Welcome! Although it often feels like we as younger chemical educators work in a vacuum, in truth we are a community of scholars and professionals. We hope this blog will help younger scholars in the chemical education community support one another, share ideas, and exchange advice.

The blog is regularly updated with guest posts from chemical education researchers across the community. Of course, we welcome your feedback as well! Leave your remarks or questions in the comments section to become part of the conversation.*

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YCES's blog

Chemistry Education Research (CER): Where we came from, where are we now, and where can we go?

by Debbie Herrington (Grand Valley State University) and Ryan Sweeder (Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University)

As undergraduate students majoring in chemistry, one of us in the US and the other in Canada, we were familiar with the Journal of Chemical Education, but had never heard of Chemistry Education Research (CER). Had either of us known it was possible to do graduate work in CER, we may have made some different graduate school choices. Maybe you are in a similar situation; just hearing about this thing called CER. Or maybe you are about to begin graduate work in CER but wanting to know more about the field in general. In this post we aim to provide a concise summary of the development and current state of the CER field as well as what we view as the future challenges and opportunities for the field. Having individually come to CER through notably different pathways, we hope our perspective gives you a sense of CER as a discipline and encourages you to jump in and participate in the work and important conversations needed to build the CER community and move it forward. 

GRFP: A Graduate student’s Reflection on Framing her Potential

by Katherine Lazenby
The University of Iowa

As an awardee of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), I want to share my experience preparing for submission (and deciding to apply in the first place) to the program. I found applying to the program to be a valuable experience, and receiving the award has afforded me many opportunities, such as agency over my research directions and the ability to travel and share my work at conferences. I hope my perspectives will help future graduate students write compelling and competitive proposals!

Home is Where Your CER Is: Pursuing CER at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution

by Jessica VandenPlas, PhD, Grand Valley State University

When I accepted my first tenure track job teaching at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI), I assumed it would be a temporary stop—a stepping stone to the coveted R1 position for which I had been groomed in graduate school.  This was a path I had seen many of my well-respected senior colleagues in the field of chemistry education research (CER) take, and I assumed my path would be no different.  I graduated at a time when there were still very few post docs in CER, and even fewer R1 institutions willing to hire a newly minted grad student without a proven track record, such as myself.  Most of the chemistry education researchers I saw being successful at R1s at the time had started out at PUIs themselves, building up that track record, before moving into these elusive R1 positions.  My plan was to use my time at a PUI to build a similar track record, and then move on to the position I thought (at the time) I truly wanted.  However, as is the case with many temporary stops, this one has become my home. Some 10 years later, although freshly-graduated-Jessie would have rolled her eyes at this, it is a position I have grown to love, and honestly cannot see myself leaving.

Baby on Board: Navigating Your Academic Career When You Have Children

It was my third time attending a Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, and this one was held was at my alma mater, so I had some idea of what to expect. It was, however, my first time attending a conference with a 5-week old infant in tow, so I was very nervous about how that might impact my experience at the conference. Would Matt nap while I attended talks, or would he fuss and cry? Would I be able to find places to feed and change him with the frequency that a newborn requires? What would my colleagues think? Since becoming a parent seven years ago, I have been trying to navigate questions like this. I don’t have all the answers, but my experiences have taught me four lessons that I would like to share with you.

Maximizing Your Conference Experience

By David Wren

Conferences are many things to many people. They can be both exciting and stressful, a lot of work and a lot of fun. Conferences can be expensive, when registration, travel, food and lodging are all factored in. So how do you maximize your conference experience? We (Younger Chemistry Education Scholars) asked 22 experienced conference-goers for their tips on how to get the most out of a conference. We are excited to share with you the results of this informal survey and hope you find their sage advice beneficial! So, before heading to your first or next conference, here are some pro-tips on getting the most out of your time at a conference.

Need a job? 7 Steps to Consider During the Process

by David Wren and Sonia Underwood 

Congratulations! You worked hard and finished your degree and are now ready to put all your dedication and hard work to practice. In other words, you need to get a job. A real one. Scanning through pages of ambiguous job postings, you are not sure what jobs entail, what are the qualifications (what does “or related field” really mean, anyway?), and how to filter those for which you can be competitive. Added to the fish-out-of-water feeling, you may have other restrictions of location or coordinating a job hunt with a significant other (see “Navigating the Two-Body Problem”). Applying for jobs can be daunting, especially when you are in the middle of finishing up your Ph.D. program, post-doctoral fellowship, or teaching 5 classes a semester. Your application writing will most likely not happen in a nice coffee shop during the morning, but at night, while your friends/significant other are laughing at the new season of Orange is the New Black. But there is good news! Actually, two very good bits of news for you. Good news bit one: your degree sets you apart from most applicants, which is HUGE in the screening process. The second bit of good news is there is a process that can maximize your success in your job hunt (see below).

Tips for Temporary Teaching

by Jordan Harshman

Fresh from graduate school, I was really looking forward to my first shot at teaching at the University of Iowa. Being a visiting assistant professor was finally my time where I could exercise autonomy and teach the class how I wanted to teach it. No more being a teaching assistant where everything was prescribed for me, no more asking anyone else “is it okay if a student does x, y, or z?”

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