Monday, August 19, 2019

Safety alert: AlfaAesar tBuLi septa can be unscrewed easily

PSA: the @AlfaAesar "ChemSeal" bottles do NOT have a traditional sureseal (rubber septum under screw cap). The screw cap IS THE SEPTUM.  
The septum is also covered by a sticker, making it unclear that you SHOULDNT UNSCREW THE CAP 
I opened the bottle. I stared at the tBuLi, it stared back at me. We had a good time 
Alfa, this is unconscionable. The bottle was sealed with just a screw cap. This is not appropriate air free storage for pyrophorics (evidenced by large amounts of LiOH in the bottle)
It's a bit distressing that this particular chemical would suffer a downgrade in safety precautions from a major lab supply house. Stay safe out there, friends.  

Friday, August 16, 2019

Quite the plant

Credit: Ross Mantle for The New York Times
Via the New York Times, quite the picture in this interesting profile of the new Shell cracker being built outside Pittsburgh:
...The plant Ms. Mercer has come here to build is “as big as you get,” she said. When finished, Shell’s cracker plant — named for the chemical reaction of “cracking” gas molecules into the building blocks of plastic — will consume vast quantities of ethane pumped from wells across Pennsylvania into an enormous furnace. The superheated gas is then cooled, forming solid pellets about the size of arborio rice. The process takes about 20 hours....
Never quite thought about polyethylene being like arborio rice, but I suppose that's reasonably accurate (also, I've never held the raw pellets in my hand.) 

Obligatory economic post

Via the New York Times, a slowing economy?:
The global economy is under increasing stress as growth cools and trade tensions take a mounting toll. On Wednesday, the tremors were felt worldwide. 
Shares on Wall Street were off sharply, only a day after they had rallied as President Trump narrowed the scope of his next round of tariffs. The S&P 500 was down 2.9 percent. And bond markets offered an ominous warning on American growth prospects, with yields falling to levels not seen in years. 
The financial jitters, which continued Thursday as markets in Asia were down in early trading, came after new data showed the German economy hurtling toward a recession and factory output in China growing at its slowest pace in 17 years. 
The trouble in two of the world’s manufacturing powerhouses indicated, in part, how hard both have been hit by Mr. Trump’s tariffs. And it increased concern that the United States, too, is headed for an economic reckoning...
Certainly the brief appearance of an inverted yield curve was a potential sign of a recession. From my perspective, I don't think we've seen a slowing economy in either the personal life of my family and friends, or my work life, but it remains to be seen. I think it is possible that we may have a recession in 2020, but I don't think there is sufficient evidence from either the broader economy, or the chemical enterprise - yet. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Daily Pump Trap: 8/15/19 edition

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

Bethesda, MD: NIH's Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry in the NIDDK is looking for tenure-track investigators. Pretty sure a similar position was posted last year.

Oak Ridge, TN: Lots of positions posted: a postdoc in polymer processing, also a R&D research associate position in "characterization of organic, inorganic, and composite materials using solid-state NMR." Also, a physical chemist is being hired "who will focus on developing apparatus, methods and performing accurate and defensible physical / chemical measurements for a variety of gas phase molecules including newly synthesized, novel molecules."

Los Alamos, NM: LANL looking for a synthetic explosives chemist for a postdoc.

West Lafayette, IN: AMRI searching for a Ph.D. NMR spectroscopist.

Diamond Bar, CA:  South Coast Air Quality Management District looking for B.S./M.S./Ph.D. chemists to become air quality chemists.

11 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, there are 11 new positions for August 10.

Job posting: LC/MS Analytical Chemist. Highgrade Labs, Oklahoma City, OK

From the inbox:
LC/MS Analytical Chemist with Highgrade Labs 
Highgrade Labs, an Oklahoma City-based laboratory, is seeking a full-time Analytical Chemist to perform analysis on cannabis products. This position will assist in writing SOPs to uphold our quality and control. The primary responsibilities of this position are cannabinoid, Terpenoid, pesticide, and residual solvent analysis. 
  • Adhere to TNI, NELAC, and OMMA requirements
  • Perform qualitative and quantitative analyses using analytical instrumentation such as HPLC and GC
  • Capable of method development and validation of new chemical analysis by HPLC, GC, LC Triple Quad, and ICP-MS
  • Accurately record and keep QCs and sample information
  • Prepare SOPs, protocols, scientific reports and technical documents
  • Perform preventative maintenance and in-house repairs on laboratory equipment
  • Work independently while retaining self-motivation & function as an influential team player
Minimum Qualifications
  • 2-4 years of commercial analytical laboratory experience
  • Bachelor of Science in a natural or physical science (Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology, Microbiology, etc.)...
  • Salary for this position will start at $18-$22 per hour depending on experience, with potential for advancement based on performance
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

