Friday, February 23, 2024

Have a great weekend

Well, this was a weird week, with some wins and a couple of losses. Overall, not a bad week, I suppose. Here's hoping that you had a good week, and that you're looking towards a great weekend. See you on Monday! 

The best article you'll read about ramen today

Via Chicago magazine, this rather wonderful (if intense) article: 

Striving for a perfect bowl of ramen — even if it can’t practically be achieved — requires more than feel, intuition, and thousands of hours of muscle memory. It demands exactitude measured in decimals, seconds, and milligrams, using levels, humidity gauges, and refractometers. It is cooking that veers into the domain of laboratory science.

Ask Satinover why this kind of precision is necessary — or really any question at all — and you’ll get an answer that is thought out, quantitative, ready to be bullet-pointed: “There are two reasons. From a business perspective, it’s consistency. My intuition about what’s right isn’t applicable to every component of every dish. I need a control, and numbers are easy to control. The other reason is to avoid having to think about it, to avoid the mental load of what’s correct and what’s not. The number is correct. Twenty grams of onions is correct, not 10 onions. What if you have a larger onion? It’s for a reduction in mental exhaustion.”

I have so many thoughts about this article, and how much I admire Satinover's approach to quality, consistency and his quest for excellence in a bowl. I really admire his search for the right tool for the job (a refractometer for the broth, wow!) 

It feels like launching new restaurants in modern America feels like a bit of a Houdini trick where you are chained inside a box and thrown in a pool and you have six months to either escape or you drown. In that sense, I'm delighted not to be Satinover. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Job posting: chemist, Nestlé Quality Assurance Center, Dublin, OH

Via Indeed, this position: 

The Chemist may undertake advanced analytical work with a minimum of preliminary instruction; modify methods for nonroutine problems; assist with method development; coordinate the work of a small group within the section as necessary.

Chemist expectations:

  • Possess advanced instrumentation skills - troubleshooting, preventive maintenance
  • Represent NQAC at internal and external meetings as directed.
  • Independent Participation in Customer Calls/Technical Support
  • Modify methods to resolve problems requiring knowledge of theory and underlying principles of the analysis.
  • Make recommendations for new equipment and methodology.

Qualifications / Certifications

  • BS in Related Science: 5 years experience in food science laboratory or closely related laboratory environment Or
  • MS in Related Science: 2-5 years experience in food science laboratory or closely related laboratory environment Or
  • PhD in Related Science: 0-2 years experience in food science laboratory or closely related laboratory environment
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

483 of the week: lying QC manager edition

Via FiercePharma, these tidbits from an FDA inspection (PDF) of Sichuan Deebio Pharmaceutical: 
The Form 483 relays an especially troubling event during the inspection when Sichuan Deebio’s quality control team leader provided “misleading information” about records on the results of a microbiology test.

At first, the quality control chief lied about viewing those test results, logging them and leaving them with another team member on a different floor of the facility, the FDA contends in its report. Then she changed tack, claiming she had not read the results, before switching back to a story similar to her first. At last, the QC chief “finally” admitted that she was “not telling the truth about recording the results on respective data worksheets, and no worksheet existed,” investigators wrote in the Form 483.

To make matters worse, investigators subsequently asked the quality leader how she kept track of the test results, to which she replied that they were “in her ‘mind.’”

There's a lot of lab results in my mind (well, there was), but I usually tried to write them down really quickly.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 526 research/teaching positions and 80 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 526 research/teaching positions and 80 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 February 21, 2023, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 608 research/teaching positions and 72 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.  

Monday, February 19, 2024

Economists quantify the impact of NIH funding delays

Via Marginal Revolution: 

We study how delays in NIH grant funding affect the career outcomes of research personnel. Using comprehensive earnings and tax records linked to university transaction data along with a difference-in-differences design, we find that a funding interruption of more than 30 days has a substantial effect on job placements for personnel who work in labs with a single NIH R01 research grant, including a 3 percentage point (40%) increase in the probability of not working in the US. 

Incorporating information from the full 2020 Decennial Census and data on publications, we find that about half of those induced into nonemployment appear to permanently leave the US and are 90% less likely to publish in a given year, with even larger impacts for trainees (postdocs and graduate students). Among personnel who continue to work in the US, we find that interrupted personnel earn 20% less than their continuously-funded peers, with the largest declines concentrated among trainees and other non-faculty personnel (such as staff and undergraduates). Overall, funding delays account for about 5% of US nonemployment in our data, indicating that they have a meaningful effect on the scientific labor force at the national level.

From the conclusions of the paper: 

Using a difference-in-differences design, we find that when the renewal of a PI’s R01 is interrupted, their hired personnel are immediately and persistently less likely to work in the US at least up to five years later.

I suppose it is not a surprise that impacts to a PI's funding situation negatively impact their laboratories, but it is important to see it quantified. It makes you wonder if having more R01's available would be better or worse in the long term for the scientific labor force. 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Job posting: Research Chemist (Heroin Drug Program Technical Authority), Drug Enforcement Administration

Via C&EN Jobs, this position:
This position is located in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Special Testing and Research Laboratory. You will serve as a Research Chemist functioning as the agency's expert on heroin and opium chemistry, heroin production, signature analysis of heroin and opium, illicit opium poppy cultivation, & world-wide heroin trafficking trends.

