U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chemist

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Full time
Savannah, GA, Memphis, TN, and San Francisco and Long Beach, CA
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CBP Opens 20+ Chemist Vacancies Across the United States!

How Chemists Use Science to Further the CBP Mission: An Interview with Trevor Curtis 

Every day is different for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chemists who work within the Laboratories and Scientific Services Directorate (LSSD). One day, analysts could be testing an unknown substance for evidence of illegal narcotics. The next day, they could be traveling around the country training other CBP personnel how to handle materials linked to weapons of mass destruction.

“When I try to explain my job to people, they sometimes think I work with dead bodies or that I’m like Abby Sciuto from the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) television show,” CBP Chemist Trevor Curtis said. In reality, Trevor does not work with dead bodies, but sometimes his work could play a major role in a criminal investigation. “I tell them that forensic science is the application of science to the law, and that can mean many things.” 

chemistLSSD is the scientific arm of CBP, which provides forensic and scientific testing to help CBP officers and agents enforce trade and narcotics laws, detect and intercept weapons of mass destruction and other hazardous materials, and protect intellectual property rights.

CBP chemists, who work in labs across the country, ensure imported and exported goods are properly identified or declared under the right tariff. The information chemists provide can have an impact on duty rates, import quota restrictions, or whether certain goods are allowed into the country. CBP chemists even use their training with explosive chemicals to play a role in stopping terrorist activity.

“To me, the most fascinating part is seeing the unusual designer drugs that come into the United States,” Trevor said. "This job provides a unique perspective because the drugs we analyze often come directly from foreign distributors before they reach local dealers.” CBP chemists communicate the results of their drug analyses to state and local law enforcement to warn them of the dangers of the new drugs before they reach local drug markets. 

Trevor joined CBP after graduating with a master’s degree in forensic chemistry. He now works at LSSD’s Los Angeles Laboratory where he conducts different types of analysis every day and continues to learn new methods to further CBP’s mission. “The most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to make real changes happen in the lab,” Trevor said. “As a new graduate, I have been able to bring in many new ideas to improve our lab because we have an opportunity to make our labs more efficient, safer, and produce higher quality work than ever before.”

CBP recently opened more than 20 vacancies for chemists in cities including Savannah, GA, Memphis, TN, and San Francisco and Long Beach, CA.

Chemists typically have educational backgrounds of chemistry, life or physical sciences, biology or engineering, but other applicants with science, technology, engineering and math-related backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

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