Friday, February 17, 2017

6 mL transfer pipets

A list of small, useful things (links):
Again, an open invitation to all interested in writing a blog, a hobby that will bring you millions thousands hundreds tens of dollars joy and happiness. Send me a link to your post, and I'd be happy to put it up.

Have a great weekend!

What killed Kim Jong-Nam?

Lethal on landing?
Credit: The Drive
Regarding that crazy story about North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's half-brother being killed in a Malaysian airport, friend of the blog Josh Bloom asks a darn good question: 
Organic chemists are a different species (1). While the world was pondering the geopolitical ramifications of the assassination of Kim Jong Un's half-brother Kim Jong-Nam, we were all wondering "what the hell was in those needles?" 
This morbid curiosity became even more so as the story changed. Instead of needles, different reports said that a liquid was either sprayed in Kim's face or applied with a cloth. For us chemists, that is even crazier. What on earth could be applied to the skin and cause dizziness, a headache, and then death so quickly? This has led to speculation about what chemical was used, because, given the "facts" that we now have, there is no obvious answer...
(Here's a little context for this story.)

He's actually got a list, which is helpful and sorta kinda morbid - but mostly helpful. Me, I'm going for an isocyanate of some sort, but maybe I'm wrong. It was probably fentanyl or something else boring-ish.

Readers, what say you? Animal, vegetable or mineral?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 81 positions

Doing my best to track down all open research-track medicinal chemistry positions. At the moment, the list has 81 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Check out the other bottom tabs on the list for various notations and side experiments.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (will likely be included about a year from now?), industrial postdocs (maybe someday soon.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise!

Weird personal finance question about retirement investing in the Trump era

This gets a little political, so I won't be offended if you don't read this. It's mostly about retirement.

Job posting: process chemist, Abide Therapeutics, San Diego, CA

Via random clicking, a position with Abide Therapeutics in San Diego, CA:
Process Chemist:  
Description: The successful candidate will optimize the synthesis of potential drug candidate molecules directed toward the inhibition of serine hydrolases and function as part of a cross-disciplinary team to advance compounds into clinical trials. The candidate will execute process chemistry optimization of synthetic routes to lead molecules in addition to preparation of novel building blocks and key intermediates on large scale. 
The successful candidate will participate in discussions with contract manufacturing organizations (CMO) to enable the preparation of compounds for preclinical and clinical evaluation on multi-kilogram scale. Additionally, the candidate will engage in pre-formulation activities for lead molecules and early development of solid oral dosage forms. The successful candidate will also contribute to preparing the CMC section of IND applications and investigational medicinal product dossiers in collaboration with consultants, QA specialists and CMOs. 
The chemist will work independently, use databases and information tools to keep current with process chemistry trends and contribute to patent applications and publications. 
Experience and Education Requirements: 
  • BS/MS in Organic Chemistry with 5-7 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry
  • Experience with process chemistry, scale-up and cGMP principles; pilot plant experience a plus
  • Experience interacting with CMOs
  • Experience advancing compounds from discovery into Phase 1 clinical trials...
Click here for full listing. Best wishes to those interested. 

Daily Pump Trap: 2/16/17 edition

A (very) few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Charleston, TN: Wacker is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be the lab manager for its plant in Tennessee. It's also looking for an assistant production manager (looks interesting and busy.)

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) "1000+", 420, 8,781 and 11 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 3,248 positions for the search term "chemist" and 20,600 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Polymer Chemist: 15/711. Analytical chemist: 288/348. Research chemist: 43/53. Synthetic chemist:  18/672. Medicinal chemist: 22/43. Organic chemist: 36/81. Process chemist: 24/63. Process development chemist: 7/8. Formulation chemist: 60/65. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Transitioning from process to medicinal chemistry?

A very good friend of mine transitioned from medicinal to process chemistry relatively early in their career, but has anyone ever heard of people going from the plant to the bench (loosely speaking)? From the inbox:
Do you have advice, experience, or anecdotes of chemists who switch from process to discovery/medicinal chemistry?  I am a process chemist [redacted] and want to switch to the discovery/development side of the field.
I've not heard too much about this. It seems to me that you'd have to demonstrate some knowledge, comfort or willingness to learn about the more biological aspects of medicinal chemistry.

