Chemistry Graduate Education Workshop

 Graduate Education in Chemistry in the Context of a Changing Environment: A Workshop 


Workshop Summary

Chemistry graduate education is under considerable pressure: pharmaceutical companies, long a major employer of synthetic organic chemists, are paring back their research divisions to reduce costs; chemical companies are opening research and development facilities in Asia rather than in the United States to take advantage of growing markets and trained workforces there; and universities, are under significant fiscal constraints that threaten their ability to hire new faculty members. Furthermore, federal funding of chemical research may be limited as the federal budget tightens.

To explore and respond to these intensifying pressures, the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology held a workshop that brought together representatives from across the chemical enterprise, including academia, industry, and government. The goal of the workshop was to discuss critical issues affecting chemistry graduate education, such as attracting and retaining the most able students in graduate education, financial stressors, competencies needed in the changing job market for Ph.D. chemists, and addressing societal problems such as energy and sustainability. The ultimate objective was to capture ideas and opinions as input to the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and other organizations in shaping current and future chemistry programs.

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Workshop Information

The National Research Council's Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology held a workshop on Jan. 23-24, 2012 to discuss the graduate education in chemistry within the context of a changing environment for the practice of chemistry. The workshop focused on the goals of graduate education in chemistry, and whether current programs align with goals appropriate for the current era. The workshop  included discussions of:

--Attracting and retaining the most able students to graduate education.

--Financial stressors on the current support model and their implications for the future graduate education model.

--Competencies needed in the changing job market for Ph.D. chemists. This includes nontraditional opportunities such as entrepreneurship, and employment in start-ups or other small businesses. It also includes changes in traditional opportunities such as the increasing off-shoring of basic chemistry research by major firms, and the evolving drug-discovery model and its impact on employment in the pharmaceutical sector.

--Competencies needed to address societal problems such as energy and sustainability.

A summary of the workshop discussions will be produced and disseminated. Recordings of the live panel discussions will also be posted, as well the presentations given by Dr. George Whitesides and Dr. Gary Schuster.

C&EN Article on Graduate Education Workshop


Monday, January 23

 Panel Discussion: What are the challenges that may force changes in the way departments currently recruit, fund, and train graduate students in chemistry?


Holden Thorp, Chancellor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (via web)
Paul Houston, Dean, College of Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology
Marye Ann Fox, Chancellor, University of California at San Diego
Mike Doyle, Chair, Department of Chemistry, University of Maryland at College Park

Chemists in Non-Academic Settings:  How well is graduate training preparing PhDs to solve problems outside the academic setting?

Panel Discussion:  What are the skills industry managers need in PhD chemists, and how is employment of chemists and the skills they need evolving?


Thomas Degnan, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering
Bill Beaulieu, Chevron Phillips Chemical
Sandy Mills, Vice President, Discovery and Preclinical Sciences, Merck Sharp & Dohme
David Kronenthal, Vice President of Chemical Development, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Joydeep Lahiri, Division Vice President and Director of Bio and Organic Research, Corning, Inc.
Rajiv Dhawan, Talent Acquisition Manager, Du Pont Technology, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours, Inc.

 Panel Discussion:  What skills have served recent graduates well in their positions, and what additional skills would have been useful as they began their careers?


David Tellers, Merck Sharp & Dohme
Sid Shanoy, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours, Inc.
Heather Gennadios, US Food and Drug Administration
Jake Yeston, Senior Editor, Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science


Tuesday, January 24


Preparing the next generation of faculty

 Panel Discussion:  How well does graduate training prepare PhDs to become faculty?


Jennifer Schomaker, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Samuel Thomas, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Tufts University
Julie Aaron, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, DeSales University

Pratical Concerns about Graduate Education in Chemistry; George Whitesides, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Harvard University | PDF | PPT PRESENTATION

The Purpose of Gradaute Education in Chemistry and How it is Challenged; Gary Schuster, Georgia Tech | PPT PRESENTATION | PDF

 ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education; Bassam Shakhashiri, President-Elect, American Chemical Society | PDF

David Berry, Flagship Ventures | PDF

For more information, please contact Rachel Yancey (

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation under Award CHE-1147410.