Thursday, June 30, 2011

AP: Rhode Island company claims they can't find analytical chemists

Looks like you have plenty of room for colleagues...
Photo credit: Stephan Savoia, AP
From an astute reader comes a claim that's just a little hard to take from a company owner / manager of chemists:
John Russo's chemical lab in North Kingstown has been growing in recent years, even despite a deflated economy, and he expects to add another 15 to 20 positions to his 49 employees over the next year. But the president of Ultra Scientific Analytical Solutions has found himself in a vexing spot, struggling to fill openings that require specialized training in a state where the jobless rate is close to 11 percent, the third-highest in the nation. 
"It's very difficult to find the right person, and there's all walks of life trying to find jobs. I honestly think there's a large swath of unemployable," said Russo, whose firm manufactures and supplies analytical standards. "They don't have any skills at all." 
[snip] It took Ultra Scientific's Russo more than half a year to fill one of those jobs. Until recently, he couldn't find anyone to operate a specialized piece of equipment that performs high-pressure liquid chromatography, a technique that separates compounds in a solution. But his firm's gain represents an economic loss to the state: The Ph.D. Russo is hiring is coming from Thermo Fisher Scientific, which is shuttering its manufacturing facility in east Providence.
I am quite sympathetic to people who get quoted by reporters -- it's terribly difficult to communicate well, and it's even more difficult to communicate to non-chemists. That being said...

Mr./Dr. Russo,

You. Must. Be. Joking. I know that it must be difficult to attract people to North Kingstown, RI (arguably the Providence metropolitan area), but I am pretty sure there is no shortage of skilled analytical chemists and/or lab technicians in your state (home to a variety of fine universities) or region (say, have you heard of this company called Pfizer that's laying off people in Groton, CT in droves?)

This comment about how it took six months to find someone that could work an HPLC is ridiculous -- I assume that it was a misquote, and you're looking for a skilled, experienced HPLC expert (which is why you'd hire an experienced Ph.D. chemist.)

I trust that you are concerned that you can't find the right people at the right wage for you. I promise you, these days, you can get experienced people for a relative song.

Surely, Mr. Russo, there must be some mistake here. If not, I suggest that you run an ad in ACS Careers (probably $600 or so) or try the Providence Craigslist Science/Biotech section. 

Best wishes, CJ

(And please, don't provide quotes like this anymore.)

When is it okay to look for another job?

I can't figure out if these things are brilliant or silly
Photo credit: mytorontomovingandstorage
Consider the following scenario:
  • A chemist is hired for a position at a company in a city that is of moderate desirability. The company offers a relocation package; the candidate takes the package. 
  • Soon after their arrival and start date, they see a better position in a far more desirable city (closer to family, etc.). 
What is the appropriate thing to do? Is it okay to look? Is it okay to apply? You're probably going to have to pay all or most of your relocation package (is it me, or do these things have a 2 year repayment period these days?) 

I think that it's much more about 'hard feelings' than anything else; if a company picks you and you reject them (after they've invested a fair bit in you), you're probably burning your bridges. That being said, if it's your dream job and a dream city, etc., it may be worth it. 

Readers, what say you? What's the shortest amount of time that you have to stay at a chemistry position before it's terribly gauche to move on?*

*There's a "When Harry Met Sally" joke in here somewhere. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/30/11 edition

Good morning! Between June 28 and June 29, there were 18 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 3 (17%) were academically connected.

Suits wanted: BASF is hiring for a project coordinator in Iselin, NJ; a B.S. in chemistry and 3+ years experience desired. An MBA would be considered a plus.

Zeroes!: Intrexon would like to hire a Ph.D. mass spectrometrist; 0-5 years of post-graduate experience desired. Experience with MS of biomolecules a plus.

Kingsport, TN: Eastman Chemical is looking to hire a Ph.D. physical chemist with experience in optical and AFM microscopy. You should be motivated to develop into a company expert on microscopy applications; I like it when companies say that.

Little Lost Lamb, Dutch edition: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons desires a head of its health and safety branch; an advanced degree in medicine (an MD?) with 15+ years of clincal experience and experience interacting with military personnel desired. What are you doing advertising with the American Chemical Society?

Tri-Cities, WA?: The Pacific Northwest National Laboratories have posted 4 postdoc positions; it's lovely out there in the high desert. What's that nuclear reservation over there? Oh, never mind about that.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) 297, 624, 3,617 and 100 positions for the search term "chemist." 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Irreproducible chemistry results and unknowable secrets

The secret ingredient is: I DON'T KNOW!
Photo credit:
A few years ago, US nuclear weapons scientists experienced significant delays in reproducing a previously US-manufactured material codenamed FOGBANK for use in nuclear warheads. The material is believed to be an aerogel that participates in the second stage of a thermonuclear reaction. While the exact nature of FOGBANK has not been disclosed, the story was interesting enough to attract some attention from national media. LANL's own internal newsletter (page 20) talks about the difficulties of reproducing the material.* It will sound familiar to most chemists:
...When investigating historical records with respect to impurity levels during the Fogbank purification process, personnel discovered that in some cases the current impurity levels were much lower than historical values. Typically, lower impurity levels lead to better product quality. For Fogbank, however, the presence of a specific impurity is essential. 
Laboratory data show that the presence of one particular impurity in the Fogbank purification process plays an important role in the quality of the final material. The impurity’s presence in sufficient quantity results in a different morphology (form and structure) of the material. Although the change in morphology is relatively small, it appears to play an important role in the downstream processes. A review of the development records for the original production process revealed that downstream processes had been implicitly based on that morphology. 
[snip] Historically, it was this chemical that reacted during purification of the feed material to produce the impurity necessary for proper morphology. The historical Fogbank production process was unknowingly based on this essential chemical being present in the feed material. As a result, only a maximum concentration was established for the chemical and the resulting impurity. Now the chemical is added separately, and the impurity concentration and Fogbank morphology are managed.
I think that most chemists will agree that most chemistry is a reproducible science. X grams of starting material A, Y grams of reagent B, stir for 30 minutes at 50°C in Z mls of solvent C and voila -- product!

But I think that reactions and processes that are more complex and less understood have little details that are important; these details may be known to a few (or none.) It is sometimes extraordinarily difficult to know what is key (and what is not key) until you run into a failure like the FOGBANK scientists ran into. (Cynically, sometimes scientists will withhold these details to increase their status and preserve job security. Sometimes, I can't blame them.)