Readers, what say you? Got any stories to tell? 

A report from Bristol on that TATP incident

Via Jyllian Kemsley's The Safety Zone blog, a writeup of that TATP incident from senior people at the University of Bristol. It was written by the dean of the Faculty of Science (Prof. Timothy Gallagher) and the head of the school of chemistry (Prof. Nicholas Norman). I'm going to excerpt this, but you should go over there and read the whole thing: 
On 3 February 2017, a graduate student in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol was carrying out a literature procedure to oxidise an aldehyde to the carboxylic acid using aqueous acidified chlorite. The experiment was carried out on a 5 mmol scale (just under 1g of aldehyde) and risk assessments identifying all hazards had been undertaken and signed off by both student and supervisor. The reaction solvent was acetone (50 mL). 
Part of the procedure involved adding a quantity of 30% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) solution to remove some of the by-products of the reaction, whose presence was (apparently) associated with a yellow colour (possibly including chlorine dioxide). The literature indicated that H2O2 be added until this yellow colour had disappeared, which should have required about 1 mL of peroxide solution. 
The student, focusing on the yellow colour, which did not completely disappear, continued to add hydrogen peroxide solution until about 50 mL had been added. During workup to remove the solvent, the student realised that the solvent volume was not decreasing and that the liquid was becoming viscous, and so likely contained far more “product” than was expected. GCMS analysis indicated the presence of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), and it was estimated that this could amount to 30-40g if all the excess H2O2 had reacted with the acetone solvent. 
At that point, the graduate student immediately alerted the supervisor, who escalated this to the Head of School. A series of decisions were made and actions taken that resulted in the disposal of the suspected TATP by means of a controlled explosion carried out by the emergency services. 
Nobody was injured and no damage was done in the lab. Although the TATP presented an explosion hazard, the risk of explosion was considered minor due to all material remaining in solution; TATP is far more sensitive to detonation as a solid. Immediate disposal was warranted, however, due to the risk of precipitation/crystallisation of a solid material.
The authors have some statements that I will summarize (errors made are mine)
  1. The student was overfocused on removing the yellow color in the reaction, even as the risk of H2O2 + acetone had been identified.
  2. The role of the acetone was overlooked. 
  3. When the student recognized how they had made an error, they reported it immediately to their supervisor. "This was highly responsible – the most important thing done – and shows the value of investing in developing and fostering a culture in which colleagues recognise errors and misjudgements, and they are supported to report near misses."
This seems like a reasonable response and a fairly quick one, all to the credit of the University of Bristol.

I'd sure like to know what the "workup to remove the solvent" was. Did the student put this material on a rotary evaporator?

This incident reminds me of a favorite list of "what if" questions from McConville's "Pilot Plant Real Book", including the question "Consider the possibility of operator error - over charging or undercharging raw materials, adding materials in the wrong order, omitting a component, overheating, holding for too long at reaction temperature, opening or closing the wrong valve, etc."

Finally, it would be great if there was some kind of central repository of chemical incident information. This report would certainly be a good candidate for inclusion in it. I wonder if the chair of the department of chemistry at UCLA has such a report to file? 

A peculiar case of remarkable similarities

Tables 4 and 5 from Mandapati et al. and Seelam et al.
Via Twitter, Lana Hiscock found some very interesting similaries between two Tetrahedron Letters papers. She also wrote it up on Reddit: 
"Recently I discovered two almost identical, and in places copied and pasted, articles on synthetic methodology (both published within the last 6 months). Amazingly, neither journal has any link on their website which I could find for reporting apparent plagiarism. Not only that, but I caught the outright copying easily and it's something that should have been picked up in peer review.... 
...Additionally, and highly suspiciously, they all refer to water as a "grenary" (or "greenary" in one case) solvent. If you Google "grenary solvent" you get the ChemistrySelect paper as the fourth result. If you can read the articles, it's obvious, in my opinion, that these papers are all related to a common ancestor."
In her Reddit post, she points to four separate papers (a 2016 Tet. Lett., a 2017 Tet. Lett., a Synth. Commun. paper and a ChemistrySelect.). This Reddit comment from Auntie Markovnikov indicates there may be both plagiarism and self-plagiarism going on.

