Science Wednesday: Life after College

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By Rachel Belkin

As a college senior graduating this May, the number of times I have been asked ‘what are you doing after college’ has multiplied as each sweet week of the safety-net of college goes by. Questioned by everyone from my mother to the front desk person at my apartment, I began to doubt the general idea of life after college and developed a fear of getting stuck at one job forever.

After another sleepless night a few weeks ago, I went to my internship in EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). That day was the Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas’s farewell. Dr. Anastas, a.k.a. the “Father of Green Chemistry,” was returning to his family and to his post as the head of Yale University’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering.

My fellow intern and I got assigned to the lobby to escort guests. We got to talking about life after college (what else!) and I told her about my crisis. She pointed to Paul Anastas’s vibrant career, which began as a staff chemist at EPA, then brought him to the American Chemical Society, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Yale, and then back to EPA as an Assistant Administrator.

During his farewell speech, Dr. Anastas gave excellent advice for the future of the EPA, such as the status quo being our enemy and not to steal from our children through environmental degradation. I couldn’t help but think about his career. I don’t know if Dr. Anastas had his own early life crisis, but he certainly didn’t get stuck. He’s had an amazing career doing things all across the spectrum.

Although I doubt I will become an EPA Assistant Administrator—and I definitely will not become a chemist—I took Dr. Anastas’s career as an outline for my own future. I know that whatever I end up doing this May does not have to be for the rest of my life.

With that in mind, I decided to revisit an idea I’ve been struggling with—joining the Peace Corps. Like Dr. Anastas’s two years at the helm of ORD, my potential two years and three months as a Peace Corps volunteer is really just a blimp on the radar of my evolving career path.

I finished my Peace Corps application two weeks after Dr. Anastas’s speech, and have been sleeping fine since.

About the author: EPA science Communication intern Rachel Belkin is a senior at the University of Maryland, and looking forward to what’s next.

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