Heat and sand. A restrictive culture. Saudi Arabia didn't seem to have much to offer compared with other countries I had visited. So, after decades spent happily working in laboratories, how did I end up in the Saudi desert, trying to do science at a petrochemical plant? My long career with a developer of petrochemical processing technology began as a research chemist at its main research center near Chicago, Illinois. It was—is—a very fine laboratory. We were able to turn out accurate results quickly. An array of pilot plants ran smoothly, cranking out data 24/7. Complex experiments were designed, and definitive conclusions were drawn efficiently. (Keep reading at Science.)

Top image credit: Robert Neubecker

Blaise J. Arena is a retired research chemist and project manager.