Ellen Dean

Ellen Dean

Year of Graduation: 2014

Major(s): Chemistry

Current Position: Analytical Chemist at 3M, St. Paul, MN


Please give a brief description of your current position.

I currently work in the quality department of the critical and chronic care solutions division at 3M. I design methods to test different products to make sure they are safe for manufacturing and distribution to consumers.

What path did you follow to get to your current position?

I worked at an environmental lab for a year testing soil and water samples for contaminants. It was very repetitive work, but it taught me about lab work and documentation. Then I got in contact with Pace Analytical and they helped me to get a contract job at 3M. There I worked in product method development in inhalers; I developed methods to test inhalers for contaminants. After a year at that position, I was hired at 3M in my current job.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?

During my time at St. Ben's everyone talked about the network of alums that help you when you graduate and I didn't really think it would make that much of a difference. I was wrong. At my job at Pace Analytical, my boss was a St. Ben's graduate. That connection helped me get the job and continues to help me build my network. Being a St Ben's grad helped me create bonds with coworkers and eventually led to me getting a promotion. After I got my contract job, I met new people that referred me to other departments and HR to help me get a promotion. Meeting people in your field can really open doors and get you to where you want to go. Also, know that there are many career paths that you can use with a chemistry major. If you go into one area and end up not liking it, there are many more options to consider.

What skills are important in your field?

At St Ben's I took advanced analytical chemistry, which extensively taught me about instrumentation. That class allowed me to get my first job because I already had experience using the instruments. From there I was able to use that experience to move into a new role that included method development. Doing method development, the most important skill is communication and being able to document what you do. Writing reports and methods are important to show what you've been working on. So writing those notebook entries in intro chemistry classes was good practice for what happens in the workplace.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?

The most satisfying part of my job is knowing that the product development I am working on is going to help other people. All of the hard work pays off when you make a product that is going to help people.

Most challenging?

Working in product development has many regulations, and working with medical devices adds even more regulations, so many different problems arise from all of the rules we have to follow. In addition, it’s a slow process with many different variables to research so problems occur a lot. Every day is a new challenge to deal with, but it keeps me on my toes and learning new things.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?

Taking advanced analytical chemistry was really important in helping me find a job. However, I think swimming at St Ben's really helped me learn time management and people skills. I had to balance my limited time between academics (classes and homework) and swimming practices/meets. This has helped me balance my time at work to get all my tasks done. Swimming also put me on a team with many different personalities and I had to learn how to interact effectively with all these different people. In an office or lab setting, I use these people skills to work effectively with all different kinds of people.

(June 2017)