Chemists in the Real World

Geoffrey Heintzelman


Geoffrey Heintzelman, Managing Editor

Geoffrey Heintzelman edits research articles submitted by scientists from foreign countries. He works for American Journal Experts, a manuscript services company in Durham, NC. He has been in his current position for 18 months.

Heintzelman received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Penn State in 1996, and he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester from 1996 until 1998. He found a job as a medicinal chemist at Johnson & Johnson through the interview process at the University of Rochester. He later worked for Aerie Pharmaceuticals. Heintzelman was interested in medical research as a way of helping people, but he found that working as a research chemist kept him far from the people he was trying to help.

He notes, "It would have taken a lot of luck and many years for any of my compounds to actually become a drug and help patients. In my current job, I help several customers a day with their papers. These manuscripts may help a professor get tenure, a grad student get their first publication or finish their thesis, allow an English-speaking researcher learn about a discovery on the other side of the world, etc. Thus, I have a measurable impact on any number of individuals every day. Furthermore, I'm also helping our contract editors become better writers through the feedback we give them. It's really fulfilling to help people on a daily basis."

After leaving the pharmaceutical industry, Heintzelman taught two classes at Wake Technical Community College (Raleigh, NC) while he decided where to take his career. The managing editor position came soon afterward. The career change turned out to be a wise move, in light of uncertainties in the pharmaceutical research job market. Heintzelman was able to remain in Durham, and the parent company of American Journal Experts is growing rapidly. "I also love the flexibility of my job. I'm able to work in varying locations and whenever I like, so I'm free to take time for family commitments or just going to watch or participate in my children's activities," he said.

What's a typical day on the job like?

Most of my day is spent editing research articles on a variety of subjects submitted by foreign researchers for language editing. I also coach our contract editors on their editing, and I interact with customers. Although I do edit papers from a variety of fields, I specifically focus on organic chemistry papers for our customers.

Typically, how many days each month do you spend away from your workplace on travel?

I am not required to travel.

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

MS Word

Describe your work environment.

Although we do have an office, I primarily work from home. Our work is completely internet-based, so all I need is a laptop.

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

50 hours. The environment is fast-paced, as we have deadlines to return our papers to customers within 24 hours.

What do you like most about your job?

I love being able to impact a large number of people. In a typical day, I edit 10 papers, which is at least 10 researchers all over the world that I've helped.

What is your best productivity trick?

I keep a list and stay focused.

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

Always have a positive attitude when you're working. You never know what kind of impression or impact you are making on other people.

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

Responsibility and vulnerability. It's essential to be able to complete tasks on time and to be able to ask for help to complete your tasks. Because most of us are not trained as editors, i.e., in English language and composition, and because we work remotely, it is essential to be willing to be vulnerable enough to ask questions of your coworkers without being self-conscious, especially with respect to correcting the grammar and language when you are starting out or when events pop up that may threaten your deadlines.

Is there anything else you would like to mention about your career?

It's a great feeling knowing that you are contributing to the careers of researchers all over the world. In the past 18 months, I've worked on over 3500 papers; I hope that I've had some impact on the research community and the careers of researchers.

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

I'm not sure it's a habit, but my communication skills have gotten much better as a result of my career experiences. I think that having good communication skills is essential to a successful career, and they should be developed as soon as possible

What is your favorite ACS resource?

Chemical & Engineering News. It is essential to know what the career environments looks like at any given time for chemists and to keep up with trends in the industry.

How have you benefited from being an ACS member?

Going to ACS meetings, reading C&E News, and networking have helped to keep me in touch with the state of the industry.