Friday, September 30, 2011

The Project Paratrooper: coming to a problem near you

Ever met someone who knows more about your project than you, even though you've been working pretty hard on it, and you know the data pretty well? You've met a Project Paratrooper. 

Be careful when they're parachuting into your project! 

Action figure picture from here. 

Endorsement: Katherine Maloney for DOC Member-At-Large

The ACS Division of Organic Chemistry is holding elections for its governing body -- e-ballots are open until October 21.

I was happy to see Prof. Katherine Maloney nominated for a member-at-large slot. We worked on a service project together (when I lived in San Diego) -- I found her intelligent, capable and savvy and I think she'd do a great job for the Division. I voted for her -- perhaps you might, too?

[Sorry -- I don't plan on doing regular endorsements, and I steer pretty far away from politics. Back to your regularly scheduled DOOOOOOOOOMing.] 

Chemistry recruiting at Harvard: slight drop from 2010

Source material: Harvard CCB Corporate Recruiting
This is the 3rd annual analysis of corporate recruiting at Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. As the graph at right shows, the recruiting season (so far) indicates a slight drop from 2010.

It's surprising to me that corporate recruiting has not recovered back to 2008 levels. It's certainly not a pleasant statistic to see, and it's yet more evidence that even the most elite among us is not immune to the Tyranny of the Negative Slope of our times. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alternative careers in chemistry: human resources

In this week's chapter of "Nontraditional Careers for Chemists"*, we're covering human resources. While I know that most chemists look askance at HR folks, it sounds like there are some careers in science for those who like to interact with people.

From the story of Paul, a B.S. chemist who managed an analytical lab (as part of a cattle feed oil operation) and then got bored:
He wanted a challenging but rewarding career and thought corporate recruiting might fit the bill. He talked to a friend who worked at Aerotek, learned about the company, and liked both the company culture and the people with whom he would be working.  
While most people don't move from a lab into sales, it worked for Paul. He says, "One of the most important things you need to work in this field is a knowledge of skill sets and the industry that you're serving; and having spent some time working in the laboratory means I really understand what my clients are looking for. Understanding what the client needs and what type of person they are looking for, and then being able to explain that to non-technically minded people -- recruiters and HR managers -- is vital." 
As someone who is on the periphery of the field, I'd think that would be fun. Not as fun as chemistry, of course, but it must be very rewarding in its own way.

*As always, CJ's copy of the book helpfully provided by the author, Dr. Lisa Balbes.

Daily Pump Trap: 9/29/11 edition

Good morning! Between September 27 and 28, there have been 79 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 20 (25%) are academically connected.

MMEERRCCKK: 45 (57%) positions from Merck today. Hey, chemists, do you want to do poultry research? No? How about being the "Représentant des ventes, mandat temporaire"? I sure hope that means "representative of winds."

WOOD: Anybody out there a M.S. lignin chemist? Worked with cellulose? Weyerhauser in Seattle would like to hire you.

Deep, deep: How would you like to work at the "deepest underground ultra-clean facility in the world"? SNOLAB in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada is hiring a postdoc to contribute to the "design, construction, and operation of the liquid scintillator process plants for the SNO+ experiment. The R&D effort includes solvent purification processes, production methods for metal loaded scintillators, and the development of a novel assay technique using metal scavengers and low-level radioactivity counting to analyze Ra, Pb, and Bi level below 10-17 g/g."

Uh, doesn't that sound like a job for a team of engineers, guys, as opposed to a postdoc?

Newark, DE: Air Liquide is still looking for a M.S. analytical chemist to be a technical leader in analysis of pure gases.

When do they implant the chip?: The MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research is looking for a faculty member. C'mon, you WANT to be a tentacle of the Kochtopus. Interested fields include imaging, proteomics, disproving global warming, single-cell analysis, systems biology, longevity research for the upper classes, metastasis, destroying the American middle class, stem cell biology, and novel approaches to detecting, monitoring and treating cancer. (OK, so I'm adding some stuff. And I'm kidding.) 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Discovery of obscure reaction published, chemistry world unchanged

University professor P.I. Tenure and his bondservant B.S. Grad have managed to publish a work that will add a line to their CVs, but will fundamentally be lost in a shuffle of not particularly impactful science. 

Their work was issued in mildly above average chemistry journal The Annals of Mundane Chemistry and provides the scientific publishing community with more grist for their ever-churning mill. 

"Our findings will probably be ignored by both academic researchers and industrial chemists alike, but that doesn't change the fact that we've expanded the scope of this unknown and obscure reaction."

Tenure said researchers have been mostly avoiding his area of research due to a lack of respect from peers, citation and funding. In March of last year, constant begging allowed departmental funding to finally come free. This allowed Mr. Grad to purchase a few reagents and to squeeze a few reactions in between teaching courses to grade-grubbing undergraduates. The time and funding also allowed for the purchase of a copy of Microsoft Word, which was used to write up these languishing results.  

"After years of this project and my ideas being ignored, it's nice to have a somewhat more-motivated-than-usual researcher produce results that are both solid and reproducible. That's pretty decent for this school." 

When asked about the effects on the chemical industry as a whole, Professor Tenure was open about its impact. 

"The Western chemical industry is undergoing enormous shifts from various top-down money-saving initiatives from their corporate management and competitive pressures from developing countries willing to devastate their environment for medium-term economic gain. It's unlikely that our article will have any effect on their personnel whatsoever. It's possible that someone will scroll by our work while quickly perusing their RSS feed -- that's an honor in itself.

Professor Tenure said the March 2010 experiments will probably never be performed by anyone outside of his laboratory, but that the paper will probably be cited in a review written ten years later by a overly ambitious writer. 

"I've always wanted my work to be cited as footnote 573 of 1035," said Professor Freely. "I'd prefer to be footnote 410 -- I mean, really -- that guy's a hack! But we'll take it."

*Inspired by this press release. N.B. This satire is a comment on the release, NOT on the underlying science or the people involved. 

Process Wednesday: the only recrystallization graph you need

Been thinking about recrystallization recently, so it's a good time to turn back to this graph:
Modified version of an graph
Seems to me that anytime people teach a course on recrystallization, people use this graph. Let's see what our mentor-by-literature Neal Anderson has to say about it (page 228):
Controlling the crystallization pressure is essential for both purification by crystallization and for efficient operations on scale. By adjusting solution conditions to decrease the solubility of the product within the metastable zone, the desired molecules can be pressured to come out of solution and crystallize. Gradual cooling without seeding leads to one nucleation event and the formation of relatively small crystals. Slowly applying the crystallization pressure can produce large crystals, depending on the size and number of seeds. If the crystallization pressure is too great, supersaturation occurs and molecules may be forced out of solution too quickly as small crystalline solids, noncrystalline precipitates, oil. 
There's a very tricky dance in a good crystallization -- you don't want a solution, you don't want a precipitate. You want a long residence in the metastable zone with not too many nucleations (too many nucleations = small crystals.) You want to slowly increase crystallization pressure by lowering the temperature or by adding an anti-solvent. Too fast, and you're going to precipitate and possibly oil out a great deal of product.

