Thomas Baker, '05

  • Tom Baker

    Major: Chemistry 

    Minors: Physics and Mathematics 

    Hometown: Bloomsburg, Pa.

    Further Degrees: MS Chemical Physics, Harvard; PhD Chemical Physics, Harvard

    Current Employer: After completing my post-doc research in the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley, I have decided (for now) to leave the academic path and pursue my interests in renewable energy. I had a brief stint working at First Solar (the world's largest solar company), and now just started work as a consultant in San Francisco at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). BCG is a management consulting firm that works with the top management of Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, organizations, and governments on a variety of problems. They hire a wide range of people (MBAs, PhDs, JDs, MDs), regardless of their background. I should be mainly working in their energy practice, thus a chance to see more of the business side of the renewable and traditional energy sector. BCG is unknown to most, and I only learned about this world through a friend a couple years ago. While it's a significant change to what I've been doing before, it seems like a good place to work (in fact, #2 according to some).

    Most Important Enhancing Experiences while at IUP: An NSF-funded research experience for undergraduates (REU) at Columbia University. I spent a summer after my sophomore year doing research in the chemistry department at Columbia. It gave me a taste of first-class scientific research, after which I was completely hooked. The program gave me the desire, experience, and confidence to apply to graduate school and continue in science. The program not only changed my academic and professional perspective, but it impacted me personally. It gave a "small town boy" the chance to live in New York, an experience that shaped who I am today. Another great experience was conducting research with my undergraduate advisor in the Chemistry Department at IUP. Starting the summer after my freshman year and continuing during the academic semesters, I performed research with a professor in the Chemistry Department at IUP, Dr. Ronald See. I learned a great deal of chemistry from him (probably more than I did in the classroom), and he served as a great mentor, pushing me to pursue other opportunities (like the REU program at Columbia). He had a major role in shaping me as a scientist.

    About My Major: Through courses and labs, I was introduced to nearly every topic I needed to be successful in graduate school. The amount of personal attention I received (both from my advisor and other professors) was vital to my success.

    HC Impact: The HC exposed me to a wide variety of “things.” I can't think of a better word than “things,” because it is truly a diverse list, including new ideas, new ways to approach a problem, great friends, and the arts (important for someone who could easily find himself in the lab all day), and it ultimately exposed me to a voice of my own. I will never forget one of my first Core classes (with Dr. Cashdollar). While in discussion as a class, some of my ideas I had put forth were not very popular, and I found myself backing down from my initial statements as my fellow classmates were (politely) shooting me down. But Dr. Cashdollar stepped in, expressed interest in what I had to say, and encouraged me to keep fighting for my initial thoughts. It is this lesson of “sticking to your guns” when you think you have a good idea that has proven to be helpful time and time again as a scientist (and in life in general).

    Chemistry Majors 

    List of Majors