While reports and long conversations with the personnel involved are central to the deep understanding of a reaction or a process, often even they may not be aware of the "unknown unknown" that is at the heart of reproducing the desired material. Then, the paranoia really sets in.

*In other sources, it's mentioned that acetonitrile may be part of the manufacturing process. I'm amused to note how many folks consider the stuff dangerously flammable and toxic; that being said, one comment in that post has them taking the stuff supercritical. That's a little different than a bottle sitting atop an HPLC. 

Process Wednesday: details, details of outsourcing

Th'Gaussling talks about the difficulties of outsourcing a process and finding a good partner:
The trouble with outsourcing a raw material is that the supplier’s price is your cost which must be passed along to your customer. You may or may not have the margin to play with to do much outsourcing.  If you suddenly need to outsource a raw material, you will have to find a shop that will make the stuff.  Preliminaries include doing a secrecy agreement, a disclosure of the desired material, and possibly disclosing a technology package.  After the disclosures it might transpire that the vendor isn’t interested, they can’t do the job in the desired time frame, or they want too high of a price. Lots of things can go wrong.  Meanwhile, you’re relentlessly screaming down the timeline towards you’re own delivery date. You should be planning your outsourcing 6 to 12 months in advance. Or even 18 months.  Outsourcing always involves the discovery of new failure modes. 
Let’s say that they agree to work up a quote. There is the matter of specifications. They’ll need to know some specifications even before they quote a price.  What kind of purity are you needing? Be reasonable now. There is what you want and what you can get by with. OK, you can live with “97 % purity”. What does that mean? Does it include solvent residuals? What about color and haze or mesh size and appearance? If it comes in at 96.8 %, are you sure you want to reject it?  If it can be easily reworked, and you have the time to spare, rejecting the material might be the best choice. But if they are late and you are late, you may have to take the material on waiver. [snip] 
Asking a company to develop a new product for you requires good communication, person to person relationships, and lots of patience.  Your custom vendor may be smaller than you are and may have considerable resources tied up in your order. They’re taking some risks as well. Shoot for win-win.
I think it's interesting how many little details are required in the process of outsourcing. It's easy to explain to folks that you meet that "We're a custom chemical manufacturing firm. They tell us what they want, how much and when, and we tell them how much it will cost." While that's true, it elides many of the details that a business relationship can get hung up upon.

Part of the good communication that th'Gaussling is referring to is the laying out of those little details in an organized fashion. Pitfalls, detailed purity specifications and no-don't-you-dare-go-there chemistry tidbits are all terribly important for both sides in a business relationship to be aware of. Do it well, and both sides walk away happy. The opposite situation is just too ugly to think about.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Will Compute For Cash

From an astute reader, an interesting offer on the Boston Craigslist:
We are seeking a Computational Biologist For Part-time Work and/or Tutoring in PERL/R. 
The right individual should have some interest in Genome-Wide analysis of nascent transcription via GRO-seq methodology to help analyze data, and will be comfortable providing tutoring to a student who is writing PERL/R Code. 
Hours are flexible, and the approximate time commitment would be July 5 - August 15, 8-10hrs per week. 
Compensation will be $25 to $30/hour (cash) (emphasis CJ's), plus authorship on manuscript. 
Please call or send an e-mail if you would like more information or are interested in the position. 
Thank you!
So, I brought my driver's license and my Social Security card. What? You don't want it? Sigh. What about my future Social Security earnings? Don't you want to run for Congress someday? 

R&D productivity on the decline?

Source: Matthew Herper 

If this graph is accurate, this is bad news for pharma scientists scientific labor in the US.

I invite readers to speculate as to why the relevant unit (NMEs per billion spent (inflation adjusted)) may be troublesome. Otherwise, you'll find me in the corner hyperventilating, just a little. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/28/11 edition

Good morning! Between June 23 and June 27, there were 30 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 7 (23%) were academically connected.

Billerica, MA: Bruker is looking for a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. spectroscopist to perform method development for NMR; 3 years experience required.

¡Hola! : Dr. Reddy's Laboratory is looking for an experienced Ph.D. organic chemist to be a R&D manager in Mexico. Where in Mexico, you might ask? No se.

Irvine, CA: Allergan is looking for a B.S. chemist to perform analytical method development. 

Pleasanton, CA: Clorox desires a Ph.D. chemist to be a researcher into oxidation chemistry. Colloid and interfacial science experience preferred.

Oh, it's you again: Millenium is (once again) posting a "multiple positions open" ad on ACS Careers. Hmmm.

Interesting?: The American Cleaning Institute (formerly the Soaps and Detergents Association) wishes to hire a B.S. chemist for an administrative coordinator position in Washington, D.C. Huh.

That's one way to spend your postdoc: NYU-Abu Dhabi has posted an open position for a postdoc in synthetic organic / polymer chemistry. Huh.

SSSSSSSS: Alberta Sulphur Research Ltd. wishes to hire a B.S. analytical chemist to help with projects towards the removal of sulfur compounds from petroleum crude. Sounds interesting.

Oh, good luck there: ChemHost is hiring a M.S. chemist to be a quality assurance project manager; looks like you'll be spending a good amount of time looking over Chinese chemical manufacturing plants. Hmmmm. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Itinerant chemists and chemistry's soft power

From this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News, a letter that strikes a bit of jealousy in a young chemist's heart:
...When I graduated in 1948, chemist supply balanced demand, so I had constant employment with one company at one site for 60 years, which gave me a stable life. After 56 years, I still live in the same house; have experienced financial stability; learned an enormous amount about my company's widespread technology, allowing me to contribute to many areas; and enjoyed some successes during my career. 
This would be a rare expectation for today's graduates who, in their career, may be constantly moving from job to job and have no substantial roots. This situation will hasten the sinking esteem of chemistry in general because a chemist with only temporary roots in many communities will not be permitted to make significant contributions to local problems. [snip]
One influential politician with a chemistry background can have more influence than all the promotional programs ACS can produce. He or she can preach chemistry and protect us from the outrageous antichemistry statements circulating today in the media. Such local involvement is impossible for chemists whose roots are no deeper than those of itinerant farmworkers. Even those with permanent employment are so heavily loaded with work today that an exceedingly small number enter politics—it takes courage to request the necessary time off from work to enter politics at the risk of facing unemployment.
The American Chemical Society should be commended for its programs to help students, but the society should revisit the programs. Is it right to encourage the young to expend years devoted to the study of chemistry, plus the personal sacrifice, only to end up selling tools or appliances at Sears? Is it right for ACS to request financial support for these programs from chemists who are searching for employment? Is it possible that ACS might put the program on hold until equilibrium between supply and demand is reestablished?
In summary, we need to encourage chemists to enter the political arena to protect our reputation, and it cannot happen in today's environment where only ephemeral employment exists.
Edward G. Howard 
Hockessin, Del. 
I confess to being a little jealous of people like Mr./Dr. Howard. I certainly long for the ability to put down roots in a community and have time to love my neighbor (to borrow a phrase.) Maybe that time will come, but in our post-modern economy, staying in one place seems to be the greatest of luxuries.

