Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Offer acceptance rates for new graduate school classes up or down?

A weird question: has anyone said anything about the incoming class of graduate students for fall 2015 and their relative acceptance rates for your institution?

I have heard some rumblings about relatively poor offer acceptance rates for incoming graduate students in a major chemistry program; curious if that's just an anomaly, or a sign of an improving economy for B.S. or M.S. new graduates.


Postdoc: supramolecular catalysis, KAUST, Saudi Arabia

From the inbox, postdoctoral fellowships at KAUST in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the Rodionov group: 
The Rodionov Group at the Catalysis Center at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a lab focused on micellar and supramolecular catalysis and emergent phenomena in nanoscale systems. 
We invite outstanding postdoctoral researchers to apply for two open positions.
Flexibility, ability to work in a team, and excellent communication skills in English are mandatory. 
Equally important are scientific curiosity and creativity. Successful candidates will work with state-of-the-art instrumentation in a highly collaborative, multidisciplinary environment. Group members will enjoy a high degree of creative freedom. Excellent opportunities for mastering new experimental techniques and for co-authoring high profile research publications will be provided. 
A strong background in polymer, synthetic organic, or colloidal/nanoparticle chemistry is desired. Preference will be given to the candidates with experience in organic synthesis or polymer synthesis/characterization.
The specific areas of expertise we are looking for are ATRP, RAFT and NMP polymerization methods; GPC, light scattering and electron microscopy; and standard Schlenk line techniques for handling air-sensitive compounds. The projected start date is October 1, 2015. 
KAUST is located 80 km north of Jeddah on the Red Sea in Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Newly opened in September 2009, KAUST is an independent merit-based research university that has attracted exceptional researchers, faculty and students from around the world. KAUST offers world-class facilities, competitive salaries and a wide range of benefits. Further information on KAUST and its unique campus can be found on the Web at http://www.kaust.edu.sa/. 
To Apply: 
Please submit a cover letter, CV (including a list of peer-reviewed publications), reprints of the three most significant publications (for postdocs), and contact information for three references to Professor Valentin Rodionov by email to valentin.rodionov@kaust.edu.sa. Mention job reference CSJ0630 in your application. 
Important: PDF files are preferred. Please submit complete applications only. Review of the applications will begin immediately and will continue until all the positions are filled.
Best wishes to those interested.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Grexit update

I was wrong (most likely)! We're not muddling through at all, it appears. With the "no" vote by Greece on the mostly-defunct terms of a potential bailout deal, it looks like we're headed for... something bad? Definitely bad for anyone who's a Greek citizen and has a lot of money in Greek banks? I'm no expert.

Bold prediction (a.k.a CJ doubling down): France convinces Merkel/Germany to extend Greece another (not-very-helpful) lifeline, kicking the can down the road by one month. Also, commenters to tell CJ where he's wrong. 

A little puzzle

Those of you who like puzzles and problem solving, try out this New York Times puzzle. I'll put my result in the comments. 

Shimadzu's in for cannabis chemistry!

credit: anonymous
Chemjobber source
An informed source shows me a picture of an interesting freebie handed out to cannabis testing laboratories by Shimadzu. In for a penny, in for a pound, apparently. 

Whither methyl iodide?

Also from this week's C&EN, an interesting letter on methyl iodide: 
Delving Into Crop Fumigants 
I read with interest the business article on fumigants (C&EN, June 8, page 18). I find it hard to believe that the California State Legislature would approve methyl iodide as a crop fumigant. I base this on both its potential toxicity to farmworkers (it is a powerful alkylating agent) and on the lack of scientific studies that may turn up currently unknown oncogenicity, genotoxicity, and neurotoxicity. 
Could the Environmental Protection Agency focus some of its attention away from carbon dioxide long enough to fund this important work? Does the $2.6 billion strawberry crop hold any sway? 
Geoff Lindsay
Ridgecrest, Calif.
I don't know the science around methyl iodide, but it seems to me that it would be a bit less hazardous to farmworkers than methyl bromide (from a volatility perspective.) That said, I'd expect it to be no less toxic to them, if exposed to enough. Surely there must be a safer alternative?  

