Analytical chemistry professor Ken Marcus used to call his group of doctoral researchers “the Tinkerers.” His group develops analytical instrumentation, something he says takes a unique mindset and is attractive to federal laboratories and scientific organizations. Nearly half of that group of soon-to-be 41 Ph.D. graduates works in national laboratories, such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They’re looking for problem-solvers,” Marcus said.
The latest problem-solver is Tyler Williams, the second Clemson chemist in three years to receive a National Nuclear Security Administration Graduate Fellowship, designed to develop the next generation of national security leaders.
Marcus said that to be a successful tinkerer and problem-solver, there has to be a connection between mind, gut and hands:
“Those three things have to be in sync. You have to know enough and understand what’s going on in order to react on a gut level. Then, your hands do the work. Sometimes things work out as you planned, sometimes they don’t and sometimes serendipity is your best friend. If you do something in the lab and something remarkable happens, but you don’t [recognize] it in your gut and in your head, then it’s lost.”
In June, Williams will join the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which enhances national security through the military application of nuclear science. He will work in the administration’s enriched uranium modernization group, which focuses on modernizing the nation’s enriched uranium capabilities and infrastructure to support NNSA’s defense, nonproliferation and naval reactor missions.