Friday, October 9, 2015

Dayton manufacturer blames government for "skills gap", rather than low wages, news at 11

It was Manufacturing Day on October 2, which means a spate of planted stories about America's "skills gap", including Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Senator Franken from Minnesota bemoaning the state of America's workforce. But this story from Dayton, Ohio takes the cake: 
Machines are sitting idle at JBM Envelope Co. in Lebanon because the manufacturer can't find qualified workers to fill the job openings available. However, the likelihood of the company finding enough qualified people to hire is dim unless, top leaders are realizing, they take the matter into their own hands, said Chief Operating Officer Dan Puthoff. 
...About 140 employees work at the Warren County manufacturer today on Henkle Drive, but there are more than 10 job openings, including some positions that have sat empty for months, Puthoff said.  
Puthoff admitted the business was waiting for a development agency or educational institution to take action on the workforce issues. Now he’s realizing, his company and others like JBM can’t wait anymore. 
“I think we need to fix this problem for ourselves,” he said. 
“If we could market better to local high schools and have them at least get a glimpse of what is possible for them, that might go a long way to fixing the problem at least at JBM,” he said. “I think it’s such a monumental task that it really needs to be done at the grassroots level by companies like ourselves.”
And, typical to stories of this particular wretched genre, the wage number comes at the very bottom:
A manufacturing job at JBM offers benefits, a 40-hour work week and entry-level pay starting at $10.50 to $11 an hour plus more for second shift, Puthoff said. 
Clearly, a starting wage of $10.50/hr has nothing to do with their unfilled job openings. Of course, JBM Envelope needs more help from taxpayers and the government to solve their workforce problems. Good gravy. 

Invitation: Participate in the ACS PRES symposium on chemical employment

From the inbox, an invitation from Professor Donna Nelson (ACS president-elect): 
At the ACS National Meeting in San Diego next March, my Task Force on Employment in the Chemical Sciences is having a symposium on its activities.  One session in that symposium will be contributed posters.  Each ACS member is invited to submit a poster to that symposium. 
If you have ideas or experiences to contribute, please submit your poster in MAPS at    The deadline for submission is Oct 31st. 
You are welcome to speak on any aspect of the problems related to employment.  Some topics being addressed by the Task Force are:
  • What factors determine the balance between supply and demand?
  • What is the employment situation for technicians?
  • What are benefits and handicaps of possible certification, licensing, and registration of chemical professionals?
  • Do we prepare our graduates for jobs offered by industry?
  • What causes young graduate and mid-career chemical professional unemployment, and how can we help?
  • What is needed to increase underrepresented groups in the workforce?
  • What global factors influence the US employment situation?  Problems of outsourcing and immigration?
If you have questions about submissions to this poster session, please contact the TF Co-chair, Attila Pavlath (attilapavlath -at-, or the Program Co-organizer, Debbie Crans (debbie.crans -at- (CJ's note: addresses spamproofed) Please submit your poster by Oct 31st.
Additional potential ACS member concerns will be addressed in contributed poster sessions on “Diversity – Quantification – Success” (the use of data to help diversify the chemical sciences with respect to race, ethnicity, and gender) and “Is there a Crisis in Organic Chemistry” (the anticipated reduction of enrollment in traditional organic chemistry classes).

Please take advantage of these sessions via your attendance, ideas, and participation; they are intended to be opportunities for discussion and member contributions. 
Best wishes to those interested in attending.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why is France different?

Credit: Jacques Brinon/AP
I don't know if you saw this story, but it got sent to me by a frequent commenter. Apparently, a group of angry Air France employees stormed the headquarters, after they found out that, according to the New York Times, "900 flight attendants, 1,700 ground crew members and 300 pilots could be laid off." They tore the clothes off 2 executives' backs.

I don't know anything about this story or the structure of French airlines or French labor policy, but this story really shocks me, in the rather brutal violence of it (they don't have assault/battery laws?), that it was allowed to happen (they don't have security guards in France?) and, finally, that I cannot think of a case where similar things happened to American executives during the Great Recession.

As I said on Twitter the other day, I think acts of social shunning of CEOs and the like (refusing to shake hands, other signs of disrespect and unfriendliness) are certainly fair game, especially during rather brutal layoffs here. But it hasn't seemed to happen - why not? Do our HR departments just do a better job of keeping us peons away? Why is France different? 

A personal finance bleg: how often do you peek and rebalance?

Credit: Harold Pollack
I am a pretty big fan of this index card of financial advice from University of Chicago social scientist Harold Pollack.* It's not everything, but it's a lot of things I agree with in a short amount of space. 

