Degree/Year: B.S., Chemistry, 1990
Current Employer: University of Iowa, Department of Chemistry
Title: Associate Professor
My teaching and research interests are in synthetic organic chemistry. My research students and I are trying to develop more efficient ways to make carbon-carbon bonds and provide fundamental tools for drug discovery. In teaching, it is always great to hear from students who have gone on to successful careers of their own. But the most enjoyable part is watching an earnest student’s eyes widen with delight when a difficult topic finally makes sense.
At Bradley, I was encouraged to sample a wide range of liberal arts courses, and I especially liked the philosophy courses. Developing those alternative ways of thinking and analyzing problems has helped me be a better critical thinker in my career. I also had some wonderful mentorship from several chemistry faculty members, particularly Professors Kurt Field and Max Taylor, who were able to recognize some potential in me that was greater than I realized. Professor Don Glover helped me secure an undergraduate research position at the USDA research lab in Peoria, which was critical experience to get me prepared for graduate school at the University of Oregon.
In piles of medical school or law school applications, chemistry majors really stand out. People with solid chemistry training are also well positioned to take on environmental issues in a substantive way. My advice to students would be to make chemistry your solid foundation. Then you'll be ready to pursue a wide range of opportunities and interests to a job you will love, whether chemistry is your life's work or a launching pad for related careers.
Degree/Year: B.S., Chemistry, 2008
Current Employer: Caterpillar, Inc.
Title: Manufacturing Engineer
I was attracted to the field of chemistry when I originally started as a mechanical engineer at Bradley. I realized that, unlike most engineers, chemistry was what I liked most, so I decided to switch my major. Though my current line of work is not in chemistry, I can apply many of the principals of chemistry to my current job. I deal with a lot of metals, heating and cooling and expanding and contracting, so the knowledge comes in handy.
I have found that the best part of my Bradley education is that it was not easy. Having a curriculum that really challenged me has given me the skills to be tenacious and not give up on my goals, whether in the school or work environment.
The best advice I can give to someone who is considering chemistry is to be as involved in the department as possible. Get into research early, as it gives you some baseline experience that may qualify you for an internship and eventually lead to your placement in a great company. Again, the degree is not easy, and there will probably be times when you want to quit, but don’t! It is worth it in the end.
Degree/Year: B.S., Chemistry, 1983
Current Employer: Loyola University, New Orleans
Title: Associate Professor of Chemistry
When I was in school, I liked learning about how things worked at a molecular level. I understood it. In particular, I liked the combination of physical chemistry and biochemistry.
Now, I enjoy interacting with students and teaching them how biological molecules work and behave. I am glad that I get to do some research and include students as active participants.
My professors at Bradley were extremely good role models. From them I learned how to interact successfully with undergraduate students. The small class sizes and individual attention are one of the key advantages of a small liberal arts school like Bradley and my current institution.
My advice for current and future students of chemistry is to get to know your instructors. Do undergraduate research with a professor, if you can. Ask questions, and work hard!
Degree/Year: B.S., Chemistry, 2001
Current Employer: The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Mich.
Title: Associate Scientist in Dow Solar Solutions
Chemistry opens the doors to so many opportunities. It’s not just about being at the bench and “mixing stuff together.” It is a challenging major that teaches you to think critically and creatively, solve problems and communicate effectively.
I had an excellent high school chemistry class that really caught my interest. I saw that with chemistry, I could work on creative solutions to real-world problems. I’ve had the opportunity to work in many diverse areas – formulating plastics for protecting solar cells from environmental damage, analyzing how conditioning polymers deposit on human hair, tuning surface chemistry on membranes for water purification – and have found that my true interest is in alternative and green energy. Today, I’m developing new chemical processes to decrease the cost of solar cells to make them economically feasible for use on residential rooftops. Finding sustainable solutions for energy independence is extremely challenging, and I find it very rewarding to work on a multi-disciplinary team of engineers and scientists on these problems every day.
Bradley faculty who have a true interest in teaching and the small class sizes that enable more interaction between faculty and students provided me with a solid foundation for my current career. I was prepared, well-rounded and ready to complete my Ph.D. work. My Bradley education provided me with excellent opportunities for outside-the-classroom learning, and I had research experiences that were unique among my classmates in graduate school.
If you’re interested in a chemistry major but not sure of how it fits in with your ideal career, contact faculty, alumni and current majors or the local American Chemical Society chapter to learn about the opportunities that might suit you.