While it's certainly tempting to focus on the nostalgia in Mr./Dr. Howard's letter, there is a real truth in his statements. Near-permanent employment in one place allows chemists to join a community and be influential for chemistry. Itinerancy, while good for some corporations and lots of moving companies, does little to grow chemistry's "soft power".

Friday, June 24, 2011


Josh Bloom, a former Wyeth chemist, gets his say in the New York Post editorial section on #chemjobs and whether we need more scientists, and boy, does he bring the heat:
To trim expenses, companies began to outsource research to India and China. It started as a trickle, but soon became a tsunami, leaving many thousands of highly intelligent and well-trained professionals with nothing to do -- a shameful waste of talent.
My colleagues and I at Wyeth watched helplessly as one company after another shed employees in huge numbers -- 300,000 since 2000. When Pfizer -- facing the looming expiration of its Lipitor patent and a poor research pipeline -- bought Wyeth for its portfolio of products in 2009, it cut about 25,000 jobs, with more to come. Most of the combined company's research sites have either closed or are in the process of doing so. Before long, the world's largest pharmaceutical company will be conducting very little research in the US.
So, what do thousands of unemployed chemists do? Good question. The employment section of the latest (June 13) issue of our trade magazine, Chemical and Engineering News, is hardly promising. It lists a total of one industrial position and two college tenure-track faculty openings in the US. (Of course, there are online sites with more jobs, but the situation there is still bleak).
And good luck finding a high-school teaching job. Last year, one of my old colleagues decided he wanted to teach science in New Jersey -- but found out that not a single position was available in the entire state. Previous industry casualties had probably filled the few openings.
It wasn't always this way. The mid-1990s saw a shortage of chemists, with drug companies hiring like crazy. Bristol-Meyers Squibb, for one, offered cars as signing bonuses. But the company has fired over 10,000 employees since 2000; one wonders if any of them are now living in those cars.
I think I could argue with the tone* and quibble with the facts. That being said, I think it's a bleak but fair picture of what we're facing (and I gotta love the CJ-esque look at C&EN.) It's too bad that it's come to this.

Best wishes to all of us.

*The bit about working at the Gap (earlier in the article) is a little much. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Goodbye, Org Prep Daily.

Milkshake is hanging up the blogging hat, looks like. I'll miss it. There's a wealth of chemistry to be learned from just the comments, much less the beautifully annotated preps.

Best of luck, Milkshake. It was a great 5 years. Sigh. 

Chart of the week: manufacturing is lagging

To make a long story short, BLS' Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey suggests that manufacturing is the  sector that is moving the least (next to government, that is, which is shrinking these days.) Oh, dear. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/23/11 edition

Good morning! Between June 21 and 22, there were 7 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 2 (29%) were academically connected.

More analyst positions: DuPont is looking for a couple more analytical chemists: a M.S./Ph.D. position in Mobile, AL performing analytical method development and plant support and a M.S./Ph.D. position in Midland, MI being a GC/LC subject matter expert and a GLP study director.

Bartlesville, OK: Chevron is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to perform research into polymerization. Previous experience with polyolefin polymerization or Ziegler-Natta chemistry desired. Looks to be a entry-level position.

And a pony would be nice: A group at Harvard Medical School would like to hire a postdoc: "Projects focused on the design of molecularly defined living and inert surfaces that limit inflammation and thrombosis. Experience in bio-orthogonal chemistry, thin films, genetic engineering, and drug delivery is desirable." I'm going to guess that it's just one of those four fields. Otherwise, are you frickin' kidding me? This is like science fiction, where a character can have a Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics and be a combat pilot, all before the age of 30 or so.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show 297, 632, 3550 and 95 positions respectively. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Process Wednesday: Handling hydrazoic acid safely

A recent paper in Organic Process Research and Development* has a nice section on hydrazoic acid issues concerning the use of sodium azide to displace an aromatic nitro group; the aromatic azide would then participate in a cyclization to an indazole:
Initial hazard testing focused on the evaluation of hydrazoic acid levels in the head space of the reaction or workup mixtures, as this compound is both highly toxic and can form explosive gas mixtures with oxygen or nitrogen above concentrations of 8-12%. Some variation in the lower decomposition level of hydrazoic acid has been reported; however, a recent study appeared to confirm that detonation below 10 vol% should not be possible.  
Maintaining a basic pH during the reaction mixture should ensure that any hydrazoic aid remained ionized and would thus limit levels in the head space and as such was considered desirable. After some screening it was found that addition of 1 equiv of 2,6-lutidine to the reaction mixture served to maintain a basic pH and has no detrimental effect on the reaction profile or rate. Hence, this base was added prior to heating any reactions. Headspace monitoring using FT-IR indicated undetectable levels of hydrazoic acid in the headspace throughout the course of the reaction using a nitrogen sweep of 16 mL/min.  
On the basis of comparison with CO2 in the headspace and the detection limit of the instrument, this data implied a worse-case hydrazoic acid level in the headspace of 60 ppm with this nitrogen sweep, and it was clear that only a very modest nitrogen sweep (about 0.02 mL/min) would be required to keep concentration of hydrazoic acid below 5 vol% which compares favorale with the lower decomposition limit of 10 vol%. As such there was no significant risk with this aspect of the reaction. 
I think this section is a nice example of a good way to approach potentially hazardous reagent issues. Finding out the minimum limits of toxicity/danger, using monitoring equipment and then keeping levels well-below the minimums seems to be a good strategy to me. A good thought process for all of us.

