Attending conferences and
participating in international
teams can prepare you to be
more competitive in the global
job market, enhance your
research, and widen your
scientific network contacts.
Understand the Benefits of International
Evaluating International Research Experiences for Graduate
Students, a 2016 workshop report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), National Science Foundation (NSF), and
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), suggests that
graduate students and postdocs with international experience
publish more than similar peers, apply more successfully for
grants, and conduct better science because of the diversity of
the research team. The 2016 CGS–NSF–DFG report argues
that the benefit from an international experience is significant
enough that early investigators who have had such an experience should receive support to continue international collaborations. One reason may be because they make wider scientific contacts and connections. Chemists with international
experience are often more competitive in global companies
that need employees who can work in a variety of conditions
with different kinds of people.
Make the Investment
Think ahead to the possibilities for international scientific
experiences and, when you find the right options for yourself,
prepare to be successful.
Begin Planning Now
The best advice from those who have worked internationally
is to begin now. Whether planning to attend a conference,
join an international research team, or do research abroad, the
process can take a while: finding the right opportunities, making contacts, applying, and finding funding. Position yourself
to locate strategic opportunities, present a convincing case for
participating, and make the most of your experiences.
As you begin your initial explorations, be sure to consider
a wide range of opportunities. Universities sometimes have
international exchange programs, and chemical industries
have international offices. The American Chemical Society
(ACS) hosts the ACS International Center TM (IC; see sidebar,
“ACS International Center”).
Be sure to tap into your network. Your research adviser,
labmates, and other colleagues in and alumni of your de-
partment have connections. Meet international chemists at
seminars and poster sessions you attend, and contact them
afterwards about the research that interests you and the pos-
sibility of future interactions. ACS International Center (IC)
The ACS actively promotes international programs
and partnerships through the Office of International
Activities, which hosts the ACS International Center
( https://global.acs.org/). You can search the IC by
experience level and by country for internships and scholarly
exchange programs, including the Research Internships in
Science and Engineering (RISE) and the Fulbright Scholar
Program. The IC offers links to international programs from
research funding agencies like NSF and from ACS affiliates,
which are foreign scientific agencies and sister chemical
The IC publishes a monthly newsletter, ACS Global
Chemistry, which highlights global opportunities as well.
You will also find the IC invaluable when you are preparing
your actual travel plans, because it offers links to country-specific visa, travel restriction, and medical information.
Pursue Strategic Opportunities
Once you have made your initial explorations, you will need
to focus your plans on the options that are most viable and
beneficial—for you, your research group, and others involved.
1. Make research the primary motivation. Dr. Judith Kroll
and Dr. Gerhard Erker, principal investigators who accept
international students in their labs, advise that the research
project should drive the international experience, not the
other way around.
2. Define the level of commitment and resources needed. This
will vary depending on the nature of the experience and area
International research experiences require a substantial
investment. Participants in the NSF Partnerships in International Research and Education (PIRE) program have suggested that a minimum of six months is necessary in an international research project to make the experience significant.
If you are a graduate student, work with your adviser and
graduate counselor to determine the best time to go and how
to structure the international experience without lengthening the time-to-completion of your graduate work. The 2016
CGS-NSF-DFG report found that international experience
did not significantly increase the time required for graduate
students to finish their graduate degrees.