In a talk describing improvements in the industrial-scale route to the diabetes medication Januvia, Joseph D. Armstrong III, senior director for RNAi and discovery process chemistry at Merck Research Laboratories, echoed the call for more work in catalysis because of the accompanying potential for waste reduction. "The footprint of pharma is shrinking, but there will be opportunities in green chemistry and green technology," he said. [snip]
However, some chemists at the meeting wanted to go beyond abstract research opportunities and discuss the concrete reality of the economy. After [Pfizer worldwide head of medicinal chemistry Tony] Wood's talk, University of Delaware adjunct professor Albert S. Matlack stood to say that "many of us are disappointed" with downsizing in the industry, prompting applause from attendees.
"There's one thing on the minds of the 16,000 chemists in the Organic Chemistry Division—where are the jobs going to be in a few years?" said University of Pennsylvania professor Marisa C. Kozlowski during her introduction of materials-focused chemists Coates and Colin Nuckolls of Columbia University.
"Jobs are what everyone is talking about. If you listen at poster sessions, there's a lot of discussion about what folks' plans are," Kozlowski, a member of ORGN's executive committee, told C&EN. "There is so much angst among so much talent."
Because of layoffs in the pharmaceutical industry "the landscape of employment in organic chemistry in this country has changed, and it's not clear whether that's permanent or not," Kozlowski said. The speakers at NOS can't change the economy single-handedly, but the inclusion of talks focused on materials and green chemistry makes it clear that organic chemistry is useful outside the traditional employment channels, Kozlowski said.I could be wrong, but I don't think that there are enough jobs in green and materials chemistry to sop up all the unemployed chemists, but pushing people out of the traditional pharma pipeline (and away from total-synthesis-oriented organic chemistry and towards methodology) may be a good thing. We shall see.
Best wishes to all of us.
P.S. This article brings us the 2nd organic professor in the past 2 years to directly confront #chemjobs issues on the record: Michael Doyle at Maryland and Marisa Kozlowski at Penn. Will more professors stand up with them?