To be meaningful and safe, attendance at international
conferences and work with international teams also needs adequate support, commitment, and planning.
3. Link the experience to your professional and personal
development. International scientific experiences can help
build a diverse network and a broader set of research skills
and perspectives. Consider the competencies you might develop. Do you want to build your global awareness, develop
cultural understanding, learn a language, or work better in a
culturally diverse team? International experiences can lead to
deep personal growth and a better sense of how you connect
to the world and others. PIRE participants reported increased
confidence as a key outcome of their international research
An Individual Development Plan (IDP) can help you
articulate how international scientific experiences will help
prepare you for your career. An online tool, ChemIDPTM (
create an account for free at ChemIDP.org), is designed to guide
you through the process of goal setting, self-assessment, career
exploration, and skill strengthening.
Given the importance of your international scientific experiences—and the investment being made in them—you will
want to maximize their impact. If you are not prepared for the
differences in lab resources, approaches, communication, and
culture, international scientific experiences can be frustrating
and wasted opportunities. The following steps will help you
1. Start developing your international scientific competencies
now. (See sidebar, “Developing International Scientific Competencies.”) If this is the first time you have considered the
idea of working internationally, these activities can help you
explore opportunities. If you aren’t interested in working in
an international setting, they will still help you both to have a
broader understanding of the chemists and chemistry in your
field and to be more successful in your career.
2. Be ready to do things differently. Consider your disposition toward change and adaptability. Prepare to be stretched
mentally and emotionally when you are out of your comfort
zone in a different country. Practice navigating unfamiliar
3. Pay attention to details. Visit the ACS International Center
and other travel sites when making your actual travel plans.
Do you need country-specific visas? Will you face travel
restrictions? Do you need vaccinations? Make sure you have
medical information and insurance. Know the local currency
and how to access funds.
Build Lifelong Connections
It takes planning, strategy, and preparation to have meaningful international scientific experiences. Whether you pursue
opportunities closer to home, attend international confer-
Developing International Scientific
• Attend ACS meeting programming on international
• Participate in webinars or other lectures by
• Read important research by international scientists.
• Attend an international conference or workshop, such
• Interview a chemist who has recently returned from an
• Participate in the Young Chemists Crossing Borders
(YCCB) exchange program.
• Tutor someone learning English.
• Learn a new language. Bear in mind that in addition to
the normal studies involved, you will probably have to
take specific courses in order to learn scientific terms
and be able to talk fluently about science.
Working with culturally diverse teams:
• Become involved with the International Younger
Chemist Network (IYCN).
• Join an organization like Chemists without Borders or
Scientists without Borders.
• Collaborate with an international student or postdoc.
ences, or travel abroad to participate in research projects, the
effort will be worth it professionally and personally. You will
advance your science and your career, learn to appreciate cultural differences, and make friendships that can last a lifetime.
Make sure international chemistry experiences are part of
your world! n
Adapted from International Scientific Experiences for
Chemistry Students, a supplement from the ACS Committee
on Professional Training.
Jennifer B. Nielson, Ph.D, is chair of the ACS task force on
International Chemistry Education.
She is a Teaching Professor at Brigham
Young University and has spent the
last five summers in an international
collaboration designing and facilitating
Learning Chemistry Through Experimentation workshops in Uganda,