Monday, April 15, 2024

What's wrong with the new MLB uniforms?

That's a sweaty uniform. 
Credit: The Athletic
Also in this week's C&EN, this vitally important topic (article by Prachi Patel): 

Soon after the 2024 Major League Baseball (MLB) season started in March, sweat stains began to bloom along with spring flowers. In particular, sweat seemed to be soaking through the gray uniform jersey that team members wear when they play away from home, turning them visibly dark.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially sports apparel companies, that athletes sweat. And synthetic sport performance fabrics, whether they’re intended for soccer, track, tennis, or lower-impact activities, are designed to provide temperature control and antibacterial properties to help keep their wearers comfortable and fresh.

In fact, 6 years’ worth of engineering went into the Nike Vapor Premier baseball uniforms, designed by Nike and manufactured by Easton, Pennsylvania–based Fanatics, according to the MLB. So what went wrong?

C&EN asked textile researchers to speculate, and they had fun doing it. “Textile structures are incredibly complex, and when you add chemical finishes, the degree of complexity multiplies,” says Juan Hinestroza, professor of fiber science and apparel design at Cornell University. So the answer to what possibly went wrong is “all of the above,” he says...

Because I'm a chemical manufacturing weirdo, this from the article makes the most sense to me. 

...Whatever the underlying chemical or material gaffe, the problem most likely stems from the uniforms’ complex manufacturing chain. Every MLB jersey and pair of pants is the product of multiple fiber and yarn producers, textile mills, and chemical suppliers spread across the world. To Henry Boyter, an expert on textiles and finishes and director of the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Textile and Apparel Businesses, it’s probably a quality control issue. “There is a large amount of testing that should have been done to ensure quality and that was probably not done,” he says. “We only know for sure that human wear trials were not completed, or ignored.”

I am rather surprised that these issues didn't turn up in their testing, or they ignored these issues. Either way, it doesn't seem like this is turning out well for MLB. I suspect that the second version of these uniforms will be better, but we shall see. 

Bloomberg: Metals prices are surging

Via Bloomberg: 

Aluminum and nickel surged on the London Metal Exchange as traders responded to new US and UK sanctions that banned deliveries of any Russian supplies produced after midnight on Friday.

The new restrictions, aimed at curbing President Vladimir Putin’s ability to fund his military, inject major uncertainties into metals markets that have already been reshaped in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Aluminum jumped as much as 9.4%, the most since the current form of the contract was launched in 1987, while nickel rose as much as 8.8%. That suggests traders believe that removing one of the largest producers from the market will drive prices higher.

The rally is being fueled by “worries that the sanctions will reduce Russian flows to Western markets,” said Jia Zheng, head of trading and research at Shanghai Dongwu Jiuying Investment Management Co. “Any stimulation will be amplified amid an existing bullish backdrop.”

Still, there are also concerns over the prospect of a flood of old Russian metal — which is still permitted — getting dumped onto the LME.

I'm still learning the metals supply chains, so I don't think I have much to say about this, but it is still fascinating. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Have a great weekend

I have one big thing to do today, and then I get to have a weekend. Here's hoping that you got your work done, and that you're having a great week. Have a good weekend and we'll see you on Monday. 

Moderna pauses its Kenyan manufacturing site

Via FiercePharma: 

Moderna made headlines in 2021 with a commitment to bringing more mRNA manufacturing capabilities to Africa, eventually landing on Kenya as the site of a $500 million plant project. Now, amid waning global vaccine demand, the company has hit pause on the endeavor.

The Spikevax maker is taking a step back to evaluate future demand for mRNA vaccines in Africa as it has not received any vaccine orders from the continent since 2022, Moderna said in a statement.

Cancelations of previous orders have stacked up to “more than $1 billion” in losses and write-downs, according to the mRNA specialist. The company said demand "has declined since the pandemic and is insufficient to support the viability of the factory planned in Kenya." 

Too bad - I was looking forward to the start of biopharma manufacturing in Africa. Here's hoping for brighter days. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Job posting: CMC reviewer, FDA, Silver Spring, MD

Via the Chemistry Discord (deadline is April 12):

The mission of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is to perform an essential public health task by making sure that safe and effective drugs are available to improve the health of people in the United States. CDER regulates over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs, including biological therapeutics and generic drugs.

The Office of Pharmaceutical Quality (OPQ) oversees and coordinates the overall regulation of pharmaceutical quality within CDER, including quality assessment of regulatory submission, manufacturing facility assessment, research, policy development, and surveillance of the quality of marketed pharmaceutical products.

