Chemists in the Real World:
• Chemical Safety Program Manager, Princeton
• B.S., Chemistry, Texas Lutheran University, Seguin
• M.S., Organic and Polymer Chemistry,
Texas A&M University, College Station
Brandon Chance helps ensure a culture of safety in Princeton University’s
laboratories. He conducts training on
the safe use of chemicals, equipment,
and facilities. He monitors hazards
and risks. In the event of a chemical
spill or laboratory incident, he is one
of the primary emergency responders,
though a big part of his job is helping
researchers avoid incidents in the first
place. When researchers set up new
equipment, novel experiments, or new
procedures, Chance conducts hazard
and risk assessments to minimize the
potential for damage and injury.
What’s a typical day
on the job like?
A typical day starts between 8 and 9
a.m., when I start off by catching up
with emails and arranging my calendar for the day. If a training session is
scheduled, I prepare for that session
and review appropriate materials. I
could have a variety of meetings scheduled with anyone from undergraduate
researchers to the Office of the Dean
for Research. At least two days a week, I am out on campus
visiting laboratories and catching up with the researchers on
current projects, performing audits, or offering my help and
expertise wherever it is needed. If there is an incident on campus involving a laboratory, then I am called out immediately to
assess and investigate the situation.
My favorite part of the job is the on-campus consulting and
outreach I am able to do across a broad spectrum of fields.
Researchers contact me with questions regarding procedures
and methods and how to safely accomplish various research
goals. I work very closely with undergraduates on a variety of
student projects. I am also the lead investigator on lab-related
accidents that occur on campus.
How did you get your start in your career?
When I graduated with my B.S. degree in chemistry, I had
already been accepted to graduate school, but wanted to gain
a little work experience first. I worked for one year as a temporary employee for AkzoNobel.
After that year, I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Texas A&M
What do you like most
University (TAMU), with a focus on organic and polymer chem-
istry. In my third year of graduate school, the Science Program
Chair from TAMU’s new branch campus in Qatar was visiting on
a summer sabbatical and actively recruiting experienced people
to set up research and academic labs, as well as teach the labo-
ratory courses. It was over a coffee at the campus library that I
made the decision to take a leap of faith, leave graduate school,
and move halfway around the world. It was one of the best
decisions that I have ever made!
When I made my decision, I had already done enough work in
my graduate studies to finish with a
master’s degree, so I wrapped up my
research and wrote my thesis while I
was making preparations to move.
about your job?
I love the part of my job that gets me
out into the laboratories and into the
field with the researchers. While part
of my job is as a traditional compliance officer, it is the lab and field
work that keep me excited.
Coming from an international
research background, I can really connect with the students’ and faculty
members’ research projects and keep
abreast of the awesome work that is
going on at Princeton. My experience
in Qatar showed me how other countries approach research and safety
issues, and I have a better understanding of what foreign students
experience when they come to the
United States to study. I was born
and raised in the Houston, Texas,
area, and Qatar is a desert nation — so coming to Princeton was
a real change for me as well.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Never shy away from a challenge, and always look toward the
future. Do not lock yourself into one specific field or a specific
job. Be flexible and willing to go outside of your comfort zone.
I would advise new graduates to get in as much training and
travel as they can early in their careers, in order to learn things
about their jobs that they didn’t pick up in school. Don’t think
that you have to go straight into graduate school. Think outside
the box — lots of options are available.
What has contributed to your success?
My graduate school experience and research background have
been a big help. I approach safety issues more as a collaborator than as an enforcer of rules. I do some background research
on faculty members and their projects so that I can approach
them as a collaborator. I help them design and conduct their
research safely, rather than coming in and imposing limitations