How I Work: Nader Heidari
ASSISTANT PRODUCTION EDITOR, CHEMICAL &
ENGINEERING NEWS, AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
With a double major in chemistry and philosophy, Nader
Heidari was certainly headed for an interesting career. But
when the time came to look for jobs, it was his extracurricular
activities that sealed the deal.
“For all four years at the university, I worked at the Uni-
versity of California, Santa Barbara’s student paper, The Daily
Nexus,” Heidari says. “I started out as a reporter and became
a science writer because I loved to write stories about the
research being done on campus. That allowed me to gain a lot
of general knowledge, which I preferred over more specialization.
I became the science editor, restoring the section in the paper and
later expanding it to Science & Technology. I became the head
of the copy desk and production team as well and managed the
website and its staff before graduating.”
A chemistry professor introduced Heidari to C&EN. He applied
for an open position after seeing the posting on the C&EN web-
site. Today, Nader Heidari is an assistant production editor at
Chemical & Engineering News.
Please describe your typical day on the job.
My team and I manage and edit the articles that will be in the
week’s issue of C&EN. Typically, we spend an hour or two each
day in meetings and spend the rest of the time coordinating
with the writers, editors, designers,
web team, and digital production staff
to produce the magazine. We check
art and structures to make sure they
are correct and ensure that the style
guides are followed. We also write
articles for C&EN on occasion. As part
of my work, I also program a variety
of tools for use by the staff to make
What sort of work schedule do you keep?
I work 40–45 hours a week. The time spent is mostly contingent
on the complexity of each week’s issue and can vary greatly. The
environment is relaxed on nonproduction days and much more
fast-paced on days when pages will be sent to the printer, giving
us a healthy dose of volatility.
What personal talent or trait makes
you a great fit for your job?
I like challenges, a moderately fast pace, and I love news environments. I also read and write all the time, and that fits in well
with the requirements. I like to find ways to make processes
faster and/or more precise, and I like exploring new technology.
What is your favorite ACS resource?
I use SciFinder often to verify structures.
or communications. A graduate degree is usually not necessary, although it may lend you credibility with some types of
The more experience you can get with writing and editing,
the better. Write articles and blogs, edit organization newsletters, and volunteer to write job manuals, program announcements, lab instructions, reports, and so on. Keep copies of
everything you work on and create a professional portfolio of
pieces you have written, as well as before and after versions of
documents you have edited.
Is this career a good fit for you?
If you enjoy discussing science and explaining it to others more
than actually doing the science, technical communication may
be the career path for you. Writers create content from scratch,
while editors take content created by others and perfect it for a
specific audience and delivery method (print, online, video, etc.).
Science writers must be imaginative and understand the
implications of scientific discoveries. They must learn quickly
and capitalize on their basic science education to rapidly mas-
ter the basics of various technical fields and communicate
effectively with scientists
and engineers. People in this
field must have exceptional
be highly detail-oriented and organized,
and be self-motivated. Good verbal communication skills are
essential when conducting interviews. Having good business
skills is a requirement for freelancers because they are running
their own small business.
Writing and editing are very versatile skills that are needed in
every industry and every type of business, so moving between
companies is possible. Leaving the chemistry bench for a career
in communications is a decision that must be considered carefully, since in most cases it means not going back. Instrumentation changes, new methods are developed, and typically, once
you’ve been away from the bench longer than a year it is very
hard to get hired back.
Advancement in technical communication generally means
taking responsibility for bigger pieces of more complex projects,