Connecting with Alumni: Chris Junk and Jill Moncarz

On December 17, 2013 by Grad Forum

Jill Moncarz and Chris Junk

Dartmouth graduate students go on to pursue a variety of career paths. The Graduate Forum recently caught up with graduate alumnus, Chris Junk, to learn more about his experiences following graduation.

At Dartmouth, Junk worked with Professor David Lemal, researching fluorine compounds. He graduated with his PhD in chemistry in 2000 and was immediately hired by DuPont to do research on Teflon® polymers. He was attracted to working for DuPont because many well-known fluorine chemists at the time worked at DuPont Central Research & Development (CR&D). After working three years in the fluoropolymer business, he joined CR&D to work with renowned fluorochemists such as Andy Feiring, Bruce Smart, Bob Wheland, and Slava Petrov. Currently, Junk still works in CR&D at DuPont and is excited to conduct the basic research needed to support projects that could lead to future commercial products.

When asked about his advice for those who may wish to go straight into industry after obtaining a PhD, rather than pursuing a postdoc and ultimately a professorship, Junk remarked that in industry you need to rely on many collaborators to move a project forward. This means sharing the workload and sharing the credit when a project succeeds. In graduate school, Junk notes, you are more concerned with your own thesis project(s) and tend to worry less about working with others. Junk also observes, “I got to my job in industry with no knowledge of how a business works, and very little experience in managing someone else’s career (for example, a lab technician). A business course and/or a management course would have made me better prepared for life in industry.”

While at Dartmouth, Junk met his wife, Jill Moncarz, who also graduated from the chemistry department with her PhD; Moncarz worked with Professor David Glueck studying organometallic palladium complexes. Being married to someone in the same field can sometimes raise difficulties when looking for a job. When asked if it was difficult for both he and Moncarz to find a job in the same field, Junk said that “to avoid that sense of competition, we made a conscious decision early on that my career would be the major driving force in deciding where we settled as a family.” Junk graduated one year earlier than Moncarz, so his plan was to find a good job and for Moncarz to join him after she completed her PhD. Upon graduation, Moncarz obtained a position as a chemistry professor at Marietta College while Junk continued to work at the Teflon® plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. When he transferred to CR&D in Wilmington, Delaware, Moncarz worked as a visiting scientist at DuPont and then moved to a full-time position in the organic titanates business. Junk added, “I never felt competition for jobs since we did quite different chemistry—fluorine chemistry versus organometallic.”

Junk and Moncarz have volunteered to host 2013 graduate student externs. Participating in an externship and talking with alumni about their career experiences can help graduate students to be better prepared upon graduation. Alumni can give discipline-specific advice and also provide feedback on job application materials. Graduate students interested in learning more about the Graduate Studies Externship Program can see the announcement of the 2013 program here.

by Molly Croteau

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