The Chemist : Joining a Professional Organization
Hey everyone! This week we decided to talk about the benefits of joining a professional organization in undergrad. Fittingly so, I'm at NOBCChE conference this week in Orlando, which the organization I’ll be talking about today.
NOBCChE, or the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, is a non-profit organization that caters to black students in STEM, specifically chemistry and chemical engineering. It provides opprotunities for professional, academic, and personal development throgh various avenues. A lot of schools have chapters and that’s how I was exposed to it.
When I was at Pitt, both my academic and research advisors were the advisors for the NOBCChE chapter, so I actually had no choice in joining. It was honestly one of the best decisions of my undergraduate career. We hosted events, got to network within the department, and also had the opportunity to present our research at the national conference. It was at the Orlando conference in 2016 that my life changed. I got to conference and was exposed to so many people that looked like me doing amazing things. There were other undergrads, grad students, post docs, people that worked in industry, people that worked in government labs, etc. It was very eye opening. Two other important things happened at that conference: I was exposed to Ohio State and I got the opportunity to do an internship at the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Ever since that conference, I knew I had joined an amazing organization so as soon as I came to OSU, I got plugged into the chapter. Now I’m on the board for our local chapter and have expanded my network tremendously.
You may ask why NOBCChE is so special, since there’s orgs like the American Chemical Society (ACS) for scientists. NOBCChE is special because it’s a family. It’s a smaller conference (around 400-500 people in attendance) but you always see the same people. You build meaningful connections each conference. You see the same recruiters for big companies. The same grad students are in attendance every year. And you get an opportunity to present your work in an intimate setting so people can actually ask you in depth questions about your work.
There also are professional seminars, a career and academic fair, and plenty of student development workshops to help you reach your goals, whatever they might be. There have been a lot of job offers that have come out of this conference and a lot of connections made that lead to fellowship and grad school acceptances that happen every year.
But I’d have to say the biggest advantage of a professional organization like NOBCChE is that you never feel out of place. It’s very easy in STEM to look around and not see people that look like you, but here, I look around and see black women that are professors, manage national labs, hold high positions in industry, that are on the national board, are amazing researchers, and everything in between. Being able to see myself in this space gives me fuel to work towards my goals. It’s a safe space here where you are free to ask questions and get the 411 on how to pursue your next steps.
Regardless of where you are in STEM, joining a professional organization in your field will only help you advance. It’s always about who you know.
What organizations are you a part of? Tweet me your responses.