February 22, 2018  

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Southern Miss Partners with American Chemical Society to Offer First Workshop

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Dr. Lisa Balbes, of Balbes Consulting, assists Veronika Dubniakova, a Master’s student in Chemistry and Biochemistry, during the ACS PfLAGS workshop held recently at Southern Miss.

One of the hardest things for college graduates can be translating their education into a job in the real world, but thanks to a workshop sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS), some Southern Miss doctoral students have a leg up on their competition. 

The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, in collaboration with the American Chemical Society, organized the workshop to prepare graduate and doctoral students for the future. The program, called Preparing for Life after Graduate School (PfLAGS), brought 20 Southern Miss doctoral students together with professionals offering resumé reviews and career advice. 

“This is the first time we have held the PfLAGS workshop at USM, and it is the first in the State of Mississippi,” said Dr. Doug Masterson, co-coordinator of the program at USM.  “We were able to offer our students three days of intense preparation for their future careers.” 

According to Masterson, the workshop offered career advice for government, industry, and post-doctoral opportunities. The ACS covers numerous expenses for the PfLAGS workshop including travel and fees. 

Workshop presenters included George O’Neill, retired industrial chemist from Eastman Kodak, who offered resumé reviews and pointers for students to improve their resumés. Lisa Balbes, author of “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists: New Formulas for Chemistry Careersalso served as workshop presenter. Balbes covered numerous subjects including using new technologies networking, and leadership.  

Maureen Smith, a doctoral student in chemistry, said the workshop provided a fresh look at her resumé. “I thought the most useful part of the workshop was the individual resumé reviews.  I was able to sit with Lisa Balbes, the presenter, and obtain feedback about my resume and how I could improve it. I found this more helpful than trying to search online for resumé tips.” 

The ACS PfLAGS program is targeted toward doctoral students in chemistry, biochemistry, and polymer science. The three-day program was intensive with students learning and working throughout the day, even while enjoying a meal. 

“In those two days, I learned so much about how to prepare for life after graduate school and how to make myself a better candidate for different jobs,” said Smith. For both days, we had people in different fields come in and speak to us about their jobs during lunch.” 

Bret Calhoun, administrative assistant director in the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, said the school hoped to offer the PfLAGS workshop again. 

“We want to provide our students with as many tools and opportunities to be successful as we can, and the PfLAGS workshop provided by the American Chemical Society is a great opportunity,” said Calhoun. “All of the students benefitted from it, whether they were currently job hunting or a few years away from needing a job. We will definitely seek to bring the workshop back to Southern Miss.”

Dr. Joe B. Whitehead Jr., dean of the College of Science and Technology, said programs such as PfLAGS offer numerous benefits.

“For many years graduate training in science focused on developing traditional laboratory scientists rather than well-rounded researchers who can meet the research, management, leadership, and entrepreneurial demands of the modern research enterprise,” said Whitehead. “The PfLAGS program is an excellent opportunity for graduate students in chemical sciences at Southern Miss to begin developing the knowledge and skills required for a scientific career.”

For more information about programs in the College of Science and Technology at Southern Miss, visit www.usm.edu/cost