Associate Professor and Department Chair, Dr. Lihua Jin recently had the opportunity to talk with Erin Wierzbicki, née Gallagher, who graduated from DePaul in 2012 with a MS in Chemistry. Erin reflects back on her academic career at Depaul, discusses how it has prepared her for her career, and shares advice to current students on how to be a successful student of chemistry.
- DePaul University, MS Chemistry 2012
- Northern Michigan University, BS Biochemistry 2010
- Senior Associate, Global Regulatory Affairs at Hospira, a Pfizer company
- Biophysical Scientist II at Therapeutic Proteins International
- Analytical Chemist II at NOW Health Group
Jin: How did your degree prepare you for your non-traditional career path, and how has your education at DePaul prepared you for what you are currently doing?
Wierzbicki: I earned my BS in Biochemistry in 2010 from Northern Michigan University and my MS in Chemistry in 2012 from DePaul University.
While I was in college and graduate school I always assumed that when you get a degree in chemistry you have two choices; you can go to medical school or work in a lab. I found that as I was looking for a job having a MS was a huge advantage since I did not have any industry experience. After 3 months of searching, I got a job working as an analytical chemist and later as a biophysical scientist, where I worked for about 2 years. I used many of the laboratory skills I had learned and found much of my educational experience being directly applied. However, over those two years I found that being a chemist in the “real world” just wasn’t what I thought it would be and I had never thought I would want to do anything else besides work in a lab. Quite frankly, I didn’t know there were other options.
Enter Regulatory Affairs.
Sophia Robinson graduated from DePaul in 2015 with a BS/MS in Chemistry. Here she reflects back on her academic career at DePaul University’s Department of Chemistry with Associate Professor and Department Chair, Dr. Lihua Jin.
Accomplished: DePaul University, BS/MS Chemistry 2015
Current: University of Utah, Organic chemistry graduate student
Jin: How has your MS study at DePaul helped you reach where you are now, a PhD student at a top research lab in the country?
Robinson: As an undergraduate, I switched my major to chemistry in the winter quarter of my junior year because I was enjoying my biochemistry class so much. I realized I wanted to have a career in chemistry but felt I had not yet put enough time in at the bench to commit to a PhD program. With more experience in the lab, I became confident that I had the passion for research and personal drive to succeed in a PhD program.
Having an MS was somewhat advantageous for my graduate school applications as it showed my commitment to my education and that despite additional years of study after undergrad; I was still passionate about chemistry and research. Chemistry PhD programs are making an investment in their students and as an applicant it is important to demonstrate your passion for research, chemistry, and that you have the drive to not only finish the program but hopefully make important contributions to science during your time there.
Jin: What aspects of your MS study at DePaul have been the most beneficial to you for your growth as a graduate student?
Robinson: By far the most beneficial aspect of my MS study was my research experience. The MS program gave me the opportunity to have my own research project with more independence and also the valuable experience of writing a thesis. Having written a MS thesis, I feel better prepared for how to approach my PhD dissertation and most importantly, stay organized to keep putting the whole story together much easier.