The Offices of Product Quality Assessment (OPQA) III evaluate and assess product quality aspects over the product lifecycle for all types of human drug product applications, including Investigational New Drugs (INDs), Biologics Licensing Applications (BLAs), New Drug Applications (NDAs), Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs), and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) information supporting these applications, and make risk-informed recommendations on the approvability of such products and evaluates and assesses post-marketing activities for these drug products.

Duties/Responsibilities

As the Pharmaceutical Scientist, the incumbent is responsible for reviewing and evaluating comprehensive information and data on chemistry, formulation, manufacturing (including process monitoring and controls), biopharmaceutics (including drug release), as well as technical aspects of labeling and environmental impact submitted in Biologic License Agreements (BLAs), New Drug Applications (NDAs), Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs), and supplemental BLAs, NDAs, as appropriate. 

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Drones as corporate intelligence tools

Via the New York Times, this interesting news about a plastics recycling plant: 

Then in November, Bleecker Street Research — a New York-based short-seller, an investment strategy that involves betting that a company’s stock price will fall — published a report asserting that the white pellets that had rolled off PureCycle’s line in June weren’t recycled from plastic waste. The short-sellers instead claimed that the company had simply run virgin polypropylene through the system as part of a demonstration run.

Mr. Olson said PureCycle hadn’t used consumer waste in the June 2023 run, but it hadn’t used virgin plastic, either. Instead it had used scrap known as “post industrial,” which is what’s left over from the manufacturing process and would otherwise go to a landfill, he said.

Bleecker Street also said it had flown heat-sensing drones over the facility and said it found few signs of commercial-scale activity. The firm also raised questions about the solvent PureCycle was using to break down the plastic, calling it “a nightmare concoction” that was difficult to manage.

PureCycle is now being sued by other investors who accuse the company of making false statements and misleading investors about its setbacks.

Mr. Olson declined to describe the solvent. Regulatory filings reviewed by The New York Times indicate that it is butane, a highly flammable gas, stored under pressure. The company’s filing described the risks of explosion, citing a “worst case scenario” that could cause second-degree burns a half-mile away, and said that to mitigate the risk the plant was equipped with sprinklers, gas detectors and alarms.

It is fascinating to see how these short selling firms work, and it's pretty clever to fly drones to find out more data (beats counting cars in a parking lot, I bet.)  

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 547 research/teaching positions and 82 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 547 research/teaching positions and 82 teaching positions

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 April 11, 2023, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 618 research/teaching positions and 77 teaching-focused positions.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Here's the first open thread. Here's a link to the second, open thread. Here's a link to the current, third open thread. 

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

Job posting: visiting assistant professor, Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, CA

Via Twitter: 

PLNU is a Christian liberal arts university in the evangelical, Wesleyan tradition, offering quality undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. We provide higher education in a vibrant Christian environment where minds are engaged and challenged, character is modeled and formed, and service is an expression of faith. PLNU is an institution that is committed to reflecting the rich diversity of God’s kingdom. We therefore encourage applications from culturally and academically diverse faculty of the highest caliber, skilled and/or demonstrating great potential in the practice of teaching and scholarship. 

The Department of Chemistry is seeking candidates for a one year Visiting Professor of Chemistry. Responsibilities will begin mid-August 2024 and continue until mid-May, 2025. Academic rank will be based on degrees and experience, and the compensation level also depends upon the education and experience of the appointee. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. The University encourages applications from a diverse group of applicants who support the mission of Point Loma Nazarene University.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

C&EN: "Chemours completes financial probe"

In this week's C&EN, this news (article by Alexander H. Tullo):  

Chemours’s board of directors has completed an internal review of accounting irregularities that led to the ouster of CEO Mark Newman. In February, Newman was placed on leave pending the review. The probe found that $100 million in payments from Chemours to vendors due in the fourth quarter of 2023 were delayed until the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile, Chemours’s collection of $260 million in receivables due in the first quarter of this year was pushed to the fourth quarter of 2023. The moves boosted the company’s cash flow numbers. The audit found similar gaming in 2022 of $40 million in payments delayed and $175 million in receivables accelerated. Newman has resigned, but the audit may not close the book on the scandal. More than half a dozen law firms are preparing shareholder suits against the company. 

It is remarkable to me that Mr. Newman would decide to attempt this sort of accounting finagling, especially with a publicly traded company. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Have a great weekend


Well, this has been a pretty chill week (by comparison) for me. Here's hoping that you've had a great week, and that you have a wonderful weekend. See you on Monday! 

