The Non-Traditional Scientist

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Written by Tyrally Yap, Application Scientist

If I were to describe my career path in one word it would be: non-traditional.

I love problem solving, and I was also very curious in that I like to know the root cause of things. In high school, I knew that I wanted to go into the sciences because the subject has always been interesting to me so I took all of the sciences but had no idea that there were jobs outside of the medical field. All I knew was that I loved to learn and grow.

I realized my passion for Analytical Chemistry late into my 4th year. I stayed an extra year to take more courses and a second extra year to pursue a year long undergraduate thesis project within the field of Analytical Chemistry. I graduated knowing that I want to become a scientist working with analytical instruments. But I was rejected by every single graduate school I applied to so becoming a scientist was no longer possible. I was taught to believe that a PhD is pretty much a requirement for a scientist. For the next 5 years, I worked in 5 different labs as a lab tech or a lab assistant and was in the middle of thinking of switching into a different field when an old friend asked if I'd be interested in a position at her work. It was an opportunity to work with analytical instruments, the same instruments that made me realize my passion for the field of Analytical Chemistry. I was interviewed and then offered the position in the Operations department. I learned as much as I could from the engineers around me about the instruments that was in front of me. Within a year in my role I realized that the software being released for the hardware had so many bugs and using what I've learned, I could help bridge that gap between the hardware and software teams. So when a position became available in the Research and Development department in the Software Team, I applied and got the job as a Software Quality Assurance for the software developed to run the instruments I used to work on. I was given opportunities to learn about the software and how to work with software developers, requirements engineers, and product managers. Since I had a chemistry background, I was also asked to help out scientists with some projects and was included in posters presented in a few scientific conferences. I built such strong relationships with them that when a position for an Application Scientist came up, I was encouraged and recommended to apply for the position by the scientist I've worked with and helped. In my current role as an Application Scientist, I get to work on collaborative projects with other scientists to develop scientific applications for our customers. I also get to work with different research and development groups such as the software team and hardware team to improve our product lines. What my journey has taught me is that you shouldn't allow your title, or lack of title, to keep you from learning, growing, and creating opportunities for yourself. Just because a traditional path exists for a given career, doesn't mean that it is the only path. I also want to take a moment to recognize that I am priviledged in that I have my family and my husband to help me throughout these career moves. I wouldn't be where I am today without their constant encouragement, love, and support.