Dr Kiara Taylor-Edinbyrd
Research Scientist in the PhD Professional Development Program at BASF
Dr Kiara Taylor-Edinbyrd was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. After graduation, Kiara taught high school chemistry and physics courses at Arlington Height High School in the Fort Worth Independent School District. Her passion for chemistry was enhanced over time and she decided to join the Department of Chemistry at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and was awarded a Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, via the Office of Strategic Initiatives. Through a series of twists and turns, Kiara joined Dr Revati Kumar’s research group. Dr Kumar, an assistant professor, was very excited to have her as her first graduate student. Within the group, Kiara led the expansion of a metal organic framework (MOF) database, to incorporate and facilitate the use of various s-nitrosothiol donors. She also designed and initiated experiments to confirm the release of nitric oxide from these MOFs, providing further validation of the computational results. When reminiscing about her time at LSU, Kiara stated, “I appreciated the support both through my faculty advisor, Dr Revati Kumar, and the support of the graduate students while attending LSU. I believe that my advisor played a substantial role in my success but my peers also helped to mold the experience.”
During her time in the LSU Chemistry graduate program, Kiara was faced with a very big decision. “I faced several adversities while working on my degree; however, the turning point was when I chose to switch into the Kumar Group. I was welcomed with open arms as the first student of the group. The guidance of some senior faculty gave me the perseverance to continue my education despite the difficulties I faced.” Through her focus and determination to achieve her overall goal of obtaining her PhD, she triumphed.
After successfully defending her dissertation titled, “Understanding Chemical Reactions in Novel Materials: From Metal Organic Frameworks to Oxyallyl Cations,” Kiara graduated with her doctoral degree in Physical Chemistry from LSU in 2016.
She moved to New Jersey, to accept a position at BASF. When asked what she does on a daily basis, she replied, “I currently work for BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, as a member of the PhD Professional Development Program (PDP). This unique entry route for new employees allows us three rotations, within any division before placing off at our final site. Through these rotations I will be exposed to multiple aspects of our company including R&D, technical support, business, manufacturing, etc. We are given an advantage over direct hires due to the ability to learn about business units in which we are not formally trained in, thus opening the door for future career opportunities. My day-to-day tasks include understanding the fundamental chemistries involved in the use of zeolites for fluid catalytic cracking (FCC), the main source of gasoline and other hydrocarbons used daily.”
When asked about the process by which she uncovered “the next step” after graduate school, she answered, “I began applying to companies approximately six months prior to my expected graduation date. I also attended several conferences to promote myself and made nice business cards that captured my resume to attract employers. Most of all I networked and made sure to ‘advertise’ myself!” She continued, “ My interest in BASF began through my work with metal organic frameworks (MOFs) as they (BASF) are one of the only industrial companies that work with them. My familiarity with the different programs were a result of Dr. Kumar's husband who also participated in a similar program within BASF.
I applied for the program Summer 2016 and was invited to interview early August through a one-sided interview where I recorded my responses to their pre-recorded questions. During the Fall ACS Conference in Philadelphia I took the time to visit their booth and noticed one of the people who asked a question during the interview, to my surprise, was the university recruitment specialist for the program (lucky me!).
In late October I was invited to a two-day tour and interview at their Southfield, MI, site where I presented my graduate school research and met other people in the program. I left Friday afternoon and received an offer Monday morning, needless to say, this was one of the happiest moments in my life. As LSU is not a core school for BASF, I am the first doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry to participate in the program as a PhD PDP.”
When asked if there was anything that she would have done differently in her career-to-date, Kiara said, “I cannot think of one single thing I would change with my career as landing a role within BASF was merely a dream.”
Kiara ended the interview with a piece of mind for current and prospective graduate students, “The best advice I have received is to network and always keep in touch. While we are all capable of being intellectually sound (as evidenced by being in grad school), sometimes your network may provide you with a position to be in the right place at the right time. I still practice this today within BASF.”
Profile contributed by Ashley Taylor and Carol Taylor