What led you to pursue a career in chemistry?
My love for chemistry started with my high school chemistry teacher. She would often bring in chemists from different industries and academia to talk about their research and career experiences with the class. I was also a big fan of NASA and the study of physics as I was growing up. One of my most cherished high school memories was my visit to NASA – and during the visit, I was able to speak with scientists and learn more about the space center program, as it related to science I was learning at the time. The NASA experience (coupled with my love for science) made it easy for me to decide that I truly wanted to pursue a career in chemistry.
Tell us about your current role with DuPont. What is the best part of the job?
As a Quality Associate Investigator in Contract Manufacturing, my current role is quite different from my days as a QC and R&D Chemist. However, I can most definitely apply methodologies learned in my previous chemist roles to what I do daily. I am part of a team that ensures the company’s processes and products meet established quality requirements – and my specific role includes implementing process improvements, document control, statistical analysis, root cause failure analysis, and data analysis. I feel that my current job responsibilities have truly broadened the landscape of my professional career.
My favorite part of this job is knowing that I am part of an organization that provides world-class products to customers. My colleagues at DuPont go above and beyond to foster collaboration. I am grateful to be part of a company comprised of the best-in-class employees who work together to help our global society move forward with protection solutions – and that has a vision for the future that is anchored by Core Values.
How has your involvement with ACS helped you in your career?
ACS has been a key factor in my success starting at the undergraduate level. As Vice President of the ACS student chapter at VCU, I had the opportunity to talk with the Chair of the Chemistry department. From that opportunity I was able to gain undergraduate research experience by working in his lab. Participating in ACS events as an undergraduate student also allowed me to learn more about different disciplines. One major event that sticks out to me was the YCC career panel hosted at William & Mary where several chemists in different fields of chemistry shared information about their jobs.
The panel included government policy, food, medicinal, and chemistry career specialists. Experiencing that great panel, which included women of color, revealed jobs I’d never knew you could do with a chemistry degree. When preparing to start applying for jobs, I met with an ACS career consultant to help prepare for interviews and review my resume. I got my first job from networking at a local ACS meeting where I met the President of the company. Without joining the ACS, I may never have had those same opportunities.
What advice would you share with other early career scientists?
Learn as much as possible but give yourself grace. If I had to sum up my own career path, I’d say: take the risk. Seek out mentors and create a network by joining a professional organization like ACS or one of their sister organizations. Advice from those with experience can be helpful for understanding potential career directions. “Never self-eliminate” - if you don’t try the answer will always be no. Say yes to opportunities instead. Throughout my career, I have also said yes to opportunities that I didn’t think I was quite ready for, but I grew into.
One was taking on the role as R&D Chemist for cementitious products in 2019. I had no prior experience with cement, but I spent time in Europe studying and working closely with subject matter experts. This role was beneficial in many more ways than I could have imagined, and I still use a lot of that knowledge today working with cross-functional teams. I like the saying that “if something scares you, that’s probably good for you,” in the sense of accepting new roles that challenge you. You may not be confident in your abilities in the beginning, but some opportunities only come along once in your career.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I am very passionate about technology and podcasts. So passionate in fact, I consider myself a collector of Apple products. On Sundays you can catch me watching football, basketball, or golf on my Apple TV. I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids playing video games like Minecraft and Mario Kart. Most evenings you can find me watching a YouTube video about productivity or reading a book on it, as it has become my newest hobby. I am always trying to find the latest app or create something myself with coding that makes everyday tasks easier.
Ashley Armstrong Baz is a Quality Associate Investigator in Safety Business at DuPont Specialty Products USA, LLC, located in Richmond, Virginia. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry/Biochemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016. After graduating, she started as a Quality Control Chemist for a Waterproofing Systems company in Virginia Beach, VA. While at this company she was promoted to the role of a Research and Development Chemist, formulating more than 20 epoxy and cementitious products.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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