other skills: the ability to work in a team environment, the ability to communicate, and the combination of flexibility and resiliency.
Teamwork he defined as the ability to recognize your role within an overall program. That means working with both the upstream parts of a program and the downstream parts.
Communication skills include the ability to recommend actions in a succinct manner. The more quickly a conclusion is made, the more quickly the program moves along. Newer researchers also need to be ready to recognize and acknowledge better ideas, while later in a career it becomes more important to sell your ideas to people who are not chemists.
Resilience and flexibility connote changing as a task or project changes. “You can’t come into it thinking, this is what I did in graduate school and this is what I signed up for. That will change definitely, and it will probably change a lot sooner than you think it will.”
Graduate school helped Tellers to communicate by providing him with opportunities to present his results to the entire research group and to his advisor and other professors. Honest feedback from his advisor on what he was doing well and not doing well and on his career decisions was also important. He appreciated being told that an idea was bad or that he should do a postdoc in a particular place to get an industrial job in a particular area.
Having a broad exposure to chemistry and other fields does not necessarily make a person a problem solver, Tellers emphasized. For example, he would not have wanted to work in three different areas during his graduate years—that would have felt like a survey of different areas. “I personally found my most rewarding time in graduate school to be my last three years. I struggled my first two years to understand the science, and my last three years were the most fun because I felt like I had control of my discipline. That was where I made the most contributions to the science, not just the learning of the science, but the execution of the science.”
Nevertheless, he now wishes he had more exposure to work outside his own discipline. Though he went to presentations outside his field, it was not required or highly recommended, and he wishes that this exposure would have been more formal. Interacting more with the non-chemist on his thesis committee, and having an attorney on that committee, also would have been useful.
In addition, he wishes he had interacted more with the surrounding community while in graduate school. “That might be my responsibility, but at the same time I think the department owes it to itself, in the epoch four that we are in today, to force students to go out and meet not just high school students but people in retirement homes, and justify why we need chemistry.”
Finally, he wishes he had access to more descriptions of career opportunities