This week's C&EN

A few of this week's C&EN stories:

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A little Americana

It's corny, sure, but hey, who doesn't love the Duke? (click on the link for the full effect):
Why I Love Her 
You ask me Why I Love Her? Well, give me time and I'll explain.
Have you see a Kansas sunset or an Arizona rain?
Have you drifted on a bayou down Louisiana way?
Have you watched a cold fog drifting over San Francisco Bay? 
Have you heard a bobwhite calling in the Carolina pines,
Or heard the bellow of a diesel at the Appalachia mines?
Does the call of Niagara thrill you when you hear her waters roar?
Do you look with awe and wonder at her Massachusetts shore,
Where men who braved a hard new world first stepped on Plymounth's rock?
And do you think of them when you stroll along a New York City dock? 
Have you seen a snowflake drifting in the Rockies, way up high?
Have you seen the sun come blazing down from a bright Nevada sky?
Do you hail to the Columbia as she rushes to the sea,
Or bow your head at Gettysburg at our struggle to be free? 
Have you seen the mighty Tetons? Have you watched an eagle soar?
Have you see the Mississippi roll along Missouri's shore?
Have you felt a chill at Michigan when on a winter's day
Her waters rage along the shore in thunderous display?
Does the word "Aloha" make you warm? Do you stare in disbelief
When you see the surf come roaring in at Waimea Reef? 
From Alaska's cold to the Everglades, from the Rio Grande to Maine,
My heart cries out, my pulse runs fast at the might of her domain.
You ask me Why I Love Her? I've a million reasons why:
My Beautiful America, beneath God's wide, wide sky.
Happy birthday, America. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

More soon

It is the Independence Day holiday in the United States, so I am a little slow posting. More soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Daily Pump Trap: 7/2/15 edition

It's the summer, which means that it's the slow season for C&EN Jobs. Since Tuesday, it appears there have been no positions posted there. So instead: 

Boston: The Boston Craiglist has a sci/biotech page; it lists a whole 6 positions for the search term "chemist." (Boston/Cambridge folks, what is your favorite online job hunting resource?)

SFO: Not much more for the San Francisco sci/biotech category, but this M.S. chemist/software position sounds interesting. 

A random survey of pharma companies for the search term "chemist" in North America: 

Gilead: 0 open positions. 
Pfizer: 5 open positions. 
Merck: 10 open positions. 

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and USAjobs.gov show (respectively) 985, 637, 9537 and 17 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 743 positions for the title "chemist", with 26 for "research chemist", 74 for "analytical chemist", 11 for "organic chemist", 1 for "synthetic chemist" and 3 for "medicinal chemist." 

Resources for pregnancy and chemical safety in the laboratory

I have been remiss in not posting on this; Jyllian Kemsley has a good rundown of resources for women who find themselves pregnant while working in the laboratory, in terms of chemical safety. Be sure to read the comments, too, as there are a lot of resources there as well.

Finally, I agree with DrAmazon (in the comments) that this seems like something where (for ACS insiders) both WCC and DCHAS could pick up the ball and run with it. 

Sacramento Bee: "Below market" compensation for government chemists in California

Via this ItP comment and this Sacramento Bee article, a report (PDF) detailing the compensation of state workers in California, including chemists. Apparently, state employed chemists (who are members of a small union?) make below market salaries:
...the total compensation for half of state-employed chemists is less than $8,985 per month ($5,715 in salary, plus $3,270 in benefit costs). That's 33 percent less than the median total compensation for federal chemists, nearly 13 percent less than the midpoint for local-government chemists and almost 6 percent below the private sector.
I'll bet there are two things at work here:
  • It's well known, for example, that some unions are more powerful than others. I clearly remember from my time as a resident of the Golden State that the correctional officers union was regarded as being very powerful. One presumes that the union for California state-employed chemists (California Association of Professional Scientists) is not nearly so powerful.
  • California is home to the Bay Area, which has plenty of top-notch chemists that are paid pretty well. I wonder if that figures into the "market"? If I were a chemist working for Sacramento, I'd be wondering about working for a Big Pharma... 
I presume that other people have much more knowledge about the situation... 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer reading recommendations? Also, a comment on "The Martian", by Andy Weir

Anybody have summer reading recommendations, now that it's July?

Also, on the recommendation of a friend of mine, I recently finished "The Martian" by Andy Weir. It's a very quick read and a fun story about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars during a NASA mission gone bad. There aren't any monsters or aliens, just one guy, some computers, some astronomy and, surprisingly (or not), lots of chemistry. Here he is, making some hydrogen to make some water by using an iridium catalyst:
...I turned the valve until a trickle of hydrazine came out. I let one drop fall into the iridium bowl.  It undramatically sizzled and disappeared. But hey, that's what I wanted, I just freed up hydrogen and nitrogen. Yay!  
...With my mini-torch in hand, I started a slow hydrazine flow. It sizzled on the iridium and disappeared. Soon I had short bursts of flame sputtering from the chimney.  
The main thing I had to watch was the temperature. Hydrazine breaking down is extremely exothermic. So I did it a bit at a time, constantly watch the readout of a thermocouple I'd attached to the iridium chamber. Point is, the process worked! 
Of course, what process doesn't have a few process upsets? (To find out what happens and so I can avoid spoilers, you'll have to read the book.)