*Wallace et al, Org. Process Res. Dev. ASAP.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daily Pump Trap, 6/21/11 edition

Good morning! Between June 16 and June 20, there have been 111 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 7 (6%) are academically connected and 1 (1%) is from Kelly Scientific.

Freeport, TX: BASF is looking for a B.S./M.S. chemist with 6+ years experience in plant support to be a QC/QA specialist. You'll be in the acrylic monomers business unit.

Sunnyvale, CA: Serious Materials, Inc. is a startup working on liquid crystals and other polymeric materials. They're looking for a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. chemist or materials scientist.

Experience matters: Genentech is looking for a senior Ph.D. analytical chemist to run their analytical support group within Discovery Chemistry. 10+ years experience in drug discovery desired.

Also, Genentech is looking for a Ph.D. organic chemist for its process chemistry group. 1-5 years of experience desired, although the following is a little confusing:

Candidates with over nine years of experience and significant industry accomplishments in terms of marketed products/industrial innovation will be considered for the Senior Scientist role.

Look, if you got a Ph.D. with over nine years experience and all of these industry accomplishments, shouldn't you be offering a fairly senior title? "Associate Principal Scientist" would seem to be appropriate.

Over there: Shanghai Syncores Technologies ("a wholly owned subsidiary of  Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals")  is looking for group leaders, from bench-level to senior VP. 5+ years experience in the pharmaceutical industry desired.

MERRRRRRRRRCK!: Are you a chemist? Do you like chemistry? Merck wants to know if you want to be a senior tax analyst in New Jersey or a customer category manager in Bentonville, Arkansas (working with WalMart, no doubt.) Look, folks, are you freakin' kidding me? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

A shift away from pharma/biotech to chemical companies?

This week's Chemical and Engineering News has an interesting set of contrasting articles. Lisa Jarvis has a cover story on the challenges that biotechs are facing as their pharma partners are (in some cases) breaking off collaborations on clinical candidates. Jarvis' article starts with the story of Michael Morrissey, CEO of Exelexis (a Evans group alum, it appears) and the story of the company's broken-off collaboration with BMS. According to another article in this week's issue, the biotech sector as a whole was steadily profitable in 2010 for the second year in a row. However, R&D funding is said to be under pressure (unsurprising, really.) 

In the same issue, there's coverage of the American Chemistry Council and the relatively flush times they're experiencing. It's an unusually happy story for these days: chemical companies use natural gas as a feedstock and a source of energy. With the advent of cheap natural gas (thanks to hydraulic fracturing, I suspect) and growing overseas demand for their products, US chemical companies' profit margins are going up. 

Not many bright spots for chemistry employment in the US for this week, it seems. It will be interesting to see if chemistry R&D positions will begin to come from chemical companies, as opposed to pharma/biotech. One can only hope. 

Good luck to all of us. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

3 ml syringes

A list of small, useful things (links):
Am I missing something? Put it in the comments! 

Have a good weekend! 

Rays of sunshine

There are clouds there, too.
Photo credit: Flickr user **Mary**
I've been getting just a couple of notes from folks who are managing to find positions. While it's not exactly the Season of Recovery, it's good news. (Glen Ernst over at JAEP just posted that he was able to find a job at an academic institution, for example.)

Uh, if there's other good news to be had, let's have it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Request thread

Sorry for the posting schedule being a little weird here, but it's a little tough to find that quiet morning hour to post these days.

A question: what would you like to see me cover? What would you like to see me cover less?

I'll surprise no one and say that I have a general posting schedule during the week: I try to comment on anything #chemjobs-related in the latest C&EN on Monday, I talk about grad school / learning issues on Tuesday and management/boss/business issues on Thursday. Wednesday and Friday are humor/whatever days and Tuesday/Thursday is committed to the Daily Pump Trap.

Also, what long-term projects would you like me to work on for the 2011-2012 season?

Daily Pump Trap: 6/16/11 edition

Good morning! (such as it is.) Between June 14 and June 15, there were 19 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 2 (11%) are academically connected.

Analystapalooza: Well, maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Eastman Chemical desires 2 Ph.D. analytical chemists, one for separation science and one for electrochemistry-related work. Also, Boehringer Ingelheim wishes to hire a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. analyst (with experience) for its Columbus, OH API facility. Infinity Pharmaceuticals desires an experienced Ph.D. analytical chemist to run its analytical program on its development side.

Not done yet -- cosmetics: Avon is looking for a Ph.D. analytical chemist at its Suffolk, NY site. 5+ years experience is desired.

Crystals!: Lilly is looking for 2 Ph.D. chemists, one with a great deal of experience in crystal engineering and one with 3+ years of experience. Good news for their development side, maybe.

Pontiac, MI: AkzoNobel is looking for a B.S. chemist to be a production support chemist. 5 years experience in paints and/or coatings is required. You'll be performing "8D analysis", which sounds like a QA function. Huh.

Hayward, CA: Pioneer Hi-Bred is looking for a Ph.D. biochemist for a post-doctoral position. Research experience in insecticidal proteins is desired. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The last seminar you attended

[Mild applause]

Moderator: Thank you, Professor Jones, for a wonderful seminar on new techniques in nitrosation of aromatic compounds. And now, Professor Jones will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
  1. Professor Jones, could you go back to your section on the mechanism? [clickclickclickclickclick] Oh. [awkward pause] No question. 
  2. Professor Jones! So good to see you again! [Inside joke about conference 10 years ago]
  3. Is there going to be wine afterwards? Yes? Thanks. 
  4. [throat clearing] Dr. Zhervokvsky at Soviet Institute of Chemistry showed in Archives of Soviet Industrial Chemistry in 1962 all your work forty years ago -- maybe you should educate yourself in his work!
  5. I see in the NMR that you showed on slide 23 that there were some small peaks at 8.1 ppm. Do you know what that impurity is?
  6. This reminds me of the time that I was talking to [questioner's famous graduate adviser] and he said that [really, really, really, really long pointless anecdote about nitric acid]. Well, I didn't have a question, I just was reminiscing. 
  7. Do you think a kinetic isotope experiment would be useful for the reaction on slide 15? 
  8. The yield in that one reaction was kind of low, wasn't it? 
  9. Ah, ah, ah, yes, Professor Jones. As you're well aware of Professor Takahashamata's work in [really obscure journal] and its application to [subject near and dear to questioner's heart, irrelevant to seminar], do you have any comment on that? 
  10.  (question no one can hear) (Highlight to read.)
  11. Will there be wine afterwards? Excellent.

