PROF Spotlight

The Division of Professional Relations (PROF) is pleased to introduce a new feature – PROF Spotlight – which highlights the accomplishments and achievements of some of our rising members! Interested in being featured? Learn more at the end of this post!

Matt Gordon is a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University – Bloomington working in the laboratory directed by Dr. Sara Skrabalak towards his Ph.D. in chemistry, with an emphasis on materials science. Matt researches novel and scalable molecular precursors to make photocatalytic materials for overall water splitting. After graduate school, Matt plans to work in industry in the renewable energy sector. Alongside his Ph.D. work, Matt has earned a certificate in business through the IU Kelley School of Business, a skillset he plans to use as a project manager in industry.

  1. What is a facet of professional development that you are interested in learning more about?

As I near graduation, I am beginning to explore chemistry job opportunities in industry. The transition from academia to industry will be a huge change in my professional career. I am excited (albeit also very nervous) about the variety of companies and sectors available. I have heard chemistry professionals say that their current work is nothing like their graduate school thesis work, so I often wonder which other areas of chemistry would be fulfilling to me. I want to make sure not to limit my search too narrowly. I am looking for positions that will allow me to use my skillset to solve complicated problems with new approaches. To prepare for this transition, I am interested in learning more about resume/CV/cover letter writing, professional networking, and interview and salary negotiation skills. I have found some great resources at my university as well as through the ACS that have given me a good foundation on these topics.

  1. What’s a piece of advice that you would give to someone interested in doing more leadership and professional development?

Both leadership and professional development require active participation to acquire meaningful skills and opportunities. Leadership is a quality that is cultivated through practice as is professional development which occurs over an extended period. In graduate school, I have tried to incorporate the development of both alongside the traditional academic and research progress.

Within a research group, leadership can be developed through mentoring a junior graduate student or undergraduate researcher. Leadership skills can also be developed by taking the lead on a collaborative project. Also, student run clubs can be a great way to lead peers towards common goals. If there isn’t a club that’s right for you, starting one would be a big statement of leadership. Success in these leadership areas does not always happen initially, but these situations allow you to try different leadership approaches and receive feedback to learn from. As a leader, you will make mistakes, but how you respond and grow is an key step in leadership progress.

Professional development can take a lot of different forms. One form that I have found particularly important has been to develop effective communication skills which will help at all stages of a career. Feedback can be provided within a research group setting but applying them through poster and oral presentations at local and international conferences is critically important. These types of presentations allow you to connect with scientists with other backgrounds and require you to adapt your presentation to each unique audience. 

The best advice I can give would be to say yes to opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone. Recently, I have had opportunities to present scientific research to state legislators and participate on a departmental faculty search committee. Details of these opportunities were emailed to large groups of people, but I was able to develop professionally by signing up for them and trying something new. Both were new experiences that taught me things that cannot be learned in a research lab alone.   

  1. Are there any recent accomplishments you would like to share?

During the summer of 2020, when my campus was closed due to COVID-19, I struggled with finding ways to continue my development. Without access to the lab and instruments, I felt unable to progress in my graduate school career which took a toll on my mental health. I began looking for opportunities that I could do remotely and found that the Indiana University Kelley School of Business was offering a summer online certificate program titled ‘Business Essentials.’ The courses were designed to teach the basics of management, finance, operations, and marketing, in a format that distilled these large topics into readily understood lessons. Taking these courses gave me short term goals to help me during quarantine, but more deeply supported my professional development progress. As I intend to enter industry following graduate school, these courses will ease that transition and provided me with the language to work with the non-technical sides of a company. I believe this unique experience will help me as I navigate the job market and position me as a good candidate for roles that require technical skills and some business knowledge.

To connect with Matt, you can email him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Are you a member of the ACS Division of Professional Relations, have a topic you want cover about professional development or would love to share a little more about yourself with our network? Email to get started!

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ACS Division of Professional Relations

Annabelle Lolinco

(559) 644-8891

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