Aaron Hart graduated from UNT with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 2010 and earned his master's degree in Chemistry in 2013. He currently works as a QC Analyst for Alcon Labs in Fort Worth, Texas.
Why did you choose to attend UNT and participate in the Honors College?
I chose UNT because of the Chemistry Department's forensic science degree plan. I chose the Honors College because I felt the coursework would be more engaging than the typical large classes that most electives offer (humanities, communication, etc.).
What was the most valuable lesson you learned in college?
The most valuable lesson I learned was that I needed to make more time to study as the classes became more difficult. There is surely a B or C on my transcript somewhere that I could have improved if I had just focused more on my studies and not been lazy.
If you could do college over again, what would you do differently?
If I could do college over again, I'd invest more time in the first few years in doing research as an undergrad (I did none). Research provides an opportunity to expand your skill set beyond the classroom. I found that for myself, hands on experience was a much more effective learning technique than the classroom.
Was there anything that surprised you about the “real world”?
"The real world" is pretty much as I expected, except a lot less scary/intimidating. The hardest part is getting your foot in the door; many hires are made through connections.
What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?
I'm really proud of getting my master's degree in Analytical Chemistry. It was an arduous journey and some of the most difficult years of my life both personally and in terms of coursework/research, but I persevered.
What do you believe are the most important attributes someone needs to be successful in a scientific career?
A few things that make successful scientists:
• Problem-solving skills: I feel like these are a must. Even the most well designed experiments don't work correctly the first time; you're going to have to try and figure out what went wrong. Sometimes getting "bad" data can lead you a different answer than what you expected.
• Dedication: Science doesn't wait. You're going to have to put in long hours somewhere along the way.
• Communication and Collaboration: Communication plays a key role in many aspects of the field. Whether you're in industry or academia, there will come a time when you will have to explain your work to someone who knows less about it than you do (e.g. grant writing, audits, presentations); being able to convey your ideas effectively would be a great benefit. This goes hand-in-hand with an ability to collaborate with other to achieve a similar group. In academia, you'll have the opportunity to collaborate with not only researchers in your department but at other universities around the world. In industry, you're often working with your coworkers to achieve a common goal (e.g. on-time product release).
What makes scientific careers a good choice?
What makes scientific careers great is that you're afforded the opportunity to make an impact, whether it be major (or minor) discovery through research or in the quality or manufacturing aspects of industry. There's a lot out there that we still don't know or understand and in science, that's exciting!
Do you have any advice for current college students, including those studying STEM fields who find it difficult to stay motivated?
The first piece of advice I'd like to offer is about graduate school: explore your options and don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. It's like trying on a pair of shoes: you're better off finding the right fit for you. Sure, you could wear a half size bigger, but you'll probably get blisters. Same goes for grad school: you could go to a program that sort of fits for you and take some lumps along the way or you could find one that actually fits and truly enjoy the experience. Similarly, I think a lot of people rush into it to avoid the "real world" and wind up getting burned out early on; don't be afraid to take a year off in between.
In terms of focus and motivation, I think that the best way to stay motivated is to break tasks down into small chunks. If you focus on a little bit at a time, it will eventually add up as a big chunk instead of smaller ones.