Friday, May 20, 2022

Have a great weekend

It's been a whirlwind week for me - it is fun to be on the road, even with the occasional awkward dinner event or the torrential downpour. I hope you had a good week, and I hope you have an even better weekend. See you on Monday! 

Fake job searches for diversity at Wells Fargo

I think we're all familiar with the "fake job search", where a candidate has been pre-determined, and yet the formal process of a job search takes place. I've actually taken the trouble of naming these as "coffee parrots", and I find myself identifying academic versions of them on a regular basis. 

There are also the private industry versions of these fake job searches. Via the New York Times, here's a rather offensive version of them: 

For many open positions, employees would interview a “diverse” candidate — the bank’s term for a woman or person of color — in keeping with the bank’s yearslong informal policy. But Mr. Bruno noticed that often, the so-called diverse candidate would be interviewed for a job that had already been promised to someone else...

...Don Banks, 31, a Black wealth manager living in Monroe, La., was contacted by Wells Fargo twice before he was hired. In 2016 and 2017, a human resources representative from the bank told Mr. Banks that he had advanced past an initial interview round for a financial adviser trainee position and would be getting a call from a manager. Both times, no one called.

Mr. Banks had been submitted to fake interviews, according to a former employee who was a manager in the area where Mr. Banks had applied, and who participated in the hiring process involving Mr. Banks’s application. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still works in the industry.

Mr. Banks was eventually hired in 2018 by Wells Fargo in a more junior position. Two years later, he was laid off during cutbacks in the pandemic.

It seems to me that the fellow in the story (Mr. Bruno) had the right idea around recruiting candidates of color (i.e. specifically reaching out to professional associations for those groups.*) Fake job interviews are definitely the wrong idea. 

*a reminder that NoBCChe and SACNAS are both excellent organizations 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Job posting: synthetic chemist, Quadratic, Somerville, MA

Via Twitter: 

We are seeking a highly motivated chemist to aid and collaborate with senior staff in the design and synthesis of small molecules for next-generation 3D printing resins. Successful candidates will be passionate about synthetic chemistry, excited to solve complex problems in a fast-paced environment, and comfortable in the multidisciplinary environment of materials research. This unique opportunity will immerse the candidate in the vast world of application-oriented organic synthesis in materials science.

Responsibilities

  • Develop, troubleshoot, and optimize synthetic routes, especially divergent and/or modular approaches for rapid generation of lead candidates
  • Perform basic NMR, UV/Vis, IR, and mass spectrometric characterizations
  • Additional responsibilities include management of supplier relationships, development/maintenance of purchasing procedures, and/or development of standard operating procedures for new instrumentation.
  • Comply with EH&S requirements and promote safety in the work environment

Minimum Qualifications

  • BS or MS degree in Chemistry with 0-3 years industrial synthetic chemistry experience
  • Excellent command of the basics of physical and synthetic organic chemistry
  • Experience performing organic synthesis in a research environment, and a talent for experimental design
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

NYT on silicon carbide in modern electronics

Via the New York Times, this interesting article about silicon carbide: 
This wave of new materials burst from the lab in 2017, when Tesla faced a pivotal moment in its history. The company had released two successful luxury car models, but in its effort to become a major automaker, it gambled the company’s future on making a cheaper, mass-market vehicle.

When Tesla released its Model 3, it had a secret technical edge over the competition: a material called silicon carbide. One of the key parts of an electric car is the traction inverters, which take electricity from the batteries, convert it into a different form and feed it to the motors that turn the wheels. To get the pin-you-to-your-seat acceleration that Teslas are known for, traction inverters must pump out hundreds of kilowatts, enough power to supply a small neighborhood, while being dependable enough to handle life-or-death highway use.

Maybe you knew about SiC, but I did not!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The 2022 Faculty Jobs List: 591 research/teaching positions and 110 teaching positions

The 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 591 research/teaching positions and 110 teaching positions. 

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

On May 18, 2021, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 338 research/teaching position and 65 teaching positions. On May 19, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 557 research/teaching positions and 80 teaching positions.

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

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread. Go to the second open thread. Here is the first open thread. The first open thread was closed on November 10, 2021.

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

Job posting: instructor, Department of Chemistry, New Mexico Tech, Soccorro, NM

From the inbox: 

The Department of Chemistry at New Mexico Tech invites applications for a full-time Instructor of Chemistry position, with appointment to begin in August 2022. The successful candidate will serve as a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry, teaching primarily introductory courses (General Chemistry and Intro to Chemistry) and also helping attract students to our program. Strong candidates will have a record of excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level. Ability and interest in teaching Organic Chemistry would be considered a plus. A master’s degree in Chemistry is required at the time of application; a PhD is preferred. We welcome applications from women and underrepresented minority candidates. 