This position(s) primary purpose is to support the DEA Operational Support Division, Office of Forensic Sciences, Special Testing & Research Laboratory.

As a your typical work assignments may include:
  • Conducting research on heroin and opium to recognize new trends and/or changes in illicit opium cultivation and clandestine heroin.
  • Developing methods to target opium and process-related impurities to gain insight into heroin production techniques.
  • Demonstrating leadership qualities and promoting an inspired, collaborative work environment.
  • Deriving intelligence data and information from signature analysis and communicates the findings via emails, phone calls, reports, and intelligence bulletins or notes.
  • Serving as an expert in the acquisition, compilation, and review of chemistry data from a variety of analytical techniques to include spectrometry, spectroscopy, and chromatography, as well as expertise in organic chemistry
It feels like these positions get announced on a regular basis, which makes me wonder what the turnover for these positions might be. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Best Obituary About Slide Rules Geeks You Will Read Today

 Via the New York Times, this delightful* obituary: 
...One day, about 20 years later, a middle-aged avionics engineer by the name of Walter Shawlee was looking through a drawer at his home in Kelowna, a midsize city in British Columbia, when he happened upon his old slide rule from high school.

It was a Keuffel & Esser pocket Deci-Lon, model 68-1130, with a slender Ivorite body and delicate see-through cursor box. Both had stood the test of time. Mr. Shawlee remembered that as a teenager he had spent six months saving up money to buy it.

Mr. Shawlee was not merely a slide-rule sentimentalist in thrall to memories of teenage geekdom. He argued that slide rules had intrinsic appeal for several reasons.

He saw dignity, for example, in their solidity and design. A 1999 Times profile quoted Mr. Shawlee describing slide rules as “the techno-guys’ version of a broadsword.” On his website, The Slide Rule Universe, he contrasted them with digital technology. “In 50 years, the computer you are using to view this webpage will be landfill,” he wrote, “but your trusty slide rule will just be nicely broken in!”
You have to check out his website in all of its 1999 glory. As a weird guy with a weird blog, I love it. RIP Walter Shawlee. 

*yes, I recognize the irony

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 524 research/teaching positions and 75 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 524 research/teaching positions and 75 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 February 14, 2023, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 586 research/teaching positions and 65 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.  

Monday, February 12, 2024

C&EN: "Novo Nordisk parent to acquire Catalent to shore up weight-loss drug production"

Via C&EN, this news (article by Aayushi Pratap)

Novo Holdings, the Danish investment giant that also controls Novo Nordisk, has agreed to acquire Catalent, one of the largest US drug-manufacturing contractors, for $16.5 billion. The deal could help Novo Nordisk boost production of its weight-loss drug Wegovy, which has gained immense popularity since the US Food and Drug Administration approved it in June 2021.

Novo Holdings expects to close the acquisition by the end of 2024, after which it will sell three of Catalent’s sites—in Anagni, Italy; Bloomington, Indiana; and Brussels, Belgium—to Novo Nordisk for $11 billion. Novo Nordisk is trying to boost the supply of Wegovy and a similar diabetes drug, Ozempic. The drugs, which contain the active substance semaglutide, work by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which reduces appetite, leading to weight loss.

Last year, Novo Nordisk announced it will spend over $8 billion to expand manufacturing sites in France and Denmark to boost production of drugs in its chronic illness portfolio, which includes Ozempic and Wegovy. However, as of early February, semaglutide injections continued to be labeled as being in short supply by the FDA.

I know I am a weirdo for harping on this, but it seems evident to me. Novo should have made these moves years ago, and I am genuinely curious if they will ultimately find themselves on the back foot because they were not able to ramp up manufacturing fast enough. 

Also, I think it is ridiculous that Lilly is complaining that Novo bought Catalent - surely you fellas could have done that too! 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Have a great weekend

Well, this week didn't quite go as I hoped, but I think it's going to go all right. Thought I would throw in a tribute to Toby Keith, whose music I quite enjoyed in the late 90s. There is something about this song that reminds me of how I feel about this blog, which is why I chose it. 

Hope that you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

FDA points to specific person who contaminated cinnamon with lead

Via Ars Technica's Beth Mole, this news about the lead-contaminated applesauce:  

A spice grinder named Carlos Aguilera of Ecuador is the likely source of contaminated cinnamon containing extremely high levels of lead and chromium, which made its way into the apple cinnamon fruit pouches of US toddlers, according to an announcement by the Food and Drug Administration this week.

To date, there have been 413 cases of poisoning across 43 US states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA said Ecuadorian officials at the Agencia Nacional de Regulación, Control y Vigilancia Sanitaria (ARCSA) identified Aguilera as the cinnamon processor and reported to the FDA that his business is no longer operating. Aguilera received raw cinnamon sticks sourced from Sri Lanka, which, according to raw sample testing conducted by ARCSA, had no lead contamination upon their arrival. After Aguilera processed the cinnamon, it was supplied by a company called Negasmart to Austrofoods, the manufacturer of the apple cinnamon pouches.

