Primary job responsibilities:
Teaching, but I also advise over 280 students and have committee work that I am required to do.
Typical day on the job:
I have office hours every morning for one hour, teach straight for three to five hours, then have a few more office hours after class. During my time on campus, students come to my office for advice on classes, scheduling and planning.
I spend at least three hours per week prepping for my lab and making sure that everything is ready.
I also am the faculty advisor for John Tyler’s Chemistry Club and we meet at least one hour per week with the group and about four hours a week with the officers. More hours are spent when we have our community science events.
I spend most of my time in the classroom or lab. I have a really nice office all to myself, with desks and chairs for student visitors, a computer, printer, and scanner. When I don’t have students needing assistance, I tend to live in the lab. I like to stay busy — setting up equipment or working with my Chemistry Club students to prepare experiments for our community events. There is a periodic table on my wall, some alchemy posters and lots and lots of chemistry books spanning many different chemistry topics.
My environment is pretty relaxed, since we do not have pressure for journal publications. We teach for 16 weeks per semester. My classes are back-to-back, which could seem pretty intense when you cannot eat lunch in between, but it is a very pleasant environment and a great place to work. We do not get "overtime" hours, but many times I do work more hours than required because I teach an online class and tend to make myself available for 5-7 extra evening hours per week.
Other aspects of my professional life are faster-paced. For example, I run a very active chemistry club at the college, manage all of the ACS Virginia section’s Community Activities, and work on revisions of my study-guides and lab manuals. In addition, I will often work countless hours over a few-week time span when we have a community service event, working individually and with the students to put together kits and supplies.
I am not required to travel with my job. However, I do travel to the ACS national meetings two weeks each year.
What you like most about your job:
I really enjoy the students. I have had students who have ranged in age from 17 to 71. I love how these students want to be in school. I also enjoy the small class sizes of 25-30 students, because I really get to know them, and many students need that small class size to succeed. I am also very lucky to have great colleagues and administrators. My dean in particular is a great “boss,” and is very kind, understanding, and supportive of our teaching and advising efforts.
Best career advice you've received:
While I was in graduate school, my advisor noticed that I was always sitting outside the lab working with students every day. She suggested that I go into teaching when I finished my Ph.D. She thought I had a gift for explanation.
Skills or talents that make you a good fit for your job:
My students have described me as very energetic and having a passion for chemistry. They say they always smile coming to class, in class and leaving class. I have very few people who drop during the semester. It seems they have "fun" learning. I do not think of myself as the typical chemistry professor but I do get my students involved in all of our chemistry outreach activities, where they become the teacher. I try to make sure the students have memorable experiences, and especially strive to teach them how the world would not exist without chemistry!
Favorite ACS resource:
Professionally, I really like and use ACS Journal of Chemical Education. I enjoy looking at the published labs, articles focused on teaching certain topics and the National Chemistry Week and Chemists Celebrate Earth Day magazines we use every year. I love the fun activities for children. My own children have always had fun doing the at-home activities as well.