We recognize that graduate students in chemistry face unique challenges in their research careers beyond technical setbacks. Consequently, we have offered the Introductory Professional Development for Chemists since 2014. CHEM591 (used to be CHEM492) is taken by chemistry graduate students in their first semester on campus to provide a broad overview of non-research skills significant during graduate school. The class meets weekly for an hour in the Fall semester.

The course has evolved over the years and now has four modules below that span over 17 weeks;

  1. Teaching Skills
  2. Inclusive Excellence in Chemistry Research Groups 
  3. Non-Technical Skills
  4. Professional Ethics

This course will cover topics to prepare graduate students for all aspects of graduate culture, which include;

  • how to be an effective TA,
  • developing cultural competence and awareness to enables effective professional interactions with diverse scientists,
  • understanding ethics in research,
  • developing a non-technical skillset essential to graduate school success such as program management, conflict resolution, time management, and managing mental health
  • understanding the departmental expectations on appropriate professional conduct.

Examples of topics covered in the course include:

Module 1:  Teaching Skills

Getting started
  • The purpose of this course
  • Things to know on your first day of class with students
  • What you should ask your instructor
  • How to get your section off to a good start
  • Lab tutorial:  practical tips on how to be a lab TA
  • Lecture tutorial:  practical tips on how to teach well
Grad student panel discussions about TA responsibilities
Everything you should know about joining a research group

Module 2:  Inclusive Excellence in Chemistry Research Groups 

A Discussion on Gender Harassment in Chemistry Research Labs
Mental Health & Support Centers
Why scientists need cultural competency and awareness

Module 3:  Non-Technical Skills 

Introduction to non-technical skills for chemists
Structuring Your Work & Project Management
Conducting independent research; creativity
Drafting your Five year Plan

Module 4:  Professional Ethics & Managing conflicts in Research

Ethics: You, as a scientist in the lab
Ethics: Publications, Conflict of Interest, and When Things Go Bad
Group Dynamics – Managing Ethics and Communication in Research

For more information on the course, email Dr. Lloyd Munjanja at munjanja@illinois.edu.