Nervous, nervous, nervous. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daily Pump Trap: 9/27/11 edition

Good morning! Between September 22 and September 26, there were 30 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 13 (43%) positions were academically connected.

Novartis: The Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation is looking at associates! They're looking at both experienced M.S. chemists and M.S chemists with zero(!) to 2 years experience for entry-level research positions. Good news, I'd think.

...and on the other side: Small Molecules, Inc. is looking for B.S. chemists to be compound librarians. 0-2 years experience needed.

More zeroes!: S.C. Johnson is looking for B.S. chemists to be formulators for their Glade product line. 0-5  years experience needed.

Temp: The Vertex process team is back with their wish for a temporary process chemist (B.S./M.S./Ph.D. with descending amounts of experience needed (4 yrs. minimum.)

Hunt Valley, MD: McCormick and Company is looking for a spice analytical chemist. Check out these requirements:
PhD in Chemistry with an emphasis in Natural Products, Pharmacognosy, or a closely related field, required. Minimum of 15 / 20 years of hands-on research experience in the operation, experimental design and interpretation of data from GC, HPLC, GC/MS, and HPLC/MS instrumentation required. Minimum of 5 years of phytochemistry research experience required. Experience with and extensive knowledge regarding the isolation, identification and quantitation of flavor and aroma compounds, secondary plant metabolites and bioactive compounds. 
I know it's an old Chemjobber saw by now, but really -- you could get every single candidate that fits these requirements in a small hotel conference room. Why not just use the phone, McCormick? Call up that guy you met at the spice/flavoring conference?  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Worked successfully with recruiters? C&EN wants to talk to you!

Susan Ainsworth of C&EN wishes to talk to recruiters who work with chemists; she also wishes to speak with chemists who have successfully used recruiters to obtain positions. Her e-mail is s_ainsworth -at- acs(dot)org. 

Nice PPE, Mr. President!

Credit: C&EN
It's only fair that since I've criticized folks in the past for not providing visiting dignitaries with appropriate PPE that I point out when folks do a nice job. Congrats and an attaboy to Thomas Jefferson High School (Alexandria, VA) for having appropriate levels of PPE and asking the President to wear them, too. 

Ronald Breslow: stating the #chemjobs facts

From this morning's Chemical and Engineering News, Rudy Baum's comment on a panel discussion he hosted between John LaMattina (former Pfizer R&D head) and Professor Ronald Breslow (emphasis CJ's):
Breslow said that the chemistry enterprise faces a “morale” problem. “We used to tell students that, if you take an advanced degree in chemistry, your career will be secure. That’s not true anymore.” Like LaMattina, Breslow took aim at the consolidation of the pharmaceutical industry. “Mergers may make great financial sense, but they are very destructive,” he said. “And not just to the pharmaceutical industry, but to the chemistry community in general.” 
Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry aren’t going away, of course, and LaMattina observed that the biotech industry isn’t immune to the trend. Breslow insisted that the economic strength of the U.S. “is largely based on the strength of our science and technology. Government must continue to recognize that support for science is important.” 
Although the discussions and the question-and-answer follow-up were lively and informative, they did not offer much in the way of reassurance for U.S. chemists in the pharmaceutical industry who fear for their futures.
I don't know where Ron Breslow has stood in the past, but I think it's very important that senior members of the academic chemical community recognize the economic picture facing current generations of American chemists. I don't know if it's too much to ask senior members of the pharmaceutical industry to be able to make similar statements about our employment futures; Dr. LaMattina doesn't seem to have directly addressed the issue at the forum.

I hope things change, and soon. Best wishes for all of us.

My favorite reaction: Grubbs' metathesis chemistry

Yet another chance to critique my structures...
It's pretty difficult to think of a reaction that's my "favorite", but if there's one that I think is pretty wonderful, it's the Grubbs' ring-closing metathesis. A few reasons:

Conceptual simplicity: While ruthenium-catalyzed metathesis (cross-metathesis or ring closing) is fairly mechanistically complex, the reaction (concept and retrosynthesis) is simple enough to teach to a sophomore. I suspect that its simplicity may be overly tempting to chemists; I've found myself led astray when planning syntheses in attempts to incorporate a RCM into routes.

Operational simplicity: It's pretty hard to think of an easier reaction -- degas, dump, dump, stir and heat. Filter through a silica gel pad, bam, there's your pure product.

Web 2.0: Olefin metathesis may be the only reaction that not only has a company, but it has a blog. All Things Metathesis is a great resources for, uh, all things metathesis.

Silly personal reasons: Like just about every other natural product synthetic route during the time that I graduated, there was a RCM in my thesis research. But there's a much more personal reason I feel a certain bond with Grubbs chemistry -- I found out that Professor Grubbs won the Nobel Prize while I was preparing to get married. (Earlier that month, I remember idly speculating about whether or not olefin metathesis had been around long enough to garner attention for a Nobel.) For some reason, it made my wedding and honeymoon just that much sweeter knowing that an organic (oh, okay) an organometallic chemist had won the chemistry Nobel.

If I could think of a single word to sum up Grubbs' metathesis chemistry, it would be "cool." And that's why I chose it for my favorite reaction.

Runners up: Haufe halofluorination, Fu's sp2-sp3 catalysts, the Finkelstein.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rays of sunshine

Photo credit: Flickr user akahodag (Creative Commons)
In the past couple of weeks, I've heard about a friend and a reader finding good positions at places that they want to work.

While I won't attribute their good news to changes in macroeconomics, it's definitely a ray of sunshine in my week.

Do you have good news to share? By all means, let's have it.

Have a good weekend! 

O RLY? CareerBliss claims biotechnology workers are the happiest

Infographic by
This is possibly old news, but I found it kind of amusing:
Biotechnology ranked the No. 1 happiest job in America, according to
CareerBliss. “In biotech, the people that they work with, and more specifically the person that they work for, tends to rank higher in terms of importance, and employees are overwhelmingly happy with those conditions,” says Golledge. Biotechnology employees were also among the most happy with their daily tasks and the level of control they feel they have over that work. She adds that the field of biotechnology is currently a growth industry, which makes growth opportunities in the field another key ingredient to its workers overall happiness.
While I might agree with CareerBliss' assessment of what makes for happy employees (i.e. enjoying what you do daily, independence, relative intelligence of coworkers), I find it interesting that they fail to recognize the potential for job insecurity that comes with working in biotechnology. I also find it interesting that "customer service representative" is one of the happiest careers in the US. If so, I think we're in trouble...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Japanese name problem (and our impending Chinese name problem)

Have you ever been reading through the literature and found a paper that you like? You decide to go into the lab and try out this radical new cobalt-catalyzed oxidation (or whatever) and you try it, it works and you decide to tell your lab buddy about it. And she asks, "Whose paper is it?"

