How did you get your current job? - and/or- Why did you choose this graduate program?:
After applying to graduate programs (all targeting Ph.D. programs in chemistry departments with a focus on inorganic / materials chemistry), I obtained offers of admission from 4 top-tier programs in the U.S. I visited all of the schools. At Penn State, I had a great conversation with Ray Schaak (who is now my research advisor) and his group, and was particularly impressed by the shared materials characterization facilities.
What does your typical day look like/what responsibilities do you have?:
Days in graduate school are varied. At this point, I am in my fourth year of the program and working to finish soon. I have finished my coursework and teaching requirements, as well as the major oral comprehensive exam, so my "only" task is dissertation research. On a typical day, I do some mixture of research / bench work (I am predominately a synthetic chemist), materials characterization (particularly focusing on high-resolution transmission electron microscopy), preparing manuscripts, meeting with my boss or other group members, and mentoring junior graduate students and undergraduates in the lab. I also have the opportunity to go to seminars from visiting faculty members several times a week. I spend anywhere from 10-12+ hours / day on work-related tasks on week days (not all of that is physically in the lab), and most weekends I work one full day or two half days (it's more flexible, and very dependent on project status).
Why did you choose this degree at Messiah College?:
I was interested in studying chemistry from the first time I took a chemistry class in high school. When I came to Messiah at an open house during my senior year, I was immediately engaged by the department faculty members. I knew it was the place for me, and the department I wanted to be a part of. A B.S. degree in chemistry was the right set of courses and skills I needed to pursue graduate studies in chemistry.
How did your Messiah College degree prepare you for this career?:
Messiah College prepared me very well for graduate school. The chemistry program is rigorous and thorough, I had significant handson lab experience and research experience that prepared me for the work of graduate school. The professors in the chemistry department provided me with the space to learn effectively and the chance to grow as a scientist and as a person. Upon entering graduate school, I was as well-prepared as any of my classmates at the beginning of the program, and I have often relied on what I learned as an undergraduate at Messiah as I have moved through the program. I can't speak to later in the career.
Is there any specific advice you would offer someone pursuing or considering this degree?:
Work hard, and push yourself to be better. This course of study is not easy by any means, and you will work harder than many of your classmates in college. It is hard in the moment, but it is absolutely worth it. Take advantage of any opportunity that causes you to stretch yourself -- do research, go to seminars, ask lots of questions, go to your professors' office hours for things other than questions on homework, be curious, struggle a little. Don't be afraid of failure, use temporary setbacks as a way to learn and grow.
Do you have anything else you would like to share on your Alumni Profile? :
Attending Messiah to study chemistry was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I would not be the same chemist (or person) that I am today without the Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty at Messiah. So -- thank you!