Dr. Rider Barnum
Senior R&D Chemist, Vincit Group, Zeco Inc. Chattanooga, TN
Natchitoches, LA, is the hometown of Dr Rider Barnum. He graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans, LA, with a BS in Chemistry in 2007. Rider joined the LSU PhD program in Chemistry in August of 2007. He earned his PhD under the direction of Cyril and Tutta Vetter Alumni Professor George Stanley. Rider loved the “freedom to work on research projects, the great facilities available to students/researchers” and the camaraderie amongst grad students.
Rider offers this advice to current graduate students in the Chemistry Department at LSU, “Choose your advisor and research group carefully. Pick an advisor/research group based on how well you get along and how well you think you’ll work together.” In another vein, he said that, “grad school will have stressful times, but you can help make it a motivational and fun-challenging kind of stress rather than an overwhelming exhaustion kind of stress.” We ask all our alumni if they had a turning point during their graduate career, or subsequently. Rider responded, “There was never a turning point in the sense of the clouds opening in the sky and trumpets announcing what I should do. Don’t wait for that moment.”
Following graduation in December 2012, Rider worked at Oxea Chemicals in Bay City, Texas. He was a “Process Development Chemist” and in that role he developed new processes, and improved existing processes for industrial catalyst reactors and purification. When he became “Process Chemist Team Leader” he was also responsible for the coordination of a team of process chemists supporting the various production units.
On reflection, Rider says, “I’d been studying catalysts ever since undergraduate research … organometallic, inorganic, bioinorganic, you name it!” He goes on to say, however that “a good chemist can adapt to new chemistries/disciplines and drive innovation forward.” His advice to others is, “become a Jack (or Jill) of all trades, and nothing can keep you down.
In September of 2016, Rider switched areas of research, joining Zeco, Inc. in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he is currently a Senior Research and Development Chemist. In this role, he works on the development of new products and formulations for use in a wide range of areas, including food sanitation, surface disinfectants and water treatments.
When asked if there was anything he would do differently in his career-to-date he answered, “one word: internships.” Having now been on both sides of the hiring process, he sees a diversity of experiences as being valuable. For BS scientists, he says, “your GPA does matter, but companies really want to know if you’ve had any experience. Getting that initial experience is hard so if you have a chance to take an internship, do it.” For graduate students, he encourages assimilating a “wide range of skills and experiences” in combination with your primary research focus. In Rider’s own words, it took “tons of applications” to land a good job, after graduation. Like that mythical “turning point,” the right job isn’t going to come along and find you, you have to get out there and chase lots of potential opportunities. Of his profile photo, Rider smiles and says, “I enjoy celebrating Mardi Gras in Tennessee in my own little way.”
Profile contributed by Kim Mollere and Carol Taylor