Thursday, October 20, 2016

STEM, computer workers and their degrees

Credit: Census Bureau
Someone asked a really good question about chemists and computer occupations over at the Chemistry Reddit:
It seems to me that a disproportionate number of chemists end up taking up programming to some extent, and sometimes transfer to that field entirely. Does anybody else feel the same way? And why do you think this would be?
I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the Census Bureau's data about this, where they correlate the various STEM degrees and the occupational fields of their degree holders through the American Community Survey. As you can see, the green/teal line is the number of B.S. physical science degree holders who go into occupations classified as "computer workers." As you can see, it's large, but not especially large compared to those who get engineering degrees or computer science degrees.

To get further into the weeds, I calculated the percentages of computer workers for degree holders for the "STEM" fields:

Computers, mathematics and statistics degrees: 43% computer workers
Engineering degrees: 15% computer workers
Physical science degrees: 7% computer workers
Biological, environmental and agricultural sciences degrees: 3% computer workers
Psychology degrees: 3% computer workers
Social sciences degrees: 4% computer workers

Looking at the data, it seems to me to be equivocal. If you compare to "TEM" workers, no, chemists do not end up disproportionately as programmers. However, the data does suggest that, of the "S" fields, the physical sciences disproportionately end up as computer workers. 

Daily Pump Trap: 10/20/16 edition

A (very) few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs: 

Aliso Viejo, CA: Calhoun Vision is looking for an experienced M.S./Ph.D. chemist to be a director of chemical sciences and engineering. They'll be "responsible for the development and implementation for all formulation and automation processes for the fabrication of the silicone polymer lens technology." Also, a principal analytical chemist position from the same company. 

RTP: AgBiome is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. chemist to work on formulation for "novel biological pest and disease control products."

Colorado Springs, CO: The Institute for Defense Analyses is looking for a research analyst to work with the Missile Defense Agency. M.S./Ph.D. desired.

Boca Raton, FL: Duane Morris is an IP law firm; they've posted a patent agent/technical advisor position and an intellectual property associate position. 

Ventura, CA: JH Biotech, Inc. is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. organic chemist for a research scientist position; local candidates preferred. 70-80k offered. 

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respective) "1000+", 345, 10,121 and 19 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 2,273 positions for the search term "chemist". I did a little experiment today where I searched the following job titles both without quotes on the job title, and with. The 'without' quotes is the first number. Analytical chemist: 184/216. Research chemist: 49/39. Formulation chemist: 41/35. Synthetic chemist: 405/15. Medicinal chemist: 51/15. Organic chemist: 63/28. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What's more expensive, Boston or San Francisco?

A cherished friend of the blog writes in with the following question; it has been [redacted] for privacy: 
I am trying to gauge the growth of the biotech/pharma sector in the Bay Area over the last few years: as you know, Boston is still the top destination, so my main concern is whether I will find other jobs if [things don't work out].  
[Also], I was wondering what a “good” salary is for the Bay Area. Currently [my spouse] is finishing grad school so we are pretty much a single income family, but [they] are getting [their advanced degree in tech] so we’re hoping that [they] will be making a decent amount of money soon. Any sources which can help me compare, for instance, what the equivalent of say a 120K salary in Boston would be for SF would be immensely helpful.
This is a good question, and one that I don't really have a strong sense of. It seems to me that San Francisco will continue to play "1A" to Boston's "1" for the foreseeable future. Absent some sort of bizarre catastrophe that strikes Silicon Valley, Stanford and UC-Berkeley (a series of huge earthquakes and fires?), it's hard for me to imagine that the science and financial ecosystem of the Bay Area will lose its relative position in the biopharma world, either nationally or internationally.

A brief look at median incomes and household income percentiles may be instructive, regarding pay scales. There are plenty of websites that compare cost of living, and I don't really know if any of them are better than others. I invite reader suggestions on that one.

However, I think one of the main drivers of high cost of living is the relative number of people with high incomes (I note here that I have read exactly none of the relevant social science around this.) So, a comparison of San Francisco County and Suffolk County, Massachusetts (using the Census Bureau's 2014 American Community Survey):

Suffolk County, MA: median income of $54,169, 26.9% earn more than $100,000
San Francisco County, CA: median income of $78,378, 40.9% earn more than $100,000

Nearby counties:

Middlesex County, MA: median income of $83,488, 42% earn more than $100,000
Norfolk County, MA: median income of $86,469, 43.6% earn more than $100,000
San Mateo County, CA: median income of $91,421, 46.2% earn more than $100,000 
Marin County, CA: median income of $91,529, 58.2% earn more than $100,000

This suggests to me that one would have to earn significantly more than $120,000 ($174,000?) in order to keep the same lifestyle.* That is, of course, likely a ridiculous wild guess. Readers, please tell me how wrong I am.

