Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Analytical chemists needed?

Also from this week's C&EN, a thought-provoking article by Linda Wang on analytical chemistry in industry with some interesting quotes: 
“It’s a great time to be an analytical chemist,” says Dan Shine, president of chromatography and mass spectrometry at Thermo Fisher Scientific. The company employs roughly 4,600 scientists and engineers, including analytical chemists. “We typically have hundreds of positions open at any one time,” he says.
Interestingly, Thermo Fisher Scientific lists 27 positions for the search term "chemist." This number includes a number of positions in Bangalore, India.
“Analytical has always been easier than other areas of chemistry to get positions,” says Susan Olesik, Dow Professor of Chemistry at Ohio State University. “Even through the recession, we were able to get our students placed. It took longer, but they still got placed.”
I would obviously like to hear from Ohio State graduates to see if this is/was a true statement. My intuition tells me that it is likely true. Of course, I would also like to know what "placed" means. (i.e. full-time? part-time? what wage? temporary positions?)

I found this to be an interesting part of the article:
Ian Mangion, for instance, started at Merck as a synthetic organic chemist, but he found himself becoming more and more interested in the analytical side of things. “There’s a synergy between making and measuring, and learning the other part of the equation became interesting to me,” he says. “A lot of the training I’ve gotten has been on the job, being mentored by senior people in the department, learning a new skill set, and broadening myself as a pharmaceutical scientist. 
“I’m supporting development projects in much the same way I was doing as a synthetic chemist, only now I’m looking through the other end of the telescope,” he says. “Whereas before I was working on improving the synthesis of a compound, now I’m thinking about ‘How do we understand and control the impurity profile of this compound?’ ” 
Finally, there was this very interesting statement by Professor Olesik:
Some analytical chemists worry whether academia can produce enough new faculty to train the next generation of analytical chemists. Ohio State’s Olesik says that of the more than 50 graduate students she has trained, every single one has gone into industry. “The difference in salaries between academic and industrial analytical chemists is significant,” she says. 
“I think academic analytical chemistry has to be really careful or we won’t have enough graduates to support industry’s needs,” Olesik says. “This dwindling away of the academic analytical enterprise, it’s not a good thing, but it’s real.” She encourages analytical chemists to consider careers in academia as well as industry.
I seem to recall that, during the Wabash comments kerfluffle, there was a suggestion that there is a relative shortage of analytical chemistry Ph.D.s? Before I agree, I would like to see wage data (not likely, I understand.)

This article reminds me of something that I have been thinking for a while -- the ACS Salary Survey (and the once-every-five-years ChemCensus) are still not comprehensive enough and do not have a broad enough reach. We are on the "other" (whatever that means) side of the Great Recession, and we still have a paucity of good data. That's a shame. 

6 comments:

  1. My postdoc adviser sent this article to me and I clicked over to your blog to see if you had seen it yet. Seems I'm second to the party.

    As an analytical chemist, if this is the good times then I shudder to think what everyone else is going through. In my experience, my CV doesn't make it through the filter often, but never because of a lack of familiarity in techniques. I seriously doubt there is a glut of anal chemists, and when we're on the other side of the biotech bubble, there will definitely be a glut. I just hope I'm still young enough to be hired.

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  2. http://www.spectroscopyonline.com/2014-spectroscopy-salary-survey

    "Just over half of respondents (51%) would recommend their career as a fulfilling one to a recent graduate, whereas 11% would not."

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  3. I was a synthetic chemist but in in 2010 after a "reorganization" I was left without a job. I soon started applying for any position under the sun and got called in for an anyalytical position. I did not have much experience except for the very little analytical chemistry I did as a synthetic chemist to monitor, purify and characterize compounds. I have been doing it ever since and have noticed that most of the analytical chemist in the group were former synthetic chemist like myself. I asked the hiring manager once why he hires organic chemist for analytical positions and his answer was simple. First, he said we had a better understanding of the reactions and could therefore intuitively determine what new impurities would showe up in a process and could offer suggestions to the analytical team on how best to track them. Second, we could pick up on techniques rather quickly cause by trade we seem to be self taught and motivated (I asked what he meant by that and he said no one tells us what reactions to set up, we dig through the literature and experience and set them up ourselves, sometimes with no prior experience doing so).

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    1. Hmmm, I think I could work for that manager :).

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  4. OSU grad here: I eventually got a job (analytical chemistry) for a large nutrition company, however I was part of the small/shrinking/now gone biochemistry department, and had little to no help in regards to job placement.

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  5. As an analytical chemist in the midwest, I had to laugh at this post by C&EN. Any chemist job vacancies at my company are instantly filled, mostly by new PhD's willing to work for 40-50k salaries. We can't all move to the coasts (or to India) just to get jobs. If there are companies located on the east/west coast looking for chemists, maybe they should consider establishing campuses in the midwest.

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