Mentorship and Perseverance Pave Way for Alum

Joseph K. Vasquez: Ph.D., 2019 (Blackwell Group)

Recently we asked some of our alumni to reflect on their experience at UW. Here’s what Joseph K. Vasquez had to say.

Do you remember what brought you to UW–Madison’s Department of Chemistry?

The accessibility and good-naturedness of the professors, as well as the status of the University as a prime recruiting ground for many top chemical companies.

Where are you working now and what is your current title?

I’m an Associate Research Scientist in Analytical Science at the Dow Chemical Company. My job is multi-faceted. A few major elements include project shaping to fill technology gaps, reverse engineering of competitor formulations, and characterizing new products to understand the underlying chemistries. I also am the NMR facility co-manager for a large user group.

What importance did UW–Madison Chemistry have in your career path?

UW-Madison is a very special place. I learned a ton of chemistry that is used frequently at work. My PhD pathway under Helen Blackwell taught me about science culture, perseverance in research, and soft skills that are heavily leveraged every day. Working with Helen developed the skills that are integral for project shaping and good experimental design. The training of Charlie Fry and Heike Hofstetter defines the NMR facility manager aspect of my job.

When you think of the Department of Chemistry, what key memory comes to mind?

My mentee getting into her choice of graduate school.

What would you like our current students to know about what they might do with a degree in chemistry?

There is no final destination for your career after you earn a degree. There are many possibilities. You will help yourself by researching potential career paths during graduate school. If you have something in mind, talking to the faculty may help them identify opportunities to help elevate your skills to make you a better candidate.