Chemists in the Real World

Herman Cho

 

Herman Cho, Senior Research Scientist


Herman Cho received his Ph.D. in chemical physics and completed two post-docs before joining Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Twenty-one years later he is at the same institution enjoying “the intellectual stimulation of scientific work, including the day-to-day tasks of problem-solving, building tools and instruments, writing software, data analysis, etc., as well as the deeper, long-term thinking that goes into pondering nature's mysteries.”

Cho’s primary responsibility at PNNL is to conduct independent, grant-funded research; his work focuses on radiochemistry and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Cho values national ACS meetings “as a vital way to learn what is going on in the field of chemistry and reconnect with colleagues outside my areas of specialization.”

Today, Herman Cho is a Senior Research Scientist at PNNL. This is how he works.

What's a typical day on the job like?

  • Average time distribution:
  • Planning/running experiments: 30%
  • Writing (grants, papers, reports, presentations, etc.): 30%
  • Computer-centered work (software development, data analysis, calculations): 25%
  • Meetings: 10%
  • Training and education: 5%

Are there any apps/software/instrumentation/tools that you can't live without?

Instrumentation: NMR spectrometers and associated equipment
Software: Too many apps to enumerate and they are all essential!

Describe your work environment.

My employer is a U.S. Department of Energy multi-program laboratory within the Office of Science.  I have a private office and multiple labs where I conduct my scientific work.

Does your job follow a typical 9-to-5 schedule?

I typically spend 60 hours per week working, both at my workplace and at home.  I do not receive overtime pay.  The work is self-paced, but expectations for productivity are high, both from my managers and from my funding sources.

What is your best productivity trick?

Getting a good night's sleep and maintaining fitness and good health.

What's the best career advice you've received?

I remember not specific advice I received from mentors, but the compelling examples they set as career scientists, which I still try to emulate.

Do you have any special talents or traits that make you a great fit for your job?

Perseverance and curiosity.

What essential habit do you have now that you wish you'd started much earlier?

The ability to stay focused, goal-oriented, and disciplined.

What is your favorite ACS resource?

ACS journals and meetings are indispensable resources for my work.