Science Literacy and Language

A longstanding pet peeve of mine is the misuse of the word chemicals. A chemical is not a very specific noun. Its definition does not imply toxicity and the word does not have a moral weight. Chemicals are not bad or dangerous or man-made necessarily. A chemical is simply a type of matter that is consistent throughout, like water.

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Traditions in Academia

Traditions are a part of every culture, from holidays to formalities to how guests are treated.  And of course in academia there are traditions that are unique to countries and continents.  Since I spent several months contemplating going back to graduate school in another part of the world, There are a few of these academic traditions that I have stumbled across that I think are not just really interesting, but make me want to go there for my degree despite being in a program already.

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Would you like a little chemistry trivia with that?

Plenty of elements are named after geographical locations. Erbium, Terbium, Ytterbium, and Yttrium were all named after Ytterby, Sweden where minerals containing these elements were found.

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When Scientists Pack Their Bags for Wall Street

While researching grad school and career options, I came cross a few articles on the surprisingly high number of graduated scientists that go to careers in finance after they receive their PhDs. The newly graduated scientists have the math skills, the drive, and the determination to get jobs with financial companies or Wall Street.

When these scientists go to work for Wall Street, especially if it is right after grad school, the field loses some of its brightest potential new members. For that reason, many see the trend as a problem.

But sometimes a career outside of science is necessary because funding for science can be hard to come by. It also can’t hurt for those in powerful positions like finance to have a solid understanding of science.

I am encouraged that a degree in science is seen as a valuable commodity outside of the sciences. I love science and I would like to make a career of it. However, I have also come into the field during a very uncertain time. Jobs for chemists are not always easy to come by. I hope that a degree in science is valuable and flexible enough to keep me working through the highs and lows in the field and I see scientists working in Wall Street as a sign that a degree in science will be worth the time and effort required.

What do you all think of scientists leaving science for careers in finance or other fields? What do you think of the state that science is in?

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Science Memes

I was recently writing my statement of purpose and thought it might be a good idea to include a quote that might describe why I want to go to graduate school. Starting with something that someone else said seemed like it would make the statement a little less me-centric. So I looked around for some quotes by scientists and found a few that might work for my statement.

I also found a few that were great, but wouldn’t work in my statement. I figured I’d share them with you in meme form.

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Look a Distraction!

Distractions, while not entirely conducive to the whole graduate school thing, they are none the less and essential part of surviving graduate school.  No matter what you think going in, or what your professor tells you, there is virtually no way to do nothing but research and school for 4-5 years.  From experience it is hard to just do research and school for 2 months with out suffering from a mental break down.  There just needs to be something else in life, and while this may seem like the most obvious of statements some people just don’t get it.  And some are unable to find a distraction.  So hobbies and friends and adventures, an absolute must if you are looking to survive the whole grad school thing.

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Return to Grad School: First Weeks Back

While my friend and the other author of this blog is working through the application process for grad school, I am three weeks into my return to grad school.  So far my first weeks back in graduate school have been full of a bit of good and a bit of bad.  Its hard to describe how it feels to return to something that you have already tried before.  Couple that with moving over a thousand miles from home and all the people that you know.  So it has been an interesting few weeks.

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