A Student Perspective on UNT’s PSM Degree in Industrial Chemistry
Jill Willi arrived at UNT in fall 2008 to pursue the PSM in Industrial Chemistry, having earned an undergraduate chemistry degree from TWU the previous spring. “I thought that once I had that [TWU] degree, I would know a LOT about chemistry, but I realized there was MUCH more to learn, so I decided on graduate school,” she says. “I had no prior experience in the chemistry field; I taught piano for 21 years while raising my kids.”
Below are her answers to a series of interview questions from summer 2009, while she was taking business courses and earning internship credit to apply to the PSM. She expects to graduate in spring 2010.
What made you decide to apply for admission in a UNT PSM program?
I liked the PSM program because it was mainly coursework, and much of it is offered online. Working full time makes it difficult to complete a traditional research-oriented Master's program. It could be done, but it would take quite a while longer.
UNT’s PSM program seemed like the perfect blend of chemistry knowledge and business savvy needed to compete for the best jobs in the chemistry field.
What combination of classes did you take your first year and what will you take to finish the program?
My first semester, I took two proficiency chemistry courses (inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry), and two more the second semester (organic chemistry and analytical chemistry). This summer, I'm taking business classes (organizational behavior and analysis, introduction to business computer systems, legal and ethical environment of business, and marketing concepts).
It probably would have been easier to take a mixture of business and chemistry each semester, but I'm not known for doing things the easy way.
I'm also working at an analytical laboratory in Fort Worth full time as an analyst to fulfill the internship requirement.
This fall I'll take physical organic chemistry and statistical analysis, and in the spring, hopefully advanced inorganic chemistry and introduction to decision making. That should do it!
What sort of internship placement did you obtain?
I'm spending the summer working for Texas Analytical Laboratories for Environmental Management, (Talem, Inc., www.talem.com). As a wet chemistry analyst, I am responsible for sample preparation and analyses according to customer requirements. As an accredited laboratory, we help customers comply with government regulations; assist with environmental monitoring and reporting, clean-up, and remediation projects; and do site assessments. Our clients range from private citizens needing testing for private wells, to businesses trying to comply with wastewater disposal regulations, to municipal water treatment plants needing regular testing to meet regulatory requirements. We are also equipped to handle testing of raw materials and finished products for manufacturers. The company is very concerned with environmental issues, and can assist clients with hazardous waste testing and disposal.
My day-to-day duties begin with calibration of all analytical balances, checking oven and refrigerator thermometers, and checking the equipment for operational errors.
Then, customer samples are pulled from the refrigerated storage room for testing. Strict procedures (standard operating procedures) are followed for each type of test to ensure reliable and accurate data. Results are entered into the Laboratory Information Management System for review, validation, and reporting.
I work mostly with aqueous samples, testing for the presence of trace metals, but do some testing on soils and occasionally, food and other consumer products.
Seeing analytical chemistry at work has made me realize that all that knowledge in those expensive textbooks really does have a purpose! It has helped me tremendously to see that my work does mean something; clients need this expertise, and they're willing to pay for it. The business classes have been very informative as well. I've learned it's not easy running a business.
What are your eventual career goals?
I'm not totally sure. I'm getting a taste of industrial chemistry this summer, but during the 2008-2009 school year I worked full time at a community college teaching chemistry labs. With a Master's degree, I could teach classes there.
What other information would you like to share?
Just that, although this degree hasn't been easy, it is very do-able, if you want it badly enough and are willing to work hard. I've heard people say this degree is "wimpy"; NOT TRUE!
What sort of person would you recommend a UNT PSM program to?
Recommending the program to students who are already working in their field makes sense. I think it would appeal to older students who can't afford to go to school full time; they need to keep working but want to further their education.
[NOTE: While some PSM-related courses may be available in the evenings and/or on-line, UNT’s PSM options are not on-line or evening degrees. Potential applicants should meet with the appropriate program director
for more information.]