Friday, September 30, 2022

Have a good weekend

An exhaustingly busy week, but I am keeping my head above water. I hope that you had a decent week, and that you have a great weekend. See you on Monday. 

Whoa, German chemical plant utilization is way down

From this week's C&EN, grim news from the chemicals sector (emphasis mine, article by Michael McCoy): 
...A day later, Dow’s chief financial officer, Howard Ungerleider, told a Credit Suisse conference that Dow’s third-quarter earnings before taxes would be about $600 million below what stock analysts were expecting.

Like other executives, Ungerleider pointed to lower demand and higher energy costs in Europe as key reasons for the reduced outlook. Although no major German chemical company has formally cut its outlook yet, a recent report from VCI, Germany’s main chemical industry association, is grim in its predictions. It warns that business consequences of the war in Ukraine—high energy and raw material costs, persistent supply bottlenecks, and possible natural gas rationing—could bring production cutbacks and even a recession.

The group says that production capacity utilization in the German chemical industry is 81.4% below normal and that output is likely to fall by 8.5% in 2022.

“The immense challenges are a serious danger to the competitiveness of our companies and thus also to the future of Germany as an industrial location,” VCI president Christian Kullmann writes in the report. “Cutting back production is a first step. If certain processes have to be shut down altogether, they may never start up again.”

It will be interesting to see what the long-term ramifications to the European chemical industry will be from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I am not sure I would have predicted this, but here we are.  

Thursday, September 29, 2022

28 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

 Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 28 new positions for September 24. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company map, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Are we going to run out of organic solvents?

I'm still chewing on this Bruce Lipshutz opinion piece in Chemical and Engineering News that predicts an eventual move away from petroleum-based solvents: 

...Society has started to force petroleum companies to account for their environmental impact. For example, in 2021, a court in the Netherlands required Royal Dutch Shell to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions created from burning fossil fuels. In 2020, the CEO of BP announced the firm’s plans to begin cutting its oil production by 40% and focus on renewable energy. Is this the beginning of the end for big oil? How many companies must transition away from oil before the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries see shortages in the supply chains that are essential to their industries? And what does the future workforce of scientists—specifically synthetic organic chemists—look like absent the petroleum-based science that may soon become obsolete?

I guess I have a pretty tough time imagining what this future could look like, i.e. a world in which no solvent is derived from drilling for oil? Seems to me a likelier world is one where solvent gets *a lot* more expensive, as oil gets pricier due to climate change-related pricing structures, etc, or solvent is derived from plants/some other Source of the Future.

Nevertheless, a reasonable thing to think about how such a world might look... 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Monday, September 26, 2022

What's more important: intelligence or conscientiousness?

In a podcast interview between Tyler Cowen, an economist and Byron Auguste, an economist, and a CEO of a labor force development non-profit, this interesting exchange: 

COWEN: At the margin, if you’re trying to retrain someone, would you rather they had higher IQ or higher conscientiousness? Which is more scarce?

AUGUSTE: Well, it depends, in part, on what you’re training them for.

COWEN: Sure, but on average. People who are 25 and over —

AUGUSTE: I think IQ is overrated and conscientiousness is underrated for the most part because people can learn new things, but as you know, learning can be uncomfortable. First of all, it requires realizing you don’t really know a thing, paying attention to where, “Oh, I sort of know this,” but looking at the finer points. Yes, I think conscientiousness probably matters more on the whole.

It seems to me that both are important for being a research chemist, but I imagine higher IQ would be helpful for most research-oriented tasks (i.e. making unexpected connections, etc, etc.) That said, I suspect that for most tasks in any organization within the chemical enterprise, you would take a higher-conscientiousness person every time. 

(the whole episode is worth a listen, if only to hear Auguste talk about the various places where credentialism is impacting the labor market) 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Have a good weekend

This was an anxiety-inducing week, but it seemed like it worked out all right in the end. I have a fun Friday activity. I hope you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

Marketwatch: "U.S. Leading Economic Index Fell in August for Sixth Straight Month, Signaling Downturn"

Via Marketwatch: 
An economic index that measures U.S. business cycles fell in August for the sixth straight month, indicating that a contraction in economic activity may be imminent.

The Leading Economic Index compiled by private-research group The Conference Board declined 0.3% to 116.2 in August after a revised 0.5% drop in July, data released Thursday showed.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal expected the index to decrease by 0.2%.

