Typical day on the job:
During a typical week on the job, I plan experiments and review the results. I write scientific manuscripts, reports, proposals, or prepare presentations, and I review papers written by others. Part of each day is spent answering email, dealing with budgets, and taking care of other administrative tasks. As a lead scientist, I also supervise and advise my scientific staff, students, and visiting scientists.
On average, I spend between one and five days a month away from my workplace on travel. I have visited 30 countries so far in connection with my job, offering training and giving talks at meetings. For a few years, I was making about six trips a year, but I limit my international travel now. Here in the U.S., I attend ACS meetings and PittCon, and I participate in various workshops.
I have a personal office and a spacious lab with sophisticated analytical instruments. I work on several projects at once — we do a lot of multitasking here. I'm frequently working with collaborating partners, and we've had as many as 14 people in my group.
Like many federal government facilities, we’ve had some funding cutbacks over the last few years. We're looking at a lot of retirements over the next several years, though, so we’ll need to start hiring staff again, including postdocs.
I work about 50 hours per week. In general, it’s a relaxed atmosphere except when we are pushing against deadlines.
Tools you can’t live without:
I use mass spectrometry and chromatography in the lab. In the office, I use Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook).
What you like most about your job:
I like providing a worthwhile service to others and increasing performance and efficiency. My work has beneficial effects on the environment, food safety, public health, and the economy. I can see the outcomes first-hand over time when my work is implemented by others, particularly during my international travels.
Best productivity trick:
No tricks. I emphasize what is most important on my to-do list and try to get it done well.
Best career advice you’ve received:
Focus on the work, not the extraneous distractions that drain your time if you allow it. Do work that you enjoy, and work that helps others.
Skills or talents that make you a good fit for your job:
I think that I have a practical understanding of laboratory needs and different approaches in how to do things better using sound common sense. The best way for anyone to decide if any career path is right for them is if they are good at it (as judged by others, not just oneself), enjoy the work, and feel satisfaction from their efforts.
Essential habit you wish you’d started earlier:
I learned to recognize my need for downtime to reduce stress and put things in better perspective.
Favorite ACS resource:
Chemical & Engineering News — keeping up with news is essential.
How you've benefited from being an ACS member:
The ACS Member Insurance Group Life Insurance policy is a good deal.