UPDATE: Thanks to Joe Q., I've decided to add some of the adjoining counties. 

*Or, likely, that's how much you would have to earn to stay in the immediate metro area of the city, and not have a longer commute? 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 401 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 388 positions. The open thread is here. 

Daily Pump Trap: 10/18/16 edition

A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs: 

Plymouth, MN: Cargill, looking for a "Global Bioanalytical Lead". M.S./Ph.D. with experience, looks like. "This position requires strong analytical chemistry skills, especially related to biotechnology field, as well as strong leadership skills. The incumbent will be accountable for overall direction of bioanalytical within the global BioRD, provide leadership in assessing needs of BioRD and making sure those needs are met and coordinated across all BioRD locations."

Kenilworth, NJ: Merck, looking for a M.S./Ph.D. with experience in high-throughput laboratory equipment and biologics testing. 

Los Angeles, CA: Matrix Sensors, Inc. is looking for a B.S. chemist to be a laboratory technician; looks to be something about gas sensors? 2-5 years experience is what they're looking for - I'd be surprised if they can get that.

Virginia Beach, VA: These positions always are eye-catching, especially in their vagueness:
Point One USA, LLC seeks a PhD level Chemist to support advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) courses of instruction specifically designed to train EOD operators assigned to special operations units and to conduct test and evaluation for federal government agencies. Candidates must have verifiable experience working with and synthesizing energetic materials. Candidates must have the ability to teach non-chemist personnel to familiarize and educate them on the hazards associated with chemical warfare agents, terrorist homemade explosives and precursor materials. Willingness to travel both domestically and abroad on a frequent basis is a must. Ability to work in austere, dynamic and diverse environments with multiple professional disciplines is essential. Some lifting, collateral duties and work with hazardous materials is necessary. Candidates with military, biology or radiological training/experience is preferred. 
- Must have a PhD
- Must relocate to Virginia Beach, VA
- Must be willing to travel
- Must be able to teach non-chemist
"....Evaluations for federal government agencies." I like it. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 10/18/16 edition

A few academic positions posted recently at C&EN Jobs:

Los Angeles, CA: UCLA is looking for an assistant professor of computational chemistry. "Expertise in the computational design of catalysts for organic, organometallic, and inorganic reactions is preferred."

Houston, TX: The University of Houston, looking for an assistant professor of bioorganic chemistry.

Montreal, Quebec: The University of Montreal is looking for two assistant professors, one in polymer chemistry and one in inorganic chemistry.

Athens, GA: The University of Georgia is searching for an assistant professor of analytical chemistry.

Lacey, WA: St. Martin's University, looking for two assistant professors:
The Department of Natural Sciences at Saint Martin’s University seeks to fill two full-time, tenure-track, entry-level faculty positions in the Chemistry program. One position is for an expert in the field of Analytical or Biochemistry and the other is for an expert in Environmental, Green, or Geochemistry. The finalist for the latter position will regularly teach Physical Geology, a required part of the curriculum for engineering majors.
I think they're advertising for two positions, but the way that it is worded, it almost seems like 3. It's most likely two.

Baltimore, MD: A postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Professor Andrew Horti in synthetic medicinal chemistry. "Spacious" labs - that's not a detail you see every day.

Colorado Springs, CO: Not every day that you see these types of positions, but I see that Colorado College is looking for a B.S./M.S. medicinal chemist for a research project.

Faculty search: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University invites applications for at least 5 new faculty positions as part of its planned expansion. Targeted areas for the current search include*: 
Chemistry: Chemical Biology; Materials Chemistry (including Polymer Chemistry, Metal-Organic Frameworks)
Life Sciences: Cell Biology; Theoretical Biology; Behavioral Learning Theory
Mathematics: Discrete Mathematics; Computational Sciences; Big Data Analysis
Physics: Quantum Information; Ultracold Physics; Condensed Matter; Cosmology/Gravitational Waves 
We are seeking applicants with excellent scholarship and creativity. Successful candidates are expected to establish an active program of research, supervise student research and teach in the graduate program. Generous research resources are provided which may be supplemented with external grants. Appointments will be Tenure-Track or Tenured. Starting date is flexible.
*Applications from strong candidates in other fields may be considered.
Full job description here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nice to see the divide has always been there

Also in this week's C&EN, a fun little letter: 
C&EN’s recent article on the shortage of vanilla beans (Sept. 12, page 38) brought to mind a story from the early days of cellophane at DuPont. 
The cellophane marketing organization was being introduced to a new series of films coated with polyvinylidene chloride from Dow Chemical rather than nitrocellulose from DuPont. The marketing organization was, by design, made up of nontechnically trained personnel. 
After the presentation of the virtues of the new films, two high-ranking marketing managers were heard involved in a discussion on “where would they get all of the vanilla beans?” 
Elwood P. Blanchard Jr.
Mendenhall, Pa.
I'm amused to see that the sniping between technical types and marketing types has always been with us.  

