Friday, October 17, 2014

Jimmy John's employees and non-compete agreements

Via the Huffington Post, I see that the sandwich shop Jimmy John's is requiring non-compete agreements:
Employee covenants and agrees that, during his or her employment with the Employer and for a period of two (2) years after … he or she will not have any direct or indirect interest in or perform services for … any business which derives more than ten percent (10%) of its revenue from selling submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches and which is located with three (3) miles of either [the Jimmy John's location in question] or any such other Jimmy John's Sandwich Shop.
I presume that this agreement has never been enforced, but it is funny/sad nonetheless. 

The paradox of capitalism

I read articles so fast that I tend to skip important things -- this paragraph by Laura Cassiday in this week's C&EN is one of them. Thanks to one of the ACS' innumerable e-mail newsletters, it was put in front of my face again: 
Who says big companies are cold, heartless behemoths, where employees are numbers and every decision is based on the bottom line? The three companies highlighted in this year’s C&EN profile of top companies for chemists are out to dispel this perception. Although large, these companies foster collaboration and the building of communities within the larger corporate community, making every employee feel like a valued member of a team striving for a common goal. The companies recognize that employees are more than just their job titles, giving them the flexibility to fulfill personal as well as professional obligations.
I understand what Ms. Cassiday is saying: that companies that provide flexibility to employees to fulfill personal obligations are worth of attention and praise.

But! Ultimately, all three of the companies in the article (Genentech, Novo Nordisk, and AstraZeneca) are publicly-traded companies and at the end of the day, the big decisions that affect people (who to hire, who to fire) are all based on the bottom line. It's not a perception -- it's a reality.

That is one of the strange paradoxes of the modern economy: the biggest, largest companies are the ones that typically pay the best, offer the most lavish benefits and do well at making people feel like "a team." Yet, they are the ones that are most likely to conduct mass layoffs in order to satisfy their shareholders. Capitalism - it contains multitudes. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Job posting: Medicinal chemist (Basel, Switzerland) and process chemist (Plymouth, MN)

From the inbox, a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. process development position at Cargill in Plymouth, MN:
This position is predominantly technical support and process development for transformer oil, polyols, glycerin, and regulatory issues, and a lesser amount of administrative responsibility, partial building management of the Industrial Specialties Technology Center and the ISTC’s safety program.

This position provides exposure to many corporate functions outside of R&D – e.g. operations, analytical, logistics, sales, regulatory, building trades, accounting, SAP.  This diversity keeps the job interesting and the opportunity to learn outside the technical field.
Needs 5 years of industrial experience, mostly in the process/production area, looks like.

I hate to admit it, but that sounds really, really interesting, even as the field is extraordinarily obscure. (Of course, transformer oil is probably much more important to the running of the modern world than anyone is aware.)

Also from the inbox, a Roche medicinal chemist project leader position in Basel:
...As a Lead Chemist (Project Leader in Medicinal Chemistry) you will be accountable for driving chemistry strategies in the project team and providing expert scientific input to ongoing and newly established drug discovery programs to deliver high quality candidates to our pipeline. 
You’re someone who strives to bring medicines to patients. You have significant professional experience (7-10 years) in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry with a proven track record as a Lead Chemist/Project Leader in the area of small molecule research preferably with experience in oncology research.
I find it interesting that there's no educational component mentioned -- seems to me that experienced M.S. chemists would probably be just as qualified, but I dunno what Roche's culture with respect to that might be. (ht "a friend."

Also, anyone interested in a very senior process engineering position in upstate New York
(M.S./Ph.D. chemical engineer, 10+ years in the industry)? If so, contact me and I'll put you in touch with the relevant recruiter. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is the ACS ready for a Cannabis Chemistry division?

