How I Work:
SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES
Sarah McIntyre joined Sandia National
Please describe your typical day on the job.
Laboratories as an undergraduate. A
classmate was already an intern at
Sandia and suggested McIntyre look
into the student internship. When she
graduated with a bachelor’s degree in
chemistry, she was offered a full-time
position there as a technician. After four
years as a technologist (Sandia lingo for
“technician”), McIntyre says, she began
her master’s program while still working
full-time. “A few months prior to com-
pleting my M.S., I was promoted to the
staff scientist position I currently hold, and I’ve been in this job for
just over a year and a half.”
An ACS member since her undergraduate program, today
McIntyre takes advantage of the professional development
opportunities offered to members, and serves as the PR chair for
the Central New Mexico Local Section. “I recently attended the
Sparkle Workshop on public relations,” she says, “which was a
great opportunity, not only as the PR chair, but as a working pro-
fessional. I learned a lot of great things about how to make chem-
istry more accessible to non-chemists.”
McIntyre is a materials scientist at Sandia National Laborato-
ries. inChemistry asked her about her job and what she thinks of it.
For me, there’s really no such thing! I specialize in materials characterization in a group that uses a wide array of materials on a
day-to-day basis. When a colleague is using a new material, I may
be asked to characterize it. If a colleague is having a problem with
an existing material, I might be asked to analyze it in order to
determine the origin of the problem. I spend a substantial amount
of time (50–75%) analyzing data, and discussing the results with
my colleagues via meetings or written reports. My instrumentation is highly automated, so I don’t spend as much time in the lab.
The time I do spend in the lab typically involves preparing samples
for analysis, and then setting up the analysis. I’m also involved in
What technology can you not live without?
I can’t live without my X-ray photoelectron spectrometer and its
What is your work environment like?
My office space is in a cubicle located in a “cube farm” area with
What sort of work schedule
the rest of my immediate co-workers. Although the cube farm
tends to lack on the privacy side, it provides excellent opportuni-
ties for collaborative sharing of information when we hear each
other chatting with others about various
projects, and so on. I also have a laboratory
that I share with one other person. We have
a few shared spectrometers, with our own
workspaces in the lab.
do you keep?
For the most part, things are pretty relaxed,
and I basically work 40–44 hours per week.
However, occasionally we’ll get hit with
a busy week or an extremely high-priority project that requires
50–60 hours in a week to finish.
What is your best productivity trick?
Making lists!! Every morning, I make a list of what I need to
accomplish that day — it’s easy to track things as I cross them
off the list throughout the day, and also lets me visually track my
progress and feel good about getting stuff done!
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Good things come to those who work hard to improve their skills
and patiently seek out new opportunities.
What personal talent or trait makes you a
great fit for your job?
Although I truly value all of the technical training and academic
work I’ve completed, I think the personal talent that makes me
a great fit for my job is actually my communication skills. As a
materials scientist specializing in materials characterization, I see
a wide array of materials, and work with many different people
on a day-to-day basis. It is important for me to be able to build
strong, trust-based relationships with my colleagues, and to be
able to communicate the results of my analyses to them in a manner that is clear and easily understood.
What is your favorite ACS resource?
ACS publications. From journals to C&EN — I try to stay engaged
in the current state of the chemical sciences, and ACS publications
are a fantastic resource.
Interviewed by Allison Proffitt, a freelance writer and
editor based in Nashville, TN.
“ I can’t live without my
spectrometer and its