Monthly Meeting Report
January 2014 Monthly Meeting Report
Report by Xavier Herault
Additional content and photos by Jack Driscoll
The 937th Meeting of the Northeastern Section of the American Society was held at the Holiday Inn in Brookline on Thursday, January 16, 2014. The speakers were Dr. Heidi Erlacher, a partner at the law firm Mintz Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. Christopher Montean, a tax accountant at Ernst & Young and Dr. Eddine Saiah, the Head of Chemistry at Atlas Venture, a venture capital firm. Dr. Monica Palme, a Sr. Director of Drug Development at Pfizer who was slated to speak, unfortunately, could not make it.
The subject of the symposium was “Alternate Careers for Chemists, or What Do I Want to Be When I Grow
Up?” NESACS Chair, Cathy Costello opened the meeting and Program Chair, Katherine Lee was the moderator.
The three speakers first described when and how they knew it was time for them to move their careers into a
new direction after practicing chemistry. Each has taken a different route. For Dr. Heidi Erlacher, it was during her doctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For Christopher Montean, it was while a few years into his chemistry career at Corning. For Dr. Eddine Saiah, it was after a twenty-year career in medicinal chemistry that saw him reach the position of Director of Chemistry at Pfizer in Cambridge. However, the common theme for all was the realization that a life in the lab or in meetings was not for them anymore and that their other interests (law, finance or starting new biotech companies) were stronger.
Each speaker offered words of advice to other chemists considering making a change. You never know who you can meet in your everyday life who will open your mind to new opportunities (Dr. Heidi Erlacher). Sometimes it can be a big change but you need to learn to be comfortable being in an uncomfortable time of
change (Christopher Montean). At the end, you don’t choose a job, the job chooses you (Dr. Eddine Saiah).
A transition to a career in the law could be either going to law school right after the doctorate, or starting in a
law firm as a technical advisor and going to law school part-time in the evening. A change to a career in
finance would require going back to school to pursue a Master’s in accounting and maybe even a concurrent
MBA. A jump to business and being a venture capitalist would require cashing in during a very successful scientific career.
After the panelists described their situations, the floor was opened to the audience. The questions continued for nearly an hour before the meeting was closed.
NESACS PR Chair, Jack Driscoll talked for a few minutes about the ACS Entrepreneurial Forum which will be held on April 9, 2014. A video about this forum can be found on YouTube: (
NESACS thanks the speakers for sharing their unique insights into transitioning into alternate careers.
Sixty-five registered for the meeting. Please remember you must register one week before a meeting whether
or not you intend to have dinner.
After dinner an additional 50 students arrived to attend the symposium and take advantage of the NESACS
policy that the evening program is free and open to the public. This meeting was an excellent start for our new program chair, 2014 Chair-elect, Katherine Lee.