I'm proud to be a chemist because such an exciting field found me. I walked into the chem lab duing my second semester at college and didn't want to leave. The deeper I probed into chemistry, the more fascinated I became. There is so many amazing things out there, and it's all done with chemistry. Fireworks chemistry, medicine chemistry, even food all goes back to chemistry. Just to be a part of that makes me want to stand up and say "I'm a chemist!"
I knew that I wanted to be a scientist since about the 2nd grade. In elementary school, I would bring my science book home and read it cover to cover since we were not normally allowed to keep them in our desks. Unlike the 20 year old English text books, they were brand new. I didn't decide on Chemistry until my junior year in high school where I had a great chemistry teacher. She retired from research at age 55 and taught high school chemistry for the next 20 years. I was in her first class.
My career more or less found me. Graduating in a recession and not wanting to admit defeat by moving back in with my parents without finding a job, I took the first job offer I got. It was analytical testing and processing work in a tire factory. I figured that after I had a couple of years experience, I could get a "real" chemisty job. Thirty-four years later, I am still working in the rubber industry. I am going to have to hurry if I want to find that "real" job before I reach retirement age.
My job is more engineering around the chemistry than traditional chemical research or production. I probably have as many "ah ha" moments where it makes no sense that it worked as I do where I have figured out the chemistry behind the process. The not knowing why it worked drives me.
The best thing about being a chemist? Having something intelligent to say to the person who is touting the latest chemical-free product.
RE: Why I'm Proud to be a Chemist
My interest in chemistry began as a 13-year old in 1950 when watching Donald Herbert’s televison show "Mr. Wizard" and the chemistry set I received as a Christmas gift that year. I went on to major in chemistry in high school, college and graduate school. The excitement of discovering new concepts and new materials drove me to focus on research in organic chemistry. I’ve had a number of "ah-ha" moments, but the most memorable occurred in 1966 when my colleagues and I were preparing compounds in an attempt to develop a material that was liquid crystalline at room temperature, something that had not been done before. Since no single compound was found, I had the idea to make mixtures of two or more liquid crystal compounds with very slight structural differences. Using this concept, I was excited to discover that while the melting point was significantly reduced (the eutectic point), the clearing or "isotropic" point of the mixture was still high, giving a nematic liquid crystal range that was broader than either of the components. This prompted me to create ternary mixtures that had nematic ranges from below room temperature to over 100 degrees C. These materials were used to fabricate the first practical liquid crystal displays, which I believe were the first electronic devices to use an organic material as the active element. This technique eventually became the industry standard and is used to this very day to tailor liquid crystal materials to meet specific applications.