Process Wednesday: maximum stirrable volume

What is the maximum stirrable
volume of a beer stein?
Photo credit:
Continuing with Kilomentor's comments on reactor volume, he comments on maximum stirrable volume:
In order to minimize the number of vessels used in a step, the workup of a reaction is preferably conducted in the reactor vessel. In order to calculate the highest possible kilograms of intermediate product that can be produced in a particular reactor in a single run one needs to first determine what point in the protocol requires the largest stirred volume. Then the protocol is rescaled so that at that point this volume is equal to the maximum stirrable volume of the particular reactor. For example, suppose the protocol you are going to follow will produce 45 grams of purified product and at the point of maximum volume in this procedure the combined organic and aqueous solutions are 500 mL. if the maximum stirrable volume for the reactor you propose using in production is 2200 litres then the maximum throughput per run will be (2200/500) X 45 = 198 kg. Now if the target of your project will require you to make 450 kg of this intermediate, you will need at least three runs of this step because the maximum amount two runs can give is 396 kg. 
Now if you could modify the protocol so that at the point of maximum volume the volume were only 440 litres, you could make the 450 kg of material in just 2 runs. Providing a margin of safety against shortfalls by planning for 3 runs may be the wisest course of action.
As opposed to minimum stirrable volume, this is a concept that applies to lab-scale chemistry. Ever been working up a reaction in a 500 mL flask and found that you need to add 1 L of water to quench?

When you're planning a reaction for the first time, it's not a terrible idea to add up all the volume you're adding to a reaction and see if you're going to exceed the maximum stirrable volume of your flask -- it might save you some time.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daily Pump Trap: 6/14/11 edition

Good morning! Between June 9 and June 13, there were 22 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 6 (27%) are academically connected.

Rolla, MO: Brewer Science is once again looking; this time, for a A.A./B.S. chemist to be a Research Associate III in the Advanced Packaging R&D group. Looks like this position is half bench chemistry, half project management.

Polymers!: Dow Chemical is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be an associate scientist in their polyurethanes process group. 1 year industrial experience required, as well as experience with ASPEN process simulation software.

They're back!: Halcyon Molecular is looking for an instrumentation technician to repair and maintain an absolute fleet of HPLCs and GCs. Uh, good luck with that one.

Helpful or not?: Amway is looking for a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist to perform method development and other analysis on cosmetics. They're advertising the salary range, (72-82), which I find interesting. Helpful or not helpful? I dunno. Southwestern Michigan, if that's your thing.

Iselin, NJ: BASF desires a Ph.D. chemist to perform heterogenous catalysis research. 1 year experience desired.

Zeroes!: Total Petrochemicals is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to work on styrene exploratory research. 0-3 years of postdoctoral work or experience in petrochemicals desired.

Lovely Baltimore: Goucher College desires a B.S. chemist to be its stockroom manager and its departmental chemical hygiene officer. Could be a great job!

One of the coolest jobs in chemistry: The Chemical Safety Board is looking for investigators!

One more for southwestern MI: Kalexsyn is looking for medicinal/organic chemists at all levels, primarily focusing on M.S./Ph.D.-level folks. Kalamazoo is home to a competitive Wiffle ball league, among other things.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chemical engineers fare better than chemists. In other news, dog bites man.

From today's edition of Chemical and Engineering News, an article on the hiring of chemical engineers in the biotech world by Sophie Rovner:
Chemical engineering employment is “always steady, with fewer ups and downs in the job market” than chemists have to contend with, says David G. Jensen, managing director for biopharmaceutical life sciences at Kincannon & Reed, a Waynesboro, Va., executive search firm. “I’ve been doing this work for 25 years and have never seen a downtime for biotech chemical process development engineers,” adds Jensen, who writes extensively about careers and also moderates the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s online Science Careers Forum. 
Robust demand for chemical engineers may explain why wages are holding up well in the profession. In a survey of salaries for 2011 bachelor’s degree graduates, chemical engineers placed first, with an average salary offer of $66,886, according to the National Association of Colleges & ­Employers. 
The American Chemical Society’s own surveys of members consistently show that chemical engineering graduates receive higher salaries and are more likely to hold permanent full-time jobs than graduates with degrees in chemistry (C&EN, March 14, page 52).
Rovner's article is pretty interesting, with a couple of in-depth looks at what chemical engineers do on a regular basis. A small point: Rovner doesn't cover (IIRC) what I see as the broad economic sweep, which is that the smaller companies that were looking at bio-based materials during the 2007-2008 oil price spike (e.g. the Amyrises of the world) are now large enough and developed enough to be hiring chemical engineers to develop their processes to larger scale. I wonder if I'm right.

Another note: Hanson's short article (also linked above) is worth reading, if only to see that the broader economic trends are hitting chemical engineers as well.

It's apparent to me that if you're mathematically, mechanically and chemically inclined, you should think long and hard about a career in chemical engineering. I'll note (said the fox, looking at the grapes) that I have worked with chemical engineers a number of times. I've never envied what they do, but I have always envied* their salaries.

*I'm not much a salary envier, I might note; if I was, I don't think I could deal with life very well. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

What is the minimum amount of equipment needed to run a chemistry business?

In the entrepreneurship thread, the discussion turned to how to set up a small business performing chemistry:
Anon060720110900a: The idea that anyone other than tenured professors with a LOT of clout can just go off and found a science/chemistry based startup is TOTAL bunk. Of course, you can find the one or two cases in which it happened (google Halcyon Molecular). But seriously, the Zuckerberg model of "start the company from your dorm room" works great for software, but once you realize that you need fume hoods, AFMs, TEM's, compliance with federal/state/municipal hazard laws, etc, the model falls apart real quick. 
Anon060820111000a: I hear such space exists in the Silicon Valley with all the permits to do chemistry, and landlord offers proper waste disposal in the rent which is about $5000 per month. They don’t provide chemicals, glassware or Scifinder access. Better have a client list with orders or a big bankroll.
What's the smallest amount of glassware, etc that you need to set up a lab? My list would consist of:
  • A hood
  • A small set of glassware
  • A heating mantle
  • Temperature probe (or thermometer)
  • Flash column
  • TLC plates
  • Rotovap
  • Access to an HPLC and/or an NMR
  • SciFinder access (or a nearby university)
  • A laptop (combination lab notebook and lab radio)
I think that's about all I would need, but I'm going to guess that I've just listed off about $10,000 worth of equipment. 

