Typical day on the job:
- Thinking (planning & analysis & interpretation): 60%
- Writing (peer-reviewed publications): 15%
- Lab work: 15%; We work on thermal and mechanical properties of polymeric materials, production & synthesis of novel polymer composites and blends, development and validation of new procedures and analyses
- Personnel management: 5%
- Meetings: 5%
We have shared space in the pilot plant and laboratory. The lab holds our analytical instrumentation; the pilot plant has the extruders & testing machines.
I work 40+ hours every week. We have periods of intense activity that is project driven and then periods of calm where we "catch up" on things. We are 100% research & development with professional technical staff (BS, MS level).
Tools you can’t live without:
Extruder, mechanical testing machine (Instron), HPLC-SEC, electrochemistry, graphing software, SEM.
Best productivity trick:
Set aside blocks of time to think & write. Schedule weekly planning meetings to make sure everyone on my technical staff is on the same page.
Best career advice you’ve received:
Publish. Publish. Publish. Our work product is peer-reviewed manuscripts and patents. This is the measure of how well we perform our jobs and may lead to merit “promotions.” Federal researchers are located in the GS (pay) system AND are evaluated on a career merit system as well.
Learn the system and use it to my advantage. There is a certain way to conduct the business of science in a federal laboratory. When you meet or exceed the requirements, it provides a certain amount of freedom to satisfy your intellectual curiosity beyond your specific program.
Skills or talents that make you a good fit for your job:
I have an insatiable curiosity and organizational skills to manage multiple projects.
Essential habit you wish you’d started earlier:
One learns and adapts. Experience is a great teacher. I'm not sure that I could have done what I do now in the past.
Favorite ACS resource:
The journals! One of my professional goals is to conduct research that may find publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society which is considered premier in my workplace.