A question for the personal finance nerds that isn't on the card: how often do you 1) look at your financial position (such as it may be) and 2) how often do you rebalance? I've, um, never rebalanced my very boring index-fund heavy portfolio. Is that important?

Update: Prof. Pollack e-mails in to note that he has a book coming out on this index card's advice.

San Diego job postings: Crinetics and others

From my Twitter mentions, Crinetics is now looking for experienced medicinal chemists.

(You know, I get the real sense that Sorrento Valley is a more happenin' place than it was ~7 years ago; I hope that's true.)

Also, I would love love love love to know the story behind this API manufacturing supervisor (?) ad in the San Diego Craigslist. Why does it need a B.S. in chemistry? 

Daily Pump Trap: 10/8/15 edition

Good morning! A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs this past week:

Bartlesville, OK: Chevron Phillips is looking for a Ph.D. polymer chemist for a position as a "Polyethylene Stabilization Chemist." Who knew such a position existed?

Alpharetta, GA: Lonza looking to hire an experienced (3-5 years) M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist.

Berkeley, CA: Looks like Paul Alivisatos is looking for a B.S. chemist for a research technician position; probably a real plum, even if it is a one-year contract with an option (?) to extend.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) "1000+", 643, 10,362 (whoa!) and 13 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 1504 positions for the job title "chemist", with 108 for "analytical chemist", 26 for "research chemist", 14 for "organic chemist", 6 for "synthetic chemist" and 2 for "medicinal chemist."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Auditor Will Come: from the archives of Leonidas, as translated by Chemjobber

Leonidas speaks to his employees:

"Let no one of us forget or misapprehend the reason we inspected our own facility here today. Not only to make them comply or to just annoy them, our colleagues, but to make them allies against a greater enemy. By persuasion, we hoped. By coercion, in the event. But no matter, they will be our cGMP allies now and we will treat them as such from this moment."

"The Auditor!"

Suddenly Leonidas' voice rose, booming with such explosive emotion that those closest to him started from its sudden power. "The Auditor is why we inspected here today. Her presence loomed, invisible, over every SOP and every logbook...."

"I know many of you think I am half-cracked, I and Kleomenes the plant manager before me. I hear the whispers, and sometimes they're not such whispers." More laughter. "Leonidas hears voices the rest of us don't. He takes no chances with out-of-specification product in an unprofitable manner and prepared for surprise FDA inspections that he has never seen and who many say will never come. All this is true..."

The staff laughed again. "But hear this and never forget it: the Auditor will come. She will come in numbers dwarfing those her corporation sent four years when the QC laboratory and our maintenance records were successfully audited so gloriously in the Pilot Plant. She will come tenfold, a hundredfold mightier and no production record will pass without inspection. And she will come soon."

(with apologies to Steven Pressfield)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Quote of the day (repost): why micromanagement is bad

From Lt. Gen. Gus Pagonis' book:
I never tell a subordinate how to carry out a specific goal. Dictating terms to a subordinate undermines innovation, decreases the subordinate’s willingness to take responsibility for his or her actions, increases the potential for suboptimization of resources, and increases the chances that the command will be dysfunctional if circumstances change dramatically. Our first month in the theater only underscored my sense that our team would have to be incredibly elastic.
I think about this quote a lot. (I first posted it in 2011.)

Job posting: assistant professor, analytical chemistry, Wabash College

From the inbox, a tenure-track position in analytical chemistry at Wabash College (Crawfordsville, IN): 
The Wabash College Chemistry Department invites applications for a tenure-track position in Analytical Chemistry to begin July 1, 2016. An appointment at the assistant professor level is anticipated; however, more senior ranks will also be considered for qualified candidates.  
Undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry required (Analytical or Experimental Physical Chemistry degrees recommended). A strong commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and research in an undergraduate liberal arts setting with a diverse student body is expected. The successful candidate will teach the advanced analytical chemistry course (both classroom and laboratory components), contribute to the first-year chemistry sequence, and participate in all-College courses. Establishment of a research program involving undergraduates is expected, and will be supported with a generous start-up package.  
The Chemistry Department is ACS certified, has six full time faculty, and excellent facilities, instrumentation, and support for undergraduate research. Further information about the department can be obtained from A letter of application, vitae, undergraduate and graduate transcripts, statement of teaching principles, statement of research plans suitable for undergraduate participation, and e-mail addresses of three persons who will submit confidential letters of recommendation should be submitted on-line at by October 12, 2015.  Questions may be directed to Lon Porter, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chair, at 
Wabash College, a liberal arts college for men, seeks faculty and staff committed to providing quality engagement with students, high levels of academic challenge and support, and meaningful diversity experiences that prepare students for life and leadership in a multicultural global world. We welcome applications from persons of all backgrounds. EOE.​
 Best wishes to those interested. 