August's data potentially signal a recession, said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at the Conference Board. "Economic activity will continue slowing more broadly throughout the U.S. economy and is likely to contract," he said.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index is a predictive variable that anticipates turning points in the business cycle by around seven months.

Well, that's not great news.  

(Makes you wonder if there is something different about the post-pandemic economy, and if the major indicators are not quite acting as they should. I'm tempted to say "yes, maybe?" but I don't think that the pandemic suspended "the rules" of the economy.)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

22 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 22 new positions for September 19. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company map, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers. 

Job posting: QC lead manager, Invicro, New Haven, CT

From the inbox, this position: 

Job summary

The Quality control lead will oversee the day-to-day quality control activities at Invicro's New Haven site by managing the QC team, overseeing inventory, ensuring equipment calibration and qualification is performed on time and according to written procedures and perform quality control testing under GMP condition. This role will report to the director of radiochemistry.

Major responsibilities

  • Manage Chemistry Quality Control team members, daily operations of the quality control team and responsible for delegating work to assigned staff and establishing workflow standards/expectations. Perform PET and SPECT radiotracer quality analysis in full compliance with applicable regulations and internal requirements
  • Actively support and perform maintenance of analytical equipment
  • Oversee and ensure the quality control program is proceeding efficiently within the framework of regulatory compliance and operating within with strict adherence to phase-appropriate cGMP standards, environmental health and safety, good working practices and related guidelines...

Qualification

  • Strongly preferred PhD in Chemistry or Master's Degree in engineering or physical sciences.
  • 5-10 years of analytical chemistry experience
  • 3-5 years of people management experience
  • 1-3 years of experience working in a cGMP environment
  • 1-3 years of experience working under aseptic conditions for the preparation of sterile product(s)
  • Demonstrated proficiency in the cGMP operation and extensive experience with conventional analytical instrumentation.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

I don't think you could do this in chemistry?

Via Business Insider, this trendy bit of job news: 
Some job candidates are hiring proxies to sit in job interviews for them — and even paying up to $150 an hour for one.

In a recent Insider investigation into the "bait-and-switch" job interview that's becoming increasingly trendy, one "professional" job interview proxy, who uses a website to book clients and keeps a Google Driver folder of past video interviews, said he charges clients $150 an hour.

The proxy was approached by Aamil Karimi, who works at cybersecurity firm Optiv as a principal intelligence analyst. Karimi, who posed as a job seeker to talk to the proxy, told Insider's Rob Price that the "bait-and-switch" trend has been on the rise because of more work-from-home jobs and overseas hiring.

The "bait-and-switch" interview works like this: a job candidate hires someone else to pretend to be them in a job interview in hopes they will secure the job. When the job starts, the person who hired the proxy is the one to show up for work.

I genuinely don't think you could get away with this in chemistry (but as the article/summary notes, this may be a trend in IT and not elsewhere (?)). I have a decent memory for names and faces, so I'd like to think that my spidey-sense would tingle... Readers, has this ever happened to you?  

C&EN: "Tesla eyes US lithium processing plant"

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, a bit of news that you would not really expect ten years ago (article by Alex Scott):

Tesla has disclosed that it is considering building a plant in Robstown, Texas, that would convert lithium ore into battery​-grade lithium hydroxide. Tesla says Louisiana is another option for the plant. The final choice will be determined partly by the company’s ability to obtain local property tax relief. Production is expected by the end of 2024. The plant would use a novel technology that requires fewer hazardous reagents than other processes and creates usable by-products, according to Tesla.

Man, talk about vertical integration. You wonder if this trend will continue or if it's a mini-boomlet that will ultimately go away...  

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 294 research/teaching positions and 15 teaching positions

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 294 research/teaching positions and 15 teaching position. 