Chemical drums found buried beneath a New York community park

Credit: Patch/Town of Oyster Bay
Via Patch: 

BETHPAGE, NY — Six 55-gallon chemical drums were found buried seven feet beneath Bethpage Community Park near the ball field and skatepark, the Town of Oyster Bay announced Wednesday. Supervisor Joseph Saladino renewed demands for Northrop Grumman to excavate all contaminated soils in the park.

"These chemical drums are encased in concrete coffins, which is highly uncommon according to environmental experts," the Town of Oyster Bay wrote.

The town called it a "graveyard of chemical drums."

A Grumman spokesperson said the company discovered several drums encased in concrete beneath a closed area of the park while conducting environmental remediation.

"We promptly notified NYSDEC and other relevant stakeholders and we are working with NYSDEC to assess and address this situation as quickly as possible," Grumman stated. "We remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of the community and to continuing our partnership with NYSDEC and other government regulators to address environmental conditions in the area."

It is really hard to imagine a world in which hazardous waste was not disposed of "properly."* It would be fascinating to know what the thought process around burying these drums were, and what potential other disposal methods there might have been years ago. 

*I'm loathe to credit federal legislation for business regulation, but it seems to me that a United States with RCRA is better than one without. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Job posting: Associate Principal Investigator, Toxinology, Battelle National Biodefense Institute, Frederick, MD

Via C&EN Jobs: 

BACKGROUND

The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) is a one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to defending the nation against biological threats. Its work supports DHS and National biodefense preparedness planning, response, emerging threat characterization and bioforensic analyses. It is the first national laboratory created by DHS in response to biodefense gaps identified following the Amerithrax attacks of 2001 and has been operated by the Battelle National Biodefense Institute (BNBI) since 2006. Since its inception, NBACC and its staff have filled critical shortfalls in our scientific knowledge of biological agents needed to protect the public and defend the Nation from biological threats, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate and provided federal law enforcement with scientific data to support the investigation and attribution of biocrimes and protection of the US bioeconomy.

NBACC includes two centers: the National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC), which conducts the technical analyses in support of federal law enforcement investigations, and the National Biological Threat Characterization Center (NBTCC), which conducts experiments and studies to obtain data required for a better understanding of biological vulnerabilities and hazards. Together these centers offer a unique national resource for understanding the risks posed by biological agents and emerging technologies to inform biodefense policy and response planning and the operational capability to support the investigation, prosecution, and prevention of biocrimes and bioterrorism.

PRIMARY FUNCTION

Applies expertise in protein and peptide biochemistry in collaboration with a team of scientists in the NBTCC within the NBACC to perform Toxinology research that addresses specific questions of national significance in support of biodefense preparedness, response, and recovery. Areas of research include a range of topics related to the physical, biological, and/or pathological properties of toxin agents. Work will be performed in state-of-the-art laboratories. All facilities are fully staffed and equipped with a wide range of technologies required for biodefense and infectious disease research.

MINIMUM REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS

  • Requires a PhD (or equivalent) in a scientific discipline or engineering, and a minimum of 2 years related experience.
  • Requires expertise in one or more of the following:
    • Heterologous protein expression, purification, and characterization.
    • Solid phase peptide and protein synthesis, purification, and characterization.
    • Cell-based toxicity and/or electrophysiological assays.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Tennessee General Assembly passes bill to ban atmospheric geoengineering

Via the BBC, this news:

Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill banning the release of airborne chemicals that critics say is inspired by "chemtrails" conspiracy theories.

The bill forbids "intentional injection, release, or dispersion" of chemicals into the air.

It doesn't explicitly mention chemtrails, which conspiracy theorists believe are poisons spread by planes.

Instead it broadly prohibits "affecting temperature, weather, or the intensity of the sunlight".

The Republican-sponsored bill passed along party lines on Monday. If it is signed by Tennessee's governor, Republican Bill Lee, it will go into effect on 1 July.

Just to check, I verified that this was an actual bill that was actually debated and voted on (and passed) in the Tennessee General Assembly. This was not an April Fool's Joke.** Sadly, an amendment to add Sasquatch was voted down (I think.)

I wonder if Tennessee state representative Monty Fritts is concerned about other chemicals in the atmosphere? Surely he understands that, say, burning anything puts chemicals into the atmosphere that could affect temperature and weather?

*Here's another article from a different outlet showing the bill's movement through the general assembly.  

