Jared van der Linden ’07: Doing his part to prevent the emergence of three-eyed fish, one orgo beaker at a time.
This month, van der Linden was named the 2007 Student Employee of the Year for both Yale University and the state of Connecticut. Following guidelines from the National Student Employee Association, Yale’s Student Employment Office solicited nominations from on-campus employers in February and chose van der Linden from among 30 candidates. As this year’s top student employee, van der Linden — who works primarily with chemical waste in the organic chemistry lab of Sterling Chemistry Laboratory — will receive a $100 gift certificate to the Yale Bookstore and will be honored with a lunch next week.
Yale Student Employment Manager Matthew Long said he would like to see more awareness of the Student Employee of the Year program, which is in its second year on campus.
“What’s great about the program to me is the ability to talk about how important student employees are on campus,” he said. “They run vital programs, they coordinate major efforts, and they are in amazingly responsible positions. [This Student Employee of the Year program allows us] to better inform campus of just how vital a role they play in the operations day-to-day of Yale.”
Long said the office asks on-campus supervisors to nominate exceptional student workers and rate them on their reliability, initiative, quality of work, disposition, and contribution to their employer. In the next stage, he said, a committee of major on-campus student employers reviews the submissions and chooses an award recipient and four other top nominees, all of whom receive publicity on the Student Employment Web site.
One purpose of the Student Employee of the Year program is to send the message to all Yale student employees that their work is valuable and appreciated, Long said.
“I’m averse to saying winner,” he said. “I don’t want people to think they’re losing out or not doing a great job, because I know they are. It’s a fine line to walk between encouraging people to do a great job and not encouraging excessive competition.”
All students employed and paid by Yale, both graduate and undergraduate, can be nominated. The Northeast Association of Student Employment Administrators oversees the competition.
Van der Linden, who has worked in the organic chemistry lab 15 hours a week for three years, is primarily responsible for neutralizing and overseeing the chemical waste produced by the hundreds of students taking organic chemistry. Safe completion of this task requires extensive knowledge of how chemicals react with each other, he said.
“I have to know what chemicals are being used for every experiment every week,” van der Linden said. “I make sure they’re working things out, that waste is properly sorted and that it’s minimized so certain chemicals can be recycled.”
He also performs a number of miscellaneous duties, he said, including occasionally serving as a substitute teaching assistant and helping students with their chemistry experiments.
Van der Linden, whose supervisor Anna Yu nominated him for the award, is also involved in the Progressive Party and the Yale Political Union.
Adam Meredith ’08, who has worked with van der Linden in the lab for three years, said he and his fellow employees have a lot of respect for the Student Employee of the Year’s capabilities.
“He definitely knows his stuff, and he’s very competent,” he said. “As far as the waste management goes, Anna basically gives him an assignment, like to figure out what an experiment is going to produce, and she can let him just run with it and not have to double check everything because he knows what he’s doing.”
Meredith said van der Linden can also bring a refreshing element of fun to their work together. He recounted an incident in which the two were given the task of disposing of old lab equipment in a dumpster. When the dumpster was full and there were still more old monitors, keyboards and beakers to discard, Meredith said he and van der Linden both jumped on the trash, then took a sledgehammer to the debris, smashing the glass and plastic to shards.
Van der Linden said that although his extensive work hours can sometimes cut into time for schoolwork and socializing, he takes his position seriously.
“Since I’m the person responsible, I have to be there,” he said.
Last year, Yale spent $13,712,929 paying student employees.