I haven't been able to check all four papers, but I have downloaded both Tetrahedron Letters papers and as you can see above, there are remarkable similarities in the methods table.

Amusingly, if you search a phrase in both of the Tetrahedron Letters papers ("The reactions are rapid and facile and accomplished at room temperature"), you find yet another paper, this one from 2011 and published in Green Chemistry Letters and Reviews. The subject matter is rather similar; one wonders if this is the original source.

As more and more of the literature becomes open-access, isn't there some way to program bots to crawl the literature and look for plagiarized text? Might be a useful thing... 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 560 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 560 positions.

Have you had a Skype/phone interview or an on-site with a position on the Faculty Jobs List? Please add the date of the interview to the open thread. The open thread is here.

Do you see anything that needs correcting? Please leave a comment in the open thread, or e-mail me at

As the 2017 Faculty Jobs Open Thread has gotten longer, the Blogger software that this blog is run on has added a new wrinkle: when you initially load the thread, it loads only the first ~220 comments and then has a "load more" button near the bottom of the page near the comment box. Only after pressing that button about 7 times does it load the latest comments.

Finally, a web forum! Because the open thread has gotten more unwieldy, I have opened up this web forum ("Chemistry Faculty Jobs List"). Feel free to join/post!

Vanderbilt graduate student needs insurance okay for cancer care

UPDATE: The insurance company decided to cover him. Hooray!

This situation with a Vanderbilt chemistry graduate student seems bad (emphasis mine):
The standard drugs used for AML will not be sufficient in my case. Fortunately, there is a drug in a Vanderbilt clinical trial that is available (called midostaurin) that has been shown to help patients with my particular mutation to achieve remission. However, moving forward, the Vanderbilt insurance company for graduate students has decided that they will not pay for ANY care (hospital stay and standard care) associated with this clinical trial. 
To be clear, the clinical trial is funded by a pharmaceutical company and does not need to be covered by the insurance company. The insurance company solely has to pay for the ROUTINE STANDARD care that goes along with the clinical trial.
More details here. Best wishes to Mr. Kantor.

UPDATE: The insurance company decided to cover him. Hooray!

Job posting: material development chemist, Covaron, Ann Arbor, MI

From the inbox, a research chemist position at Covaron Advanced Materials, a startup in Ann Arbor, MI:
Job Title: Material Development Chemist
Location: Ann Arbor, MI 
The successful applicant will have a Masters or PhD degree in chemistry or materials science and experience working in a research and development environment. Consistent delivery of successful development outcomes is more important than duration of work experience for this role. Must be amenable to the unique pace, challenges, and opportunities of a ‘startup’ company and culture. 
The Material Development Chemist will be responsible for the following:
  • Develop resins to meet material performance and processing requirements
  • Develop quantitative structure-property-chemistry mechanisms for controlling resin performance
  • Resolve material, processing and quality problems of ingredients and finished materials...
About Covaron 
Covaron Advanced Materials is an award winning startup advanced materials company specializing in controlling organically modified aluminosilicates to solve the real world problems of our customers and the markets we serve. We are expanding our development group with new team members that are excited and engaged in the collective purpose of making the world a better place through the power of materials.
Full listing here; Indeed posting here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Daily Pump Trap: 2/14/17 edition

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

Kenilworth, NJ: Merck is searching for an associate principal scientist for bioprocess development; M.S./Ph.D. (4-8 years experience desired.) 

A champion title, if there ever was one: Syngenta (Greensboro, NC) is looking for a "Product Metabolism Method Development Technical Expert" (B.S. analytical chemist with 3 years of experience desired.) 

Diamond Bar, CA: South Coast Air Quality Management District is looking for air quality chemists. " No experience is required for Assistant Air Quality Chemist.  For the Air Quality Chemist, three years as an Assistant Air Quality Chemist or equivalent is required.  SUBSTITUTION:  A Master of Science (MS) degree in Chemistry may substitute for up to one year of the required experience; a doctorate in chemistry may substitute for up to two years of experience." Offered salary: Salary/Wage: $5,302 - $7,888/month. Seems reasonable? 

Ivory Filter Flask: 2/14/2017 edition

A few of the academic positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Kent, OH: Kent State University is searching for a tenure-track professor of analytical chemistry.