This is a petition to form a professional division within the membership of the American Chemical Society. The title of division shall be Cannabis Chemists. 
One might think that this is too specific of a designation for a separate professional division. I would however argue that it is a rapidly expanding profession and that we face many issues specific to the industry. As the medical marijuana and recreational cannabis industry grows it promises to present more and more jobs for chemists in quality control and quality assurance positions. 
The objectives of this division shall be to provide networking opportunities, mentoring relationships, and updates on technology, industry and public policy. The division will also provide support for individuals new to the field in the form of training and scholarship. Lastly, the division shall provide a platform for cannabis professionals to develop standards and practices in a field where self-regulation is essential for the success of a venture and of the industry. 
Individuals who would be interested in this division may be in the cannabis industry as analytical chemists, water chemists, food chemists, agro chemists, extraction chemists, formulation chemists, natural products chemists, or pharmaceutical chemists. 
It is wise and urgent to develop this professional division because there is an emerging industry that is desperate for the support this division can provide. Now more than 25 companies exist for the sole purpose of analyzing cannabis for producers, vendors and consumers. 
It is essential for the growth of the cannabis analysis industry and the quality of medicines provided, that young professionals be made aware of the legitimate and lucrative opportunities in this field.
I don't know what to think of this. The author of the petition appears to be Ezra Pryor, who seems to be a member of the ACS (on his LinkedIn profile, anyway.)

It'd be really interesting, incidentally, to know what the process for forming a new division is... (don't you have to be a committee, first? I forget.) Anyway, I agree with Mr. Pryor's suggestion that this is a growing field and that there's likely interest amongst ACS membership. This will be really interesting to see if it grows... (if you'll pardon the pun.) 

"Of course I own this facility!"

I've linked the Tremblay article below in the links post for the week, but I cannot resist this quote from the article:
Censere’s Utley, though, is not surprised. In his 25 years as a financial investigator in China, he has come across all sorts of scams. One company that Utley and his team of forensic accountants was hired to investigate had 12 different sets of accounts that management used to show different groups. 
One indication of the large scale of fraud is that an open market exists in China for “fapiao,” which are official sales receipts. Contraband fapiao are easy to acquire and can be used to legitimize all sorts of illegal activities, from padding expense accounts to providing cash to bribe government officials, Utley says. 
Everything can be faked in China, from management’s credentials to actual locations of business, Utley claims. He is even aware of a company that took a foreign visitor on a tour of a facility it didn’t own. “The plant workers were oblivious since foreigners are rarely challenged when touring plant facilities in China, and the foreigner just off the plane, and not speaking Chinese, just assumed they were inspecting a legitimate facility.”
Oh, man, that's too funny. Sure hope the "foreign visitor" was not an auditor. 

When will C&EN go digital-only? I shudder to think

From this week's C&EN, a funny letter: 
Yes, “moving to an exclusively digital format” would preserve natural resources, as Chris Erickson lucidly explained in his letter to the editor (C&EN, July 28, page 4). But I beg ACS to retain the print version of Chemical & Engineering News. It is, frankly, the principal benefit I derive from membership. 
Receiving C&EN in my otherwise crowded-with-catalogs mailbox is a weekly delight. I can read it anywhere. It gives me real-world examples of innovation that I can share with all my students. Moreover, I share issues with my AP chemistry students, who use them to help satisfy curricular requirement 4 from the College Board. 
C&EN helps them connect their knowledge of chemistry and science to major societal or technological components better than any other resource. Thanks to you and the ink and trees that you use in a responsible way to communicate important news to us. 
W. Patrick Cunningham
San Antonio
Perhaps I may offend, I'm pretty sure Mr. Erickson was concern trolling Rudy Baum. But I think Mr. Cunningham is right when he thinks that, for many people, C&EN is one of the major benefits of ACS membership. 