And you say... "Uhhh, some Japanese group."

Before I come off as some complete bigot and/or buffoon, let me assure you (as much as I can), that I can easily capture the last names of Japanese chemists in my head. But they're a little tough to remember, and I don't seem to have the 'name capture' that I have for English-derived names where I can usually remember first, middle initial and last name, geographical area of institution, etc. It's even possible for me to do this for European groups (especially German ones).

I'm not quite sure I could tell you Japanese full names other than Akira Suzuki and Ryoji Noyori. Where do they work? Uhhhhhhhhh....

Similarly, it's relatively easy to keep in my head the different names of Chinese chemists in US academia (Yu at Scripps, Shi at Colorado State, Pu at Virginia among others), but I don't really know the names of any prominent Chinese chemists (other than Shengming Ma at SIOC).

I suppose that I should 1) just try harder to remember the names and look up the geography and 2) try to learn the structure of Japanese and Chinese academia. That's probably the correct answer.

Readers, got any handy mnemonics? Please feel free to castigate me in the comments. 

Alternative careers in chemistry: EH&S

This week's chapter in "Nontraditional Careers in Chemistry"* is on safety and regulatory positions in chemistry. The interviewees for this chapter seem to be more heavily oriented to the regulatory aspects of the position. I really enjoyed the story of Ruth, a B.S.-level chemist, environmental consultant and entrepreneur. After many years experience in bench chemistry, supervisory duties and handling regulatory affairs for her various employers (including a stint as QA director), she set out on her own:
Ruth did her research and found out that to go into consulting, it is best to have a five-year financial safety cushion, since it can take that long tio break even. After reviewing their family finances and engaging in much discussion with her husband, Ruth decided to try consulting again. She wrote her resignation letter, giving her employer three week's notice and allowing herself time to set up an office, print business cards and so on.  
Ruth recalls, "I planned to turn int the resignation when the lab director returned from the trip. However, my plans changed radically when he called the day before I planned to turn in my notice and terminated me. I took me one half hour to pack up and leave. 
I also quickly learned that flexibility is a key ingredient for a consultant. The very next morning, my first day on my own, I received a phone call. A company was getting ready for an EPA audit that would occur on the following day. 
They had called the lab where I used to work and had been informed that I was out for the day, so they were calling me at home. They asked if I would be willing to assist them and could I be there within an hour. They answer to both was yes, of course. After the initial meeting with the corporate personnel, I was hired. When they asked for a business card I told them I would give them some as soon as I received them from the printers. When asked for a company name, I gave the first name that came to mind, [her last name] Consulting. The audit when well and resulted in a continuing arrangement with that company. 
I've actually worked with regulatory consultants before -- I find that it appears to attract people in the field (either from the corporate or the government side) with a great deal of experience that have decided to hang out their shingle. They're usually (it appears) used to dealing with impending crises. I think it's interesting how much of these positions is based on setting policy and generating/fighting paperwork and regulatory agencies.

*As always, CJ's copy of the book helpfully provided by the author, Dr. Lisa Balbes.

Daily Pump Trap: 9/22/11 edition

Good morning! Between September 19 and September 20, there are 23 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 13 (57%) are academically connected and 1 (4%) is from Kelly Scientific Resources.

Indianapolis, IN: Eli Lilly is looking for an M.S./Ph.D. chemist to perform duties within the Laboratory Automation Group; responsibilities include the separation and characterization of small molecules. Experience in compound management desirable.

St. Joseph, MO: Winfield Solutions (a division of Land O' Lakes (yes, the butter people)) is looking for a process formulator for pesticides and herbicides; B.S. in chemistry with manufacturing experience desired. That's not something you think about mixing, but really, LoL is apparently an agricultural cooperative.

Tumalo, OR: Bend Research is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be a senior research chemist; experience with solid-state organic chemistry a requirement. The job will entail studying novel pharmaceutical formulation stability. "Pay: Commiserate with experience"? Uh, yes, that does happen, especially in today's economy.

Oh, you meant commensurate with experience. Ah, yes.

Yola, Nigeria: The American University of Nigeria is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to become faculty in the field of petroleum chemistry. Now that's a new one (not really -- they post about 3 times a year, it seems.)

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) 300, 664, 3,331 and 25 positions for the search term "chemist." 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What in the heck? Job posting for "Scientist Friday"

From ACS Careers
What in the heck? I get the reference -- this is just a funny way of going about it. It's this company, apparently. 

Andrew Liveris: Subsidies? Thanks! Uh, er, no!

Alex Tullo is continuing to cover Andrew Liveris' publicity blitz in favor of competitive advantages for multinational corporations an "advanced manufacturing policy" on CNN (Tullo's writing is not italicized, while Liveris' statement is italicized, emphasis CJ's):
As he’s done in the past, the Dow CEO called for a national manufacturing strategy.
Liveris: I do think your notion of a modern day industrial policy, a national, advanced manufacturing policy to spur investments, not subsidies, not incentives, just to make it easier and more understandable would be a great start.
Singapore is the classic example of that, Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore. They are already working on the next industries, in their case, biotech. Germany gets it. Germany, a high wage cost country, understands that I have got figure out what’s going to follow, when the Chinese finally copy my advanced engineering equipment, which they will do.
The “not subsidies, not incentives” part I found interesting. In his book, he had much to say about incentives and how the U.S. should offer incentives similar to the lush subsidies for industry offered in Asian countries.  “The problem is that if we refuse to offer these kinds of incentive packages while other countries are aggressively outdoing one another, we put America at a clear competitive disadvantage,” he wrote.
He now seems to be downplaying this view. I do wonder if this interview was conducted after the Solyndra story broke. 
I agree with Tullo. His comments in the New York Times last week belie his comment ("Overseas,” Mr. Liveris said, “I get tax incentives, and I get incentives to go to certain locations where they offer us utilities, infrastructure and land. I get access to human capital. I get all sorts of support to help train that human capital.”). Perhaps the reporter left out the part where Liveris says, "Yeah, and we don't want that stuff in the ol' USA!"

