Job Hunting: A Student’s View

By: Josh Billy, The Ohio State University

The 232nd ECS Meeting will be featuring several new events, including the ECS Career Expo. As a PhD candidate moving ever-closer to defending my thesis, I couldn’t be more excited for this new addition.

I have been to three ECS biannual meetings and several local chapter events as a graduate student. I’ve used meetings to share my work, learn about a lot of interesting research from other groups, and perhaps most importantly, network. Meeting fellow electrochemists, especially those working on projects related to mine, is difficult to do anywhere other than ECS meetings. In a similar way, I’ve struggled to come across electrochemistry positions during my job search.

Because it’s always important to think ahead, I used the sponsor exhibits at previous meetings as a makeshift career fair. In Hawaii last year, I made my way around the booths and spoke to exhibitors while trying to get a feel for what types of jobs they might have available. The problem with the sponsor exhibit, however, is that the job types are limited; companies with sponsor exhibits are mostly (this is not always the case) making products that researchers use rather than for general consumers. The truth is that there are many more companies with electrochemistry positions available not previously represented at ECS meetings. The new ECS Career Expo will hopefully change that.

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Student volunteers

Student volunteers Alexander Limia (left), Georgia Institute of Technology and Xinyou Ke (center), Case Western Reserve University assist a meeting registrant.

Since its establishment in 2016, ECS’s student volunteer program has helped provide unique opportunities to young researchers in the field while offering complimentary meeting registration. During the 231st ECS Meeting, more than a dozen students from around the world took part in the student volunteer program, working to assist ECS staff in executing a successful meeting while opening new networking and engagement opportunities.

“The highlight of my volunteer experience was helping at the registration booth,” says Julie Anne del Rosario, PhD student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. “I got to do my volunteer work and at the same time meet more people going to the conference. Being a familiar face during the conference helped me start conversations with peers and colleagues.”

Benefits of the program include unique networking opportunities with meeting attendees, symposium organizers, and ECS staff while gaining a behind-the-scenes look into ECS meetings, learning how registration operates, technical sessions run, and how major meeting programs are facilitated.

“I got to see a glimpse of how to manage a large conference such as an ECS meeting,” del Rosario says. “That experience is beneficial to me as our group is also about to organize a symposium.”

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ECS student chaptersAalborg University help connect young scientists to a robust local research network. With nearly 70 chapters established worldwide, students gain access to networking, collaboration, and educational opportunities. The ECS Aalborg University Student Chapter is one of three new chapters chartered by the ECS Board of Directors on March 7, 2017. The chapter’s president, Vaclav Knap, believes establishing the student chapter will help unite students working in the different areas of electrochemical and solid state science.

“The main goal was to bring students together,” Knap says. “At our department, the electrochemical oriented topics, such as batteries, fuel cells, and electrolyzers, are minorities. Therefore the idea was to bring the students from these areas closer together to support each other. Moreover, the ECS chapter is a great platform to further learn, promote our topics, and gain additional skills.”

Knap began forming the ECS Aalborg University Student Chapter in the summer of 2016, shortly after he joined the Society. Much of the inspiration to establish the chapter came when Knap attended the ECS sponsored Advanced Batteries, Accumulators and Fuel Cells (ABAF) Conference, where he was able to interact with ECS members such as Petr Vanysek and Jiri Vondrak and learn of the advantages that student chapters could offer.

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Intern Spotlight

Eric PacanskyMy name is Eric Pacansky and I am a graduating senior from the College of New Jersey (TCNJ). While at TCNJ, I have been studying business administration and have learned many concepts regarding how to run a business. To compliment my studies, I have had the good fortune of participating in two internships. I am grateful for the many opportunities and challenges these internships have presented, especially those I received as a membership services intern at ECS.

When I first arrived at ECS in December 2016, I was not exactly sure what electrochemistry was or why it was so important. Then, after being presented with some of the topics that fall under the umbrella of electrochemistry, I was worried that I wouldn’t last long at ECS since I wasn’t able to comprehend most of what electrochemistry is all about. Thankfully, I was assured that having a solid foundation in electrochemistry was not one of my job requirements in the membership department.

I was then informed about ECS’s Free the Science movement. Free the Science is ECS’s plan to provide platinum open access of its journals. This means authors will not have to pay publishing fees, and readers will not have to pay subscription fees. As someone who is studying business, this idea sounded crazy to me. It sounded like a utopian ideal that couldn’t possibly work. Why would the organization exist if it wasn’t trying to take every last dollar it possibly could? That’s when I was reminded of ECS’s mission to advance the science. For the most part, publishers have historically created paywalls that affect a person’s ability to either publish or gain access to an article. These paywalls have held back advancements in science. Removing these barriers is the future of scientific publishing and ECS’s work to do this shows the organization’s commitment to its core values and supporting scientists.

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UNM logoECS hosts a vibrant network of nearly 70 student chapters, bringing together innovative young minds across the globe. Joining that list is the ECS University of New Mexico Student Chapter, chartered by the ECS Board of Directors on March 7, 2017. The chapter’s faculty advisor, Fernando Garzon, believes the establishment of the student chapter could help encourage research collaboration and bolster students’ visibility in the scientific community.

“It greatly benefits students to have a venue such as the ECS University of New Mexico Student Chapter to engage in meaningful scientific dialog with their peers and mentors,” says Garzon, past ECS president. “Engagement in a student chapter helps improve communication skills and provides networking opportunities with other individuals engaged in the ECS technical interest areas.”