Chemistry plays a pretty big role in "The Martian" and I really enjoyed it. Readers, got any other books to recommend? 

Warning Letter of the Week: beta-lactam cross-contamination edition

It's not something I think about a lot, but apparently the FDA cares a lot about beta-lactam allergies (and good for them!). From a recent warning letter to a Ontario repackaging facility: 
...These practices create an unacceptable risk of beta-lactam cross-contamination in other beta-lactams and in non-beta-lactam APIs.

During the inspection, you stated that you ceased penicillin operations.  However, you manufacture other beta-lactam products beyond penicillin, so ceasing penicillin operations is inadequate to address non-penicillin beta-lactams. You should take similar efforts to mitigate the risks of cross-contamination by non-penicillin beta-lactams, because they pose similar risks to patients.... 
,,,Cleaning cannot substitute for proper segregation.  Cross-contamination with your sensitizing agents can initiate life-threatening allergic reactions or other drug-induced hypersensitivity reactions.  Your current practices demonstrate an unacceptably high risk of beta-lactam cross-contamination into other APIs packaged at your facility.  You should conduct all beta-lactam manufacturing activities in dedicated, segregated facilities with separate air handling systems and production equipment.

No safe level of penicillin contamination has been determined to be a tolerable risk. Severe allergenic response can occur in susceptible patients exposed to extremely low levels of penicillin and other beta-lactams. Such levels are difficult to detect with current analytical methods.
"No safe level" is pretty strong language, even for a FDA warning letter.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What's it like for a Greek chemist these days?

Any anecdotes about life in Greece for an academic or industrial chemist right about now?

Gotta say, the announcement of a bank holiday was rather surprising to me, although it probably should not have been. But I could have sworn I heard news reports over the weekend claiming that there was little likelihood of such a thing.

Any bold predictions as to how this all will play out? I foresee continued muddling through, but I could be wrong. 

I kind of love this comment

I figured H1B out during a post-doc many years ago when I worked for this douchebag [redacted]. I was the only American, which was fine, I really enjoyed the internationals. However, after a few months of 6x12h days, plus an appearance on Sunday, I had enough. My salary was 23k per year. 
The last straw was him berating me for not taking his suggestion of switching the solvent to DMF in making a dianion with NaH and nBuLi. Then he yelled at me for enlisting the help of a graduate student who had nothing to work on. I took the keys to the lab off my keychain and marched into his office and gave him the immortal words of Johnny Paycheck "Take this job and shove it."  
I took a few weeks off and went fishing and worked various manual labor jobs and got back in amazing physical shape. I really enjoyed that summer. This was followed by an adjunct stint. I eventually found my way back to a science career, but in a non-traditional path. The thing that struck me the most was the despondency and lack of options of the post-docs who remained. Apparently I was treated well compared to the internationals, or so the American grad students told me. Of course they had to take it, it was not like they could tell him to F off. 
There really is a shortage of people who are highly intelligent and well educated in a notoriously difficult discipline who are ready to be treated like excrement on a daily basis for the wages of migrant tomato pickers.
 A Real American Hero. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/30/15 edition

A few of the positions posted on C&EN Jobs:

North Brunswick, NJ: Chromocell Corporation is looking for a Chemical Operations Head; Ph.D. with 10 years experience desired.

Decatur, IL: ADM looking for an experienced Ph.D. chemist to be the manager for their thermochemical catalysis program.

Irvine, CA: Interesting to see what an Allergan biologics process development position looks like; M.S./Ph.D. and a couple years of experience.

Burlington, MA: Flexion Therapeutics looking for a CMC director. B.S./M.S./Ph.D. with experience.

Dexter, MI: Never heard of Berry & Associates before, but it looks like they're looking for a bench chemist?

Little lost lamb: I see we're advertising for dental assistants now. You could tell them all about apatite and fluoroapatite. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 6/30/15 edition

A few of the academically-related postings on C&EN Jobs:

Stevenson, MD: Stevenson University looking for a lecturer in organic chemistry; M.S./Ph.D. desired.

Irvine, CA: UC-Irvine looking for a mass spectrometry facility manager.

Last minute faculty member: Carroll Community College (Westminster, MD) is looking for a full-time chemistry instructor. Check out this full disclosure:
Generally, the College places new faculty at the rank of instructor, where the minimum based salary range is $39,515 - $50,425.  
One-half of reasonable travel expenses are paid by the college for the first visit. The entire cost of travel for the second interview is paid by the College. The College does not pay for relocation expenses, nor does the College have tenure. However, following a one-year probationary period, year-to-year contracts are provided until three years of satisfactory service are completed, after which time 3-year contracts are provided.
 W00t! (Yeesh.)