This week's C&EN

Sorry for the delay. Long day yesterday. Good stuff in this week's C&EN:
  • Fascinating story by Britt Erickson on farmers suing Syngenta for getting GMO crop protein in their non-GMO crops. Apparently, China has not approved this particular protein for sale and if your crops are contaminated with it, too bad!
  • Thoroughly enjoyed this story by Jean-Fran├žois Tremblay on short-sellers having a field day in China taking down stocks of companies that are most likely fraudulent. 
  • A profile of "Companies Who Care" by Laura Cassiday. I've never worked at a company that had on-site day care -- bet that's nice. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Parking some links for discussion

From this week, but not been addressed:

Let's talk about the position that really matters: ACS CEO

Incidentally, no one that I am aware of has been talking about how there's an executive search going on for the actual top spot at ACS, i.e. Madeleine Jacobs' current position as executive director and CEO. Who do we think has more emphasis on the Society, the person who runs the ship day-to-day, or the seemingly ceremonial ACS president, who gets elected for a 1 year term?

Here's the ad. I'm amused to learn that you only need a B.S. degree in chemistry/the chemical sciences to be considered.

Below is the "leadership characteristics" section:
Understanding the Business: Knows the business and the mission-critical technical and functional skills needed to do the job; understands various types of business propositions and understands how businesses operate in general; learns new methods and technologies easily. 
Making Complex Decisions: Can solve even the toughest and most complex of problems; great at gleaning meaning from whatever data are available; is a quick study of the new and different; adds personal wisdom and experience to come to the best conclusion and solution, given the situation; uses multiple problem-solving tools and techniques. 
Getting Work Done Through Others: Manages people well; gets the most and best out of the people he/she has; sets and communicates guiding goals; measures accomplishments, holds people accountable, and gives useful feedback; delegates and develops; keeps people informed; provides coaching for today and for the future. 
Dealing with Trouble: Fearlessly takes on all issues, challenges, and people; comfortably confronts and works through conflict; delivers negative feedback and messages without hesitation; deals promptly and fairly with problem performers; lets everyone know where they stand; thrives in crises and is energized by tough challenges; not afraid to make negative decisions and take tough action; challenges the status quo. 
Communicating Effectively: Writes and presents effectively; adjusts to fit the audience and the message; strongly gets a message across. 
Inspiring Others: Is skilled at getting individuals, teams, and an entire organization to perform at a higher level and to embrace change; negotiates skillfully to achieve a fair outcome or promote a common cause; communicates a compelling vision and is committed to what needs to be done; inspires others; builds motivated, high-performing teams; understands what motivates different people. 
Acting with Honor and Character: Is a person of high character; is consistent and acts in line with a clear and visible set of values and beliefs; deals and talks straight; walks his/her talk; is direct and truthful but at the same time can keep confidences.
If I had some say in the next CEO of the American Chemical Society (and I most certainly do not), I would want someone to:
  • Address the obvious imbalance between the Publications and membership portion of the society. 
  • Address the seeming gap between service to the academic side of chemistry (i.e. publications and conferences) and service to the industrial side (???). 
  • Prioritize informal science communication to the public regarding fear of chemicals 
  • Prepare Society rank-and-file membership for the next (?) economic downturn. 
  • Prioritize addressing long-term unemployment amongst Society members. 
  • Supply outlandish funding to the various membership offices so that we can have a broader and more accurate measurement of the health of the chemistry job market. 
But hey, that's just me. Readers, what do you think? 

ACS presidential candidates on #chemjobs issues

The relevant portion of the 3 ACS presidential candidates, presented in order that they were published in the September 8 edition of C&EN. 