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles from this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

View From Your Hood: Toronto edition

Credit: Christine Le
Christine Le, via Twitter: "Though I hate climbing all the stairs from the NMR lab, I get to see this amazing view each time #viewfromthehood #toronto"

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption, please) at; will run every other Friday.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Always a good time to play "hey, this picture looks funny."

Credit: F.X. Coudert
Let's play the game of nanoparticles… Ag vs ZnO, two different syntheses, two different papers in @ELSchemistry journals.

Why can't we have an NMR in a plane?

Credit: Wikimedia
Via the chemistry Reddit, is that really a mass spec in a NASA plane? (Looks like it is possible, and here's a similar picture?)

I get the sense that no one's mounted a NMR in a plane or a boat or a car. Too bad.

UPDATE: Thanks to bad wolf, I see that underground NMR for oil wells is real. Also, check out this company that actually sells NMRs to analyze groundwater. Of all the places where I expected to find NMR, underground was not one of them.

UPDATE 2: In the comments, examples of NMR in cars and proposals for NMR in space! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 388 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 388 positions. The open thread is here. 

Conversations with Cramer: How should you talk to undergraduates about graduate school?

A frequent reader was prompted by Professor Cramer's recent advice on applying to graduate school to ask the following question to him: 
In my professional capacity, I frequently work with undergraduate students who are considering graduate school in chemistry. For some of them, that choice reflects a love of chemistry and a genuine intellectual desire to do research and/or pursue a career in science. Many of these undergraduates have read widely and forged relationships with faculty. They make their decision to postpone their career for half a decade or more with eyes wide open. 
Others, however, bright and successful though they may be, are not so well-informed. They may easily gain admission to programs, but their reasons for wanting to go to graduate school do not arise from a genuine interest in chemistry. Rather, they demonstrate an unwillingness to make an immediate career decision and cite a need to procrastinate in their job search. I have even heard reasons like “because my [boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other] is going to graduate school and I want to go with them.” (This makes me want to cringe, but who am I to tell someone how to live their life?) In short, they seem to be choosing graduate school because they feel like they have nothing better to do. 
I never want to discourage anyone from following their heart and I refuse to think (despite or because of my own experiences in graduate school and career) that I know better than anyone who is making this very personal decision. When they ask for my advice, I hesitate to say anything other than “are you sure you have thought this through?” and then I send them in the direction of CJ’s blog.  
I would appreciate hearing someone else’s take on how to handle this with tact and concern. How do you stress to students that graduate school undertaken for misguided reasons may result in anguish and that the rewards are not guaranteed?
Professor Cramer responds:
To be honest, I think we have to salute this questioner for having achieved what seems, to me, to be pretty much the optimal combination of compassion and self-restraint. By contrast, many people confronted with situations like this, while admirably motivated by concern, nevertheless engage in a bit of hubris in assuming that they know better what an individual should do with their life than does the individual. Relying on my own experience as a faculty advisor, and also as a Director of Graduate Studies, I have seen students excel who I never thought would make it, and I’ve seen seeming superstars crash and burn as disconnects between expectations and reality set in. And usually that process takes two to three years — as that’s about 10-15% of the life span of a person that age, one can be forgiven for doing poorly with predictions made based on antecedent circumstances. 
I see at least a couple of factors here. First, people have to be allowed to make mistakes — we learn from them — they build resilience. That said, it is CERTAINLY appropriate to have a conversation that focuses on questions like, “Why do you want to go to graduate school?”, “What do you want to do afterwards that makes graduate school the right choice for you?”, and “Do you feel like you’ve done enough research on what to expect that you understand what graduate school is going to be like?” Sharing information and experience surely cannot hurt, and may moreover be useful in guiding an individual’s choice of programs, assuming grad school continues to be thought to be the preferred option. 
Second, one should not discount the enormous potential influence of both a program and of an advisor. Trying to align desired outcomes with the right programs and people can be decisive in fostering success. Impressing upon ANY student (whether you think they’re burning to be a Ph.D. or not) that they should address those questions during program visits and talks with prospective advisors is noble work. We programs and advisors are supposed to do our best NOT to have a lot of crashing and burning going on! (Mind you, it is simply unrealistic to think that every admitted student will be successful, but that’s a topic for another time.) 
I’ll say again that I like very much how the questioner put it: one should structure one’s response around “tact and concern” while recognizing the fundamental agency of the individual. 
Readers, what do you think? What's the best advice to someone who is waffling a bit about graduate school? How do you inform while respecting their agency?