What does Liveris' "advanced manufacturing policy" mean? Let's take his 2010 article in USA Today -- he calls for the following:
  • Infrastructure improvements and investment
  • More R&D spending by industry and government
  • Better STEM education and workforce training
  • "A 'pro-trade' policy" (support for Doha, etc.)
  • An alternative energy strategy
  • Regulatory reform, "especially as concerns the environment."
  • Reducing corporate taxes, increasing R&D tax credits
  • "Reform in civil justice", "end lawsuit abuse"
Look -- I believe in a lot of this. But to say items 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8 wouldn't be a huge gift to his company (and huge multinationals in particular) is really, really stretching it. Liveris should just simply admit that to keep his manufacturing in the United States, he wants his company to be paid for it. 

Process Wednesday: Swish TLC

I've decided to tackle Kilomentor's questions for an aspiring industrial/process chemist as an intermittent series. Some of these are fairly easy ("22. Norit, Darco and Nuchar are different types of what?")*, and some of them are quite complex ("8. What are polymorphs?")**

I'm particularly intrigued by Kilomentor's question 27: "What is swish TLC? When is it particularly useful?"He answers the question in an another post: 
In this article the authors describe a purification technique for essentially pure chemical solids called informally in Merck Sharpe & Dohme laboratories “swishing”. Swish purification of several grams or several hundred grams of material is accomplished by overnight equilibration in a suitable solvent (an anti-solvent or very poor solvent actually), with magnetic stirring on a small-scale or with mechanical agitation in a Morton (creased) flask for large quantities. The technique is not readily applicable to small samples. Swishing is actually exhaustive equilibrium trituration. 
Separating the trituration liquid from the residual solid results in a highly purified solid phase on the one hand and a solution in which many minor impurities are dramatically concentrated on the other. When thin-layer chromatography (TLC) is used to see the pattern and intensities of the impurities, the combined method is called Swish TLC.
Kilomentor goes on to describe further uses of swish TLC, including the extraction and identification of low-concentration impurities. An intriguing technique -- I wish I'd thought of it! (And of course, like all intriguing techniques that you've never heard of, it was published long, long, long before I ever started thinking about chemistry.)

*Activated charcoal, in case anyone was wondering. 
** That's a review article, not an interview question!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Always a party in QC

I've been getting a daily (DAILY!) e-mail of positions for the search term "chemist" from Monster. Most of the positions strike me as, well, pretty blah. This is one of them. From an Aerotek temp position ad in Detroit, Michigan (emphasis mine):
Our client has an immediate need for an entry level Quality Control Chemist. This position will involve performing quality control tests on finished products. Instrumentation used will include, pH, titration, flash point, viscosity and FTIR. This is an entry level position. The only requirement is that you have a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. Please do not apply if you Bachelor's is in anything other then Chemistry. 
Is that a problem, people applying for technical positions without the degree? These days, maybe.

That said, seems to me that you could hire and train a non-B.S. chemist (like someone with an associate's degree in chemical technology) to do this, but it would take a week or three to get them up to "non-supervised" usage of these instruments/techniques. 

Daily Pump Trap: 9/20/11 edition

Good morning! Between September 15 and September 19, there have been 92 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 31 (34%) are academically connected. 

MERRRRRCCCCCCKKKK: So you guys aren't going away, are you? Typical dump of positions all around the world, include a real estate portfolio manager position in Ireland. As usual, I am not kidding. 

(P.S. There's always an ad for some kind of veterinary position in Elkhorn, Nebraska. What's there? (other than cattle, I'm assuming.) Anyone know anything specific?)

Not that rare: Avalon Rare Earths is a new company devoted to finding rare earth minerals in Canada; among other positions, they're looking for a vice president of metallurgy. (B.S. in metallurgy, 10+ years experience required.) Dude, you're late to the party -- that guy's already making a metric ton of money. 

Uh, okay: The American Institute of Physics wants a journal manager; B.S. in physical sciences required. 

This sounds fun (not): Educational Testing Services needs a M.S. chemist to write test questions on chemistry. Sounds like a ball. 

Want to detect neutrinos?: Brookhaven National Laboratory's Chemistry Department is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. chemist research associate. Sounds smart. 

Uh, no football (not this year, anyway): Eastman Chemical Company is looking for a B.S./M.S. chemist for an electronics laboratory position to do with the semiconductor industry and cleaning formulations. The position is in Indianapolis, IN. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Technology transfer: always a bear

I don't watch Breaking Bad, but it's obviously the most prominent example of synthetic chemistry on television right now. But I do, however, read Alyssa Rosenberg, who I find to be one of the more insightful pop culture critics around. I'm terribly amused at the conversation between two characters about traveling to Mexico to, uh, supervise a pilot run of what I assume to be a CNS-active amine:
“What if I go to the jungle or whatever? And say they got actual chemists, like cartel chemists, asking me chemistry stuff that I don’t know how to answer because I’m not you?” Jesse asks, breathless, for a moment the same kid who declared “Yay Mr. White! Yay science!” all those episodes ago, all those months before the fall. “And what if all the equipment is in Mexican instead of English? You know, I don’t know, I don’t know. If I mess this up, I am dead. All of us. Mr. White. Look, I need your help. Maybe you could coach me or something. Or you can give me some notes. Mr. White?”
Make sure you have that technology transfer documentation at hand...

Want to be a professor of organic chemistry?

This fall's "Back to School" issue of C&EN was last week. That said, considering the lack of #chemjobs-related articles in this week's issue, I thought I would cover the ads in the back of last week's issue. There were 91 ads, which is a slightly higher number than last week's 88. Below are the ads where the words "organic" or "organic chemistry" were used. I did not include any positions where "any field" was used. Asterisks are placed next to schools that were advertising for organic chemists last year in the same issue:

Wayne State University, Detroit, MI*
Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
Williams College, Williamstown, MA
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Clark University, Worcester, MA
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX*
Haverford College, Haverford, PA
Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Hanover College, Hanover, IN
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA*
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY*
Stanford University, Stanford, CA*
Drury University, Springfield, MO
Texas State University - San Marcos, San Marcos, TX
State University of New York at Binghamton, Binghamton, NY
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA
Davidson College, Davidson, NC
University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO

There you have it -- 20 potential positions for organic chemists. Good luck!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Pharma Chemist Full Employment Act, a.k.a. what would you do with two billion dollars?

I'll take that 2 billion dollars if you're not using it.
Photo credit:
Felix Salmon is a business writer/blogger for Reuters. He and his colleague Pedro de Costa were discussing a thought experiment about what they would do with 2 billion dollars to stimulate the economy. This 2 billion dollars, of course, was the amount of money that the rogue UBS trader lost doing currency trades. His colleague Pedro de Costa notes "With $2 billion, you could employ 40,000 people for a full year at $50,000 each."

