Friday, March 27, 2015

Colorblind Chemistry offering advice

Want to talk to someone who isn't in early-middle age (i.e. me?) He'd be happy to hear from you: 
If you are someone seeking anonymous advice, feel free to send that, and I will attempt to facilitate that discussion discreetly for you. While I might not be in a position to answer many of those questions, sometimes you just “need an adult” and I can tell you from experience that the chemblogosphere has plenty of sympathetic ears. One of the major hurdles to jump over emotionally is to know when to ask for help, which is sometimes difficult to seek from your peers.
A good service - I am happy that someone is providing it.  

Wow, Lufthansa has some intense tests

Apart from some rumored mechanism tests and synthesis problems, there doesn't seem to be a tradition of testing in pharmaceutical companies of its scientists. Not so for pilots!, according to Slate:
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper, reported Thursday that Lufthansa’s selection procedures test “perceptual speed and orientation skills, sensory-motor coordination, ability to multitask in complex situations, relevant personality traits (such as motivation and teamwork), technical and physical knowledge, English language ability, computational and logical thinking, concentration and attention skills.” On top of all that, “a large part of the selection process tests the ability to handle stress,” the paper notes. “Tests must be passed in which one must listen to sequences of letters over headphones while simultaneously responding to light signals on a screen by pressing keys with the feet and hands. Anyone who gets hectic or pushes the wrong button too often fails.”
Man, I woulda failed - but seeing as how I drive cars, maybe I shouldn't be flying planes.

Readers, any crazy corporate tests you've taken? (The Myers-Briggs notwithstanding)

(Condolences to anyone who is affected by the horrific Germanwings crash.) 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ask CJ: What to do about managers who get stuck on irrelevancies or pet peeves?

From the inbox, a good question:
Hey, CJ:  
I have a manager who gets stuck on mundane items that are not relevant to science or business, like keeping the lab tidy or making sure notebooks are in the right format. They seem to worry about this much more than, say, keeping projects focused on meeting budgets or deadline. 
They have this habit of bringing these issues up during all-hands meetings where it's clear that these issues aren't relevant to everyone, but they are at the forefront of the manager's thinking.  
How do I learn to work with this person? How can we redirect their thinking? Should I just knuckle under?  
Signed, Confused in [redacted]
Gee, Ci[r], I wish I knew. I guess I'd just say "knuckle under, it's the price of your job", but I am not very experienced in these matters.

Readers, what do you think? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2015 ACS Denver Career Fair numbers

Reported to the ACS Council this morning:

Onsite Career Fair

Job Seekers: 715
Employers: 27
Available Positions: 85

Mock interviews conducted: 218
Résumé reviews conducted: 368
Career workshops conducted: 23

Virtual

Job Seekers: 918
Employers: 6
Available Positions: 38

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It's hard to write economic news headlines

The latest from the Chemical Activity Barometer, a measurement of chemical commerce activity in the American economy from the American Chemistry Council. Seems to me that this suggests that the economy is slowing a tiny bit, but the headline is about "a spring thaw." I don't get it, unless the suggestion is that March's numbers are better than January and February -- which don't really seem to be the case. I dunno. 

An objection to tattoos

From this week's C&EN, an unhappy letter writer: 
The profile of tattooed “chemistry ambassador” Randa Roland is beneath the level of your magazine’s aspirations (C&EN, Jan. 19, page 30). First, Roland errs in describing Fritz Haber as “trying to do good” and succeeding when he developed the Haber process during World War I. Haber was explicitly trying to convert elementary nitrogen chemically to ammonia to be used in synthesizing explosives in the interest of the German war effort. 
Moreover, he directed the chemical warfare effort of the German forces that developed the use of poison gas. History has not been kind to the alleged “good” of these activities. 
Second, showing one’s chemistry-themed tattoos around is more likely to develop interest in tattoos than science. Gimmicks never really work, because STEM study requires hard thinking, not oohing and aahing. 
Al Holtzer
St. Louis
"STEM study requires hard thinking, not oohing and aahing." That kind of talk won't get you anywhere these days, Mr. Holtzer! Kids demand excitement from science! 

