Alumni Profiles

Steven O'Malley, GSAS '04

Job Title: 
Chemistry teacher
Grad Year: 
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Please briefly describe your current position in more detail, including your responsibilities and job tasks:

As a high school chemistry teacher, I teach some of New York City's most gifted and talented students at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan.  I am one of nine chemistry teachers in a school with more than 3,000 students.  I've taught Regents level, Honors, AP and organic chemistry.

My daily duties include teaching four classes of 34 students each.  When I'm not in the classroom, my responsibilities involve writing new lesson plans, creating interactive labs, assessing and grading assignments.  Outside the classroom, I can be found after school tutoring or advising a student club.

Please briefly describe your career path, including the reasons behind job changes, since graduating from Columbia University:

After graduating from Columbia I spent a year doing post-doctoral research in organic synthesis at UC Berkeley.  I then moved back to New York and obtained a position teaching freshman chemistry at John Jay College.  I always wanted to teach, but it wasn't until I interviewed at a local high school and found myself in front of a classroom of teenagers that I knew I had found the career for me.  I began pursuing my teaching license and soon acquired a position at Stuyvesant High School.

How did your experiences at Columbia University (e.g., academic studies, extra-curricular activities, student groups) prepare you for your career?:

In addition to gaining teaching experience while at Columbia, my graduate education involved daily lab research.  Not a day goes by that I don't mention some aspect of my lab research in my classroom.  Even if only anecdotal, real-life examples always add to a lesson in a way nothing else can.

What job resources (internships, summer opportunities, work experiences, or individuals) have influenced your career choice(s)?:

My graduate research adviser, Prof James Leighton, was my best source of advice when it came to realizing my career.  My colleagues in the chemistry department, whether working toward a career in teaching, industry, or government, were and still are invaluable resources for career advice.

What advice would you give to a Columbia student or graduate interested in your field?:

Good teachers are always in demand.  Find schools that interest you, learn the requirements for becoming a teacher, whether at a public or private high school, contact schools directly, and keep in touch with those who are interested in similar fields.