Salmon has an interesting idea regarding helping clear the housing market:
My idea: outsourced mortgage servicing. Create a mortgage servicer from scratch, where everybody who calls in is given a single point of contact — a unique individual who owns their problems and is charged with finding solutions to any problem, including refinancing and loan modification. There’s got to be a way of building up enough trust with both banks and homeowners, over the course of a year, to build a $2 billion business somehow.
Personally, I'd use that 2 billion dollars a couple of ways:
  • The Pharma Chemist Full Employment Act: 1 billion dollars to hire unemployed pharma chemists to work on antibiotics research and other unmet medical needs. I think I could make that money last over 5 years or so. 
  • 500 million for long-term oriented material science research, with an eye towards hiring un/underemployed scientists. 
  • 500 million for retraining scientists for other fields of work (non-science.)

Of course, this would introduce massive distortions into the scientific labor market. Doubtless, it's not worth it and we're better off with rogue traders doing their thing.

Readers, what would you do with 2 billion dollars? (Also, Salmon tries it a different way -- if you could hire 40,000 people at $50k a year, what would you have them do? Not postdocs, CJ sez.) 


A list of small, useful things (links):

Daily Pump Trap: 9/15/11 edition

Good morning! Between September 13 and September 14, 90 new positions have been posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 8 (9%) are academically connected.

Andover, MA: Cambridge Isotope Laboratories has posted 2 positions: a Q.A. position that requires a B.S. chemist and a staff scientist position. They want a Ph.D. organic chemist to well, uh, check this out:
The successful candidate will prepare cost estimates for special synthetic projects (targeting amino acids, organic building blocks and persistent pollutants in the environment) based primarily on data from in-house databases; prepare documents in support of registration under ISO-13485, ISO-17025, CE Mark and GMP and assist in maintaining these programs within the Research Products Department; and prepare cost estimates and support data for the environmental analytical standards product line.
Huh -- that's a little odd. It's mostly a cost estimate position.

M-E-R-C-K: Our frenemies from Rahway have posted 76 positions (86%). There are some scientific positions in there, sure. I mean, you would go to the American Chemical Society to hire a bioanalytical chemist -- why not? But would you go to ACS to hire a maintenance supervisor or a ??????? ???? (pharmacy manager) for Russia? Well, I don't know...

You could hold the cattle call in a closet: Kimberly-Clark is on the hunt for a very special candidate (maybe not that special). They desire a (at minimum) M.S. chemist with experience in molecular modeling AND "[m]ust have a thorough understanding of surface adhesion, polymeric materials, fibers and emulsions with an ability to characterize the force field parameters for molecular systems." Huh.

You could try poutine: Boehringer-Ingelheim desires a Ph.D. NMR spectroscopist for a small molecule characterization position. It's in Laval, Quebec and an ability to speak French is helpful. Interesting, very interesting.

Sounds interesting, important: AAAS is accepting applicants for its science and technology policy fellowship program. Pays all right, that's for sure.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Notes from a former technical salesperson

@jfreebo Tweets: "I would love to see a series of posts on career paths available to those of us w Bach deg." While Eric F. Brown of The Rheol World has a Ph.D., I believe his career as a technical salesperson is certainly accessible to bachelor's degree holders. He writes in on his former life on the road:
Following a postdoc, I accepted a job in technical sales for the (now-defunct) Paar Physica USA [1].  I sold rheometers and viscometers.  Low-end systems ran were $20,000, mid-range systems were around $50,000, and high-end systems could be purchased for $100,000.  (All prices are in 2000 dollars.)  The job description in the original post matches some of what I did during the day, but there is a little more involved in technical sales other than just calling someone and updating a database.  Here are a few things that anyone should consider when thinking about a technical sales position.
Travel: While one may be able to work out of home a few days a week, constant travel is a fact of life in sales.  In order to be considered for that project, it's better to get in front of customers.  Substantial travel (up to 90% of your time) may be necessary, especially if you're building your territory.  On the days without travel, it is possible to work out of the house.  While I didn't mind the travel all that much, the isolation eventually got to me, and I transferred to applications support [2].
Salary: The salesperson is judged on concrete results, specifically, how much you sell.  If you sell, you'll keep your job, and if you don't, you won't.  Companies are willing to give untested candidates a shot at sales because compensation is a mixture of straight salary and commission.  Find out how long the typical project takes and when you'll be expected to start bringing in regular sales.
Nature Vs. Nurture: The guy who hired me often told me that salespeople could be made.  If you believe otherwise, then sales is not for you.  Before accepting a sales job, inquire about training, whether internal or external.
[1]     Paar Physica has been replaced by Anton Paar.
[2]     Even though I'm an introvert, I needed to see a variety of people in an office every day.  This amuses me to no end.
People who are interested in talking more are encouraged to go over to The Rheol World to talk to Eric.

Alternative careers in chemistry: public policy

In this week's chapter of "Nontraditional Careers for Chemists"*, Lisa Balbes covers three people who are involved in public policy. There's a National Research Council mid-level director, a senior science advisor at a national law firm and a lobbyist/corporate VP of research.

How did the law firm advisor get to her position and what does she do?:
[After her Ph.D.], Lee really wanted to combine her interests in science, public policy, and writing and to do more research and public-policy work. A friend from graduate school heard about a law firm that was looking for a chemist to serve as an advisor and recommended Lee. She jumped at the opportunity, went for the interview and was hired.  
Lee's responsibilities have increased in the five years she's been at the law firm. She is now engaged in a much wider variety of activities. In addition to writing policy and technical papers and advising on scientific matters, she spends a significant amount of time in a a management role, helping lead and coordinate activities in which the firm's clients are involved. She explains, "This may involved coordinating the activities of testing labs or managing scientific or industry working groups." 
How did the lobbyist get their position? (This is a good one).
Jim's first job after graduate school was an assistant professor of chemistry at Davidson College, where he taugh and conducted research for 12 years. While at Davidson, he successfully ran for a position on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. He was a commissioner for six years, serving as chairman for the latter parts of this tenure there... Looking for a ways to make more of an impact, Jim ran for a seat in the UI.S. House of Representatives in 1972. He was elected and ended up serving six consecutive terms... In 1984, he was elected governor of the state of North Carolina... In 1993, he stepped down as governor and prepared to return to private life... He was offered a position heading the research lab at Carolinas Medical Center.. In 1999, instead of retiring, Jim again left the research world to move into public policy, this time as a lobbyist. 
I should definitely do a post on chemists that end up in government -- there seem to be a fair number of them...

