personal creativity. Scientific publications in the field generally involve only two or three authors. Chemistry has remained, worldwide, an innovative "cottage industry" that has been remarkably productive. Its continuing success is shown by the increasing rate of discovery of new compounds (see Chapter I, p. 2), despite the fact that at any given moment the molecules easiest to synthesize have already been made; the harder ones remain. This evidence shows that chemistry in the small project mode is an extremely effective enterprise, both here and abroad. Thus, the term cottage industry describes a highly individualistic and personally creative activity rather than a group one. These characteristics impart a healthy competitiveness and a liberating freedom from accepted dogma. They make chemistry an ideal field in which to nurture a young scientist's originality and initiative. He or she can be intimately involved and in control of every aspect of an investigation, selecting the question, deciding on the approach, assembling and personally operating the 223

OCR for page 223
224 CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND EDUCATION IN CHEMISTRY TABLE VII-1 Employed Scientists and Engineers in Selected Field (1980) Chemical Biological Physicists and Employer Chemists Engineers Mathematicians Scientists Astronomers Business/Industry 86,640 63,710 42,190 39,350 22,400 Academia (Ph.D. 26,940 3,980 52,230 95,240 24,110 Bunting) (7,800) (1,665) (9,140) (28,135) (7,995) Federal 9,075 2,025 12,580 16,160 6,585 government State and local 7,940 1,015 4,985 13,685 1,175 government Other nonprofit 7,660 580 4,510 22,620 3,115 organizations Military 1,560 510 1,190 1,520 590 Other 1,985 580 1,185 1,525 835 Total 141,800 72,400 118,870 190,100 58,810 SOURCES: U. S. Scientists and Engineers 1980, NSF Report No. 82-314, Table B-12. Academic Science: Scientists and Engineers, January 1981. Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation. Detailed Statistical Tables, NSF Report No. 82-305, Table B-5. 1981. Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation. Science, Engineering, and Humanities Doctorates in the United States: 1981 Profile. 1982. Table 1.5A. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences. equipment, collecting and analyzing the data, and deciding on the significance of the results. The contention that chemistry responds to the needs and desires of our society is strikingly verified by the statistics on the number of professional chemists employed by industry. Table VIl-1 compares the number of scientists and engineers employed in various fields. The first line shows that In 1980, business and industry employed almost one and a half times more chemists and chemical engineers than the sum of the mathematicians, biological scientists, physicists, and astronomers. Of course, this pattern is the sum of many individual hong decisions by industnes that exist and survive only if they market products needed by the people of the world. These figures imply that a young person thinking of entering a professional career in the chemical sciences can be assured that there is "somewhere to go." This contrast is equally significant if we look at employment of professional scientists at the Ph.D. or doctoral level. In 1981, business and industry employed 24,320 Ph.D. chemists, more than the sum of Ph.D. mathematicians, biological scientists, physicists, and astronomers combined. This figure indicates that indus- try employed 56 percent of the 43,200 working Ph.D. chemists. (The corresponding percentage for the four disciplines above is 21 percent.) Academic institutions were the next largest employer; in 1981, 14,775 doctoral chemists were so employed, 34 percent of the total. Because of the clear potential for positive economic return from chemical research, the chemical industry invests heavily in its own in-house research. In 1982, the Chemical and Allied Products industries invested about $4.2 billion in corporate research and development, of which about $380 million might be classified as basic research. The rest is applied research and development of new products. These statistics again indicate that research in chemistry pays off in