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

On September 21, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 240 research/teaching positions and 13 teaching faculty positions. On September 22, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 89 research/teaching positions and 9 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

Postdoctoral position: theoretical/computational postdoctoral position, University of Missouri - Kansas City (Kansas City, MO)

From the inbox: 
Postdoc Position in Theoretical & Computational Chemistry 

A postdoctoral position in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry is available in the  Momeni Research Group at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. The research will  focus on developing new methodologies and their applications to tackle transport  properties in condensed phases. This will include implementation of these methodologies in our in-house open-source molecular dynamics software package DL_POLY Quantum.  For more information on research projects in the Momeni’s group please  visit https://info.umkc.edu/momenigroup
Preferred Qualifications 
  • PhD in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science, or a related field (or expecting to  graduate soon). 
  • Strong background in both programing and large-scale molecular dynamics  simulations. 
  • Ability to work effectively in a team and good communication skills (oral and written). 
  • Knowledge of path integral formalism and machine learning techniques is a plus. 
Interested applicants are encouraged to send their applications including an up-to-date  CV and one-page summary of their research interests to Dr. Momeni at mmomenitaheri@umkc.edu. 

The position is initially offered for one-year and is renewable to one or two more years  upon mutual agreement.

Best wishes to those who are interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 48 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 48 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Signs of aromatic compounds on Mars?

Via the New York Times, this space science news: 

...Perseverance had earlier found organic molecules — those with carbon and hydrogen atoms bonded together — in rocks on the crater floor of Jezero. But scientists were pretty sure those molecules had formed through non-biological processes.

The organics in the river delta rocks have the potential to tell a different story.

As Perseverance approached the river delta, the signal of organic molecules grew stronger, said Sunanda Sharma, a scientist working with an instrument on the rover that performs chemical analysis of the rock.

At Wildcat Ridge, “These signals were present at nearly every single point in every scan,” Dr. Sharma said. “They are also some of the brightest that we’ve seen thus far on the mission.”

Dr. Sharma said the data indicates the presence of ring-shaped carbon molecules known as aromatics, which the instrument is more sensitive at detecting. More complex organic molecules like proteins or amino acids would provide more compelling evidence of life, but that would have to await analysis after the sample is returned to Earth.

It's interesting to think about what kinds of molecules would be signs of life that would be left over after a very long time...  

C&EN: The third quarter doesn't look good for the chemical industry

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this not great news (article by Alex Tullo): 
Early portents are that the chemical industry is headed for stormy seas. Eastman Chemical has sharply reduced its earnings forecast for the third quarter, while a stock analyst has downgraded Dow.

Chemical executives are growing increasingly worried about a host of problems with the world economy. Energy prices are spiking in Europe and could get worse if Russia continues to withhold natural gas this winter. Chinese economic performance has been dogged by stringent COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Eastman is lowering its third-quarter earnings forecast by 19%, to $2.00 per share. “Demand has slowed more than expected in August and September, particularly in consumer durables and building and construction end markets and the European and Asian regions,” CEO Mark Costa says in a statement.

The company notes that US natural gas prices have reached their highest levels in 14 years. It is also facing snarls on cargo bound from the US to other regions. Eastman says it is raising its own selling prices and controlling costs.

Meanwhile, Jefferies stock analyst Laurence Alexander has lowered his rating on Dow from buy to hold. In a note to clients, he cites industry capacity additions and rising costs that have reduced the US’s competitive edge in Dow’s core olefins business. And he is concerned that rising interest rates in the US will erode consumer confidence.

Alexander also echoes the concerns that have been top of mind for many industry observers. “International earnings remain at risk due to China’s COVID-control measures and the EU energy shock,” he writes.

I imagine this might slow hiring for Eastman or Dow a little? But we will see.  


Friday, September 16, 2022

Have a great weekend

Well, this wasn't such a terrible week for me. I hope that it was a good week for you. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

TIL "brominator"

Via an article in The New Yorker, this interesting tidbit (emphasis mine): 
Shane Divine, a thirty-four-year-old Ohioan, has worked for a medical-tubing manufacturer for the past seven years. On a recent Sunday, I met him outside his factory, near Kent State University, which smelled of warm rubber. He was just off a twelve-hour shift, and his T-shirt was dotted with globs of gunk. Divine operates the brominator, a machine that smooths out latex by running it through a chemical solution. Like many Ohioans, he comes from a family of makers: his dad was a union electrician; his grandparents were rubber workers for Goodyear and Goodrich. Unlike most Ohioans his age, he has a United Steelworkers union card and a fixed-benefit pension.

Can't find much on what a brominator is, but one imagines bromine is involved. 