The operating overhead for chemistry is just really high -- that hurts small business formation and I'm not sure what to do with it. Readers, what say you? What's the smallest amount of equipment you need? 

The US' newest export: assistant professors?

From the Washington Post a couple weeks back, Matthew Stremlau (a postdoc at Broad) writes about working as a (visiting) scientist in China:
The global science landscape is radically different from what it was when I started graduate school 10 years ago. Opportunities for cutting-edge science are sprouting in many other countries. China stands out. But there are plenty of others. India, Brazil and Singapore built world-class research institutes. Saudi Arabia aggressively recruits researchers for its King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. With a staggering $10 billion endowment there — larger than MIT’s — American scientists no longer need to suffer through Boston’s endless winters. Not to be outdone, Abu Dhabi opened the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in 2009. These emerging powers have a voracious appetite for good scientists. So they’re trying to poach ours. [snip] 
Talented scientists in this country often fall through the cracks because they can’t get funding. Agencies are deluged with applications and often have to reject as many as 90 percent of the proposals they receive. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to deteriorate further as budget cuts limit the resources available for research. So I’ve started encouraging my friends to think more creatively about their careers. Go to China, I tell them. Or Singapore or Brazil or the Middle East. If the United States can’t fund its scientific talent, find a country that will.
In Beth Halford's "Too Many PhDs" article, we heard from Amir Hoveyda that perhaps US scientists should be thinking about heading overseas to make their way into the academic world. John Schwab also mentioned that perhaps even industrially-oriented young organic chemists need to be following their passions internationally.

I suspect Stremlau would agree with me that the international science boom (represented mostly by advancing economies in the Middle East and Asia) will not last forever and will produce winners and losers. New universities may not succeed in translating money into good science and the political and economic winds may shift once again. You can't buy your way into a great science culture without changing much of your political and economic system*; many countries might balk at the price in terms of relinquishing governmental control.

I think these issues (the concerns about young postdocs heading overseas) are mostly sideshows to the real question: who will receive government funding in the future and how long will they have to wait? As crazy as it sounds, I believe that the majority of the time, the current grants system probably selects the best science to fund. But there is continued dissatisfaction with the system. I hope it will probably (hopefully) culminate in a reworking to allow younger scientists to receive more funding, earlier. Otherwise, we're making a lot of youngish professors suffer -- and they'll consider going elsewhere if the suffering is less there.

In an (unusually) optimistic conclusion, the US commitment to science is long and deep and I suspect will continue on its current funding trend for many, many years.* In the end, though, I am all for other countries investing in science and trying to poach young US scientists; to paraphrase Churchill, science, science is better than war, war.

*OK, so China and Singapore are probably going to test that assertion pretty strongly. 
**In the coming years, what's going to take the bigger hit? DoD or NIH? My bet is DoD -- yours? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fewer layoffs, more firing?

You didn't coordinate with Biology to
get those assays completed in time?
Photo credit:
I enjoy reading the blog of Tom Ricks, the Washington Post's former longtime Pentagon correspondent. (He's since moved to the Center for a New American Security as a defense analyst.)

Ricks enjoys covering the Navy's habit of routinely firing the commanding officer (CO) of its ships and other shore units. Here, Ricks notes Commander Mike Varney, who was recently relieved for mishandling sensitive documents aboard the USS Seawolf. Here's the head of the Navy's Norfolk, VA shipyard, removed for his "command environment." Here's a post for a pair of COs removed for not stopping hazing amongst the crew of the USS Ponce.

I think Ricks thinks that the Navy's tradition of not hesitating to remove the CO of a unit is a good one, in that it's better to address a leadership problem sooner rather than later. While it certainly can be harsh (and it's well-known that captains can be removed for more-or-less bad luck), the Navy allows its ship captains to have quite a bit of freedom in their leadership styles in return.*

Would a policy like this work in the pharma industry? There aren't equivalents to ship captains in pharma, but I have noted that project managers have a special leadership role. I haven't been around long enough to note whether or not project managers get summarily removed for "lack of leadership" or other "Hey, you're just not getting the job done" issues.

Readers, what say you? Should pharma managers be removed from their positions more often (as opposed to waiting for layoffs or other attrition?) Have you seen it happen?

*It should also be noted that removal from command doesn't necessarily mean that you're immediately removed from the Navy; you're probably not going to commanding any more units, though. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/9/11 edition

Good morning! Between June 7 and June 8, there were 7 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website.

Good news?: Cubist in Boston is looking for a B.S./M.S. chemist to be a research associate with organic chemistry lab experience.

Coffee is for closers: Setaram is looking for a B.S. chemist to be a salesperson for their line of calorimetry instruments. Looks like you're going to need to travel. West Coast residents desired.

A broader look: For the search term "chemist", Monster, Careerbuilder and Indeed are showing (respectively) 303, 591 and 3629 positions. is showing 100 positions for the search term "chemist." 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

11 ways to really irritate your summer lab mentor

Summer students, it's early June, so it means that you're probably settling into the lab you'll be in for the next two to three months or so. Here's a few ways of getting back at the person you'll be working for/with:
  1. On a regular basis, ask your mentor "Why should the government fund this research?" She'll love you for it. 
  2. If they show you their secret stash of equipment, say loudly, "Hey, how come you're not sharing this stuff with your labmates?"
  3. Dirty glassware isn't worth cleaning -- ever. 
  4. Go through the drawers around their lab bench and loudly point out any unlabeled flasks of compounds. 
  5. Ask, "Do you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend)?" If yes, ask them "When was the last time you got to spend time with them?" If no, ask them "Why not?"
  6. If your group meeting presentation isn't going well, turn to your lab mentor and say, "You didn't prepare me well enough for this!"
  7. Ask them what the departmental Chemical Hygiene Plan is. 
  8. Every Tuesday, ask them to explain every single step of an experiment and what chemical principles are involved. Make sure they look everything up in a textbook. 
  9. Remind them that you're thinking about engineering or medical school. 
  10. If they're really, really, really messy, regularly clean up everything spotlessly. They won't be able to function. 
  11. Repeat after me: "Hey, what kind of jobs can you get after you graduate?"