Peter K. Dourhout:
...2. I believe that the solution to our economic woes and the employment outlook resides with us as ACS members... 
...Employment Solutions. I believe that the solution to our economic woes and changing the employment outlook resides with us as ACS members. To paraphrase the comic strip character Pogo: “I have seen the solution, and it is us.” Our talented members are agents for change—no need to add new programs to ACS. Let’s rally around the things we do already to promote jobs: local section and division activities, career services, international and entrepreneurship centers, and leadership development, to name a few. I will build on the partnership with Corporation Associates and engage the Committee on Professional Training, the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division, the Graduate Education Advisory Board, the Leadership Institute, and the Committee on Technician Affairs in discourse and action. We can leverage what we have already to make a difference and advocate for an environment that supports jobs in the chemical sciences...
William A. Lester:
...This quickly gets us to the employment sector and current realities. That times are difficult is a statement of the obvious as young people strive for employment in sectors that they have studied to work in. At the same time, we recognize that some people who work in these sectors are confronting issues of continued employment. We must work to assist in identifying optimum ways of assisting these important problem areas that impact our membership and society more broadly....
Donna J. Nelson:
INSPIRING PUBLIC APPRECIATION TO ADVANCE JOBS AND CAREERS 
A difficult time for chemistry. At the Dallas ACS meeting, it was reported that 16% of young chemists remain unemployed six months after graduation. In industry, many chemists have experienced employment problems for years. ACS can’t directly create new jobs to solve these problems, but we ACS members can deduce and address factors that destabilize STEM employment. 
The balance between STEM jobs and job candidates is out of equilibrium for multiple reasons. First, in the Sputnik years of the 1960s, there were too few chemists. We met the challenge but later ignored the fact that mergers and outsourcing decreased jobs. Second, the media influenced public opinion against STEM, causing a decrease in STEM funding and ultimately its available jobs. Third, chemistry is increasingly a global community and enjoys drawing the best and brightest from across the world. The impact of all of these must be addressed now. 
Appreciation produces jobs. Chemists’ creativity gave the world vital benefits and luxuries, and producing future benefits and luxuries is dependent upon our continued creativity. But this is possible only if science is appreciated and funded sufficiently to employ them. Most chemistry jobs are and will continue to be in industry, which needs public appreciation and support to thrive. This support will foster balanced regulations, greater funding for research, and more jobs for chemists. Increasing employment for chemists will enhance education, the work environment, meetings, publications, and research—improving employment in academe, government, and elsewhere. But the general public is not familiar enough with chemistry to appreciate and support chemists as they deserve to be so that chemistry will thrive. I will find opportunities for this to improve.
Readers, if you have questions that you'd like me to ask, I would be willing to contact the candidates like I did last year. 

Congrats to Betzig, Hell and Moerner for the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry!

Honestly, I don't have anything intelligent to add to this conversation. Derek Lowe has a nice post on it. Here's the official C&EN story, with a picture of the instrument in the living room where it was built.

Until next year! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Like the coelacanth

A full-page ad for Gilead chemistry in the 2nd-to-latest C&EN. Looks like lots of positions in both Foster City and Seattle. Haven't been one of those in a long, long, long time. (Maybe 1 in the past year, maybe 3 or 4 in the past 3?)

Also, the fact that Gilead is expanding seems to be good news.

Best wishes to those applying. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More later, but some Wednesday fun



This UC-Irvine parody of the song "Let It Go" (the bane of fathers of children of a certain age, everywhere) is pretty great. I'm fairly resistant to watching funny videos, but I laughed at least twice. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Get rid of the mole?

From this week's C&EN and the Too Logical To Happen file:
Regarding the ACS Comment “Check Your IQ on the SI”: In theory, we can dispense with the mole (C&EN, Aug. 4, page 32). The mole, molarity, and molality were adopted as convenient ways to express relative amounts and concentrations of substances when we didn’t know the actual mass of atoms and molecules—when the very existence of atoms and molecules was in dispute. 
Now we know, which has enabled us to come up with the number 6.022 × 1023, give or take, and requires us to explain to students—who question why anyone would specify such a ridiculous number— that it wasn’t chosen but is experimentally derived. Now that we know the actual mass of atoms, ions, and molecules, we can describe the actual number of entities directly—for example, an acid as 1.5 YH+ per liter (Y = yotta = 1024), which is about 2.5 mol H+/L. We could rid ourselves of an unnecessary and confusing-to-beginners concept, but of course it will never happen. 
Howard J. Wilk
Philadelphia
Look, if we go away from the mole, what happens to all the cute mole stuffed animals and such?  

This week's C&EN

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