Alex Madonik

I Didn’t Want To Lean Out Why I Left, How I Left, and What It Would Have Taken to Keep Me in STEM  By Frances Hocutt

Discussion created by Alex Madonik on Feb 28, 2014

Bad news for chemistry.  In my student days I saw how some synthetic organic groups were run like real sweat shops with little or no room for women.  Things are better now, and the American Chemical Society is talking about these issues, but we still have a lot of work to do.


My name is Frances Hocutt, and last year I leaned out.

I didn't make that decision lightly. I've loved chemistry since middle school. I saw the way it made the world fit together and it was beautiful. I earned a bronze medal in the International Chemistry Olympiad, continued my studies at a prestigious and challenging undergraduate-only college, and was quickly promoted for my work as a medicinal chemist at a well-known pharmaceutical company.

Frances Hocutt (left) and the rest of the USA team pose with their medals at the International Chemical Olympiad (IChO). Photo by USNCO mentor Todd Trout.

People I chatted with would shudder when I said "synthetic organic chemist;" I would smile and say, "well, someone has to like the stuff."

And I do. I love the way that life is built from a bare handful of elements. I love following the push and pull of electrons as I work out how a reaction must go, then using that insight to tweak the conditions in my flask, getting more and purer product each time. I love figuring out how to break down the structure of a complex target molecule so that I can build it easily and efficiently. I've been training for this -- and then, doing it -- for the last decade.

I Still Left.