OCR for page 223
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND EDUCATION IN CHEMISTRY future processes and products used by society. They also show that industnal laboratories furnish an important arena for chemical research. THE BACHELORS DEGREE IN CHEMISTRY (AB OR BS) College preparation for a professional career in chemistry begins with a 4-year degree leading either to a Bachelor of Arts (AB degree) or a Bachelor of Science (BS degree), with a major in chemistry in either case. The former degree tends to place more emphasis on the humanities and to carry somewhat more flexibility. Both of these characteristics are of significant value, as discussed below. Because of the basic character of chemistry and its centrality among the sciences, introductory chemistry classes are not dominated by majors in chemistry but, rather, by students thinking of careers in fields adjacent to chemistry. A knowledge of the atomic makeup of the world around us is a necessity in most advanced courses to be taken by the student entering the health and biological sciences, physics, engineenng, geology, oceanography, and even astronomy. This implies that the course content encountered in the first 2 years of chemistry tends to be general and suited to a wide range of student interest. This is undoubtedly an advantage to every individual taking the introductory courses. One of the problems of modern higher education is the tendency to force specialization too early. The college curriculum should permit easy movement toward more suitable career goals as the student's breadth of experience and maturity provide a firmer basis for these important life choices. Introductory chemistry courses tend to permit such mobility. Of course, the last 2 years of a major in chemistry provide the focus needed to give personal experience with the major areas in chemistry. Laboratory courses occupy a special place in this inductive science, and access to modern instrumentation (in- cluding computers) is a crucial element. These laboratory activities also furnish a fascinating exposure to the challenging puzzles that are day-to-day fare in chemistry, as wed as the colorful changes that take place in flasks and in nature. Next, it is important that the budding scientist be well grounded in the pnnciples that guide a chem~sts's thinking: molecular structure and bonding, based in quantum mechanics, and the delving force for chemical change, based in chemical thermodynamics. Finally, there should be opportunity for participation in undergraduate research. However, it is important to recognize that we are in a penod of increasingly rapid change in which boundaries within science are disappeanng. Each student should ensure that his or her curriculum leaves ample flexibility to engage in studies of adjacent disciplines such as biology, molecular biology, solid-state physics, geochem- istry, and the environmental sciences. Equally important is the need for time reserved for courses in the humaruties. No single remark is heard more often from experienced scientists (and employers) than the observation that ability to communicateto write and to speak clearly is as important as any other component of a scientific education. THE DOCTORAL DEGREE IN CHEMISTRY (Ph.D.) There is no room for doubt that the higher levels of professional activity in chemistry depend directly on the educational experiences embodied in the Ph.D. 225

OCR for page 223
226 CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND EDUCATION IN CHEMISTRY program. The dependence is rooted in the rapid pace of scientific progress over the span of a professional chemist's career. This pace requires ability to cope with and develop new ideas the heart of Ph.D. thesis work in chemistry. Graduate education in chemistry provides a valuable, career-molding interaction with a mature scientist who is working productively at an active research frontier. There is a significant one-on-one aspect to the research director-graduate student interaction. In a highly personalized way, the faculty member win encourage individ- uality and creativity while directing the student toward problems likely to be solvable, interpretable, and significant to the advancement of existing frontiers. As the student matures, he or she assumes more and more responsibility for selecting the next question to be addressed and the experimental approach to be followed, for eliminating obstacles as they appear, and for interpreting results as they are obtained. At the same time, the typical chemistry graduate student will be a member of a group working with the same research director on related problems based on similar experimental and theoretical techniques. This group might include several other graduate students and postdoctoral students. The transfer of ideas and techniques within this peer group is another vital and rewarding part of graduate study in chemistry. Currently, a large proportion of Ph.D. degree recipients continue their educational preparation by conducting one or two years of postdoctoral study at another Univer- sity, a National Laboratory, or in industry. This, too, has become an important part of the chem~st's career development. It lets the student broaden horizons by venturing into a field different from the thesis work, by interacting with other productive researchers at a different locale, and by assuming more complete responsibility for the course of the research program. The combination of close codeg~al collaboration with a research-aci~ve professor, followed by more independent postdoctoral research work, identifies chemistry as an excellent prescription for the encouragement and nurturing of individual creativity in talented young scientists. Chemistry Doctorates in U.S. Education Table VIT-2 shows the number of U.S. degrees awarded in chemistry for the penod 1960 to 1980. It is not to be assumed that most of the Ph.D.s have progressed through the Master's degree; quite the opposite, the M.S. is for many their final graduate degree, usually received 2 to 3 years after the Baccalaureate. The larger fraction of the Ph.D. candidates enter gradu- ate school with a 4-year Bachelor's degree, and they complete the Ph.D. between 4 and 5 years later. Table VIl-2 shows that in recent years about 1/7th of those receiving Bachelor's degrees continue on to receive the Ph.D. For Chemical Engineering this fraction would be I/12th, for Biological Sciences, I/13th, and for Mathematics, 1/27th. The TABLE VII-2 Number of Degrees Awarded in Chemistry, 1960-1980 Masters 17228 17586 27O14 27259 1 7796 1 7733 Year Bachelors 79603 99724 1O7847 1O9721 117107 119446 Ph.D.s 17O48 17301 1 7757 17971 17623 1 9551 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 ~ .

