After over half a decade in chemistry, doing research in the areas of organic and supramolecular chemistry. I haved worked in three labs, both in graduate school and at my undergraduate institute. In this time I have gained experience with nearly every form of instrumentation out there, save for a few of the newer and outlandishly expensive instruments. Despite all of this, and several years of classes, I have only in the past few years found the research topic that I am truly interested in and truly passionate about. Of course with such a personally important realization comes some serious hurdles seemingly designed to keep me from my goal.
The research that I have found that I am incredibly interested in is MOF chemistry. This is Metal-Organic Frameworks for those who are not privy to the chemistry world, or the newer research topics. There is only a handful of problems with this field and my passion for it. The first of which is that this incredibly interesting and multi-division field is very new. The second of which is that it is also very popular at the moment due to the many possibilities for hydrogen fuel cell development and carbon dioxide sequestering materials that exist in this field. The last of the big problems, for me at least, is where this work is done. A lot of the research is going on in schools like UC Berkeley with people like Omar Yaghi and Jeffery Long. Which is great because when working on new and exciting research you would hope to hear about big names out of big schools. However for someone who has colorful academic history, like myself, UC Berkeley is a bit out of reach.
What’s the good news then, aside from the fact that I found my research passion. Well there are many and more researchers doing work in this field outside of the US. Where there are relatively few schools in the US that conduct this particular research there are professors in most graduate programs in Europe, Australia and New Zealand doing this work. Even better than that is that school like in these parts of the world run on a bit of a different system than here in the states. A prime requirement of admission into a program that is run in this fashion is a masters degree. Seems like all things are looking up for me then, well that would make for a dull story wouldn’t it? This is where another brick wall jumps into my path. Like one would expect, studying in a different country, especially for something that is longer than a semester is a is bit of an ordeal. Aside from student visa’s and the obvious application pains that come with any school, there is the matter of funding. Something that is a non-issue at US schools.
I have had no problem finding a group that I wish to join; and I am thrilled that the program is at a school of the “English style” of graduate school programs, where an MS is required to get into the doctoral program. The program is also only three years long with no classes or teaching required. The primary difference in the two styles; American verse English, is that masters work need to be done first for acceptance in the English style schools. In the American style, the masters degree is often awarded for those who chose to leave, and if they then choose to re-enter graduate school are required to redo the work already done. Starting over from scratch if you will. There is also a difference of two years between program styles and already having a MS this shortened time is beyond appealing.
The group that I found has a pretty cool professor, and the research is in the exact are that I think MOF chemistry should be moving. However there is the issue, as in all of life, is money and funding. There are limited scholarships available to students from the US, and they are all decided upon after a deadline that is fast approaching for me to decide between going to an american program this fall or holding out to see if the great outback is in my future. As always with things in this world, it comes down to money and debt. Above that though is somehow trying to determine the monetary value of pursuing what you truly want to do with your life. With the days of Great Expectations like benefactors centuries past, and also fictional, I am left browsing student loan sites.
While this whole grad school scramble makes me look more than a little quixotic, considering I have a place to go to grad school int eh US. The situation has left me sitting on the edge of every seat I find, and biting what little nails I have left as I anxiously refresh my email at all hours of the night(day time in the Au). I am constantly hoping to hear about funding or at least an official acceptance letter. Not because of the opportunity to live on a continent with as many amazing features as deadly ones, but because of the chance to work in a research area that I am both passionate about but energetic to advance. If the work was in Siberia I would have my parkas packed and would be hiring a sled dog team to get there tomorrow.