*As always, CJ's copy of the book helpfully provided by the author, Dr. Lisa Balbes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

11 other uses for Parafilm

Photo credit:
1. Threw away that wine cork? Well...
2. Grafting trees?
3. Patched a hole in a tire once.
4. Improving the seal on Aldrich Sure-Seal bottles.*
5. This one time, in the lab, we were attacked by rifle-wielding members of another group (they ran out of funding and were getting reagents by alternate means.) My buddy took a round in the shoulder. We plugged it with Parafilm -- it was a pretty bad wound, so it needed two squares.
6. Improving vacuum on a vacuum distillation.
7. I hear the cockpit window of the SR-71 was half-titanium, half-Parafilm.
8. Ran out of earplugs and want to not hear the boss droning on?
9. Made a sculpture of a bird from 2 boxes of Parafilm once -- after hitting it with a heat gun, it flew off.
10. Makes a great last-minute birthday gift for your kids.
11. You know how there's no dental insurance in grad school? Well, I lost a filling once...

*They tell you not to do that -- I believe them. 

Process Wednesday: plant safety signs

Sign in red box at right. SafeStart image credit: SafeStart
I occasionally pass by a chemical facility that has a dispensing station for chemicals; I believe that it moves compound from the tank into a tanker truck. While the placarded compound is pretty boring, I think the sign (see red box to right) that gives a safety warning is pretty interesting.

The sign is apparently part of a safety program called "SafeStart". You can see a larger version of the sign next to the photo. I think the sign is particularly insightful; certainly, rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency would be a huge part of the mental state that lead to incidents or accidents. [I'll also note that I suspect that some people (myself included) occasionally spend 80% of their day in one or more of those states.] I particularly like the concept of "line-of-fire" -- at a dispensing station, an operator/driver would certainly have to be concerned about that. 

I also wonder if this sign has too many words to be effective; at some point, a sign has too much text to be effective. I'm not sure that it's reached that point, but I'm sure it's getting close. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

GIVE US MOAR: Dow's Andrew Liveris in the NYT

Thanks to Alex Tullo's post, we have an interesting set of comments from Dow (and its CEO, Andrew Liveris) in the New York Times on how he sees the future (emphases CJ's):
“An advanced manufacturing policy is what this country must have,” says Andrew N. Liveris, the chairman and chief executive of Dow Chemical, arguing, in effect, that manufacturing needs government support to expand its dwindling share of the nation’s economy. That is particularly so when demand for new products like solar shingles and batteries is not yet enough to justify the investment. (Three solar companies recently filed for bankruptcy.) Mr. Liveris, 57, himself a chemical engineer and co-chairman of President Obama’s newly formed Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a group of outside advisers, would even “pick winners” — that is, select some manufacturers for continuing support. “I would not let free markets rule without also addressing what I want manufacturing to be 20 or 30 years from now,” he says. 
As multinationals place factories abroad, they are putting research centers near them, with as-yet-undetermined consequences. At the very least, this trend challenges the view that the United States has the best scientists and research centers and is thus the research-and-development pacesetter.
From China, Dow Chemical now exports products invented at its research center near Shanghai. “Overseas,” Mr. Liveris said, “I get tax incentives, and I get incentives to go to certain locations where they offer us utilities, infrastructure and land. I get access to human capital. I get all sorts of support to help train that human capital.”
Against that backdrop, he and a few other top executives of multinationals exhort the Obama administration and Congress to grant incentives and subsidies intended to halt the 60-year decline in manufacturing’s contribution to national income. Mr. Liveris recently published a book on the subject. He says vigorous government support, like the subsidies that Dow receives for its solar roof shingle operation and the electric battery factory, might eventually halt manufacturing’s slide. But he adds that his company and others will not embark on a reverse migration, a significant “in-shoring” of what has already moved abroad. Too many consumers are concentrated today in Asia and Europe.
“We put things overseas,” Mr. Liveris says, “because markets were growing there and we wanted to be close to them, and that will never change.”
What do I read from this? Well, today, I'm a cynic. I hear 3 things:
Maybe my mood will change tomorrow. 

For your viewing pleasure 3 captains of industry talk about employment in chemistry:

More on this soon. 

Daily Pump Trap: 9/13/11 edition

Good morning! Between September 8 and September 12, there have been 88 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 65 (74%) are academically connected.

RTP, NC: RTI International is looking for a Ph.D. analytical chemist with experience in the characterization and analysis of small molecules.

Bend, OR: Bend Research is a drug delivery company; they're looking for an experienced B.S./M.S./Ph.D. pharmaceutical process scientist with experience in solid dosage formulation. Good skiing, I hear.

Cincinnati, OH: The Shepherd Chemical Company has posted 3 R&D Ph.D. chemist positions, including a materials, inorganic and a organometallic position.

Berkeley Livermore, CA: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories is advertising its postdoctoral program. (Thanks to @myevilprofessor for the correction.) 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

I swear I did not photoshop this

While trying to find the context for this stupefying quote,
Second, some skills are much more sought after than others. For instance, “chemistry graduates are now getting some of the best starting salaries among all graduates,” says Andrew Liveris, the boss of Dow Chemical. 
...I happened upon this little present from Google.*

*Look, that statement just cannot be correct. Or it's a misquote. Or there's some wild contextual problem, like he meant, "...compared to liberal arts graduates." Or he actually meant "chemical engineering graduates." 

Farm kids in the lab

Nice color, innit? (Credit: eatliveplay mid-Michigan)
Th' Gaussling had a debunking of myths about people who grew up in rural settings. I can't really argue with him too much, especially when he's standing against the stylings of politicians and their brand-new Carhartt jackets. But I'll say this about farms and the people that grow up in rural environments, and how well it translates to a science/laboratory environment:

They can fix darn near everything: Check out Gaussling's further comments:
I could arc, gas, and spot weld by the time I was 12. A farmer with a welder is an awsome thing to behold. 
Everyone knows that in graduate school, stuff breaks and there's no money to call in a repair technician. Who's the guy who's going to take apart the instrument, figure out what's wrong, fix it and put it back together? Oh yeah, it's the kid who's been working on their Dad's tractor since he was 13.

They work really frickin' hard: Hopefully, you're in an environment where mind-numbing drudgery is not a big part of your life as a chemist and a laboratory researcher. However, life is hard and columns are long. It's incredibly challenging to attempt to outwork someone who grew up on a farm. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's pretty tough.

Just like Gaussling says, growing up or living in a rural environment doesn't make you a saint. But in a lab, there's always seems to be a Farm Kid and chances are, they're getting something done. 

The first Paying It Forward job posting!

It's something!
Project opportunity for an experienced (formulator) chemist to develop a cleaning product.Area of experience in surfactant solution chemistry is helpful. Qualified individualcan work from home.  Please send your questions and CV to: Attn: Allen Jans
Actually, it sounds like interesting work for an experienced formulator.