Daily Pump Trap: 10/6/15 edition

A few of this week's postings at C&EN Jobs:

Ann Arbor, MI: IMRA America looking for 2 positions, including a position for a Ph.D. organic chemist. "Nanobiotechnology research scientist" would probably look good on a business card.

Hmmm: Mouse biology position that allows for telecommuting?

Laurel, MD: The Applied Physics Laboratory is searching for a synthetic chemistry postdoc; sounds interesting....

Ooops: It's over a month ago since this posting was put up (for which I apologize), but a company called Ignyta in San Diego is looking for an experienced Ph.D. synthetic/medicinal chemist.

Ivory Filter Flask: 10/6/15 edition

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

New Haven, CT: Yale's Chemical Biology Institute is hiring an assistant professor.

La Jolla, CA: UCSD has posted a minor raft of positions, including an assistant professor position in synthetic chemistry.

Miami, FL: Florida International University desires an assistant professor in radiochemistry. "A Ph.D. in Chemistry or a related field and experience with research in nuclear chemistry or radiochemistry are required." A little unusual, for sure.

Ames, IA: Iowa State University is searching for an assistant professor of structural biology.

Asheville, NC: UNC Asheville is looking for an assistant professor of biochemistry.

Tampa, FL: Synthetic postdoc opening at the University of South Florida. 

Postdocs: cheminformatics, UNC/Wake Forest, RTP

From the inbox, two postdoctoral positions are available in North Carolina:
1. Postdoctoral Research Associate - Cheminformatics
2. Postdoctoral Research Associate – Cheminformatics/Data Mining
Postings available here. For questions, please contact Dr Olexandr Isayev at olexandr -at- (not spam proofing)

Monday, October 5, 2015

There's child care at ACS conferences?

Also in this week's C&EN, an interesting letter to the editor: 
This summer our seven-year-old announced that he would rather stay home and attend a YMCA camp with his school friends than come to the ACS national meeting in Boston and attend Camp ACS (with child care provided for the children of meeting attendees). He is growing up. 
This seems like an appropriate time to say a big thank-you to the ACS presidents and committee members who have supported Camp ACS for the past seven years. It is a good program run by caring professionals. We felt completely confident leaving our son with them while attending sessions—and we enjoyed family time together visiting the various cities the meeting had landed in each evening. We took him to some of the early-evening social events, and he thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition each year. 
I would recommend the program, especially for single parents or chemistry couples who want to attend the meeting. You can attend the ACS national meeting with young children—in fact, it’s fun to do so! 
Fiona Case
San Diego
I had no idea this existed, but it's a pretty interesting idea. Readers, any use of this? 

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles in this week's C&EN:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Daily Pump Trap: 10/4/15 edition

No DPT last week, so clearing the queue. Positions posted in the last week or so at C&EN Jobs: 

Somerset, NJ: Apicore LLC has two positions open: an analytical chemist position and a QC chemist position. 

Laredo, TX: Laquitex is a company that tests materials for tariff issues; they're looking for a B.S. chemist/supervisor. Offering $58,178. I suspect that's pretty good for Laredo. 

Boston, MA: Block Engineering ("a developer of advanced mid-infrared spectroscopy products") is looking for a Ph.D. chemist (with experience with Matlab) to be an advanced development scientist. 

New York, NY: SiGNa Chemistry is looking for a R&D director; 110-140k offered. 

Brevard, NC: I see PharmAgra Labs is at it, yet again. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Guest post: "Beatitudes for a Chemistry Department"

from "one we all have known."

Blessed are those who address the administrative assistants kindly.
They shall reap attentive loyalty.

Blessed are those who have patience with the safety officers.
They shall encounter few obstructions to waste disposal.

Blessed are the compassionate overworked teaching assistants.
Their influence on the lives of undergraduates may be profound.

Blessed are the postdocs who seek thoughtful advice from magnetic resonance.
Their samples will be run with care and the data interpreted with scrutiny.

Blessed are those who heed instructions for sample preparation.
They ensure the amiable nature of mass spectrometry staff.

Blessed are those who speak humbly to the storeroom clerks.
They will be notified of their deliveries with alacrity and shall not want for pipettes.

Blessed are those who approach the graduate advisor with reverent appreciation.
Their funding and insurance will continue uninterrupted despite obstacles of bureaucracy.

Blessed are those who remember janitorial staff before discarding shards of glass in the trash.
They shall sleep well in the knowledge they caused no suffering in the night.

Blessed are those who are grateful for the invisible support they receive.
The whole of the Department of Chemistry is theirs.

with apologies to Matthew.