Cara Fowler

Cara Fowler

Analytical Chemist

Eli Lilly and Company

"My most compelling class was organic chemistry lab, and I am NOT an organic chemist! I learned so much about analytical instrumentation. I liked the challenge we had toward the end of the semester when we were given a vial with 2 unknown liquids & had to identify what they were.  I am a Forensics scientist today, & that type of challenge has always been exciting for me."

What was your major/minor at Purdue?

My major was biochemistry through the chemistry department, and I also minored in communications.

What did you do in the year immediately after graduating?

I got a job at Merck in West Point, Pennsylvania and worked there for 2 years.  Merck came to the Industrial Roundtable, and it was through meeting them at that event that I received an interview.

Did you pursue internships/co-ops, research experiences, volunteer, or join student organizations while you attended Purdue?

I did undergraduate research every semester starting my sophomore year.  I cannot stress enough how important this was in preparing me for a career in chemistry.  I learned even more about working in a lab environment and had the opportunity to design experiments and share my analytical results.  I was also a mentor in the Women in Science Program.

Although it was not related to Purdue, I also worked 20-25 hours a week throughout my 4 years at Purdue.  I was a Customer Service Manager at Wal-Mart and supervised around 100 employees.  I truly think this experience helped prepare me for the real world by learning how to handle conflict and work with people of all different personalities. 

In addition to my lab responsibilities, I currently am one of the Point Captains for Purdue Recruiting for our Manufacturing and Quality organizations.  We definitely look for experience in our candidates.  It is so valuable to have internship or undergraduate research experience to help your resume stand out!  But, do not discount the importance of time management; being able to hold a part-time job, doing volunteer work, being involved in or having a leadership role in a student organization are also very valuable activities to note!

Where are you working now and what are you working on?

I am currently an Analytical Chemist at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis.  I work in the Forensics Laboratory supporting manufacturing investigations and customer complaints.  I get to interact with colleagues all over the world and use a vast variety of analytical tools, such as FTIR, electron microscopy, x-ray micro CT, GC-MS, IC, and ICP.

What drove you to pursue your current career path?

I actually did not pursue my current career path.  My first job at Lilly was a non-lab position, which is what I thought I wanted.  That group was dissolved, and I had a choice between 2 lab positions.  I ended up in the Forensics lab and have been doing this job for 8 years!  It has been a great fit for me.  One benefit of working for a large company is the opportunity to try different roles and do career development to find a job that is a good fit.

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