...Applications will be considered on a rolling basis starting May 15, 2022, as we seek to fill the position as soon as possible. Candidates must complete an online application and electronically attach a single PDF document, incorporating all of the following: cover letter including the names and addresses of three professional references; curriculum vitae (CV); summary of teaching experience; and statement of teaching approach. Materials should be sent to nmtjobapps@npe.nmt.edu c/o Rosa Jaramillo and copied to Sally Pias, sally.pias@nmt.edu

Put “Chemistry Instructor” in the e-mail subject line, and please let us know where you saw the advertisement. Inquiries should be directed to sally.pias@nmt.edu.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, May 16, 2022

Is tuition driving undergraduate enrollment decreases?

Also in this week's C&EN, this letter to the editor on college tuition: 

I share your concern on dropping undergraduate enrollment numbers as expressed in the editorial in the Feb. 7 issue of C&EN (page 2). The pandemic undoubtedly played a role, but the skyrocketing cost of tuition for higher education is a serious factor that cannot be overlooked. I’m old enough that I remember being able to work two jobs and pay for college tuition, food, and rent. Despite some availability of grants, this is no longer a possibility for the majority of undergraduate students without taking on burdensome student loans.

With a few exceptions, it appears that the ready availability of student loans has only encouraged universities to raise tuition rates to absurd levels. If the US government is to be a source of student loans, there should be accompanying restrictions on how much and how rapidly higher learning institutions can raise tuition. If we cannot make higher education more readily available without a decades-long student debt burden, we will see undergraduate enrollment continuing to decline, much to our detriment.

Robert B. Cody  

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

It seems almost axiomatic to me that, as tuition increases go up, student enrollments would go down, but that doesn't really seem to be the case for the last number of years? I would think that the demographic trends that are pointed to in the original editorial are the true source of the decline...


Chemical manufacturers have a strong Q1

Via this week's Chemical and Engineering News, the first quarter results for 2022 (article by Alex Tullo): 

First-quarter financial results for the major US and European chemical firms are in, and they show that the industry got off to a strong start in 2022.

A couple of problems have executives worried about the quarters ahead, however. They see strict COVID-19 lockdowns in China slowing operations, and they think that inflation—exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—hasn’t quite finished rippling through the economy.

Sales at the world’s largest chemical maker, BASF, climbed 19% in the first quarter from the same quarter a year earlier, while earnings jumped 35%. Higher selling prices, mainly in the firm’s chemical and materials unit, drove the results.

A 60% rise in earnings helped Celanese break a profit record set during the second quarter of last year. Acetyl chemicals remain enormously profitable for the company.

At Dow, results showed solid improvement, but profit margins in its core packaging plastic business thinned because of escalating raw material costs. Eastman Chemical and DuPont posted modest declines in earnings while sales rose.

The challenge for chemical makers, particularly those in Europe, has been keeping up with climbing costs. “The war has led to drastic price increases for energy and various raw materials in Europe and a high level of uncertainty regarding future supplies,” BASF chairman Martin Bruderm├╝ller told analysts. Over the past year, costs at the firm’s European operations have risen by over $900 million.

It's good news these large manufacturers seem to be doing all right - will be a good sign (I feel) for hiring for the near future.  Will be important to see the effects of interest rate increases...

Friday, May 13, 2022

Have a good weekend

I expected this to be a stressful week, and it will be, but it is seemingly a little bit less so than I expected. Here's hoping that your Friday is good, and that your weekend is restful. See you on Monday. 

Job postings: CDER, FDA, Silver Spring, MD

From the inbox, a variety of FDA positions, including this one:
Pharmaceutical Scientist 

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), Office of Pharmaceutical Quality (OPQ), Office of New Drug Products (ONDP) is recruiting for a Pharmaceutical Scientist to be responsible for reviewing and evaluating comprehensive information and data on chemistry, formulation, manufacturing (including process monitoring and controls), biopharmaceutics (including drug release). 

 I believe the deadlines on these positions is May 16, so time is ticking. Best wishes to those interested. 

Chemist sentenced to 14 years in prison for trade secret theft

More on the Shannon You case (from a Department of Justice press release): 

Chemist Sentenced for Stealing Trade Secrets, Economic Espionage and Wire Fraud

A federal judge in Greeneville, Tennessee, sentenced a Michigan woman today to 168 months, the equivalent of 14 years, in prison for a scheme to steal trade secrets, engage in economic espionage and commit fraud. The defendant was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay a $200,000 fine.

In April 2021, following a 13-day jury trial, Xiaorong You, aka Shannon You, 59, of Lansing, Michigan, was convicted of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, possession of stolen trade secrets, economic espionage and wire fraud.