Being a lead level extremist*, I think this guy is a terrible person. I am glad that this was caught before it could become a worse problem, but it seems to me that it should not have gotten this far. I don't think it's practical or desirable to test every single molecule of every single lot of food that is imported, but it is genuinely alarming that we have a hole wide enough for lead-contaminated applesauce to actively destroy the minds of American children.  

*my definition: I believe there is no safe level of lead exposure for children.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Job posting: Laboratory Safety Specialist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA

Via C&EN Jobs: 

LBNL has an opening for a Laboratory Safety Specialist in the Environment, Health, & Safety Division (EHS). In this role, you will provide customer-service oriented laboratory and chemical safety technical expertise, consultation, and support. Your role will help Berkeley Lab line management provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees and assure the Laboratory meets applicable ES&H-related Department of Energy (DOE) orders, regulatory requirements, and performance measures.

Laboratory Safety Specialist (Level II) – Required Qualifications:

  • B.S./B.A. in Chemistry or related field and 3 to 5 years of diverse, relevant experience in the laboratory environment and/or ES&H field; or M.S. and 1 to 3 years of experience or Ph.D. and up to 1 year of experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Knowledge and ability to apply health and safety principles, theories and concepts to provide creative solutions to intermediate problems and develop mechanisms for measuring results.
  • Demonstrated ability to develop, implement, maintain and monitor Health and Safety programs and initiatives, including development and execution of training, writing procedures, and conducting inspections and exposure assessments in laboratory and technical areas. 
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Your Wednesday must read: "The Pharma & Biotech Layoff Survival Guide", by Hornberger and Shah

I've long admired Keith Hornberger's writings on med chem, and his new work with Vega Shah "The Pharma & Biotech Layoff Survival Guide" is no different. This paragraph near the introduction is a good summary: 

I’ve been in the pharma & biotech industry for almost 22 years and am now on my fourth job. Of the three partings I’ve gone through, one was a relatively traumatic layoff and the other two were initiated by me for my own career advancement — although in both of those cases, as fate would have it, I narrowly dodged layoffs that followed within months of my departure. When I share that anecdote with people, I’m sometimes asked if I have a “Spidey Sense” about layoffs. Indeed, folks in my current workplace who hear this tale will half-jokingly ask me to give them a heads-up if I’m thinking about leaving. While I don’t believe in the Spidey Sense, I do believe that active career management is the way to go for your long term happiness — and the preparedness that goes into a planned move will also serve you well for the unfortunate unplanned moves too.

It is a great bit of advice, and I am glad that Keith and Vega wrote it. Read the whole thing. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 521 research/teaching positions and 73 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 521 research/teaching positions and 73 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 February 14, 2023, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 586 research/teaching positions and 65 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 posting: Assistant Teaching Professor in Chemistry, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

From the inbox: 
The Department of Chemistry at the University of Rhode Island invites applications for a full-time Assistant Teaching Professor position beginning July 1, 2024. Depending on the candidate’s expertise and departmental needs, there may also be opportunities to teach other introductory chemistry courses in the Department’s Curriculum.

Teaching faculty at URI are represented by URI’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP collective bargaining agreement includes opportunities for promotion, multiyear appointments upon promotion, a defined salary structure, and protections of academic freedom.

The successful candidate will receive a starting salary of $75,523, along with comprehensive benefits offered by the State of Rhode Island.

Duties and Responsibilities:

The successful candidate will primarily teach two to three sections of General Chemistry or sophomore Organic Chemistry courses per semester.

The search will remain open until the position has been filled. First consideration will be given to applications received by February 29, 2024. Applications received after February 29, 2024, may be reviewed depending on search progress and needs, but are not guaranteed full consideration.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 135 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 135 positions. Find an error or have a question? Find an error? Contact @Heatherlec620 or @G_sribala. 

This is the link to the open thread. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

NYT: "A Shape-Shifting Plastic With a Flexible Future"

 Via the New York Times, this pretty cool new paper

With restrictions on space and weight, what would you bring if you were going to Mars? An ideal option might be a single material that can shift shapes into any object you imagine.

In the morning, you could mold that material into utensils for eating. When breakfast is done, you could transform your fork and knife into a spade to tend to your Martian garden. And then when it’s happy hour on the red planet, that spade could become a cup for your Martian beer.

What sounds like science fiction is, perhaps, one step closer to reality. Researchers at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering have created a new type of plastic with properties that can be set with heat and then locked in with rapid cooling, a process known as tempering. Unlike classic plastics, the material retains this stiffness when returned to room temperature.

The findings, published in the journal Science on Thursday, could someday change how astronauts pack for space.

Do click through to see the pretty cool video of the plastic doing its work. What a cool material - will be interesting to see what uses it gets up to.