NSF: 1% fewer postdocs in academia in 2022

Via Science's Katie Langin, this news from NSF's Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: 

New data released by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) reveal a sharp drop in the number of U.S. citizens working as postdocs, especially in the biological and biomedical sciences. The trend underscores concerns that the academic community is facing a postdoc shortage and that early-career scientists are increasingly favoring higher paid positions outside academia.

“It’s an unfortunate situation if domestic researchers are turning down postdoctoral positions because they’re inferior to positions in government or in industry,” says Tom Kimbis, executive director and CEO of the National Postdoctoral Association. “It’s not a situation that’s good for the country.”

The data come from NSF’s Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, which compiles employment data from academic institutions and estimates the number of STEM graduate students and postdocs across the country. According to the latest data release, 62,750 postdocs were employed at U.S. institutions in the fall of 2022, a 1% drop compared with the year before. But the trend diverges sharply by citizenship. From 2021 to 2022, the number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents working as postdocs dropped from 29,755 to 27,289. The 8% change is the largest year-to-year percentage-wise drop in the history of the survey, which has collected data since 1980. Meanwhile, the number of postdocs with temporary visas increased by 6%, from 33,573 to 35,461, about the same number as in 2020.

This is pretty interesting news. I'm genuinely interested to see if this trend continues, if it indeed is a trend. I'm generally skeptical of narratives that there is a "shortage" of postdocs. I think there is a perceived shortage of candidates from professors, or (another way to put it) the relative desirability of these postdocs has fallen. I have long asserted that postdocs are inferior goods, and this doesn't change my position.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 546 research/teaching positions and 82 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 546 research/teaching positions and 82 teaching positions

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 April 4, 2023, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 618 research/teaching positions and 75 teaching-focused positions.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Here's the first open thread. Here's a link to the second, open thread. Here's a link to the current, third open thread. 

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

Monday, April 1, 2024

An alarming story about WuXi, and its (potential) impact on chemical employment in the United States

Via Derek, this seriously bonkers Reuters story regarding WuXi AppTec: 

March 28 (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence officials in late February told senators working on a biotech security bill that Chinese pharmaceutical firm WuXi AppTec (603259.SS), opens new tab had transferred U.S. intellectual property to Beijing without consent, according to two sources.

The U.S. government is concerned that certain Chinese biotech companies are contributing technology or research and development for use by China's military, and the proposed legislation would restrict U.S. government funds going to those Chinese companies.

The classified briefing to about a dozen senators was led by the FBI, the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Those officials said that WuXi AppTec and other Chinese entities had engaged in activity in the U.S. contrary to U.S. national security interests, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

Among the agencies' concerns was information reflected in recent intelligence reporting that WuXi AppTec transferred a U.S. client's intellectual property to Chinese authorities without consent, the two sources said.

First, I am a little skeptical of this story. I'm probably more of a dot mil type than Derek, to calibrate. I am, in general, pretty skeptical of specific stories about foreign governments without additional corroboration. So, the rest of this post will needs to start with "IF this is true" and I think it's a big "IF." 

IF this is true, then I suspect this is sufficient evidence for Congress to move on whatever legislation they are planning. The fact that the intelligence community is providing these briefings to Congress intimates a potential level of agreement and potential assent from the White House, which presumably will attempt to adjust any future bills via the Senate. 

So. IF this is all true, then you could imagine A Great Decoupling away from China IF indeed there is large-scale evidence that WuXi is either voluntarily or involuntarily coughing up American IP to the Chinese government.* I remember a story (I don't know if I entirely believe it) from a friend, or a friend of a friend who was taken to a rooftop on the WuXi campus in the late aughts and told "that's the Merck building over there, and the Pfizer building over there, and the [insert large pharma] building over there." Again, I'm skeptical of these stories, but suffice it to say in 2024 that there are many thousands more FTEs in China working on pharma (med chem, process, etc) than there were in 1990 or 2000. 

IF there is a Great Decoupling, then yes, some (or many?) of these jobs will eventually end back up in the United States. Likelier, though, they will start somewhere else. India, perhaps, or maybe Central/Eastern Europe. I don't see the numbers of chemists increasing in the US dramatically any time soon, but my crystal ball is murky. That said, IF a WuXi bill is signed, and IF there are serious consequences (i.e. if large pharmas are barred from working with WuXi on pain of, say, being removed from the CMS formulary), then all bets are off. IF. 

*The Chinese government is weird in all sorts of ways - but why would they have a meal on seed corn like this?

Friday, March 29, 2024

Have a great weekend

This was kind of a rough week for me, but we made it through. I hope you had a good week, and I hope that you have a wonderful and restful Easter weekend. See you on Monday. 