The development of the ECS University of New Mexico Student Chapter can provide an avenue for students in different departments working in the electrochemical and solid state science technical area to connect. According to Garzon, many students across campus are actively involved in research pertaining to fuel cell materials, bioelectrochemistry, advanced electrolysis, electrochemical synthesis of fuels, sensor technology, and more.

“Students are more aware of the role that electrochemical and solid state science plays in their lives and the development of more sustainable, lower impact technologies to enhance the well-being of the growing global population,” Garzon says.

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OklahomaECS has nearly 70 student chapters around the world, offering young researchers an opportunity to network with peers, collaborate on research, and become part of a larger scientific community. The ECS Oklahoma Student Chapter is one of three new chapters chartered by the ECS Board of Directors on March 7, 2017.

“We decided to initiate the very first student chapter for the state of Oklahoma to promote the electrochemical science among undergraduate and graduate students,” says Charuksha Walgama, president of the chapter and graduate research assistant at Oklahoma State University. “This way we can generate more opportunities for fellow students and connect them to the ECS network worldwide.”

According to Walgama, being a member of the ECS Oklahoma Student Chapter could help students gain professional and leadership experiences, connect with fellow ECS members locally and internationally, and help prepare students to deliver presentations for a global audience at ECS meetings.

Additionally, Walgama believes the chapter could act as a venue to connect students across the state, opening new networking opportunities and a forum for the exchange of research and information.

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SingaporeECS hosts over 20 region-specific sections, offering local scientists and engineers an opportunity to connect with researchers in their area and participate in a variety of events. The ECS Singapore Section is the most recent addition to that list, chartered by the ECS Board of Directors on March 7, 2017. While the section is just getting its legs, the section’s chair believes that it could help bolster a growing field in Southeast Asia.

“There are extensive research activities in electrochemical science in Singapore and Southeast Asia,” says Alex Yan Qingyu, chair of the ECS Singapore Section and professor at Nanyang Technological University. “It is important to have an organization with good leadership to promote extensive interaction and collaboration between the researchers, and increase student and researcher interests and involvement in the electrochemical community.”

Yan hopes that the establishment of the ECS Singapore Section will help connect all interested parties from academia, industry, and government in an effort to bridge a scientific gap and provide networking opportunities that could lead to new developments or help members advance their careers.

“We would like to organize workshops and conferences to promote the students’ and researchers’ activities and encourage them to join the ECS community,” Yan says. “We would also like to create a good platform to connect the local electrochemists to international scientists and industry representatives.”

Future plans for the section include the potential for a small workshop in late 2017 and a summer school to be further conceptualized for 2018.

Student Volunteers Wanted!

ECS Student MembersVolunteer for six hours at the 231st ECS Meeting and receive a FREE meeting registration!

As a student volunteer, you will work closely with the ECS staff and gain first-hand experience in what it takes to execute an ECS biannual meeting.

Take advantage of the opportunity to network and engage with meeting attendees, symposium organizers, and ECS staff while learning how registration operates, technical sessions run, and how major meeting programs are facilitated. In addition to hands-on experience, volunteers will also receive a meeting t-shirt, a complimentary ticket to the student mixer and a certificate of participation.

Multilingual speakers are highly encouraged to apply!

Deadline for application submissions: Friday, April 21
Candidates notified: Tuesday, April 25

SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION

NOTE: If you do not complete the six hours of work on-site, you will be invoiced for the full registration fee. We will do our best to accommodate the hours you have listed as being available but this is not a guarantee. Each volunteer position will require interaction with the attendees, long periods of standing, and foot-traffic flow management. If you are unwilling or unable to complete these tasks please make us aware upon submitting your application.

Board RoomAt its most recent board of directors meeting during PRiME 2016, ECS leadership approved the addition of students who are ECS members as voting members of the Individual Membership Committee and Education Committee. This governance change is many years in the making with the understanding that if the student member voice is most warranted, it is within these two committees. The timing is perfect as ECS student membership is burgeoning with 64 student chapters around the world and more to come. Our student population takes full advantage of our biannual meetings to network, share, and learn so volunteer leadership within our governance structure is an appropriate next step.

About the Committees

The Individual Membership Committee is charged with retaining and recruiting our organization’s membership on a Society, student and institutional level. The Education Committee has the responsibility of providing educational and career development opportunities to that group. The scope of the work of the two committees are broad with the potential for further growth that parallels the growth of our constituency, its needs and external forces such as new technology and shifts in best practices.

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John Staser, professor of chemical engineering at Ohio UniversityImage: Ohio University

John Staser, professor of chemical engineering at Ohio University
Image: Ohio University

ECS member and Ohio University professor, John Staser, was recently granted $1.5M from the U.S. Department of Energy for biofuels research. Staser and his team will work to develop technology to make biorefineries more efficient and profitable, thereby reducing the cost of environmentally friendly biofuels.

Biofuels are combustible fuels created from biomass. Currently, they are the only viable replacement to petroleum transportation fuels because they can be used in existing combustion engines. Biofuels are typically produced from food crops (sugar cane, corn, soybean, etc.) or materials such as wood, grass, or inedible parts of plants. Ethanol and biodiesel are prominent forms of biofuels that offer an alternative to such transportation fuels as petroleum and jet fuel.

Staser will lead an interdisciplinary team to develop ways to process a class of complex organic polymers known as lignin, which is one of the many waste products produced in the biorefining process.

“It’s not really competitive with gasoline, especially if oil is $40 a barrel,” Staser says. “Before this biofuel becomes feasible, we have to find a way to reduce the manufacturing cost. One way to do this is to come up with a secondary revenue stream for the refinery. So, if biorefineries could waste lignin to do so, biofuel would become a more financially feasible option.”

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