In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The second blog in this series features Kathryn "Kato" Killops, a scientist with Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Chemical Biological Filtration Branch .
It can be daunting to transition from an undergraduate or graduate research program in academia into a government agency with its own long history of research and development. When I started at ECBC after my graduate work at University of California Santa Barbara, I found it difficult to navigate and align my expertise with that of my new research institution. However, there were a few strategies that helped me into ease into my position and have continued to be useful to me as I design and conduct research projects here at ECBC.
Carve out a niche for yourself. Being one of the only polymer chemists at ECBC led me to pursue research funding and collaborative opportunities that aligned both with the Army mission and with my own interests and skills. It may not be immediately obvious to you as to how your skills can benefit an established research project. With that said, I found it to be beneficial to attend workshops, events, and seminars outside my branch in order to meet other researchers and discuss potential collaborative efforts.
Identify potential funding sources. Having the freedom and flexibility to pursue your own research projects is tremendously empowering, and often results from having funding to support those goals. Shortly after starting at ECBC, I began working on several original research proposals to submit to various funding agencies for basic research resources. The ECBC and Army In-house Laboratory Independent Research and the Surface Science Initiative have enabled me to orchestrate my own research projects. I recommend having ideas or summaries of proposed research ready in case there is an announcement for seedlings, proposals, or white papers.
Use your connections. The connections I’ve made with people that I met in graduate school, or at conferences and seminars, have been invaluable to me as resources for initiating my own research projects. For everything from proposal and manuscript reviews, to full collaborative efforts, my network has helped me be more successful than I ever would have been on my own.
If you need something, ask for it. There’s no harm in asking. Likely, you can connect with someone who has access, or knows how to get access, to what you need. Sometimes that’s the simplest, and most effective, solution.
So there you have it – these strategies proved to be vital in helping me transition from my graduate research program at UC Santa Barbara into working for a government agency with different goals. What strategies most helped you transition to the ECBC working environment?
Kato Killops joined the CBR Filtration Branch in March 2011. Kato received her B.A. in Chemistry from Whitman College, and her Ph.D. in Materials Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.