OCR for page 223
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND EDUCATION IN CHEMISTRY larger fraction for chemistry reflects the direct value of and need for graduate education in the chemistry profession. The trend in the annual number of Ph.D. degrees awarded has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Dunng the 1960s, the number of Ph.D.s in chemistry doubled, peaking at 2,200 Ph.D.s in 1970. Then there was a decline that seemed to level off by the end of the 1970s at about 1,500 Ph.D.s per year. Now, it is rising again. These long-range trends are difficult to interpret because they span a penod of complicated demo- graphic, social, and economic changes. They do, however, in- dicate that the decline in Ph.D.s dunng the 1970s has ended, and Ph.D. entry into chemistry is again nsing, presumably in re- sponse to positive career expec- tations. 2 ooo Post-Baccalaureate Educational Patterns for Chemists ~ 1 500 a o 1 000 lo 500 , ~ ~ 1 ~ ~ ~ it. . I l I ~ I 1 965 1 970 1 975 1 980 YEAR , CHEMISTRY _' at_ PHYSICS ~ I 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ,, , Ph.D. DEGREES IN CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS While considerable variation exists, a typical chemistry Ph.D. graduate experience involves three essential ele- ments: teaching, course work, and thesis research. In many graduate schools, teaching is required for one year, sometimes including fellowship holders. The rationale for this element has several components: teaching is a valuable educational experience for the graduate; it helps him or her evaluate an academic career as a career goal, it provides financial support, and it aids chemistry departments in meeting their large role in undergraduate education for related fields. From the point of view of financial support, teaching can thus provide approximately 20 percent of the support usually received by a chemistry graduate student. There are several qualifying steps that may be required for successful completion of doctoral study in chemistry: entrance examinations, course grades, cumulative exam- inations, preliminary examinations, thesis submission, and final defense of thesis. Few schools would use ad of these, and of those used, there is considerable variation in relative importance. Generally, the most significant are cumulative examinations taken during the first 2 years (if used) and the preliminary examination taken dunng the second or third year. Of course, the ultunate completion of Ph.D. study depends upon submission of a suitable research-based thesis. A thesis is a written account detailing substantial research accomplished by the graduate student. Almost always, portions of the thesis are published in the research literature. In addition to payment for teaching duties (as Teaching Assistants or TAs), most chemistry graduate students have either won fellowship financial aid (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, etc.) or they receive Research 227

OCR for page 223
228 CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND EDUCATIONINCHEMlSTRY Assistantship (RA) financial aid ("stipends"). A number of these stipends are supported by industrial grants, but the majority are drawn from federal grants to an individual faculty member to support the graduate students under his or her direction. At the major research universities, essentially ad of the chemistry graduate students receive continuous stipend and tuition support throughout their graduate study. For the national average over the period 1974 to 1980, the best available data indicate that between two-thirds and three-fourths of U.S. doctoral students in chemistry currently receive either TA or RA stipends. CAREER DIRECTIONS A chemistry degree provides entry to a variety of fulfilling and rewarding careers. Many undergraduates choose the chemistry major to obtain a good foundation for employment and/or advanced studies in a variety of adjacent fields. Chemists are needed in such fields as environmental protection, the health sciences (including toxicology), the biological sciences (including genetic engineering), transportation industries (including aviation), and the semiconductor industry. Of course, the chemical industry offers a wide variety of jobs to help it produce and market its products and to help it discover new products needed by the public. A second career goal of great social importance is in teaching. The need for science teachers at the high school and middle school levels is probably greater than in any other teaching area. An individual with a baccalaureate degree in chemistry who goes on to obtain a teaching credential (usually one more year of advanced study) is assured of a choice among teaching jobs. Research is the major career avenue pursued by those who go on to an advanced degree (MA or Ph.D.~. Research in chemistry is camed out in venous arenas: industrial laboratories, private (not-for-profit) laboratories, national or other fed- eral laboratories, and in our Universities and Colleges. Progressively through this sequence, research tends to be increasingly directed toward the fundamental understanding of nature and less toward practical or goal-onented problems. In the United States, more than anywhere else in the world, the most fundamental research is conducted in the Universities, thus coupling the basic research function to the education of the next generation of scientists. Thus, it continuously renews our pool of scientific personnel with young scientists whose thesis research work has probed the edges of our knowledge. SUPPLEMENTARY READING ACS Information Pamphlets "Futures Through Chemistry: Charting a Course," 12 pages, March 1985. "Careers in Chemistry: Questions and Answers," 4 pages, May 1984. "Chemical Careers in the Life Sciences," 18 pages, 1984. "Careers in Chemical Education," 13 pages, Spring 1982. "Graduate Programs in Chemistry," 39 pages, 1983. Pamphlets available from: American Chemical Society Educational Division 1155 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036