59 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 59 new positions for September 10. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company map, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

C&EN: Community colleges as training grounds for biotech

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this cover story on training industry chemists (article by Alla Katsnelson): 
Tracy Ludwick Naputi was a soon-to-be-divorced mother of five managing a McDonald’s restaurant when she realized something had to change. Ludwick Naputi loved science in high school, but the only science-related career she could envision back then was nursing, which turned out to be a bad fit. As she puts it, “Life happened”—and she found herself struggling to support her family and ready for new options.

Then Ludwick Naputi received a flyer from San Diego Miramar College, one of three schools in the region’s community college network, about programs preparing people for biotechnology-related jobs. She decided to enroll. That was in 2005—and it was the beginning of Ludwick Naputi’s journey toward a career she loves.

Today, Ludwick Naputi is making a comfortable salary as a research associate at BioLegend, a company that makes and sells immunoassay kits to scientists. Her position, which involves troubleshooting kits, has lots of room for growth. And her kids are proud of her: when they were young, they would tell their friends and teachers that their mom was a chemist. “I was that displaced single mother who had all kinds of barriers in my way,” she says. “Doing the program at Miramar College opened so many doors for me.”
Great anecdote, really interesting story. It seems that these programs are really great when you have a large enough cluster of employers to absorb the graduates of these kinds of programs (not a concidence, one imagines, that one of these programs was in Delaware.) All in all, a good thing. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 255 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching positions

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 255 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching position. 

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

On September 14, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 199 research/teaching positions and 11 teaching faculty positions. On September 15, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 74 research/teaching positions and 7 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 41 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 41 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Postdoctoral opening: Ultrafast Chemical Dynamics, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Berkeley, CA

From the inbox: 
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s (LBNL) Chemical Sciences Division has an opening for a Postdoctoral Fellow to join the team.

In this exciting role, you will work in the AMOS Chemical Dynamics group. The group’s research focuses on studying ultrafast dynamics in molecules, clusters, and interfacial systems by means of time-resolved X-ray spectroscopy and imaging techniques. 

See http://ultrafast.lbl.gov/chemical-dynamics/publications/ for a list of recent publications. The position focuses on the study of ultrafast coupled electronic-structural dynamics in gas-phase molecules by means of high-order harmonics enabled femtosecond time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Further activities may include experimental campaigns at Ultrafast Electron Diffraction (UED) facilities, X-ray free electron lasers (X-FELs), and synchrotron radiation light sources, using a variety of imaging and spectroscopy techniques. The successful candidate has either recently received or is about to acquire a Ph.D. in Physics or Chemistry. The candidate is expected to independently conduct cutting-edge experiments, analyze results, derive theoretical interpretations, and draft manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals. A high degree of independence must be complemented by the capability to thrive in a collaborative group environment.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Chinese Community Party official assesses, critiques Chinese science

Via Twitter, an interesting comment about Chinese science from a Chinese Communist Party official (full transcription here): 
Zhang doesn't only blame the US. He outlines how Chinese S&T is falling short:
  • Few original breakthroughs;
  • Lack of corporate leadership in innovation;
  • Disconnect between industry and academia;
  • Persistent credentialism and exclusivity culture;
  • Overburdened workers.
It would be really interesting to understand exactly what Zhang meant, but I suspect this is buried in about seven layers of nuance that you need a lifetime in Chinese academia to understand who he was Really Criticizing. 

I wish I knew more about the various histories of scientific innovation within nation-states, and how they grow and thrive. There must be some kind of curve/growth (one wonders what a similar critique of US chemistry academia would sound like in 1925) and what limitations the communist system places on Chinese academia (and also what baseline innovation would look like without Communist intervention in 1948?)*

*I mean, you almost have a perfect natural experiment between the People's Republic and Taiwan in terms of academic productivity....

C&EN: Virginia drug-making effort gets US funds

Via Chemical and Engineering News, this story from Rick Mullin: 

The Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (APM) Cluster, an effort led by the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority, will receive $53 million in federal grants as part of the Joe Biden ­administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The APM Cluster intends to use the funding to develop a pharmaceutical manufacturing corridor in central Virginia. The grant will also support a partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University focused on the drug industry.

It is interesting to me that this is happening - pretty clear that between AMPAC's Petersburg facility and Phlow, there is an attempt to make Virginia a pharmaceutical manufacturing center. Best wishes to them - will be fascinating to see if this bit of economic development comes through.