National Academies Press: OpenBook

Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary (2012)

Chapter: 6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students

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Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
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6

Suggested Ideas to Change
Chemistry Graduate Education
and Skills to Benefit Students

This final chapter compiles ideas mentioned in previous chapters into a single list, with the person suggesting that idea identified in parentheses. The ideas have been divided into those focused primarily on students and faculty members and on department chairs, deans, and other research administrators, though many of the ideas apply across categories and have different implications for different groups. This chapter also lists skills discussed by individual presenters that could benefit students if taught during chemistry graduate school.

The suggestions should not be seen as recommendations of the workshop, the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, or the National Research Council. However, together with the list of skills cited in Box 6-1, they point to the tremendous potential of chemistry graduate education as it adapts to current challenges.

IDEAS FOR CHANGE FOCUSED ON
STUDENTS AND FACULTY MEMBERS

•   Greater clarity regarding the expectations of both graduate students and faculty advisors would reduce conflicts and confusion. (Dorhout)

•   Encouragement from advisors to learn about areas outside a graduate student’s research area can produce greater breadth in graduate education. (Aaron)

•   Exposure to information about different careers in graduate

Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
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Box 6-1

Skills Discussed by Individual Presenters that Could Benefit Students if Taught During Chemistry Graduate School

The speakers at the workshop described many skills that chemistry graduate schools could teach to prepare students for the challenges they will face in the workplace. The following list is drawn from the summaries of their talks in this chapter. While all students could not be expected to learn all of these skills during graduate school, many workshop participants noted that mastering a subset of them could help them in their future careers.

Education

Constructing chemistry curricula and laboratories for undergraduates

Teaching undergraduate chemistry

Explaining concepts in different ways for diverse groups of students

Mentoring undergraduates

Research

Generating scientific research ideas independently

Preparing research proposals

Recording, interpreting, and storing data responsibly

Writing and publishing scientific papers

Acquiring a thorough familiarity with safety procedures and disseminating those procedures

Working in groups, including interdisciplinary groups

Interacting with funding agencies and managing the finances of a research team

Reviewing proposals and articles

Entrepreneurial

Transforming scientific ideas into business plans

Understanding how to sell products and protect market advantages

Interacting with technology transfer offices and intellectual property lawyers

Personal

Managing time effectively

Communicating orally and in writing with nonscientists

Interacting with the community outside research institutions

Learning to manage other people

Learning to be adaptable and acquire new skills

Thinking creatively and critically

Exhibiting leadership

Approaching a problem from a broad-based perspective

Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
×

    school, including opportunities to meet with chemistry PhDs who have entered those careers, can provide graduate students with information they need to make career decisions. (Schomaker)

•   Graduate education can be excellent preparation for a teaching career either in higher education or K-12 education. (Gerratana)

•   Teaching skills are important in industry as well as in academia to explain ideas and urge particular actions. (Shenoy)

•   Opportunities to teach and mentor undergraduates and other students improves communication skills and understanding of the material being taught. (Schomaker)

•   The opportunity to write and revise research proposals in graduate school, with feedback from advisors, can provide experience useful in many future careers. (Shomaker)

•   Research done in interdisciplinary groups with multiple advisors could broaden graduate education and expose students to a diversity of approaches, as well as helping to prevent mistreatment of graduate students. (Bergman)

•   Alternately, research projects under single advisors but with extensive collaborations could provide both breadth and depth in graduate education. (Boering)

•   Exposure to “entrepreneuring” during graduate school can help students think about the relevance and potential uses of a discovery. (Berry)

•   Letting graduate students work together and practice submitting proposals to business colleagues could help them thrive in the private sector. (Lahiri)

•   Enhanced partnerships between universities and companies could provide valuable experiences for chemistry graduate students. (Beaulieu)

•   Internships could greatly broaden the experiences of graduate students in chemistry while also benefiting university research. (Dhawan)

•   Education programs at any level that challenge students to solve problems can engage students more actively. (Berry)

•   Efforts to coordinate proposals for chemistry research and graduate education with federal priorities could increase funding for chemistry. (Platz)

IDEAS FOR CHANGE FOCUSED ON DEPARMTENT CHAIRS, DEANS, AND OTHER RESEARCH ADMINISTRATORS

•   Depth, breadth, and communication could be themes for transforming graduate chemistry education. (Colon)

Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
×

•   Rotations in graduate school before beginning a research project can broaden exposure to topics in chemistry and forge important relationships. (Schomaker)

•   Reducing the barriers between traditional fields of chemistry and involving other disciplines in research projects may enable faster progress on integrative problems. (Whitesides)

•   Support from funding agencies, joint appointments, and the co-location of investigators from different disciplines all can help promote interdisciplinary research. (Houston)

•   Innovative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative projects can build faculty morale even when resources are constrained. (Fox)

•   Written individual development plans for all graduate students and postdocs supported by research grants or traineeships could help students set goals and adhere to them. (Rogers)

•   A course for graduate students on teaching chemistry could build essential teaching skills. (Aaron)

•   A progression of different support mechanisms for graduate students could help meet their changing needs as they move through graduate school. (Houston)

•   New structures for graduate education—such as a separate master’s degree with value in the workplace, time spent doing public service or work in a foreign country, or degrees that take less time to achieve—could have advantages for students and employers alike. (Whitesides)

•   Master’s degrees could focus on technical skills while PhDs focus on leadership skills, as is the case in Japan. (Doyle)

•   Family-friendly policies and supportive colleagues can reduce the attrition of women in graduate chemistry education. (Boering)

•   Chemistry departments that reimagine the graduate experience in a compelling way could generate national attention, be seen to have a competitive advantage, and spur imitators. (Platz)

•   Greater emphasis on safety in graduate school is important both in graduate school and during careers. (Yeston)

•   Enhancing partnerships between universities and companies could provide valuable experiences for chemistry graduate students. (Beaulieu)

Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
×
Page 55
Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
×
Page 56
Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
×
Page 57
Suggested Citation:"6 Suggested Ideas to Change Chemistry Graduate Education and Skills to Benefit Students." National Research Council. 2012. Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13407.
×
Page 58
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Chemistry graduate education is under considerable pressure. Pharmaceutical companies, long a major employer of synthetic organic chemists, are drastically paring back their research divisions to reduce costs. Chemical companies are opening new research and development facilities in Asia rather than in the United States to take advantage of growing markets and trained workforces there. Universities, especially public universities, are under significant fiscal constraints that threaten their ability to hire new faculty members. Future federal funding of chemical research may be limited as the federal budget tightens. All of these trends have major consequences for the education of chemistry graduate students in U.S. universities.

To explore and respond to these intensifying pressures, the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology held a workshop in Washington, DC, on January 23-24 2012, titled "Graduate Education in Chemistry in the Context of a Changing Environment." The workshop brought together representatives from across the chemical enterprise, representing leaders and future leaders of academia, industry, and government. The goal of the workshop was not to come to conclusions, but to have an open and frank discussion about critical issues affecting chemistry graduate education, such as the attraction and retainment of the most able students to graduate education, financial stressors on the current support model and their implications for the future model, competencies needed in the changing job market for Ph.D. chemists, and competencies needed to address societal problems such as energy and sustainability.

Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education: A Workshop Summary is organized into six chapters and summarizes the workshop on "Graduate Education in Chemistry in the Context of a Changing Environment."

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