“As the evidence at trial showed, the defendant stole valuable trade secrets and intended to use them to benefit not only a foreign company, but also the government of China,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of this offense, as well as the Department of Justice’s commitment to protect our nation’s security by investigating and prosecuting those who steal U.S. companies’ intellectual property.”

As someone who has seen and helped sign a great number of NDAs, I've rarely contemplated what I could do with the information that was to be protected, other than my job. I imagine that if I thought about it, I could come up with a case or two where I might have thought "I could buy some stock and make money from this"*. I simply cannot imagine a case where I would have thought "I'm going to take this information, give it to my own company and get investors." 

Here's hoping this case is the last one, but it won't be, sigh. 

*As a rule, I don't buy individual stock. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

54 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 54 new positions for May 8. 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, May 11, 2022

When the boss buys a new toy...

Via hilarious Bloomberg writer Matt Levine, this funny story from the Wall Street Journal about a hedge funder purchasing the New York Mets and putting his people to work:  

Some senior employees from Cohen’s firm, Point72 Asset Management, have been moonlighting as Mets employees in crucial roles, according to staffers’ LinkedIn pages, the Mets’ website and people familiar with the matter. Many are tasked with improving the team’s once-outdated infrastructure, data-analytics capabilities and technological prowess. …

Since Cohen took over, the number of people working in data and analytics has grown from eight full-time employees to 35, some of them from Point72, a person familiar with the matter said. Cohen has embedded data scientists in the Mets’ scouting departments. A new data-engineering group is also stocked with people from Point72.

I gotta say, that's better than the PI making you pick up his dry cleaning! I also thought this was a funny detail (also pointed out by Levine): 

Cohen’s chief-of-staff, Michael Sullivan, said Cohen hasn’t missed a day of trading since he bought the Mets and continues to work seven days a week.

“Some members of his senior leadership team that were hoping he’d be distracted by the Mets on weekends have been horribly disappointed,” Sullivan said.

I'm guessing that buying the Mets would not make the boss more mellow, but you'd think that it would distract him. I feel like I've seen a number of bosses mellow because of life and age - guessing they'd get pretty busy if they bought a MLB team... 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The 2022 Faculty Jobs List: 590 research/teaching positions and 109 teaching positions

The 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 590 research/teaching positions and 109 teaching positions. 

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

On May 11, 2021, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 337 research/teaching position and 65 teaching positions. On May 12, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 557 research/teaching positions and 80 teaching positions.

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

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread. Go to the second open thread. Here is the first open thread. The first open thread was closed on November 10, 2021.

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

"Get a job, Ken!", the video

Many of you are familiar with Professor Ken Hanson's "Get a Job, Ken!" series, and also his "Keep Your Job, Ken!" series. Now, we have a video version! 

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, May 9, 2022

BLS: total nonfarm payroll increased 428,000, unemployment flat at 3.6%

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Calculated Risk:
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 428,000 in April, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, in manufacturing, and in transportation and warehousing.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised down by 36,000, from +750,000 to +714,000, and the change for March was revised down by 3,000, from +431,000 to +428,000. With these revisions, employment in February and March combined is 39,000 lower than previously reported.

This comment from Calculated Risk is notable: 

Excluding leisure and hospitality, the economy has added back all the jobs lost at the beginning of the pandemic.  Leisure and hospitality gained 78 thousand jobs in April.  At the beginning of the pandemic, in March and April of 2020, leisure and hospitality lost 8.20 million jobs, and are now down 1.44 million jobs since February 2020.  So, leisure and hospitality has now added back about 83% all of the jobs lost in March and April 2020.  

It is worth noting that the seasonally adjusted employment in the chemical manufacturing subsector for April 2022 was 889,000 employees. That level in January 2020 was 853,700, so there's been fairly significant job growth since then. 

Help the Percy Julian family home

Also in this week's C&EN, this update on the family home of prominent Black chemist Percy Julian (article by Ariana Remmel): 
The family home of Percy Lavon Julian sits on a corner lot in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago. Julian was already a renowned organic chemist when he bought the two-story stone house in 1950. His daughter, Faith Julian, remembers a time when the home was not just the center of their family life, but also a place where her father thrived as a scientist and entrepreneur until his death in 1975. Despite multiple racist attacks to push them out of the neighborhood, Percy Julian would not leave his home, she says. “My dad never wanted to move. He loved this house,” she says.

You can help Faith Julian with her home at this GoFundMe.

C&EN: Fertilizer industry developing new routes around supply chain problems

In this week's C&EN, a story on fertilizer manufacturing innovation (article by Matt Blois): 

Surrounded by 2,400 hectares of tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables near Fresno, California, the white shipping container looks small. Inside, light flashes through the porthole windows of a buzzing plasma reactor powered by two rows of adjacent solar panels.

