Benjamin Kin Heng Chan

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am working in National Measurement Institute (NMI) as a chemist. My job is to assign purity value for materials which can be used as standards for analytical laboratories in Australia and around the world.

Describe your study/employment pathway so far
I received BSc (Hon) in 2002. My honours project was on development of synthetic strategy towards synthesis of aromatic analogue of Himbacine, a natural product with a potential to become a diagnostic agent for studying dementia.
I received PhD in 2007. My PhD project was on studying properties and examining potential use on a class of alkaloid.  
In terms of employment, I started in National Measurement Institute the year I submitted my PhD thesis and have been there since.

What made you decide not to pursue/to leave research?
The decision was made at a late stage of my PhD candidature as post-doc required an oversea placement for a few years. I was not ready mentally and logistically at that stage. Hence, I changed my mind and worked in industry instead.

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
The biggest challenge I have encountered so far is to assign purity values for materials which are used by laboratories around the world for an international comparison study. The outcome of each participant is hinged on the purity value I assigned for the reference materials of interest.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
Humility and willingness to adopt new approaches.

How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
Materials for measurement are most useful when if there are any impurities. Hence, purification techniques such as chromatography and recrystallisation are essential to reduce the amount of impurities. Establishment of identity of a material requires different spectroscopic techniques learnt in undergraduate.
What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
I have adopted a “no weekend” policy for chemistry.  
What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Career development is a life-long process, beyond obtaining a BSc, MSc and PhD. There are times which the focus is on developing in-depth knowledge of science. There are other times which the focus is on harnessing general skills.

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