Thursday, May 16, 2013

Awesome, enraging articles to read

This day has been busy (as you might be able to tell), but a few things to talk about:
  • This C&EN article by Beth Halford on the current state of the postdoc and the problem of chemists taking multiple postdocs is definitely worth a read and worth further comment. I love the quotes from senior industrial folks; it'll be great to see how their opinions match with how their companies have been hiring. 
  • Derek Lowe has a couple of great comments today:
    • The first, about an Atlantic article that talks about the problems with getting Western pharmaceutical companies to address neglected/tropical diseases. Derek has some problems with the article, naturally. I do too, especially with the thought that the solution to the problem is getting the global (i.e. non-developed world's) pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity to solve the problem. 
    • Coincidentally, the second great comment is about Fortune magazine's fantastic exposé of the quality issues and outright fraud that was happening at Ranbaxy's plants in India for about a decade. For example, they were using submitting bioequivalence data to the FDA using drug manufactured by brand-name companies or competitors. After reading that article, I am not sure how Ranbaxy has managed to stay in business. 
All three of these articles deserve your attention (and mine!)


  1. WOw, so much disturbing about C&EN article....

    “There are many Ph.D.s being trained outside the U.S., who apply for postdoc positions in the U.S., so there’s practically an infinite supply of them,” she says.

    So if you divide by infinity....Oh....that can't be good for wages....

    "Prepare to sacrifice financially and move temporarily for your postdoc,” advises Xin Chen, a chemistry professor at Boston University"

    Good idea, sacrificing financially will make the transition to a disappointing job after a few post-docs that much easier! It's all about lowering your expectations to avoid disappointment.

    “A postdoc is a unique opportunity to fine-tune the skill set you learned during your Ph.D.,” says Steven Hira, a postdoc in his second year at Georgia Tech. “It’s a tremendous time of learning and growing and an important component of intellectual development.”

    Ya, see, I didn't want a job anyway. Tom Sawyer would have loved this guy.

    Maybe look at the positive side? Depressing wages lowers expenses for companies and increases profits: as long as the companies produce drugs people can't do without, there's no (short term) issue with revenue. Plus, by encouraging people away from low paying fields like science, that actually produce things of value, we can have more brilliant minds designing algorithms to trade based on twitter posts (twit funds?)---much more value to society.....All in how you look at it.

  2. Obviously there is a shortage of scientists. The shortage will persist while there are still Americans in the pipeline complaining how much it sucks. Once we replace them all with foreigners on visas, the complaining will stop. We will have to kick out the foreigners once they do a few postdocs because they will develop expectations about their standard of living. We need to continually replace them with new ones from the infinite reservoir.

  3. At one national lab I know very well, they use post-docs basically as temp workers. Very few ever get hired permanently, but in some areas, they now account for the majority of the workforce.

    It's not all about pay, either. (At this particular lab, the post-docs get paid very well.) What you get are highly skilled, highly motivated people (compared to most contractors) who have a hard out. This comes in handy for side projects, exploratory work, etc. where you don't want to commit to anyone's long-term employment.

    1. I spent some time at a national lab. I came in as a postdoc/contractor, looked around and saw 10-12 other contractors (including non-postdocs) in my group. Many had been waiting for years to get hired on permanently. One position opened up per year on average, sometimes one every two years. Quickly, I did the math and got out of there once I found a decent job.

      From others that I know who have done government lab postdocs at other places, it's the same old story.

  4. This question addressed to both CJ and Bhooooya: You guys know of anyone who moved from an industry to post doctoral fellowship? Recall that the pharmaceutical industry in the past shed many jobs (they still do rolling layoff) and to make ends meet, I am told that some of them have accepted post-doctoral fellowship. Is it true?

  5. "This question addressed to both CJ and Bhooooya: You guys know of anyone who moved from an industry to post doctoral fellowship?"

    One buddy, medicinal chemist, who worked at a start up biotech that went kaplunk ended up doing a couple years as a PDF for a big name and has been for past 7 or 8 years at a major pharma. Worked out well for him.