Hydrogen-fueled rockets are amazing

Credit: The New York Times
Via the New York Times: 

The Delta IV Heavy burns ultracold liquid hydrogen, which is a high-performance fuel. In the final part of the countdown, to cool down the engines and prevent a sudden temperature shock that could cause cracks, liquid hydrogen starts flowing through the engine into the flame trench.

But when the hydrogen warms above its boiling temperature of minus 423.2 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns into a gas. Hydrogen is lighter than air and rises upward. When the engines ignite, so does that cloud of hydrogen — like a space-age Hindenburg.

“A very dramatic effect,” Mr. Bruno said.

I'm not much of a space nerd, so I didn't know that the Delta Heavy runs on liquid hydrogen. The pictures are dramatic, sure, but the video is really dramatic. Click over there to see. 

*Makes you wonder if there is some hydrogen provider that's bummed out 'cause they're losing a big account. 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Job posting: Laboratory Analyst I, Central Marin Sanitation Agency, San Rafael, CA

Via C&EN Jobs:

Central Marin Sanitation Agency (CMSA) is recruiting for a Laboratory Analyst I position. This entry level position is responsible for the day‐to‐day activities of the CMSA Laboratory sampling and analysis requirements. This position does require rotational weekend and holiday coverage during CMSA’s wet weather season. The Laboratory Analyst will collect samples and perform standard physical, chemical, biological, and bacteriological tests for process control, permit compliance and CMSA clients. They shall have a working knowledge of various aspects of analytical and environmental laboratory techniques. The CMSA Laboratory is a State certified laboratory which has implemented the Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) TNI-2 Standard and is certified for over 30 different analyses.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES: Under general supervision of the Regulatory Compliance Manager, the Laboratory Analyst assists in implementation of the Agency’s Environmental Laboratory Program by conducting:

  • Collection of environmental samples such as water, wastewater, sludge, and biogas samples.
  • Chemical and biological analysis of samples by standard procedures such as bacteriological, solids, pH, alkalinity, COD, cBOD, BOD, turbidity, and volatile acids.
  • Operation and maintenance of basic and sophisticated laboratory equipment such as Ion Chromatography System, Flow Injection Analysis System, Turbidity Meters, Analytical Balances, and UV-VIS spectrophotometer.
  • Data entry, and review in a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) data, and quality control/assurance documents.
  • Regular communication quality assurance concerns and exceedances, and documents.

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE: Possession of a four-year college degree with major emphasis in chemistry, biology, microbiology, environmental studies, or a related field of study. Possession of a Grade I certificate as a Laboratory Analyst issued by the CWEA is preferred at the time of hire or must obtain a Grade I certificate within 12 months of employment. A minimum of one (1) year of experience in any combination of the following: a laboratory technician/analyst in a wastewater or water treatment facility or analytical laboratory, or other related experience applicable to this position.

To apply for this opportunity, please submit a cover letter and resume at: Laboratory Analyst I - Koff & Associates (koffassociates.com). If you have any questions regarding this opportunity, please contact recruiter Amanda Kreller at Amanda_Kreller@ajg.com or 707.687.2194.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 545 research/teaching positions and 82 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 545 research/teaching positions and 82 teaching positions

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 March 28, 2023, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 618 research/teaching positions and 73 teaching-focused position.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Here's the first open thread. Here's a link to the second, open thread. Here's a link to the current, third open thread. 

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

Job postings: temporary positions, North Carolina Division of Public Health Fellowship Program

From the inbox, three temporary positions with the North Carolina Division of Public Health Fellowship Program. Here's one of them: 

Chemist I

There are two possible project areas available (only one will be hired):

  1. This Chemist I position will assist with a project that will bring on PFAS testing in drinking water using solid phase extraction and Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS). This validation procedure will conform with EPA certification requirements from the implementation of a new method, including the Initial Demonstration of Capability (IDoC). This position is expected to independently perform extractions and analysis of samples. Considering the complexity of this instrumentation and testing protocol, the individual should have one year of related experience. See the full position description. Hourly pay $21.00 p/hr.
  2. This Chemist I position will assist in a project to implement microwave digestion of food products following FDA methods for the detection of lead and other heavy metals. This individual will perform complex ICP-MS analysis and will assist in the design and optimization of an effective digestion procedure that conforms with accepted methods. Considering the complexity of this testing and the expected independent sample digestion and analysis, the individual should have one year of related experience.  See the full position description. Hourly pay $21.00 p/hr.

There are two more at the link. Best wishes to those interested.