MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: please answer this questions

Date: Tue Apr 13 22:58:23 1999
Posted By: Edward Peterson, Staff, Chemical Engineering, S&B Engineers and Constructors
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 923579424.Ch

I hope you have asked several people for answers, since every chemist will 
have a different answer.

I earned a 4 year degree in Chemistry. From there, I got a Masters and 
then a Doctorates in Chemical Engineering.  I have worked for about 20 
years and have worked with hundreds of chemists and engineers.

How does math help you in your career?

Math is extremely important.  You might be surprised that most of the time 
I use simple math that you already know to do my job.  Chemists and 
Engineers must understand and use algebra, too.  They take a lot more math 
in college, such as calculus, but do not use this very much.  However, 
these math courses help them understand the chemistry they study better.

  What schooling do you need?

Although it is possible to be a chemist without a 4 year or Bachelor's 
degree, less than one out a hundred professional chemists lack this 
degree. About 1/3 of all chemists have more school.  About 1/5 have a 
Doctorates.  Many job opportunitites require the interested jobseeker to 
hold a Doctorate.  That means 4 years after high school plus 3 to even 10 
years more after that.

  Do you like your job?

Right now I am working as an engineer, but I have worked as a chemist 
before.  The job I got to do when I was a chemist was to invent new 
mixtures of polymers.  As an engineer, I was able to invent new ways to 
heat things.  In fact, I used microwave energy, the same energy as your 
microwave oven at home, to heat giant chemical reactors more safely and to 
reduce pollution.  It was a lot of fun doing something no one else had 
ever done before.  I had to understand a lot about chemistry and math in 
order to come up with the idea, and that made the invention of this new 
way to heat reactors even more fun, because I got to teach my co-workers 
how I did it.

  How many hours a week do you work?

Where I work right now I work about 40 to 45 hours each week.  I work for 
an engineering and construction company that designs and builds chemical 
factories and refineries (they make gasoline).  When I am at work, I work 
carefully and as quickly as possible.  However, I get paid very well for 
the work that I do.

  What do specilize in?

My specialty is in using microwave power to heat and dry chemicals and 
chemical reactors.  However, I also specialize in using complex programs 
that predict how a chemical plant or refinery should be built.

  What are some of your responseibites?

As a chemist, my job was to invent new plastics and find better ways to 
make these plastics.  As an engineer in research, I was asked to help find 
ways to improve manufacturing methods already being used and invent new 
ones.  As an engineer in construction, I am responsible for carefully 
calculating equipment will work in a chemical plant that has not yet been 

  What is your favorite part of your job?

I like learning new things.  Then, I like to use what I have learned and 
combine ideas that are very different and use them to create something new.

  What is the worst part of your job?

Sometimes I am asked to do my job too fast and my work becomes sloppy.  I 
do not like to do work that is less than perfect, but sometimes a good 
answer is needed right away and there is no time for a completely correct 
answer.  I take pride in my work, though, and I prefer giving absolutely 
correct answers when possible.

  What is your average salary?  

Right now I earn $85,000 per year if I work 40 hours each week.  In my 
present job, I get overtime pay, which is very unusual for a profesional 
chemist or engineer.  Therefore, if I work 4 hours extra each week, I give 
myself a 10% raise!  However, if I don't work, I do not get paid.  
Therefore, I go to work each day and always work at least 40 hours per 
week.  A chemist just out of college would make between 30 and 45 thousand 
dollars per year.

  How often do you get paid?

I get paid every two weeks.  That is normal, although some chemists and 
engineers get paid each month.

  What is your name?

I am Dr. Edward Peterson.  If you have any more questions, you can email 
me at  I will answer them as well as I know how.

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