Chemical & Engineering News: No Hurdle Too High

1024 683 Arlyne Simon, PhD | Biochemical Engineer. Author. Inventor. Entrepreneur.

Pursuing a career in the chemical sciences isn’t easy, and it can seem nearly impossible when life throws you one curveball after another. Yet some people who have faced enormous obstacles in their lives are that much more determined to realize their career aspirations, with each challenge being just another hurdle to overcome, and each accomplishment providing more reason to celebrate.

C&EN asked readers from diverse backgrounds to share their stories of overcoming adversity and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. The following is a selection of stories, edited for clarity and brevity, which we hope will inspire and guide others to a fulfilling career in the chemical sciences.

Learning from Failure

In school, I experienced “impostor syndrome,” where I felt less competent than my male peers, particularly in situations where I was either the only female or the only minority in the room.

My parents often reminded me that I was intelligent and could excel in any field that I chose, even if that field was engineering. My peers reminded me that the numerous awards I had received had come to me not because of luck but because I was hardworking and disciplined in chemistry and engineering.

During college, I learned of the micro­fluidics work of Shuichi Takayama, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan, and I was inspired to pursue a Ph.D. in macromolecular science and engineering. Under the guidance of Dr. Takayama, I developed a new protein microarray technology, advancing the field of personalized medicine. Because of the promising results, Dr. Takayama and I cofounded a life sciences start-up called PHASIQ in 2012.

I have since learned to set realistic goals and to reward myself when those goals are met. I have also learned the importance of choosing good mentors who not only encourage innovation but also encourage failure. After all, many great inventions were first dubbed “failed experiments.”

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