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Top 10 Takeaways from the Survey of Instrumentation Use in Industry: What Does Industry Want New Chemists to Know?

June 10, 2024

A recent study published in the Journal of Chemical Education highlights the importance of LC, GC, MS, and UV-Vis in undergraduate education, particularly for students seeking careers in industry. However, many institutions are unable to provide hands-on experience in these techniques due to the high costs involved, with 26.8% of faculty members citing cost as a major barrier for MS. Refurbished equipment is essential for equipping undergraduate labs on a budget.

Here are the Top 10 Takeaways from the Survey of Instrumentation Use in Industry: What Does Industry Want New Chemists to Know? along with relevant statistics and data:

  1. Top Five Instruments Used in Industry and Expected Experience:
    • The top five instruments most commonly used and expected by industry employers are Mass Spectrometry (MS), Liquid Chromatography (LC), UV-Vis Spectroscopy, Gas Chromatography (GC), and Infrared (IR) Spectroscopy. Specifically, 81.25% of companies use MS, and 72.5% use LC. For new hires, 60% are expected to have experience with MS and 61.3% with LC​​.
  2. Importance of Analytical Chemistry:
    • Analytical Chemistry is ranked as the most important undergraduate course for preparing chemists for industry, with 49.5% of respondents ranking it highest. Organic Chemistry follows as the second most valued course​​.
  3. Emphasis on Instrumentation in Curriculum:
    • The study suggests a need to emphasize instrumentation in undergraduate chemistry curricula, particularly focusing on hands-on experience with the top five instruments (MS, LC, UV-Vis, GC, IR) to better prepare students for industry roles​​.
  4. Prevalence of Instrumentation in Curriculum:
    • General Chemistry: UV-Vis is incorporated in 83.3% of general chemistry laboratory courses​​.
    • Organic Chemistry: (IR) and 1H NMR are used in 84.8% and 91.7% of organic chemistry courses, respectively. 13C NMR spectroscopy is used in 64.0% of these courses​​.
    • Inorganic Chemistry: Inorganic chemistry courses commonly use UV-Vis (82.0%), IR (80.0%), and 1H NMR (74.0%)​​.
    • Biochemistry: UV-Vis is used in 97.4% of biochemistry courses, and electrophoresis is used in 77.5% of these courses​​.
    • Analytical Chemistry: Analytical chemistry courses use a broad range of instruments, with UV-Vis (97.4%), IR (90.7%), and GC (80.0%) being the most common​​.
  5. Hands-On Experience with Instruments:
    • Only 45.2% of courses using UV-Vis have students conducting the technique independently, and 45.5% with some instructional support. In contrast, for MS, only 8.6% of courses have students conducting the technique independently​​.
  6. Variation by Institutional Context:
    • The study found no significant difference in the use of instrumentation between institutions that grant bachelor’s degrees and those that also grant graduate degrees. This suggests that access to instrumentation is relatively uniform across different types of institutions​​.
  7. Barriers to Incorporation:
    • Among faculty who wish to incorporate certain instruments but cannot, 9.2% cite lack of access, and 26.8% cite additional barriers such as cost or time for MS. For LC, these figures are 6.4% and 19.9%, respectively​​.
  8. Use of Modern Techniques:
    • Despite the availability of instruments, many courses still rely on traditional methods or provide data through other means. For example, 19.5% of courses using MS provide data from external sources rather than hands-on use by students.
  9. Impact of Faculty and Academic Institutions:
    • Faculty goals and the availability of instrumentation significantly impact the emphasis on certain skills and instruments in undergraduate courses. For example, only 56.7% of surveyed Analytical Chemistry instructors use MS in their labs due to access issues​​.
  10. Recommendations for Curriculum Development:
    • The study recommends that undergraduate programs incorporate the top five instruments in their curriculum, particularly focusing on hands-on experience with MS, due to its versatility and importance in industry.

Survey responses indicate a diverse range of company sizes, with 35 companies employing more than 50 chemists and 14 companies employing fewer than 5 chemists​​. The survey collected responses from 20 states within the United States and five countries, indicating a broad and diverse participant base​​.


Survey of Instrumentation Use in Industry: What Does Industry Want New Chemists to Know?

David Hamilton, Alyssa Castillo, and Molly B. Atkinson

Journal of Chemical Education 2024 101 (5), 1883-1890

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.3c00990

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