CFCs: Confessions of a former chemist


[Editor’s note: over the next few months we will feature guest bloggers from a range of backgrounds and hopefully some of these posts will turn into regular series… first up is Mushy, a former chemist who has left it all behind for the bright lights of the City!]

Posted on behalf of Mushy:

My name is Mushy, and I am a recovering chemist – it’s been over 6 years since I ran my last chromatography column. I have been asked to write on the Sceptical Chymist every now and then to give the views of an ex-chemist.

After completing a PhD in supramolecular chemistry in the US, and following a rather meandering job path, the undisputed highlight of which was months of unemployment, I now work in IT in the City of London.

After finishing Uni, I was certain that I didn’t want to work in chemistry. I had something of a long job search, most of which was spent mired in a Catch-22 where I was not qualified for the jobs which I wanted, and the only jobs for which I was qualified, I didn’t want. In spite of a few negative experiences with – sour grapes notwithstanding – short-sighted companies which only wanted people with very specific degrees, nothing could be further from the truth. The skills I learned as a chemist – the methodical approach, the empiricism, the confidence, the flawless proff-reading – have served me well in an industry in which I had no experience at the outset.

I suppose that that’s where I’ll start summing up my inaugural post.

At work, I’ve never been asked to explain a [4+2] cycloaddition. The astrophysicists have never been asked their opinions on the Hubble constant. The chemical engineers have never become embroiled in heated debates about theoretical plates. The molecular biologists have never orated on the pros and cons of gel electrophoresis. The people who studied golf course management – well – they didn’t get the job. What we all do use every day of our working lives, though, is the thought process that got us into science in the first place, and the excitement of finding out new facts and methods. That’s the most transferable of all skills.

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