Life in the real, real world

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  • Janan M. Hayes I American River College Sacramento. CA 95841

    and 1 Life in the Real, Real World Sumar Corporation

    Foster City. CA 94404 I In October of 1979, Gardner Stacy as President of the

    American Chemical Society brought together about thirty industrial chemists to investigate what the ACS could do to he of more service to industrial chemists. One of their con- clusions went bevond ACS concerns to state that most colleges and universitieiare not educating bachelor degree c h e m i k to fill the needs of industry.' After almost thirty years in academe as a student and a-teacher and nowhere else in my nrofessional career I had come to a related conclusion; namely, that I did not know if I were preparing my students for what they were really going to face as they went into the scientific job market.

    A National Science Foundation Science Faculty Profes- sional Development grant2 for the 1979-80 school year made it financially possible for me to spend a year in industry and assess the educational backeround needed hv students en- tering industry. The grant provided a level of flexibility that would not have been oossihle if the company had provided my salary. My host institution was ~ u m a ; ~ & ~ o r a & n , a small manufacturer of in oitro diagnostic reagents for blood analysis. The advantage of my being a t a small company was an ease in experiencing ioh functions in all phases of industry. During the year a t ~ G a r , I was able to work in production, quality control. basic and applied research, sales, regulatory compli- ance and management. In addition I spent nearly three months on visitations to other industrial sites. My priority in accepting opportunities was to gain actual day to day expe- rience in the type ofjoh my students could expect early in their professional careers.

    Production is the heart of any manufacturing site and so I started the year as a part of the production crew. The tran- sition from beaker chemistry to large hatch process was mind-boggling. Two experiences early in my stay a t Sumar illustrate my transition. First, I was directed to "accurately weigh" out 22 kg of caffeine. My experience as a quantitative analysis instructor led me to plan on using an analytical bal- ance with f 0.1 mp capacity, hut the production procedure . . ~ called for a triple-hram tnalance with *I g precisiun at best. Then I realized that I gin 22 kg is the same l e \d of precision required of my quantitative analysis students on their ana- lytical balancrs.'l'hus, industry isexpecting thesame relativr precision as academe, but absolute value\ are murh largw As we wwe making alhulnin reagent a secund exprrience solidi- fied this nmnt This reagent is essenrinllv a hromocre;td r rwn -~~~~ solutionkith a pH tolerance o f f 0.05 d~ units. My pr&ious experience suggested that a pH adjustment of this precision was best obtained by dropwise addition of very dilute hy- drochloric acid. Instead. I found myself standing on a ladder adding glugs of concentrated HCI and allowingthe hatch to stir for 20 min before the next pH check. Working on a larger

    This paper was presented as a part of the Symposium on Faculty Renewal and Development, Second International Chemical Congress, Las Vegas, Nevada, August 1980, paper number CHED-69.

    Mount, Ramon A,, "The Industrial Chemist and the American Chemical Society, A Report an the Presidential Conference on In- dustrial Chemists and the ACS," American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 1980,p. 1.

    This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SPI-7914921.

    scale does make a difference in one's operating procedure. And increasing scale also reauires more plannine. I can remember standing& the ladder thinking: " ~ e e , is 21) minutes stirring eoina to he sufficient before check the pH? And what am I - - going to do during that 20 minutes whilethe mixture is stirr- ing? Can I be working on another project or should I just stand here and watch it stir?" One must he aware of the variety of tasks that need to he accomplished in a day or week and he able to work simultaneouslv on more than one nroiect. This. . . however, must be done with caution so that products are not mishandled or nrocedures annlied to the wrone hatch. The . . production chemist has the responsibility for organizing a production schedule to keep all personnel a t work but not to comoromise a oroduct. For example, we had one disastrous production sitiation. We were making a copper sulfate solu- tion. Everything looked fine in the tank, hut when we bottled and sent a sample to quality control, it failed. What had happened was that in an early production step, because it was almost the end of a work day, the copper sulfate had been added before the tartaric acid buffer had dissolved completely. So we had very fine crystals of the acid in the reagent with no way to dissolve them in the finished product. These crystals made the oroduct unusable. We had to concentrate the 250 L of finished product and pay to have it taken to a heavy metal waste facilitv. Therefore. in addition to not havine a needed product to sell, we had afinancial loss in raw matkrials and disposal costs.

