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From P&G to UC to VIP: Professor Joins Elite Group of Chemists

Joel Shulman is the fourth member of the chemistry department to earn distinction as Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Date: 11/13/2012
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577
The man who helped give the world Procter & Gamble’s first 2-in-1 shampoo is being honored for his years of innovative service to the field of chemistry.

University of Cincinnati adjunct professor of chemistry Joel Shulman was recently named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the largest scientific society in the world. Shulman was among 96 scientists who received the distinction this August during the society’s 244th National Meeting & Exposition in Philadelphia. The prestigious award recognizes ACS members for outstanding achievements and contributions to science, the profession and the society.
Joel Shulman accepts a certificate recognizing him as a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Shulman was a P&G researcher and manager for more than 30 years. He joins fellow McMicken College of Arts & Sciences Department of Chemistry faculty members Bruce Ault, Joseph Caruso and William Heineman who had previously earned the recognition.

Shulman suspects the honor is less about his work as a researcher than it is about a combination of his efforts in management, recruitment and service to the industry, and his educational initiatives such as the popular "Life After Graduate School" course he created in 2002.

What type of research involvement did you have at P&G?
I spent seven years doing actual research and then moved into the management side. I managed research all over the company, including being in charge of the technical aspects of the company's decaffeinated instant coffee when it was first rolled out nationally in 1980. I was involved in managing a project related to the first 2-in-1 shampoo. I worked on anti-inflammatory compounds in the oral care area, better antioxidants for foods and biodegradable insecticides.  

But I don't consider myself a Nobel Prize-winning-caliber type of chemist. I made a very safe bet some 40 years ago with my mother-in-law, promising to take her to Sweden when I won the Nobel Prize and knowing that was not anything I was going to ever have to do.

What is one of the lessons you teach in “Life After Graduate School”?
One of the things that I emphasize to students is that getting a PhD means that you're trained like a 'T.' You must have breadth and depth, like the letter 'T.' The breadth comes from your undergraduate work, your first year of graduate school and then your general knowledge in science and chemistry. But to get your PhD, you have to dig deeply down in a particular area to prove yourself as almost the world's expert in one given area.

And when you're hired, you're not hired for exactly what you've dug down deeply to do. You're expected to do that again somewhere else along the line in your breadth. Academics will really value the depth, and industry values that breadth very highly. Companies can't afford to keep digging down the same shaft to get more and more knowledge. They want to rely on your depth only to the degree that you solve a problem or get most of it solved, and then you move on.

What kind of feedback have you received from former students who have taken the course?
We've done a survey of past students who are out in the workplace, and a lot of them have said that they got off to a much faster start than they would have otherwise, that what they learned helped them get a job or helped them understand what it was they wanted to do. That's been the real payoff of all of this, is the students really find it to be helpful.

Now with four ACS Fellows on its faculty, what else makes the Chemistry Department such an attractive place for students?

Overall the department is strong in several areas of chemistry research, and the atmosphere is very student-oriented at the undergraduate and graduate levels. There's a lot of encouragement and opportunity for research.

There are very few colleges or universities that have a resource like the “Life After Graduation” course to help students see the big picture. It's easy to let them see what goes on inside a college or university. It's much harder to give them an education about what goes on outside. And UC has one of the few chemistry departments in the country that has been doing that now for 10 years.

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