As I stood in front of my hood today, trying not to space out as I waited for the proverbial watched pot to boil, it occurred to me how unbelievably coincidental my immediate family’s various career paths have turned out to be. My father is a research chemist; he worked on some organometallic chemistry in the Eastman Kodak research labs before transferring to the Mass Spectrometry lab, where he did a great deal of dye characterization. He met my mother in the Kodak research library; she was a chemist in the Analytical division. They were both very conscious of the fact that having two research chemists in the house could easily make my sister and me think that we were supposed to be chemists, too. Since they wanted us to follow our own dreams, they were careful not to talk too much “shop” at home. They even skipped the chemistry sets for us growing up – I never had one until I specifically requested one for my birthday one year.
I’ve always been interested in science. Growing up, I had a whole lot more fun with a microscope and chemistry set than I ever did with dress-up clothes and make-up. My interest was unfocused, though, until the very first “Take Your Daughters to Work” Day. I went to work with my dad, and he showed me how he ran the great big spectrometers that allowed him to take a sample of an unknown chemical and figure out exactly what it was. I thought that was so cool. And when he helped me run and interpret a spectrum and had me sign my name on a report as the official analyst, that was it. I was hooked. When I went to college some years later, I declared a chemistry major. I went on after college to get my M.S. in Organic Chemistry and went to work as a polymer scientist. Two years into that position, I married my HS sweetheart, whose parents were also, wait for it, research chemists at Kodak before they retired. His job was the better between the two of us, so I left my job in sustainable polymers to move out East and eventually landed a position in the research labs of the e-paper industry leader. I am now an ink scientist there.
My sister also went to school for chemistry, and she earned her Ph.D. She recently started her first post-academic job at a personal care products company, where she’s working on hair color chromophores (hair dye). So without any conscious design on our parts, my entire immediate family, including my in-laws, are all essentially color chemists. Not only did we all study the same subject matter, we all went into the same very specialized area within that field. What are the odds?