The Analytical Chemistry Jobs List: 26 positions

The Analytical Chemistry Jobs List has 26 positions; this is curated by the ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry. Want to help out? Fill out this form. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Atlanta teen suffers third degree burns from ethanol fire in classroom

...Malachi McFadden was severely burned Tuesday during a fire in his chemistry class at Redan High School in Stone Mountain, previously reported. 
"He’s still in intensive care," attorney Chris Stewart told Channel 2 Action News. “It’s a really bad situation.” McFadden’s family hired Stewart to represent them after they could not get information about the incident from the school, the news station reported.  
The fire happened on the second day of classes in DeKalb County. The teen’s teacher reportedly conducted an experiment by lighting a dollar bill on fire. "The fire went out of control as expected because there was ethanol in the bowl," Stewart told Channel 2. "And instead of putting water on it to put it out, allegedly the teacher grabbed a jar of ethanol and threw it into the bowl." 
It is unclear how long the teacher has worked at the school. 
Looks like it's third degree burns. Yet another case of:
  • fire
  • alcohol being added to the flames
  • from a bulk alcohol container with
  • students being too close 
I guess we've learned that 1) news of the Yanes settlement hasn't traveled fast enough, and 2) the $59 million verdict still isn't enough to get school districts, principals and teachers to consider chemical safety in their day-to-day activities...

Interesting letter on mental health and academia

Also in this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News, this letter about a recent Jen Heemstra piece: 
Thank you for 63 years of C&EN and for the column Office Hours in the July 8 issue by Jen Heemstra (page 23). 
As I read her article, I reflected on my own experiences and concluded that she is absolutely correct with respect to the importance of creating a mental health environment in graduate schools. In my 5 years of graduate school I was three doors from a student and four doors away from a graduate professor who struggled with problems and committed suicide while I was in my lab. The competitive nature of the atmosphere of that department was not conducive to good mental health. I saw the same problem in several chemistry departments. 
I am grateful to C&EN for including her columns, as the problem of mental health is much greater than in graduate schools. Here in Alaska we have some of the highest rates of mental health problems, as evidenced by our high rates of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse, etc. 
In my 10 years as a science teacher in Kenai and Soldotna High Schools, I witnessed mental health problems with students that I was totally unprepared to handle. All I could do was observe and suffer with the students. Jen has answers to those questions, and I encourage C&EN to promote her work. America and the world need more activists like her. 
Hugh R. Hays
Soldotna, Alaska
 "Observe and suffer" is a sadly appropriate phrase. 

This week's C&EN

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The 2020 Faculty Jobs List: 126 research/teaching positions, 1 teaching faculty

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 126 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching assistant professor position.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions. In 2019-2020, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor."

On August 14, 2018, the 2018 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 100 positions.

Here's the link to the latest open thread.

Postdoctoral position: computational materials science, PNNL, Richland, WA

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is a world-class research institution powered by a highly educated, diverse workforce committed to collaboration and work–life balance. Every year, scores of dynamic, driven postdocs come to PNNL to work with renowned researchers on meaningful science, innovations and outcomes for the U.S. Department of Energy and other sponsors; here is your chance to be one of them! 
Contribute to PNNL’s goals in computational biomolecular materials science as part of the Lab’s Physical Sciences Division. As a postdoctoral researcher, you will join a talented, multi-investigator team to explore the development of synthetic self-assembling systems that mimic the hierarchical nature of biological membranes and carry out high-level functions based on a predictive understanding of both assembly and function. In particular, we seek to create fully synthetic self-assembling biomimetic structures that mimic the environment, versatility, and functionality of cell membranes based on a predictive understanding of: (a) the link between macromolecular sequence and organization, (b) controls on assembly and ordering, (c) incorporation of functional units with a focus on artificial carbon nanotube porins (CNTPs), and (d) mechanisms of fast and selective transport through these materials. You will be mentored hands on by senior researchers and work in close collaboration with the experimental efforts to be central part of the theory and modelling effort.
Full listing here. Best wishes to those interested.  

