Alumni Spotlight | November 2014
KU major: Chemistry, Class of 1977
Current occupation: Senior Principal Scientist
Research mentor while at KU: Richard Givens
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: I looked at the photolysis of benzyl esters of norbornene anhydride, gaining experience in using the chemical abstracts and chemical journals as well as laboratory techniques such as thin layer chromatography, NMR, solvent purification, photolysis, etc. A significant part of my learning involved interacting with the graduate students and asking questions about their work.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: Start your writing early and find time to meet other researchers and learn about their projects.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research?
A: I'd encourage everyone to explore doing research. At it's core, it's a field in which learning and change are continual, thus having a high potential for job satisfaction and keeping work life interesting. While there are similarities among them, professors are far from the mono-culture that they might appear to the undergraduates they teach. Interview different professors to learn about their work and get a sense of their reputations, styles, and abilities.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: I continually use many of the skills I developed early on, not only technical skills, but people skills. Always be ready to question presentations and results if clarification is needed. You're likely not the only one in the audience with that question. If the questioning may not be well received, choose your words carefully.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: Make a point of learning from graduate students; they have much knowledge which can greatly aid the efficiency of your time usage in the library, or in today's terms, being online. Remember your graduate student friends and learn where they go to work. Good contacts and personal references can be of future importance in entirely unpredictable ways.