continuously write up our work and submit it for peer-reviewed publication. We got bashed often, but we learned a lot about writing papers and doing research. This is instrumental, because in academia publish or perish seems to be the theme. If you don’t prepare to write in graduate school, you are going to have a difficult time when you get out because your expectations are different from that of the discipline of chemistry.
Another important asset in graduate school, similar to undergraduate school, was the availability of instrumentation, which at LSU was incredible. Even my undergraduate university, which was funded mostly by national funding councils, had ample instrumentation. For instance, at Hampton we had spectroscopy instrumentation. At LSU, we had a better grade of spectroscopy instrumentation.
It was important throughout graduate school to learn how to use and repair instruments that are state of the art. This allowed us to go to conferences and talk with vendors who were selling state-of-the-art instruments. This was especially helpful because my professor liked to buy instruments without a service contract. Imagine toiling away in the lab for years and the instrument breaks down when you are getting critical data. We had to learn how to fix all of our instruments. We often complained a lot about this, but it was an important skill. It improved our problem-solving skills, in addition to applying problem-solving skills to our research. It was important to know how the instrument worked as well as how to repair it.
I would like to give a few suggestions from my experience and from talking with some of my colleagues about faculty and funding agencies. Professors are busy people. We all know this. We forget, however, that students imitate the behavior of their professors. If the professor doesn’t come to seminar, students think they do not have to come to seminar. If the professors don’t show up, students think they do not have to show up. They believe that the most important requirement is to get the professors’ research done by any means necessary.
Graduate school education is more than just research. Part of graduate school is interacting with people from various countries and different nationalities. It’s also learning from different people with different aspects. There are clearly a lot of things that go on in graduate school, but I would like to ask the faculty to keep in mind that the attitudes you project are important. Often, the students try to project those same attitudes without realizing they might not have the stature of the faculty.
I want to tell the funding agencies how great it is that funding is available. I am a product of taxpayer money. Taxpayers paid for my undergraduate education. They paid for my graduate education. They paid for my summer education. This is very valuable. I learned early that if I dug in and really got involved, I could spend time advancing my career and learning at the same time. I never had to worry about money issues. There was constant funding. I knew that as long as I performed, the funding would be available; I would rather perform in a chemistry laboratory than work at McDonald’s flipping hamburgers for the summer. I would encourage the funding agencies to continue funding graduate students and to continue funding outlets so that graduate students can grow.
I would like to introduce a new idea to funding agencies—diversity. I guarantee that if funding agencies explicitly say that diversity should be a part of research programs that you would see universities and departments currently resistant to this change begin to make changes.
I would like to briefly talk about my transition into industry. For me, the transition felt strange because I had never really had a job. All of my experience was in research. Here I am, 27 years old, a full-grown adult, accepting a position at Procter & Gamble. This was my first job. I have been in school all my life. My transition from graduate school to Procter & Gamble was very smooth. At Procter & Gamble, I will have responsibilities for managing people, working in teams, and communicating. These were three skills that were constantly reinforced throughout graduate school, which emphasized learn-