Madison, FL: North Florida Community College is looking for a chemistry instructor. (M.S. desired.)

Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College is looking for a visiting assistant professor.

Shreveport, LA: Centenary College of Louisiana is looking for a visiting assistant professor of analytical chemistry.

Montreal, QC: Concordia University (in Canada) is looking for a biochemistry postdoc. Posted salary is $47,500. (That's a remarkably close number to the magic postdoc number.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reddit AMA with Phil Baran

Prof. Baran is answering questions at Reddit. Go over and ask him anything!

UPDATE: A few of the highlights:

Jobs in the OLED sector?

Encouraged by aggressive capacity expansion among manufacturers of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, suppliers of display raw materials are proceeding with investments of their own. 
Universal Display will spend $15 million to double production capacity for phosphorescent OLED emitters at PPG Industries’ plant in Barberton, Ohio. PPG has been providing contract manufacturing services to New Jersey-based Universal since 2000. Fitted with a clean room, the Barberton plant makes organometallic emitter molecules that feature an iridium metal complex. 
Separately, Samsung-owned Novaled has started constructing a $21 million R&D facility and company headquarters in Dresden, Germany. Novaled claims its materials—organic dopants—are present in most of the world’s OLED displays. 
In Switzerland, Idemitsu Kosan is setting up an OLED materials R&D center that will employ researchers from BASF, with which Idemitsu has been collaborating. The Japanese company is a technology leader in blue emitters. Creating blue remains challenging for materials suppliers because blue OLED materials convert energy less efficiently. 
Also in Switzerland, BASF has acquired the display materials supplier Rolic. Employing 110 people, Rolic is a technology leader in photoalignment materials and films used in the production of OLED displays and liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), BASF claims...
Interesting to see that relatively few positions are being created in the United States for this field; I wonder why that is? (Perhaps they are already here? I seem to recall DuPont making a bunch of R&D hires in this field a year or two ago.)

This week's C&EN

A few articles from this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

I disagree: this is bad

From a brief perusal of Vanguard's* investment blog, this interesting set of statements from Vanguard's chief economist (emphasis mine):
...At the start of 2016, the Fed projected that the federal funds rate would revert to a long-term average of 3% to 4% sometime after 2019. Rates in that neighborhood are consistent with growth (and inflation) rates similar to the 3%-plus expansions fueled by a growing labor force and heavy borrowing in the decades before the housing crisis. 
That’s unlikely. Those one-time boosts are behind us. We estimate that the U.S. economy has a potential growth rate of about 2% per year. This is neither good nor bad; it’s simply a consequence of demographic, technological, and market forces that have been reshaping growth, inflation, and interest rates for decades....
First, let me say that I agree: it seems to me that the long-term trend for GDP in the United States is closer to 2% than 3%. (Note: the first reporting of GDP growth for Q1 2017 is April 28. That will be an interesting day.) 

Second, I don't understand how Dr. Davis can say that "2% a year is neither good nor bad." A lower long-term GDP growth for the country is bad for its citizens, it would seem - it would mean less income, less wage growth and fewer jobs. Am I wrong for thinking this? 

*I'm a very big fan of the Vanguard approach to investing (i.e. indexing.) I'm boring (and possibly stupid) like that.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The View From Your Hood: (still) cloudy skies edition

Sometime in the last month.

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption, please) at; will run every other Friday.)

I mustache you to take note

More on the Bristol TATP incident; 40 grams made, was not isolated

Jyllian Kemsley tracks down the details of the recent Bristol explosive incident: 
A University of Bristol graduate student inadvertently synthesized approximately 40 g of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) on Friday, prompting building evacuations and a controlled detonation by an explosives team, chemistry professor and Faculty of Science dean Timothy C. Gallagher has confirmed to C&EN. No one was injured in the incident. 
The TATP was in solution and not isolated as a solid. When the student realized what had happened, the student handled the situation very responsibly, Gallagher says. Further response by the department, university, and emergency personnel “went like clockwork,” Gallagher adds. 
Gallagher says that he is “absolutely convinced” that the preparation of TATP was unintentional rather than deliberate or with malicious intent....
I will be very interested to read more about this when the report is (hopefully) released to the public.