Carnegie Mellon University

PPG Visit

December 01, 2017

Chemistry Ph.D. Students Go Behind the Scenes at PPG

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy

What started as a casual conversation over dinner between Professor of Chemistry Catalina Achim and Silvia Bezer Bratu (S’2010) sparked a new professional development opportunity for chemistry graduate students at the Mellon College of Science.

Bratu invited Achim to her house over the summer to catch up with her former advisor. The pair began going back and forth about how chemistry students could gain more insight into the chemical industry.

“We talked about the fact that our Ph.D. students can easily learn much more about academic careers than about careers in industry,” said Achim.

Bratu, who now works at PPG and serves on the company’s Science Education Council, suggested organizing a visit for students to tour the facilities.

“It was nice to get feedback immediately following an interview with someone who is often responsible for hiring and to learn the things that an interviewer thinks about and the things they look for.”

Bratu and her Science Education Council colleagues, Emma Schwartz and Katie Cumpston, ­organized a tour of the Coatings Innovation Center, PPG’s global coatings research and development headquarters, in Allison Park, Pa., in late October. The visit also allowed students to engage in mock interviews and sit in on a panel led by Carnegie Mellon alumni at PPG.

“I found the mock interviews very helpful in particular,” said Matt Baker, a fifth-year chemistry Ph.D. student. “It was nice to get feedback immediately following an interview with someone who is often responsible for hiring and to learn the things that an interviewer thinks about and the things they look for.”

After the visit, Baker, who serves as chair of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Chemical Society’s  Younger Chemists Committee (YCC), saw an opportunity to develop an ongoing partnership with PPG’s Science Education Council to provide resources and networking opportunities to pre-career chemists.

Baker looks forward to turning this opportunity into an annual event and says the Pittsburgh YCC will work directly with Bratu and the council next year to plan another visit.