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Business & Education Professional Development

Everything You Wanted to Know About a Career in Chemistry* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

My professor is not helping me and I am afraid to talk to him/her...

First, remember that faculty are people too. They may be stressed by demands from their formal teaching, travel, search for funding, and family life. Building a relationship between professionals at this level is not simple; a student is transitioning into a colleague, and transitions imply challenges.

Another thing to consider is that faculty often don’t engage well with people who do not appear to take the initiative in their own education. Though you may seem to be working for Professor X, you are primarily working for yourself under their guidance. Remember, the PhD is a credential demonstrating independence of both effort and thought. If you do not demonstrate both, you are not a real PhD candidate and that credential is not going to save you. 

Many believe that working with a well-established group will help their career; it will not. You will not be viewed as a mini-clone of your professor; instead, you will be judged by what you have done and keep doing. There is no way to have a relaxed life in science – resiliency is a requirement, not an option. Graduate school is a transition from being a follower to being a leader and problem solver. The self-motivated win the day, so know yourself and play to your strengths.

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About the Author

Peter Kissinger

Peter Kissinger is Professor, Brown Laboratory of Chemistry, Purdue University, and a founder of Bioanalytical Systems, Inc. (BASi), Prosolia, Inc., and Phlebotics, Inc. Indiana, USA.

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