An interesting contrast

Our friend bbooooooya notes an interesting contrast:

The CEO of Synta Pharmaceuticals was invited to the President's speech last night; his company put out a press release about it:
"Maintaining U.S. leadership in science and technology and addressing the serious healthcare issues facing this country require policies in place that encourage innovation," said Dr. Bahcall. "Reducing the barriers and increasing incentives to innovation can help companies like Synta and other biotechnology companies create new drugs, lower the total costs of healthcare by preventing expensive hospital stays and create new jobs in America."
Oh, what's this? An article from 2008 in Pharmaceutical Outsourcing by your director of preclinical development?
This article will not be a general review of quality/capability of Chinese CROs/CMOs, but will describe how Synta came to recognize China as a feasible pre/nonclinical outsourcing option through evaluating our partnership with several CROs and CMOs located in China.
Well, I'm sure that once Synta gets its tax credits, the money will all be spent here to hire American scientists. And a pony. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Interview: @LCMSMS, analytical chemist

Kerri Smith is a graduate student and a job seeker; she tweets as @LCMSMS. Since I don't get to chat with very many analytical chemists, I thought I would ask her a few questions. (This e-mail interview was formatted by Chemjobber and checked by Kerri for accuracy.)

CJ: Can you tell us a little about yourself? 
KS: I am a senior graduate student in analytical chemistry with Ph.D. focus on small molecule quantitation and protein-ligand interaction characterization by mass spectrometry. My work has been applied to preclinical studies of anticancer compounds, forensics detection of illicit drugs, as well as investigation of new combination antibiotic therapies. Besides chemistry, I make my own jewelry as well as enjoy a night out dancing to melodic house music.
CJ: What kind of position are you looking for in your job search? 
KS: I would like to join a company that values and fosters creativity. I really enjoy troubleshooting in method development and mass spec in general, but have a passion for experimentation and trying new things in any application. I am a hands-on learner, so I really enjoy working in the lab.
CJ: What do you wish people knew about analytical chemistry and the instruments you work with? 
KS: I wish that people realized that with a little determination, they too could run and get meaningful data from a mass spectrometer.  Electricity, ionization, and liquid chromatographic separation may be the stuff of magic at first, but after some critical thinking and experimentation, one realizes that they are somewhat predictable.  I have had undergraduate students that were so baffled by how a gas chromatography – mass spectrometer instrument worked, that they couldn’t get past the mental block of ‘how’ so they could ‘do.’ I always tell people that you can’t you can’t learn to cook by wondering about it, so how do you expect to truly understand mass spectrometry without touching a mass spectrometer? I’ve actually told people that they were thinking too much; they needed to get away from the computer and get to work on the bench.  Mass spectrometry is a “doing” science. Yes you use your brain, but you have to eventually get up and ‘do’ to know what question to ask about your analysis next.

CJ: What do you wish synthetic chemists knew about mass spec?

KS: Not all organic solvents are electrospray ionization-compatible. If we can get the sample in a rather "benign" alcohol or even add ethyl acetate, the analyte might just ionize perfectly. Regardless, there is always a way to get the analysis done.  

CJ: What are you hearing from your friends and colleagues about the job market that you're interested in? 
KS: Unfortunately, I am hearing that the job market is somewhat volatile and unpredictable at the moment. I have a friend who was laid-off three times, but fortunately found a new position within the same company, in the last two years.  I originally considered this friend’s field first, but now I am having second thoughts. I want a career, not just a job. As I am graduating soon, I find myself searching harder and harder for a permanent-type position.

CJ here again. Best of luck to Kerri and thanks for a great interview!

Daily Pump Trap: 9/8/11 edition

Good morning! Between August 6 and August 7, 11 new positions were posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 4 (36%) are academically connected.

Wow: So the job opening slowdown is pretty remarkable. Not really much of substance in the past couple of days except for a Shimadzu sales position in the Bay Area. Snore.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) 328, 688, 3,697 and 67 positions for the search term "chemist."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A dream "Who's Viewed Your Profile?"

ACS addresses academic chemical safety

Go over and read Jyllian Kemsley's post on the ACS Council on chemical safety. Her concluding thoughts:
I came away from the Council discussion with three main thoughts: First, no one stood up either to defend academic laboratory safety culture or to say ACS shouldn’t get involved (rather, one councilor noted that “There is no college laboratory that I want to work in because they’re so unsafe”), and the flow of suggestions had to be cut off when time ran out. Clearly, the prevailing opinion is that there’s a role here for ACS. [snip] 
Third, I also thought that there was too much emphasis on training students and not enough on the role of faculty and administration (a comment left on a post last week said the same thing). Trying to marshal student chapters isn’t going to get very far if the students’ teachers/advisers/mentors aren’t on board. (Re-)training faculty is, of course, a much harder problem than creating safety videos, but if the goal is to change culture, that will happen faster if you include the people with the power. [Emphasis CJ's.]
As I'm never tired of saying (and I believe it quotes Harry Elston), safety is a top-down function. Changing the hearts and minds of the faculty to (re)emphasize safety culture is the best way of preventing more tragedies.

Process Wednesday: slow additions, part 1

From the archives of Kilomentor, thoughts on slow addition in the lab versus the plant:
Additions in the laboratory can be very fast indeed. One can pour 100 ml of solution into a 250 ml r.b. flask in a few seconds. On scale it is not possible to copy this. The absolute volume of solution is much more; it must be pumped in or run in by gravity through a constricted line; besides, the enthalpy change would most likely be unmanageable. For these reasons, the rate of addition becomes a variable of significant concern in scale up because when we go to large reactors the addition rate is severely constrained compared to the lab situation. 
Besides the instantaneous addition of a solution, which I have just posed as an example which is simply impossible other possibilities are seriously discouraged on scale. In the laboratory so long as a strong stream of inert gas is maintained over the reactor surface and the reaction vessel is in a fume hood, a glass stopper can be removed briefly and a solid reactant poured in through a powder. The equivalent would not be acceptable in the chemical plant. The operators would be exposed to chemical contamination, as would the atmosphere in the plant and the inertness of the reactor atmosphere would be seriously compromised. Also, the addition would not be adequately reproducible and if there were solvent already in the reactor when the solid addition was made there could be a dangerous splash back. 
A number of reactions require the slow and controlled addition of a solution containing one reagent to another. These are ideal for scale up. Slow addition is both necessary and simple to achieve on-scale; rather, the technical difficulty that the process development chemist needs to solve is how to duplicate in the laboratory these slow additions on scale to model the process.
I think this is one of the biggest worries that I have as a process chemist -- the simple addition that I'm performing on laboratory scale, how will it scale? Will an undesired side reaction happen during the slow addition? What is the best way to simulate what will be run in the plant? (Answers next week.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scientific fraud: not just a modern phenomenon