Process Wednesday: minimum stirrable volume

How much distance between the blades and the bottom of
the reactor? Probably doesn't matter, right?
Photo credit:
Reading through Kilomentor's archives, one finds a treasure trove of information for the young process chemist. This morning, the concept of 'minimum stirrable volume':
The minimum stirrable volume is exactly what the name teaches. It is the minimum volume of liquid needed in the reactor so that the turning stirrer paddles effectively stir the reactor contents. To some extent this minimum stirrable volume depends upon what is being stirred and what will happen during the initial stage of the reaction of interest. For example, a homogeneous solution in which an exothermic refluxing occurs at the beginning of the reaction may only need the moving blades to touch the liquid surface because gas evolution and thermal convection are going to move the homogeneous liquid phase around. At the other extreme, if zinc powder, tin granules or magnesium turning need to be swept up off the bottom of the reactor, the immersion of the stirrer blades probably needs to be complete and the stirring rapid. 
The reason chemists, who are more accustomed to working in the laboratory tend to forget the minimum stirring volume constraint is that two of the most common laboratory stirrer types are the magnetic stirrer and the crescent bladed overhead mechanical type. The magnetic stir bar on the bottom of the flask so that the minimum stirrable volume is very small while the crescent bladed stirrer is very often set up with its curved edge nestled up against the bottom of the round bottomed flask in which it is installed so that again the minimum stirrable volume is close to zero.
It's been a while since I used a stir bar in any of my reactions; that being said, it still influences my thinking quite a bit. It only takes one situation in which you note that your reaction volume doesn't reach the bottom of the agitator blades to remind you of this concept. It's funny how forgetting little details like 'minimum stirrable volume' can really ruin your day...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chart of the week: the tyranny of the negative slope in jobs

From the Washington Post, a breakout of job losses and gains for the Great Recession, graphically represented below:

Note: BLS manufacturing statistics for the chemicals subsector does include the pharma manufacturing as well. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/7/11 edition

Good morning! Between June 2 and June 6, there were 83 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 4 (5%) were academically connected.

The NMR guy/gal: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be a "director of research instrumentation."

Wanted -- good hands: Exquadrum, Inc. is looking for a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. chemist to perform research into energetic materials chemistry. Relevant experience desired, polymer chemistry experience welcomed.

DNA -> money: Ontorii is a startup that is looking to make therapeutic oligonucleotides; they're looking for a M.S./Ph.D. chemist to perform synthesis of said nucleic acids. Automated synthesizer experience desired.

Huh: Fairmount Minerals is looking for a "highly trained" organic chemist to be a process chemist. 5+ years industrial experience desired. I have no idea what an industrial sand company wants with an organic chemist.

Not using the f-word: Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (located in beautiful, isolated Richland, Washington) is looking for a communications manager for its Fundamental and Computational Sciences division.

Wow, Merck: Of the 83 positions, 63 (76%) were from Merck. Just when you thought it was safe to click "Find A Job", they're back. Are you a chemist? Do you love chemistry? Want to be an animal services technician? How about a clinical veterinarian? Or a maintenance mechanic (well, those folks actually make pretty good money, I'll bet.) 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Joe Francisco's solution to #chemjobs: entrepreneurship

Prof. Joe Francisco
Photo credit:
ACS immediate past president Joseph A. Francisco writes in this week's C&EN about jobs and his potential solution to chemistry unemployment problems:
During my presidential succession, I have focused on one overarching theme—to ensure that aspiring chemists and seasoned professionals in the U.S. have the skill sets, resources, and external environment to build and sustain a robust workforce in the U.S. Given the historic levels of job loss in our enterprise over the past few years, including thousands of R&D jobs for chemists, [emphasis CJ's] I felt this was one of my most important priorities. [snip]
I appointed a task force charged with providing recommendations for how the American Chemical Society can play a vital role in helping the chemical enterprise in the U.S. remain the most innovative and entrepreneurial in the world. This Task Force on Innovation was headed by Harvard University chemistry professor and entrepreneur George M. Whitesides and consisted of eminent individuals from industry, academia, and government, all with experience in entrepreneurship.[snip]
The task force noted that the nature of innovation is changing. Over the past 15 years, the process of transforming ideas into marketable innovations within the chemical enterprise has undergone dramatic change. Innovation that disrupts existing competitive markets and creates new customers has slowed.[snip]
Nevertheless, large companies want to rebuild proprietary positions in high-margin products. They may not be innovating fast enough to compete globally, however, and they now appear to be turning to others to develop innovative products. The source of that innovation could be universities and/or start-ups. The task force found no intrinsic reason why chemistry start-ups could not be commercially successful and, in fact, documented numerous such enterprises.
In light of these trends, the task force made recommendations that fall into four major categories.
  • First, it recommended that ACS develop a single organizational unit—a “technological farmers market.” ACS is already doing much to help entrepreneurs, and these activities will continue. The new unit is envisioned as a one-stop virtual portal, supporting entrepreneurs by facilitating more affordable access to resources that would foster the creation of small companies from start-ups. Relevant resources might include information about how to start a company, management expertise, links to key services, and a list of potential mentors. [snip]
  • Second, the task force recommended that ACS increase its advocacy of policies at the federal and state level to improve the business environment for entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The task force suggested that ACS urge and support reforms within the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to ensure more accurate patents and faster issuance. Incidentally, ACS has suggested to PTO that the society’s talented unemployed members might be of assistance to patent examiners. [emphasis CJ's] The task force also outlined a number of financial policies that could encourage large companies to partner with small ones to promote entrepreneurship. These include preferential tax treatment for repatriated income invested in U.S.-based developers of technology and making the R&D tax credit simpler and permanent.
  • Third, the task force urged ACS to partner more vigorously with academic institutions and other relevant organizations to promote awareness of career pathways and educational opportunities that involve entrepreneurship. The task force had several interesting suggestions that will be pursued by staff and governance units.
  • Finally, the task force determined that ACS should increase public awareness of the value of early-stage entrepreneurship in the chemical enterprise with focused media coverage and information targeted to federal agencies that support chemistry. In addition, ACS should provide ways to recognize entrepreneurs publicly in order to increase their visibility and enhance their opportunities for success.
A couple of comments:

Entrepreneurship again? At some point in the near future, I should do a survey of all the different solutions that people have suggested to improve the chemistry employment situation. Among the top five must be this thought that chemists need to found their own companies and strike out on their own. While I think this might be a stopgap solution that might employ a small amount of very experienced chemists, and a moderate amount of mid-career professionals and young chemists, I just don't see this as a broad-based solution. I hope I'm wrong.