    In most industrial johs, one has to he flexible. One must he willing to do johs for which one was not trained. One day I would he planning the production schedule for 1000 liters of product and the next day spending half the day putting labels on 4000 bottles because the label machine was not working properly. Flexibility needs to he encouraged in our students. I once had a student who was having difficulty with my quantitative analysis class. He just did not see the need to work hard enough to get the accuracy and precision required. He commented that he was just finishing his B.S. in physical chemistry but that he did not ever intend to he in a laboratory. My position was then, and is even more strongly now, that as students are leaving their unldergraduate program they do not know exactly what they may he asked to do upon entering the ioh market. I have to trv to help mv students be able to he . . flexible and use their time and training to a maximum.

    h l y days in prnductim provided another contrast to acad- eme. The first morning at Ilk12 a.m. the ranteen truck came into thecomplex and hleu its whistle, everything stopped, and we went on the morning break. I found that the common at- titude was to plan for the day's work, because no one wanted to be in the middle of a project that could not be stopped for hreak time. This type of situation was somewhat different from my previous experience. As the year progressed, I noticed that there were two types of people in the plant, and I think vou have orohablv seen them in vour students or amona vour colleagues. herea are time-oriented people and task-oriented oeoole. Those who are time-oriented are the ones who make ceria~n they are not doing someth~ng that would cause them tu mlss a hreak or have to stav late. Task-oriented oeooleare the ones who are concerned about getting the job done even if it means missing a hreak or staying until 505 p.m. when quitting time is 5 o'clock. I also found that task-oriented

    Volume 57. Number 12, December 1980 1 847

  • neonle are movine uo in resnonsibilitv more raoidlv than rather than walkine ten feet to nut them back in the nrooer time-oriented who seem only to progress b; reason of seniority. This progression is particularily true in a small company. One of the aspects that I hope to make students realize is that there are differences not only in job function but also in job flexibility as a result of the size of the company. The students need to consider their own personalities and in what kind of environment they will be most successful.

    My next area of sewice was in quality control (Q.C.). Two of us were responsible for all raw material, production, and periodic Q.C. in addition to some Food and Drug Adminis- tration-rewired insnections. As a auant teacher. it was re- warding to see that I really could do analytical work repro- duciblv on a nutine basis usine the terhniaues that I teach and demand of my students. ~naddition to my Sumar expe- rience this past year, I traveled extensively visiting other in- dustrial sites. On these visits I heard time and time again that newly hired B.S. chemists were usually missing a strong background in analytical skills. This was true for organic, polymer, and biochemistry majors as well as those with an analytical emphasis. I usually asked further "Do you want them to have experience on a variety of modern instrumen- tation?"Tbe response was usually "No, as long as they know the basic techniques and know whether the results of the in- strumental analvsis are reasonable." The chemist mav not be doing the analysis himself, but he must be able to dLect the work and to analyze the results obtained. Actual training on the individual instruments will be provided on site; that need not he a function of the colleae. And so. no matter what the student's major, I found strong support for more basic ana- lytical training in the B.S. program.