An interesting letter in this week's C&EN on scientific fraud:
As I read about the research fraud case at Columbia University (C&EN, July 11, page 4), my mind instantly went back to a similar case at Purdue University uncovered in 1964. I attended my graduation in May of that year and was awarded a Ph.D. in chemistry. A statement of retraction of a Ph.D. was printed in the graduation program. A student studying under the guidance of Robert A. Benkeser was charged with faking his research results, and his Ph.D. degree had been withdrawn. 
The student was a very intelligent person, perhaps brilliant. He never seemed to study much and yet easily passed all of his course exams and degree qualifying examinations. His thesis was about the synthesis of silicocyclopentadiene or derivatives thereof. As in the case of Bengü Sezen, his chicanery was discovered when well-known researchers in the field reported to Benkeser that they could not repeat his student’s literature-reported experimental procedures. 
Investigation of the student’s work revealed falsely constructed nuclear magnetic resonance and infrared spectra. Another of Benkeser’s students working in the same laboratory almost had his doctoral work discredited. Fortunately, timely and detailed detective work proved that the second student knew nothing of the fraud, and he was awarded his advanced degree. The student who faked the work allegedly graduated from Harvard University, but I believe the work there also proved fraudulent. Efforts to find the student who perpetrated the fraud were not successful. He was to have started postgraduate work with a famous researcher in Chicago but instead just disappeared.
Stephen E. French
Rochester, N.Y.
I'm under the impression that it was probably a lot easier to fake data back then, but that's just a gut feeling. There were a lot fewer journals back then, and people seemed to pay a lot more attention to them. Sigh.

Chemist unemployment worse for minorities

From this week's Chemical and Engineering News, the final comment on Paying It Forward. This week's Comment is from the chair of the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs, Allison Aldridge:
Every day, we read about the dismal employment outlook. Right now, the national unemployment rate is hovering above 9% in the U.S. Chemical workers have generally fared better, with unemployment at 3.8%. As ACS Director-at-Large Valerie J. Kuck explained in last week’s Comment, however, aggregate national employment statistics don’t provide the whole picture (C&EN, Aug. 29, page 41). Kuck focused on key regional differences, noting that employment opportunities for chemists were particularly tight in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific Regions. 
As the chair of the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs, I’d like to draw your attention to employment disparities among minorities. As measured by the 2010 ACS ChemCensus survey, nationwide unemployment among chemical workers is 6.3% for African Americans, 4.6% for Hispanics, and 4.3% for Asians. On the other hand, the national unemployment rate for whites in chemistry is 3.7%. 
Not only are minorities having a more difficult time finding employment, but these employment disparities may also send a signal to young minorities that a career in chemistry may not be the best choice for them. We can speculate about the underlying reasons for the disparities in employment among ethnic and racial groups in chemistry; however, there is no doubt that we need to take action to correct these disparities.
Once again, I'm surprised that like Valerie Kuck last week, Dr. Aldridge chooses to see the ACS member unemployment rate in a relative sense (compared to the national unemployment rate), rather than an absolute one (the 2nd highest in 20 years). Nevertheless, here's hoping something good comes out of ACS' efforts towards Paying It Forward.

Daily Pump Trap: 9/6/11 edition

Good morning! Between August 31 and September 5, there were 28 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 21 (75%) are academically connected.

Boy, who turned off the taps?: The number of industrial jobs just pretty much dropped like a rock. Oh, dear. Probably related to Labor Day and the end of the Denver ACS.

Who are you kidding?: Elantas is looking for a M.S. polymer chemist in Atlanta, GA -- too bad they're only willing to pay 51 to 55k to get it. Coatings experience wanted. I'm not impressed -- readers in polymer chemistry, please correct me. constrast: Solar Compounds Corporation (Linden, NJ) is looking for a B.S.+ polymer chemist; desired "experience working with a broad variety of chemistries (silicone, rubber compounding, urethane, asphalt, more). In addition, customer interface and technical service skills are required." 45 to 70k salary range.

Magnetic: UT-Southwestern is looking for a NMR/MRI facility manager; M.S./Ph.D. desired.

New York, NY: The Population Council wishes to hire a Ph.D. analytical chemist to perform analytical method development and formulations work on microbicide gels.

Interesting: Alcoa wishes to hire a Ph.D. surface scientist (appears to be an entry-level position); experience in surface science or materials science desired. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day, folks. Here's hoping that you're enjoying a day off with your friends and family. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Not a trend, I promise, but...

Gosh, that's blurry.
Carmen has posted a nice collection of people's propofol structures, including SeeArrOh's. There was also a challenge by Unstable Isotope to draw chair structures. Mine are to the right -- I apologize in advance for the terrible lighting. (Don't know what happened to my camera, but it didn't want to cooperate last night.)

[Also, those were the 3rd set that I drew.]

Have a good weekend, folks. Enjoy Labor Day! (especially you graduate students ;-)

You get a month's worth of vacation in the Buchwald lab?

I averaged probably 2 of these a day, maybe a little more
Photo credit:
The science Twitter/blogosphere is a bit in a tizzy over Nature's recent coverage of a "24 hour lab".The article talks about a physician-scientist Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa's laboratory, where he quizzes his bench workers on his drive in at 6 AM, schedules group meeting for Friday at 10 pm, you get the idea.

I don't really have much to say about this subject than I already have. To Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa's credit, he doesn't seem to hide these facts from his workers before they're hired and pushes himself at the same pace as he appears to push his workers. His sacrifice?:
"The area in which I have failed the most is as a father," Quiñones-Hinojosa readily admits. It is something he is trying to correct, by spending more time with his kids and shuttling them to swimming lessons, (although phoning lab members on the way).
Uh, wow. I don't really know what to say about that one.

I was surprised to read a quote from Professor Steven Buchwald of MIT (and of JosiPhos ligand fame), however:
Chemist Stephen Buchwald of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology urges the members of his lab to take a month's holiday every year, and not to think about work when they're gone. "The fact is, I want people to be able to think," he says. "If they're completely beaten down, they're not going to be very creative." His approach does not seem to have hurt productivity: Thomson Reuters declared Buchwald one of the most highly cited chemists from 1999 to 2009, with an average of more than 86 citations for his 171 papers.
I've never met Professor Buchwald (I saw him speak once); I have no idea whether his vacation policy is a reality or a dare. But I find it somewhat difficult to believe that students actually take a month off. If they do, more power to them.

Readers, what was the longest period of vacation you had during graduate school? I think I took 7 days off (2 + 5) for my wedding and honeymoon. 

Unemployment unchanged from July at 9.1%; U6 up 0.1% to 16.2%

Graph credit: Calculated Risk
Fresh electrons from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: the national unemployment rate was unchanged from July at 9.1%. The broader measurement of unemployment (U6) was up 0.1% to 16.2 for August.

Unfortunately, the bigger news is that there were basically no new jobs created in August; the private sector created 17,000 jobs while the governmental sector lost 17,000.

Credit for the graph, as always to the Calculated Risk blog.