Job Title: Applications Chemist
Type of Company: My companies makes analytical instrumentation for the scientific community, primarily focusing on pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies. The instrumentation primarily consists of HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatograms) and MS (Mass Spectrometers).
Education: BS in Chemistry, Bucknell University; PhD in Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania
Previous Experience: I got a PhD in chemistry. I also worked in a QC (Quality Control) environment for a limited time.
Job Tasks: In my current position, I work in a laboratory setting. I primarily focus on the chromatography of biomolecules, including proteins, peptides and amino acids. Chromatography is a method of analyzing a mixture of molecules by separating the individual components. This separation allows the molecules to be further characterized. A large part of my job involves developing applications to separate these biomolecules using HPLC or UHPLC (Ultra High Pressure Liquid Chromatography). These methods are then utilized in marketing and sales literature to provide solutions for our customers (pharmaceutical and biopharma companies).
My day typically starts in the laboratory checking on any experiments that may have run overnight. If no experiments were running overnight, I typically would prepare samples to analyze. These may be solutions of proteins, amino acids, or pharmaceutical compounds. After preparing my samples I would get my instrumentation ready to analyze the samples. This involves preparing the solutions the instrumentation needs to run properly. In addition a method must be programmed into the software to correctly analyze the compounds. Each instrument typically has its own specialized software. This entire process requires me to understand the properties of the molecules I am studying. These properties include what solutions the molecules dissolve in, what are their chemical properties and how might the molecules interact with each other, the solutions and the chromatography media.
After completing these experiments I typically need to analyze the results. This typically involves some type of calculations. These calculations can be used to determine how much of a compound or molecule I have.
This entire process is how a pharmaceutical company might determine the purity of a drug they make or how a clinician might determine the amount of amino acids someone may have in their blood (which can indicate certain disorders). In addition, these techniques are used to analyze water for contaminants or fruits and vegetables for pesticides.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I really like the science and problem solving involved in my job. It is great to tackle a problem many people need to solve. For instance, many companies needed to measure melamine in infant formula after the death of children in China. Also feed companies need to measure the amount of amino acids in the products to make sure the animals are healthy. Both of these problems can be solved by equipment and methods used in my laboratory.
The worst part about my job is all the writing I have to do - if you conduct an experiment you need to write your results clearly so other people can understand what you did and why you did it.
Job Tips: Tip 1- Make sure you study science and math.
Tip 2- Try to get any experience in a lab that you can, even as a lab technician. You may be asked to do an experiment or slowly given more responsibility.
Tip 3- Try to use as many different types of instrumentation as possible. Companies always want to hire someone with even a little experience over someone with none.
Tip 4- Try to learn from anyone who is already doing that job. You will never know all the answers right away, but if you are always trying to learn new things you will be successful.
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