Monday, February 14, 2011

Want to work in China?

As Anon021420110159a notes, today's issue of Chemical and Engineering News has an interesting article by Jean-Francois Tremblay on the potential of US pharma chemists working in China. A few things from the article I didn't know:

They'll help you out: "Wang notes that ChemPartner provides any recruits who don’t speak Chinese with the support of an administrative assistant who can take care of odds and ends such as opening a bank account, house hunting, and so on. The company also arranges lessons for new hires who want to learn Chinese." Now there's a service that I wouldn't immediately expect (re: the administrative assistant), but I suppose that it makes sense. Wonder if it's true?

Oh, dear: This comments about Chinese Ph.D. students is interesting and more than a little frightening:
“We are also interested in fresh Ph.D.s from the U.S. because they tend to be more productive and better at solving problems than Chinese ones,” says Peng Cho Tang, HEC’s chief scientific officer. Tang spent most of his career in companies performing innovative drug research in the U.S. but has managed research labs in China for the past six years. He has observed that most Chinese doctoral students in China spend most of their time in the lab not conducting research, but instead producing start-up materials not easily procured in China.
I'm going to guess that this problem with precursor synthesis isn't widespread. If so, the Chinese graduate education system is going to have some real issues -- gee, isn't that what summer students are for? (Kidding, kidding!)

Oh, no, that's not how you do things: "BrightGene’s core business is the manufacture of difficult-to-synthesize generic active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), and it uses the cash generated by this business to run several research programs for innovative pharmaceuticals." No, that's not right. The modern way is that the profits generated by your manufacturing business should be used for executive perks and bonuses -- that's more like it.

Do US chemists want to work in China? The article summarizes some of the positives and negatives of working there (relatively easy employment, low pay, new language and culture). I can't say I have not contemplated it, but (as every PRC national in the US knows) it's no fun leaving home and (extended?) family to go try to make a buck and gain some experience. For those thinking about it, this article is worth reading.


  1. Well, one of the upcoming ACS webinars is about (un)employment in the chemical/pharma industries. What do you suppose the odds are that they'll talk about this as a viable option?

  2. I have fond memories of Cho Tang from the time he was a chemistry boss at SUGEN and I am delighted that his company is doing so well. He was a generous guy.

  3. My Dad was in accounting/management at a chemical company, and in the 1970's his company opened a plant in Greece. (The 1970's equivalent of China or India - outsourcing was happening even 30+ years ago.) We lived there for 4 years when I was in elementary school. The benefits were pretty generous back then - someone from the company handled all the arrangements, and we got everything from trips back to the U.S. to English language schools to language lessons. (Even shipments of American foods twice a year!) But it didn't last - after a few years, my Dad's job was taken over by someone local (who was probably paid a lot less). Happily his job was waiting for him back in the U.S., which probably wouldn't be the case today. Living overseas was a fun experience for our family, but I wouldn't expect those jobs to last indefinitely.

  4. Yeah, it's not like people (especially folks from Texas) haven't heard about their friends in the oil business who spent time in Venezuela or Saudi. But most folks haven't really considered going overseas for pharma-related jobs; I think that will have to change, unfortunately.

  5. @CJ: Reading Tremblay's article and your commentaries brings to mind a recent episode of "House Hunters: International" that I just saw. In order to avoid biweekly 17-hour flights, a Chicago-based architect uprooted his family ("just" a wife and daughter) from their Rockwellian suburb to Dubai. Globalization has fostered the growth of thriving expatriate communities in all but the most inhospitable of locations. If given the opportunity, I believe that many American chemists (more likely those just starting their post-academic careers rather than established managers/senior scientists) would be willing to work in China...for the right price. Disclaimer: The architect dude had a housing stipend of $4,000/month. In an earlier episode, a Canadian elementary school teacher also recruited to Dubai was receiving a $6,000/month housing stipend. there a shortage of organic chemists in the Persian Gulf Region?

  6. I guess we might as well start getting used to this idea, since now apparently the ACS is giving pointers to the immigrants who want to stay here and work in the chemical industry.

    Note: this is in no way meant to promote xenophobia. Just interesting that on the one hand the ACS is telling Americans to go find opportunities somewhere else because the job market sucks, then on the other hand they help people from somewhere else find jobs in the same sucky job market. But according to their survey, I'm in the minority of people who are dissatisfied with what they're doing.

  7. I am Edmund Chua de leon wantyed to avail any job that fits my qualification

  8. cj blog gonna be soon outsourced to china