Rachel Philibert ’16 is an Emmanuel alum and chemistry major. She just started working for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security located in Wilmington, DE. The full title of Rachel’s position is known as a Forensic Analytical Chemist I, in the Controlled Substance Unit, of the Division of Forensic Science in the Department of Safety. Rachel was kind enough to answer a couple of questions as to what led her to study chemistry, how she found her job, and her experiences at Emmanuel .
Philibert is from the Manchester, NH area and chose to attend Emmanuel because of her love for the city and it’s small but beautiful campus. At the time, Rachel had wanted to be a biology major and Emmanuel seemed to be a perfect fit with many hospitals just within walking distance of the school. Rachel graduated just last year and says she already misses it.
When asked why she chose to study chemistry, Rachel says that “When I started attending Emmanuel I had every intent to be a biology major. I did not like my chemistry class in high school and my biology teachers helped open the door to loving science for me.” Everything changed freshman year, however, when Rachel took Intro to Cellular, Molecular Biology, and Gen Chem 1, all at the same time. Rachel remembers feeling challenged by her chemistry class and learning new things though the material. Rachel gives credit to Sarah Faulkner ’15 who was her Gen Chem lab TA at the time, as well as Dr. Sears who was her Gen Chem lab instructor. Rachel says that “Sarah was obviously trying to get me to switch majors, but then when I had decided to switch to Chemistry, Dr. Sears wouldn’t let me until I told him why I wanted to switch.” Rachel says that she “wanted to learn about the basis and composition of everything- what things are made up of, why certain substances interact the way they do, how to form new things, how instruments essentially work to identify something so small the human eye cannot even see it- instead of studying living things and how they interact together.” Rachel’s reasoning was convincing to Dr. Sears who could tell she should be a chemistry major and encouraged her to declare whenever she was ready.
Finding a job straight out of college can seem intimidating sometimes but Rachel says that “In all Honesty, I used Indeed.com and searched for a Forensic Science Entry Level Position, and this was one of the positions listed that ACTUALLY had no real requirement for the position other than a B.S. in Chemistry/ background in Forensic Science.” When asked what her duties are in this position, Rachel describes that, “generally- when officers arrest citizens for the possession or intent to sell controlled substances, the controlled substances are sent to my laboratory and assigned to Analytical Chemists in my unit for analysis to determine the composition of the substance for things like sentencing and/or trials.”
As for some advice Rachel gives to students looking for a job in Chemistry, she says that “I know job searching online can be the hardest thing you do but I am not kidding when I say that expanding your search from just the locations you are comfortable into a region that you are okay with living will be the best thing you can do.” Over the course of four months, while applying for jobs daily, Rachel worked part time at a restaurant in her hometown. After talking with different HR offices, she was able to land some real interviews including one resulting in the current job she has now!
On the topic of how Emmanuel prepared Rachel for her new position, she gives credit to many people including Dr. Gerdon, Tracey Clingingsmith, Elizabeth Deren, and Dr. Ryvkin. Rachel talks about how Dr. Gerdon’s Instrumental Analysis class especially prepared her for jobs which rely on the applicant to have knowledge on various types of instruments. A time the class came in handy, Rachel recalls, is when “in an interview for the job I have now, they asked me straight up “How does a GCMS work?” A simple five word sentence that I had to answer on the spot without stuttering my way through it, but also in normal terms (vs. scientific) because in this position there is the chance that I will have to go to court as an expert witness to testify on the methods used for analysis as well as my findings.” “Without Instrumental Analysis”, Rachel says, “I don’t think I would be where I am today.”
Going to the career center, meeting with the people there to look over resumes, and keeping updated on any internships or job postings that are out there are all suggestion of Rachel who especially appreciates Tracey Clingingsmith and Elizabeth Deren who helped her even in her post-graduate career.
Lastly, Rachel says “taking P-Chem was hands down the hardest class I have ever taken, but now looking back on it and all of the classwork I completed, I am thankful for the organizational skills and time management it taught me.”
As for the future, one of Rachel’s main aspirations is to make it all the way up to an Analytical Chemist 3, which is the highest level of Chemist next to being a lab manager here in the unit. Eventually, she hopes to move from a controlled substance unit to something else – maybe for the DEA, or ATF, or maybe even the FBI. Although she is not sure of the job requirements for each of those as of now, she is excited to see what the future holds!