How do I go about hiring a consulting metallurgist for a hobby project?
July 8, 2019 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to hire a metallurgist to help me understand some science so I can be accurate when I write about it, and I'm not sure where to go or how to structure the arrangement.

I have a blog for my hobby and I've come up against some questions about metals and chemistry and I could really use some help. The topic area is copper and tin and cooking -- see my previous question for an example of the type of questions I have. I've relied so far on the kindness of strangers but I don't feel I have the right to impinge on people's patience to dig into the questions I have.

I'd like to hire someone on a consulting basis. I'd like to work over email or phone calls and have the consultant review my writing and give me suggestions to correct it. (I'm not asking this person to write for me -- I want this person to help ME write.) I need this person to be qualified in metallurgy (and/or metallurgy-adjacent topics) but also willing to do a little research for me if needed; I have perhaps three or four articles with which I need help. And I definitely want to pay him or her.

My questions for you guys:

1) Where does one look online to hire a freelance metallurgist? Or is that even the type of professional I'm looking for?

2) How do I structure this relationship? Is this hourly, when I don't really know how much work it'll be to answer my questions? Is it a project rate, when I don't have a defined deliverable?

3) I'm not building anything exciting or publishing any papers or anything resume-building like that -- is this even something that an Actual Metallurgist would be willing to do?

Thanks so much for your help.
posted by woot to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
Best answer: I’d start by contacting my local university, especially if they have a materials science or metallurgy department. (If they don’t, chemistry or mechanical engineering might get you started.) You could either talk to them directly, or ask if they can recommend someone to talk to.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:51 PM on July 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I second Huffy Puffy's recommendation. Call the Materials Science or Chemistry department at your local university and ask for someone who works on the kind of topics that interest you—or Google stalk them. Once you find a few folks whose expertise intersects with yours, contact them and ask for a meeting. If you have an ongoing need for consultation, they'd be happy to work out an arrangement. Or they could do it gratis. I'm a historian at a state university, and I once spent a few hours researching, emailing, and then having coffee with a novelist who needed some historical background, and I did it for the intellectual interest and the cost of a cup of coffee. Part of my university's mission is public outreach, and I figured that my consultation was part of that mission. If it had turned into a 2-3 hour per week gig, I would have had to charge, but for a few hours and nothing more, that would have been over the top.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:59 PM on July 8, 2019

Best answer: Other places to reach out to:

Culinary schools - The students in the school with which I am familiar must have a [very] basic understanding of this topic, so someone there must be teaching something about it, and could possibly give you some leads - maybe to a textbook author?

Professional organizations - like this one: ASM International is the world's largest association of materials-centric engineers and scientists.

Science museums - like the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The link is to their Materials Science exhibit, but I can't find anything about the people involved in creating the exhibit, unfortunately.

is this even something that an Actual Metallurgist would be willing to do?

I'm not an Actual Metallurgist, but in general, I would be pleased if someone thought I could contribute to their project, and I would be happy to share my knowledge. But I'm also not interested in teaching you an entire course's worth of background information. So do your research, and when you contact someone, ask specific questions about specific topics. Don't just ask someone for a braindump on their life's work.

Good luck!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:44 AM on July 9, 2019

Best answer: My brother-in-law is a metallurgist of some stripe. He teaches at the University of South Dakota. Send me a message and I can get you his contact information.
posted by trbrts at 6:59 AM on July 9, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me to reach out to my local university, but that makes a lot of sense -- I can actually bring them things to look at instead of having to rely completely on photos and descriptions.

That said, @trbts, I'd be interested in speaking with your brother-in-law, even just to help orient myself on what help to ask for. I've sent you a MeMail.

Thanks all! (Other suggestions still welcome...!)
posted by woot at 11:58 AM on July 10, 2019

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