Developing Successful Habits: Video Transcript

Eric Kool, PhD (BS Chemistry, Miami, 1982) [George A. and Hilda M. Daubert Professor in Chemistry at Stanford University]: When I was young - this was the Apollo Era in the 1960s - there was a ton of interest nationally in science and technology, and I was really caught up in this from a very early age, always being interested in astronauts and science in general. And to me in some ways, chemistry was the epitome of science at the time and I used to play with my friends with chemistry sets and do chemistry experiments at home. So that's the start of my getting interested in chemistry, and it wasn’t really cemented until I started taking classes in chemistry at Miami.

It was really taking organic chemistry at Miami that got me excited about the field. So I went and joined a lab in the chemistry department, did some real research, and then learned that I would need to go to grad school to do what I really wanted to do, and that was basic research. Chemistry, among the sciences, is arguably the most practical, and so being in a laboratory is really important too. And there we had this opportunity, great opportunities, to get into laboratories and actually do hands-on research. So the undergraduate degree was not just theoretical, but it was practical as well.

It would be easy for me as a scientist to focus only on chemistry and every day thinking about the next chemical reaction that I want to run or the next molecule I can design, whereas in the real world we interact with many people. We interact with people in many backgrounds. I'll give you an example. I'm trying to be an entrepreneur and start a company. And so I'm learning that it's really important not to just know about the technology but also to learn about business, and so being able to make those kinds of connections is really important. A liberal arts degree gives you the language and the perspective of other people, and that's extremely important in business. So that kind of perspective, I think, is really important about a liberal arts degree and separates you from someone who might simply just take technical courses for most of their undergrad time.

I think developing successful habits, the habits of successful people, is a really important thing for making your way in the future. That's really important. Secondly, in chemistry, you should keep in mind that the things that you learn as an undergraduate are typically things that have been studied for a long time. Chemistry is an old field, a quite mature field, and so they should learn that the things that we do now in modern chemistry are actually quite different than what we learn as undergraduates in chemistry. So it's really important to get a feel for what modern chemistry is like by talking to people who are practicing modern chemistry and by getting in a laboratory, either at Miami or outside, to get hands-on and see what real modern chemistry is like.

[September 2015]