This week's C&EN

Lots of interesting articles in this week's C&EN:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Your morning Food Babe troll

Courtesy of @UnstableIsotope, Food Babe lets her chemophobe flag fly:
For several years, I’ve started my day with warm lemon water and cayenne pepper. Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver. It can change your taste buds so you don’t crave sugary foods, and instead crave alkaline ones like fruits and vegetables. The cayenne pepper has been proven to boost your metabolism. But both of those ingredients together strengthen the immune system. I’ve gotten fewer colds because of following this habit. An acidic body promotes disease and inflammation. I try to make my diet mostly alkaline. And with water, you want to make sure it’s not contaminated. Unfortunately, our water is contaminated with everything from chlorine to fluoride.... 
...There are people who want to keep the chemicals in our food and keep us dependent on chemicals. They’re chemical activists. I am a consumer activist. I think we can empower ourselves with this information. You don’t have to be a nutritionist or scientist to know how to eat. We have the ability to empower ourselves. And the people who are speaking out are saying that we can’t empower ourselves. They assume that we are too stupid to figure this out....
I'm proud to be a chemical activist. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

ACS Denver Career Fair: 75 positions, 473 jobseekers

Embedded image permalink
Credit: Linda Wang, C&EN
From C&EN's Linda Wang, the stats from Sunday: 

Employers: 25
Recruiters Row employers: 10
Job seekers: 473
Positions available: 75

Virtual Career Fair: 

Employers: 6
Job seekers: 494
Positions available: 7

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chemjobber looks out for you!

A Michigan judge has ruled against a motion by PubPeer to protect the identity of an anonymous commenter, and asked the post-publication peer review site to give her any information they have about the commenter. 
According to one of the lawyers present, the site said in court the only identifying information it has is an I.P. address. The judge will decide March 24 (Tuesday) whether or not to share the I.P. address with the lawyer representing a cancer researcher who has demanded PubPeer release information about those who have written anonymously about his work....
I have been tempted for many years to install an IP tracker, but I never have, because of exactly this issue. If you don't have the info, it makes it hard to subpoena...

A market signal that there is demand for welders

HOUSTON — Ryan Gassett had already put in a full day, moving heavy boxes and furniture for $15 an hour, when his introductory welding class began at 10 p.m. By the time he arrived at Lone Star College north of Houston, the highway toll collectors at the exit for the school had closed for the night and the campus janitors were mopping bathrooms. 
The graveyard-shift course was not his first choice, Mr. Gassett, 19, explained, but “there were no other openings.” So he took what he could get. 
[snip] 
...Entry-level welders can earn about $16.50 an hour. Experienced structural welders earn over $30, plus a per diem expense bonus. Specialty welders command $55 to $100 an hour, the upper end offered for someone, say, who can work underwater...
..Mr. Parks at San Jacinto College said they could barely keep pace. “Most of our students are getting snatched up before they finish their certification,” he said. Enrollment in its welding classes has grown by 75 percent since 2010. Two years ago, the college added 10 p.m.-to-2 a.m. classes to meet the demand. “We would offer more classes if we could,” Mr. Parks said, but the school can’t find any more instructors. 
Night welding classes at San Jacinto and Lone Star attract high school graduates with no experience
who live at home, entry-level welders who want to increase their skills and pay, and experienced craftsmen from other states who are lured here by the high pay but lack a degree. Many begin their schooling only when their day jobs end.
I don't think people who say there is strong demand for scientists know what strong demand looks like.

*(I don't think you can call a situation where 4 answers to "Who Should Pay for Workers’ Training?" range from "the taxpayers" to "someone else" a debate.)

Credit: Lisa Balbes
UPDATE: Lisa Balbes sends in a photo: "I've seen this at a couple national boy scout events - showing the boys what a great career welding is." I wonder what the American Welding Society's annual operating budget is?