I trained and worked as a chemist from 2000-2015. During that time, I published several scientific papers, mostly relating to materials science and crystal growth. My postdoctoral and independent research focused primarily on understanding and controlling the crystallization of pharmaceutical compounds to make better, more effective medicines.
This long-term pursuit of scientific research taught me the discipline of constant effort as well as the joy of discovery and an appreciation for the complexity of simple problems. It also gave me a respect for data and an understanding of the importance of nuance in interpreting scientific information. Writing grants, giving scientific presentations, and publishing for an expert audience required that I hone my ability to express results clearly and succinctly, and in an “executive summary” format when necessary.
I also worked in various teaching roles throughout my time as a chemist. I tutored and led study groups as an undergraduate, was a TA and research mentor as a graduate student and postdoc, and taught for 4 years as a college professor. My undergraduate teaching experience covered a wide range of classes in physics, math, and chemistry. My graduate TA experience was mostly in organic chemistry, and as a professor I taught classes in inorganic (metals) chemistry, quantum mechanics, sustainability, and introductory chemistry.
This wide range of experience exposed me to more than 1500 students, and allowed me to develop clear communication and presentation skills, as well as constantly exercising my ability to empathize and see the world of science from an outsider’s perspective. Managing classes of 100+ first year students in addition to other workload requirements also helped me to develop strong organizational, people, and time management skills.
I wrote about how my teaching experience informs my design practice here.