I earned a Ph.D in Chemistry in 1966. My thesis involved a new (at that time) scientific instrument, a mass spectrometer. After I graduated, I got a job with the Dow Chemical Company in the Chemical Physics Research Lab running their new high resolution mass spectrometer. I had never seen one before. It was the start of a magical career for me.
I am a living pioneer (almost 73 years old). I have done things no-one had done before. I have received the recognition of my peers in the form of publications, invitations to speak at scientific meetings in the US and Europe, and served on a committee for the Government of Canada (invited by the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health and Welfare) to assess the impact of dioxins in that country. I was the only US citizen on the committee.
All this was in the area of the detection and quantification of Dioxins in the environment, animals (including humans), and in chemical processes. I have developed methods (with others) to measure organic compounds at levels never before achieved at the time (water: 1-5 parts per quadrillion; human and bovine milk: 10 parts per billion; human fat: 20 parts per billion;...).
The intangible rewards have been infinitely gratifying and satisfying. The monetary compensation was enough to live comfortably (but not extravagantly). My pension and Social Security benefits allow me to enjoy my 'golden years' and still leave a legacy to my children.