Adam Hill ’08

JOB TITLE: Assistant professor of chemistry
ORGANIZATION: St. Lawrence University
LOCATION: Canton, New York
GRADUATE DEGREE: Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, 2013

What was your first position after college? After graduating from Trinity, I immediately entered graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? My liberal arts education, in addition to enriching my knowledge of the world, has provided me with the philosophical/ethical framework with which I approach my scientific studies. It also honed my writing, speaking, and graphic design abilities, key skills in conveying scientific discoveries to others.

What aspects of your Trinity experience have been important to advancing your career or graduate school experience? Trinity College’s commitment to undergraduate research was absolutely critical to my career. From the second semester of my freshman year, I had the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge scientific research in multiple fields that interested me personally. This had three excellent outcomes: Firstly, I experienced actual research and found that it was something I enjoyed so much that I wanted to make it the basis of my career. Secondly, I developed practical skills that I could apply in summer internships and in the laboratory in graduate school. Thirdly, I became more independent and self-motivated in approaching my education.   

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? In developing your skill as a scientist, take as many 300- or 400-level science courses as possible. You should begin doing laboratory research of some kind as soon as possible – it will help you decide if you if you truly enjoy science and also prepare you for future lab work. If possible, try to get off campus to do an internship in a different field or a different university over the summer. Get as many different and diverse science experiences as you can. Additionally, it’s important to take classes outside the Physics, Chemistry, or Biology departments. If graduate school is in your future, computer science, statistics, and mathematics courses are invaluable. No one in graduate school ever suffered for having too much math or computer science knowledge; confidence in these areas can make almost any project easier.   

What is the biggest misconception about your field? Success in a hard-science Ph.D. program has little to do with being “smart enough” and everything to do with work ethic and commitment. Before you decide to attend graduate school, try to find experiences outside academia – either via summer internships or postcollege employment – to see if graduate school is really the right fit.