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  Education  
  September 20,  2004
Volume 82, Number 38
pp. 58-60
 

THE PATH LESS TRAVELED

  Ph.D.s Trained In Other Fields Are Landing Jobs In Chemistry Departments  

  AMANDA YARNELL, C&EN WASHINGTON  
     
 

RIGHT FIT Garvie, a crystallographer who learned the ropes in biophysics departments, has found a niche in the chemistry and biochemistry department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
PHOTO BY AMANDA YARNELL
During the last nine years of his scientific training, Colin W. Garvie never set foot in a chemistry department. But after graduate and postdoc work in biophysics departments at the University of Leeds and Johns Hopkins University, respectively, Garvie accepted a faculty job in a place he wouldn't necessarily have expected: the chemistry and biochemistry department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "As a crystallographer interested in probing protein-DNA interactions, I feel very much at home here," he says.

Thanks in part to an increased emphasis on interdisciplinary work, a number of chemistry departments have opened their doors to those trained in other fields. Andy Berglund, now an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon, didn't originally go looking for a job in chemistry. After graduate work in biochemistry at Brandeis University, he had his eye on a job in a biology or biochemistry department. But when he applied to Oregon's biology department, they asked whether he'd consider a job opening in their chemistry department, too. "I still identify myself as a biochemist, but the chemistry department at Oregon is a perfect fit for my interests in the biochemistry of RNA splicing," Berglund says.

Xiaowei Zhuang never even thought about applying to a chemistry department. With a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics and linear optics from UC Berkeley and postdoc experience in biophysics, Zhuang figured that she'd make her home in a physics or biology department. Then Harvard's department of chemistry and chemical biology invited her to apply. "Physics and biology departments were natural choices for me. Chemistry was not so straightforward," she says. But Harvard's interest in her work inspired Zhuang to apply to other chemistry departments. "In the end, I decided that I enjoyed talking to chemists immensely." Now at Harvard, Zhuang is developing methods to track individual molecules and particles in live cells.

Zhuang will teach general chemistry for the first time this spring. She's a little nervous, but no more so than when she taught classes in advanced biophysics and statistical mechanics in her first two years at Harvard. Both Garvie and Berglund say that they, too, were initially leery about teaching chemistry courses. "I had to relearn a lot of things to teach general chemistry," Berglund says. "But that's true of nearly all young faculty, regardless of their background."

 
     
  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004
 




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