Careers In Real Life

Years ago, our local chemical society had several members who volunteered at schools with demonstrations to attract students to chemistry as a profession.  The demonstrations were dramatic with flashes of light, and noise, and smoke, and vivid changes of color in liquids—anything theatrical to grab their attention.  The schools loved to have them.  The teachers loved to have them.  The students loved to have them.  It was a day off for everyone . . . except for the volunteer who at least found it a refreshing change-of-pace.

But if the students thought this was how a career in chemistry would be, they would soon be sadly disappointed. Most liquids are not colored and a flash of combustion would bring the safety team running.  Better they should be given a thick chemistry textbook and told to pour over it all day, everyday, for a week until they came up with suggestions to explain someone else’s mundane observation.  That’s what a career in chemistry is really like, at least for the professionals.  The ones seen actively working  in a lab are technicians.

Most of a chemist’s time is spent in a library pouring over journals and reports.  I assume this is now done in front of a computer screen, but it is still reading.  Spending all day in a library pulling down large bound volumes of Chemical Abstracts was tiring work, despite the snickering of others. Clicking a computer mouse is much faster and easier, but still not for everyone.

And this is not unique to chemistry.  Almost any profession requires lots of continuing book work, and if a student is not comfortable with this, they are unlikely to succeed.  A study once showed the best prediction of success in life is a proficiency in reading and math.  Be good at just those two subjects, and you will be good at almost anything else.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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