I hear the microwave in the kitchen!: I suspect that ACS' policy has always been to support the idea that we should support "preferential tax treatment for repatriated income invested in U.S.-based developers of technology and making the R&D tax credit simpler and permanent." While I suppose this might (in a bank-shot fashion) help chemical entrepreneurs, I suspect that the effects will be pretty minimal.

An unalloyed good: I sense from the occasional ACS comments in C&EN that the senior management of the Society is aware of the dissatisfaction of their members due to the extraordinary economic circumstances of the moment. That Prof. Francisco (or his staff) is writing about the issue and attempting address it is good news; perhaps this fall, the new ACS presidential candidates can address the issue full-force.

Best wishes to all of us. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Unemployment number up 0.1% to 9.1%; U6 at 15.8%

Fresh electrons from BLS: the official unemployment rate for May 2011 is up 0.1% to 9.1%. The broader measurement of unemployment (U6) is down 0.1% to 15.8%.

Non-farm payroll went up by a relatively small 54,000. Can't tell if this is bad news, but it sure isn't good news. 

Green rubber stoppers

A list of small useful things (links):

Cheating: things oral exams can fix (but not scalable)

It's not fun to compare the salaries of doctors to chemists, but it is fun to compare the testing regimens to get into medical school versus graduate school. Also, it's terribly amusing to see what people will do to get around that testing. From Bruce Schneier comes a story of the cheater-in-the-middle:
Police allege he used a pinhole camera and wireless technology to transmit images of the questions on a computer screen back to his co-conspirator, Ruben, at the University of British Columbia.
Investigators believe Ruben then tricked three other students, who thought they were taking a multiple choice test for a job to be an MCAT tutor, into answering the questions.
The answers were then transmitted back by phone to Rezazadeh-Azar, as he continued on with the test in Victoria, police allege.
I would find it terribly amusing to attempt to cheat during an oral exam or your thesis defense. "The pKa of that compound? Hold on a sec..."

[Obviously, there are a heck of a lot more people trying to get into medical school than graduate school. Multiple choice tests are eminently scalable; oral exams are not.]  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interview feedback: an idea whose time has come?

Jim Austin at ScienceCareers points to a blogpost by Alison Vaillancourt on getting feedback from interviews:
It's a short essay; there's not a lot of advice there, and Vaillancourt really never answers the question. But two things make it worth reading. First, Vaillancourt describes the advice she long gave to people who had asked her whether they should provide feedback, before a recent experience altered her perspective: Don't tell losing candidates why they lost, she advised. Tell them why the winning candidate won. That would have worked for me: It accentuates positives, but it also would have told me what I needed to do to succeed in future interviews. 
Vaillancourt goes on to describe a situation where she did not do her best in an interview, and received some frank feedback on her performance.

I think this could be (and should be) done at most companies that hire chemists; I'm guessing that it would not add to the cost of an on-site interview to send an electronic form back to the non-hired candidate that gave some short feedback. Comments on perceived technical skill, social/'fit' issues with the group that you're going to work with, comments on communication could all be written up -- you could easily imagine a multiple-choice form that would be sent back to the candidate, along with the (sad) rejection phone call or letter.

It's my hope that companies will adopt this practice, but I'm not holding my breath. Sigh. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/2/11 edition

Good morning! Between May 26 and June 1, there were 37 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 14 (38%) of these are academically connected and one (3%) is from Kelly Scientific.

Nice to see, I suppose: Eli Lilly is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be a researcher in pharmaceutical solid state chemistry; they're looking for someone with 5+ years experience, academic or industrial. I'll bet the number of folks who have academic experience in organic solid-state chemistry would fit on a city bus comfortably.

This one's for the organickers: A postdoc position (2 years from degree) with Targacept, in Winston-Salem, NC. And...

Oh, dear: Proteostasis Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be a medicinal chemist. "PhD in organic chemistry or equivalent is required with 1-4 year post-doctoral/pharmaceutical experience for Scientist level and 3-8 years post-doctoral/pharmaceutical experience for Senior Scientist level."

In one sense, this is good, in that they're willing to consider folks with 3+ years postdoctoral experience. In another sense, this is bad, in that there are folks out there who have more than 3 years postdoc experience who haven't found positions. But that's to be expected with the 2008-201? employment recession in chemistry; it's just my hope that it doesn't become a hardened expectation to be hired.

Cambridge, again: Vertex is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to become a DMPK specialist. Some experience desired. 

SoCal, too: Hitachi (Irvine, CA) is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be a member of a research team looking at polymer technology. Experience with biochemistry and polymer synthesis desired.

And points south: A PI is looking for a B.S. chemist to be a lab coordinator; experience with polymer and small molecule MS characterization is desired.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A helpful guide for your next research meeting

Process Wednesday: yeah, make up that sample any way you want.

I don't know about other chemists, but I know that I'm tempted to take samples from reactions and take a squirt of this and a squirt of that and chuck it into the ol' HPLC to monitor the reaction. Our mentor-by-literature, Neal Anderson, suggests that's not such a great idea with his guidelines for sample preparation for in-process controls:
  • Dilute sample properly. Dilution effectively slows or quenches reactions, allowing for reliable assays. 
  • Consistently measure volume of diluent. Use volumetric flasks to prepare dilutions. 
  • Accurately measure sample to be diluted. Deliver aliquot for dilution by a microliter syringe or volumetric pipette. Quickly weigh solid samples. If it is necessary to deliver quantities larger than those a pipette can accommodate, weigh the aliquot and dilute. 
  • Be consistent about order of dilution
  • Be sure that the sample is completely dissolved. This is particularly important if the sample purity is to be assessed. 
  • Note if dilution of the sample significantly changes the microenvironment of the analyte sample relative to the conditions of the surrounding solvent. For instance, dilution of a reaction aliquot into a HPLC mobile phase may change the pH of the mobile phase as the analyzed sample travels through the column, resulting in changes in retention times or peak shapes. 
This, of course, from Practical Process Research and Development, pg. 156. 

Doing things the right way every time is difficult and annoying sometimes. That being said, it's the only way of generating a consistent body of data. It's kind of funny how (even at this level) you I need to be reminded of that.