    While I was in Q.C. we discovered an unfortunate accident, educational for me, but very expensive for the company. By accident, two batches of a were labeled with thesame lot number. (We have as a result changed our lot number system to prevent this type of accident.) One of the batches was found to have a decomposition problem after a few months and had to be recalled. However, because hoth were labeled with the same lot number we had to recall hoth hatches. Upon receiving the recalled material, we easily de- termined which was the good batch. The plan was to relabel this good material and reissue it. But when it was relabeled for reissue, i t was accidentally relabeled with the old "dupli- cated lot numher." So when sent hack to su~nl iers i t was identified as being the recalled lot and sent baik to the com- pany. At this point we had to destroy the product. Because of this error, the company suffered a financial loss significant to a small company. I hope that my telling students of this inci- dent will help them to realize that they are not just putting in time on a job. Each step in a process can have a total corporate effect. Students must realize that an error in simple and routine tasks, such as stamping a number on a label, can have a long range effect on their future and that of their employer. This incident also was educational for the company's man- agement; it confirmed that the company had grown to a size where some casual procedures acceptable in early days of the comnanv were no longer accentable.

    I also"spent time a h s t i n i t h e auditors in preparing the corporate financial report. This gave me an overview of the business side of the company. When one looks at how much money actually goes into making each bottle of product, bow much is earned for that bottle of product, and how much overhead is involved in producing and selling that bottle, one looks at money from a different p&pective. No longer can one feel comfortable about throwing out a pocketful of bottle caps

    +

    bin. I would like toencourage mire students with a bksiness interest to seek a bachelor's deeree in a scientific area first. Neither of our auditors knew anything about chemistry and little about science, although, I guess, they were good at ac- counting. One of the things that took so much of my time during the month I worked with them was explaining that whether the inventory list said "sodium salt" or "Na salt" it was the same chemical. In talking with audit supervisors, I have been told that if the accounting firms can get people with science backgrounds they will have a wider variety of experi- ences and m&e opportunity for advancement. So again I hope we can help our students to realize that if they have a good science background but later find that they are really inter- ested in other areas, their science background will still be of benefit to them.

    I mentioned earlier that flexibility was important to the production chemist. As I worked in applied research this ob- servation was reinforced. I was presented with a problem outside the clinical line which had a solution within the ex- panded scope of our clinical product line. One Sumnr produrt is for the analysis of H U N (bound urea nitrogen) in t~lnorl at a normal level of around 700 ppm nitrogen. At a conference last fall I met the laboratory director of a urea manufacturing plant in Oregon. He was concerned about measuring the presence of 1 to 5 ppm urea in the plant effluent. My challenge was to adapt the clinical product to the company's water matrix with a much lower urea concentration. Being able to deal both on a narrow level and a broader scone is what I call flexibility. This project led to two other adaptation projects for use of clinical products in water analysis and may have long-range corporate possibilities, but it all started because someone was flexible enough to look beyond the normal clinical utilization of one ~ u m a r prnduct. -

    I earlier mentiuned the part of Q C in F.D.A. inspections. The time involved by the company in satisfying gove;nmental requirements is increasingly larger. In dealing this year with everyone from the local fire marshal about storage of raw chemicals to the F.D.A. inspector in showing that we are fol- lowine eood manufacturine nractices. I have a better under- - - u. standing of the purpose and impact of governmental regula- tion. Both this and the area of patents and trade secrets are rarely a part of an undergraduate curriculum, but both will be commonnlace in the world of the industrial chemist.

    In summnry, I ha\.e found that prior ro this year's experi- ence I had onlva sunerfirial understanding of what the "real world" was like for most chemists. As I return to the classroom, my interactions with students will result in emphasis on not only the science of analytical chemistry but &so the psy- chology of the chemical work environment. I will be discussing flexibility and attitude in addition to equilibrium and titration technique. I hope to be as concerned about what the students will do with the knowledge they gain as I will be about the amount of knowledge they gain. Perhaps then these students will be more prepared to face the "real, real world."

    I am grateful to the National Science Foundation for funding this year's experience and to the entire Science Fac- ulty Professional Development program. I also express ap- preciation to everyone a t Sumar Corporation for taking me in for the year, and to a number of other industrial sites and dedicated chemists who shared time and knowledge with me in my search for the "real world of industrial chemistry. I hope that all of us in academe will continue to look for on- portunities such as this that will allow us to prepare our s