Name: Tamr Atieh
Major(s) and Minor: Major in Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Minor in Biochemistry
Year: Started in Fall of 2010, graduated in May 2013
Why did you choose chemistry as your major?
Chemistry is a subject that has always fascinated me. I found it to be the subject that has given me the most answers to how our universe works. This includes everything from how drugs are made, to how solar panels work. From high school, I felt like if I mastered chemistry, I would have the best understanding of our world. Biology was never specific enough and physics was always too abstract. Chemistry was real and all around us.
What did you like most about it?
Chemistry is an extremely diverse topic with many different applications. There’s an aspect of chemistry that any person can appreciate. Whether it is studying water splitting reactions (inorganic), discovering new drug molecules (organic), understanding the nature of proteins (biological), or using quantum mechanics to model reactions (physical), chemistry provides a path for anyone who is interested in science.
What is your current position, what do you do, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I will be starting my third year as a graduate student here at Rutgers University, pursuing my Ph.D. I currently work in the Baum lab researching proteins that are implicated in Parkinson’s disease. What is great about graduate school, is that I really have more freedom in the direction of my project and I have more discretion as to how to approach problems.
What was your first job after Rutgers and how did you get it?
Shortly before graduation I applied to several jobs through staffing agencies. One day I received a call for an interview for Church & Dwight (the makers of Arm & Hammer and Oxyclean). I received a call back with a job offer the same day and started shortly after. At Church & Dwight I helped formulate new laundry detergents and researched how to create surfactants in-house.
How did you move from that first job to your current position?
After a year at Church & Dwight I moved over to Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products. There, I worked in the Global Baby Product Development formulating new shampoos, washes, and lotions. During that time I realized that I had been missing something, and that was furthering my education. I decided to put that part of my career on hold while I attended Rutgers University. I always get asked why I left my job, and it was simply because I did not want to ever regret not taking the opportunity to earn my Ph.D., which will allow me to advance my career in many different ways. Since then, I could not be happier with that decision.
Looking back, what classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?
Instrumental to obtaining my first job was having research experience in a lab as an undergraduate for Dr. Lawrence Williams. That experience not only helped with my resume but also helped me become more independent and comfortable within a lab setting.
The most important class that I took, which got me interested in proteins, was Biochemistry. This allowed me to finally understand many of the processes our body undertakes from a molecular perspective. It also gave me a greater appreciation for how proteins are essential tools of study to help us understand the pathology of diseases.
What advice do you have for our current Arts and Sciences students?
Be proactive with your future. Look for undergraduate research and apply for internships or co-ops. When you graduate these will be some of the most important things that will be on your resume. Internships and co-ops will also help you obtain permanent positions at the same company when you graduate.