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Volunteer Case Study: The Case of the Curious Chemist

Posted Jul 23, 2015 by Stacy Ashton


Sometimes helping people find volunteer opportunities that match their skills is easy, and sometimes it's not!  Yesterday I received a call from a chemist seeking ways to volunteer his skills. Specifically, his skills in things called plasma spectrometry, mass spectrometry, chromatography...


After we established that I know very little about chemistry, I started to look for places where this kind of specialized skill might serve the community. Unless you qualify for an internship, you're not likely to get access to academic or professional laboratories, but it turns out there are places that can use a passion for chemistry.  Stay in school, kids!


On a local basis, hatcheries often have small labs were they test water quality and use a variety of chemicals to keep the hatcheries healthy.  Most hatcheries offer tours where you can learn more about what they do, and how chemistry skills might help.  The Tri-Cities is a major watershed, lots of hatcheries, including:  Hyde Creek Hatchery, Mossom Creek Hatchery, Grist Goeson Memorial Hatchery, and Noons Creek Hatchery.


Over in Vancouver, Science World has a Community Science Initiative to connect scientists of all kinds with children & schools.


And there are some amazing international and professional opportunities out there:


Chemists Without Borders operates international humanitarian projects.


The Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening is a network of scientists who work collegially to promote one anothers success in their scientific enterprises.


Finally, crowdsourcing has a role to play in chemistry: ChemSpider is a free crowdsourced database of chemical structures open to the contributions of anyone with the necessary skills.


I also found opportunities for mentoring at MOSAIC's Workplace Connections, where my new-to-Canada chemist could meet established laboratory professionals who could show him the ropes of building a career in his field. Once he's established, he can pay it back by mentoring other newcomers.


All in all, I found a lot more opportunities for my curious chemist than I thought I would. Volunteering is all about places where your best contributions can make a difference, and with a bit of sleuthing, there is a place for everyone.

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