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 9 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 9 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson). 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 31 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 31 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Russian radiation incident on Saturday

MOSCOW — A mystery explosion at a Russian weapons testing range involved radioactive materials, the authorities admitted on Saturday, as the blast’s admitted death toll rose and signs of a creeping radiation emergency, or at the least fear of one, grew harder to mask. 
In a statement released at 1 a.m. Saturday, Russia’s nuclear energy company, Rosatom, said five employees had died, in addition to the two military personnel previously confirmed dead, as a result of a test on Thursday morning involving “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.” 
“A bright memory of our comrades will forever live in our hearts,” the statement said.
The statement, though, shed little light on exactly what detonated on Thursday at the White Sea testing range. No use for the propulsion unit was mentioned, although President Vladimir V. Putin previously boasted that Russia has developed a nuclear engine for long-range missiles. And there was no explanation why the authorities in a nearby city had reported rising radiation levels for a brief period several hours later.
While the government has provided no full explanation of what happened, Rosatom’s statement suggested a mishap during a test of a new class of nuclear-engined weapons that Mr. Putin first spoke publicly about last year.... 
...One new weapon Mr. Putin had discussed was a globe-spanning cruise missile called Burevestnik or the Petrel, named for the far-flying seabird. It would have an unlimited range thanks to a nuclear propulsion unit, he said. Mr. Putin said the device had already been tested. 
“Russia’s advanced arms are based on the cutting-edge, unique achievements of our scientists, designers and engineers,” Mr. Putin said in the 2018 speech. “One of them is a small-scale heavy-duty nuclear energy unit that can be installed in a missile.”
I guess I don't really understand what this unit is, i.e. a missile powered with a nuclear reactor? What is the propellant?

[A brief Wikipedia search indicates that it may be a ramjet design:

The principle behind the nuclear ramjet was relatively simple: motion of the vehicle pushed air in through the front of the vehicle (ram effect), a nuclear reactor heated the air, and then the hot air expanded at high speed out through a nozzle at the back, providing thrust.]

I can't imagine the potential risk behind testing a missile with a nuclear reactor in it - and I thought running 1000 or 2000 gallon reactions had a lot of potential hazards! 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Friday thoughts from Professor Heemstra

...Every situation is unique, and earning (or not earning) a degree is a career-changing decision that should not be made lightly. Before we dive into how to approach this decision for yourself, I want to tackle the idea that earning a master’s degree is a “downgrade” from a PhD, or merely a consolation prize. There are many reasons you might want to earn a specific degree, and a primary one should be that it will allow you to pursue your desired career path. Thus, no degree is inherently superior to any other—there is only what is best for you and will most effectively help you achieve your goals. So this brings us to the real questions: Where do you aspire to go in your career, and what degree do you need to get there? 
Of course, these are not easy questions to answer. But they are extremely important to consider on a regular basis. This is in fact why I sometimes recommend working in a full-time job for a few years before deciding to pursue an advanced degree. Spending time in the “real world” can be extremely clarifying when it comes to career goals....
I agree with 99% of this. As someone who worked for a single year in industry, I wonder if the perfect time between a B.S. degree and graduate school is two years. The nature of application deadlines is that, if you are hired during the summer after you graduate, you will need to apply by November or December, and so you're not really spending very much time thinking "maybe I should stick around here?" If you have two years in between your undergraduate degree and your start of graduate school, there's almost a full year for you to ponder life. More than that, and I feel like you're risking more of your thirties than you might want to.

Readers, tell me where I'm wrong. (Oh, and have a great weekend.)

CANN Membership Drive

From the inbox:
The Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision (CANN) of the American Chemical Society is pleased to offer free membership for a limited time only.  A generous donation by Heidolph North America will make this free membership possible for two weeks in the month of August, coinciding with the ACS Fall National Meeting.  Those interested in obtaining free membership can do so by joining at the ACS National Meeting Membership Counter in the lobby of the convention center and asking for the “CANN Membership Discount”.  Additionally, anyone joining remotely can contact ACS Member Services directly by emailing or calling 1-800-333-9511 (Toll Free in the US) or 614-447-3776 (Outside of the US)  between the dates of 8/19 and 8/30.