The plasma oxidizes nitrogen from the air and sends it to absorbtion colmns where it bubbles up through water. Nitrogen oxides react with hydrogen and oxygen in the water to form a nitric acid solution, which is stored in tanks. A pipe connected to the farm’s irrigation system delivers the diluted nitric acid as an alternative to conventional nitrogen fertilizer.

Nitricity, the start-up operating this pilot-scale fertilizer factory, says its technology is one way to shorten a supply chain that has recently been pummeled by hurricanes, winter storms, export controls, coal shortages, high prices for natural gas, and a viral pandemic. Those disruptions sent costs for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizers to historic highs in 2021. Heavy sanctions on Russia and Belarus after the attack on Ukraine in February 2022 further increased the price of natural gas and cut off a major source of fertilizers, pushing up prices even more.

I'm guessing that this kind of modular system has its limits and its economics would require relatively high value crops, but this is fascinating and bears some watching... 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Have a good weekend


Well, this week was somewhat less stressful than expected. Here's hoping that my Friday is peaceful, and that yours is as well. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

 

RIP David Evans

Via Chemical and Engineering News, this sad news (article by Bethany Halford):

David A. Evans, the Abbott and James Lawrence Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, died April 29 at the age of 81.

Former students and colleagues remember Evans as a dedicated educator and a creative force in organic synthesis. He is best known for devising a way to use chiral oxazolidinone auxiliaries to control a target molecule’s stereochemistry. “That changed the whole mindset of how people thought about going about building molecules stereoselectively,” says David W. C. MacMillan, a chemistry professor at Princeton University who worked with Evans as a postdoctoral fellow in the late 1990s. Before Evans’s work, chemists used a small number of building blocks known as the chiral pool. “When Dave came along, he upended all of that thinking,” MacMillan says.

As a former total synthesis guy, I can't imagine what organic chemistry in the aughts would have been like without the Evans oxazolidinone. Best wishes to his family and friends.  

 

 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

71 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 30 new positions for May 4 and 41 positions for April 29. 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, May 4, 2022

Former chemical company CEO's past claims of greatness exposed as lies

Via random clicking, this is a pretty bonkers story of Nick Clark, a Virginia-area bike shop owner who claimed to have been a former pro cyclist, an international lawyer and also a former UN peacekeeper. Apparently, he was also the CEO of Alexium, a flame retardant company?

Immediately before he started cosplaying as a professional cyclist, Clark’s most prominent and prestigious role was as CEO of Alexium. That’s a chemical company headquartered in Perth, Western Australia, with links to cycling – for a season, it co-sponsored an Australian National Road Series team. The majority of its operations, however, are out of Greenville, South Carolina. 

...Clark played a major role as a cheerleader for the company, but testimony from within suggests that his leadership had its limits. 

One Alexium staff member, speaking to CyclingTips on the condition of anonymity, was hired during Clark’s time as CEO. This individual – who worked as a lab supervisor – came from a military and law enforcement background, and told me that he had no relevant qualifications and no experience in chemistry at the time. He was, he admits, hired purely on the basis of being riding buddies with Clark.

...Like others I have spoken to, this employee gradually built a perception that Clark was, like an actor, inhabiting a series of roles. And indeed, while during his Alexium days Clark is recognisably the same guy as he was when running ProBike FC, his demeanour and presentation is starkly different. Video footage of the time shows that despite his temper, he was far more polished in his corporate life – a dramatic contrast to the sometimes coarse, hyper-masculine persona he had at the bike shop.  

People get hired for all sorts of different reasons, and being buddies with the CEO is, I suspect, pretty common. You can get a sense for what Nick Clark was like as a CEO in the above video; it's a shame that they didn't have him spout some random technical mumbo-jumbo. 

NYT: Bureau of Labor Statistics reports record 11.5 million job openings in March

Via the New York Times: 

A government survey released Tuesday showed a record number of job openings, with 11.5 million positions listed as available in March, underscoring the continuing strength of the labor market.

The number of “quits” — a measurement of the amount of workers voluntarily leaving jobs — also reached a high, an indicator that many workers are confident they can leave their jobs and find employment that better suits their desires or needs.

The data released by the Labor Department as part of its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, is a fresh indicator of the anomalous nature of the economy as it recovers from the pandemic recession. A resurgence of household spending and business investment is colliding with a messy reordering of the supply of goods and labor.

Labor force participation has quickly recovered, nearing prepandemic rates, but has failed to keep up with the surge in job opportunities over the past year as business owners expand to meet the demand for a variety of goods and services.

I wonder if this will be a peak? I've predicted 15 of the 1 recessions, so I'm probably wrong...