Friday, August 24, 2012

Two fantastic articles on #chemjobs from Susan Ainsworth

I have been terribly remiss in not covering the last two excellent articles on the chemistry job market by Susan Ainsworth. The first talks about chemists transitioning to working in the medical diagnostics field; I really liked this section about a Ph.D. organic chemist:
Patrick M. Donovan says he “stumbled into the diagnostics field” after losing his job at now-defunct Epix Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Mass., in 2008. In the midst of a job search, he noticed an online posting for a senior biochemist position in Walpole, Mass., at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, an industry giant. 
Despite the fact that he is not a biochemist, but rather has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Boston College, Donovan applied for the position because his skills closely matched the job description. The company was actually looking for a synthetic chemist to make chemiluminescent labels to enhance its diagnostic detection technology, but it used the biochemist title to cover positions in many research areas including chemistry and microbiology. He was hired for the position at the end of 2008. 
Donovan says he’s not sure what gave him the edge in landing the job, but notes that the compounds he now works with are similar to the kinds of molecules he focused on in graduate school. Another plus, he says, may have been his postdoc experience at contract research organization Organix, as well as his work as an analytical quality control chemist for Armstrong Pharmaceuticals before graduate school. 
Donovan is happy in his new field. One satisfying aspect of his job, he says, is that his group works on molecules that can be used in a variety of assays for many tests in many areas. That contrasts with chemistry R&D done in pharma companies, which sometimes is more specialized, such as targeting a particular drug for a specific disease, he explains. “Our research can help a broad patient base of people all over the world, which is very rewarding.”
Why does it seem like Dr. Donovan is moving in the right direction, working for a medical diagnostics company, as opposed to a smaller pharma company? Is medical diagnostics "up the value chain" from pharma? (I don't really think so, but it seems that way sometimes.) Perhaps it is that medical diagnostics does not seem to be as astronomically difficult as pharma -- now I'm really talking ex recto. Readers?

Also from Ms. Ainsworth, an article in this last week's issue regarding the jobs at small companies on the East Coast. There was also an accompanying short article talking about how best to position yourself:
To fill a single position for a medicinal chemist, “we might sift through about 100 résumés to find 10 candidates who are very well qualified,” says William C. Shakespeare, vice president of drug discovery at Ariad Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Mass. “We then face the challenge of making the final cut,” he says. “In short, we are looking for people who are not ordinary. We are looking for the cherry on top.” 
In particular, Ariad looks for outstanding medicinal chemists who can also contribute to its overall drug discovery efforts in other ways. Often that means that they have some background in structure-based drug design or protein biochemistry or experience in other areas such as absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) studies, Shakespeare says. 
Candidates who have “helped provide a unique solution to an extraordinary problem—such as identifying a drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics property associated with a molecule—are more likely to stand out,” he says. “Those are the kinds of things that we look for.”
It's great to get numbers on what small companies are looking for. In this case, it is quite clear that Ariad is looking for fairly experienced medicinal chemists and certainly not new graduates.

More on both of these articles later, but I wanted to bring them to your attention.


  1. I wonder if William C. Shakespeare, vice president of drug discovery at Ariad Pharmaceuticals spins as good stories to his management and workers as the original Bard?

    1. Ah yes, the old story of a senior medicinal chemist responsible for two drug launches retiring early from the company at the age of 55. Three mid 30s graduates of his group inherit important management positions and soon two of them start fighting for position in the company and 'get rid' of the third, who was just trying to keep the company doing what it always was. Soon, the only survivor after a vicious battle becomes CEO and guts research, outsourcing all to China. In a few years, the company is bankrupt, the pension fund is found to be looted and stock is rock-bottom, affecting pretty much all the net worth of previous retirees. The old senior medicinal chemist is now poor and in his mid 60s. As he contemplates living out his life on foodstamps, his doctor tells him he has Alzheimers.

      Truly, a classic. I daresay Akira Kurosawa could not have come up with a better scenario.

    2. Uncle Sam, the plot of your story is excellent, but I am afraid the ending is not quite up to snuff. In my version the old senior medicinal chemist walks into a Wal-Mart and buys the only US-made product sold there, a 12-gauge shotgun. He then climbs into his old Aztec and drives off towards the office building from which his company was once run.

    3. No, the old man has to die in madness and poverty. Crushed by the betrayal of his former students. There is no room for revenge or going down in a hail of police gun-fire. Some things are better left un-americanized.

    4. I understand that you want to steer closer to the original plot of King Lear, but still...


    That's all you need to know. CJ is such a rah-rah-rag!