Monday, February 27, 2017

Everyone loves insurance companies

Also in this week's C&EN, quite the story of bureaucratic wrangling to get a drug by Rick Mullin (emphasis mine): 
Anita Kissinger is an aggressive advocate for her health. When the retired teacher and administrator, who worked for a self-insured school district in Missouri, was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2014, she had to fight for access to a cure.... 
[snip] 
...Her doctor prescribed Harvoni, a new drug from Gilead that has the rarest of qualities—the capacity to cure most patients. Then came the bad news: The district’s health insurance plan for prescription drugs, which is managed by MedTrak, a pharmacy benefit management (PBM) firm, turned her down for the drug, which costs $94,500 for a course of treatment.
Kissinger filed an appeal and was refused again. She appealed again and the insurer responded that it would reconsider coverage if a fibroscan indicated there was sufficient damage to her liver. After the scan, the plan turned her down again. 
Kissinger retained a lawyer who began communicating with the insurer on her behalf. Eventually she received approval for a course of treatment with Harvoni. She then took her $5,000 copay to the drug’s manufacturer. Gilead paid all but $15. In the end, Kissinger received the benefit of the $94,500 breakthrough drug for $2,015, including legal fees.
I gotta say, if I were stuck in that situation, I would be incandescently angry at everyone involved. I don't think Gilead can escape some culpability for causing the situation (i.e. pricing Harvoni at a very high price)*, even if they were ultimately not responsible for a process that requires showing sufficient damage to her liver.

*UPDATE: Dr. Zoidberg makes a good point that I missed about Harvoni's value to the patient. I think that Dr Z. is right in that Harvoni deserves a high price in that it is a cure, and that they have done a bad job of communicating its value. What I was trying to communicate (poorly) is my belief that Gilead set the terms of the debate, and should have known that it would come out badly for them, even though they were the ones who were providing Harvoni.

"Go argue with your insurance company" is not a solution that's going to endear pharma companies to patients. 

AK Scientific hit with federal indictment for mislabeling shipping manifests

Also in this week's C&EN, I'm glad to read the government is monitoring those who cheat the regulatory system in shipping of compounds (emphasis mine): 
A federal grand jury has indicted lab chemical supplier AK Scientific, based in Union City, Calif., and its owner, Peiwen Zhou, for smuggling and illegally shipping hazardous chemicals. 
According to allegations contained in the indictment, Zhou told his employees to purchase hazardous chemicals (using false names) from suppliers in China. The indictment also charges that Zhou told employees to ship chemicals to customers in the U.S. and abroad without labeling them as hazardous. 
Reached via e-mail, an AK spokesperson describes the company’s hazardous materials shipment program as “industry leading.” He adds that “AK Scientific looks forward to working with the government to reach a just and reasonable conclusion.” 
If convicted, Zhou faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the smuggling charge alone. AK faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and several years of probation. 
The indictment alleges, for instance, that AK smuggled 25 kg of the carcinogenic reagent 1,2-dibromoethane from China in 2012 with shipping papers describing the package contents as “Bema Inkjet Ink.
 Something tells me Mr. Zhou will settle with the US Attorney. 

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles from this week's C&EN:

Friday, February 24, 2017

The View From Your Hood: faint moon edition

Credit: Anonymous
Anonymous submission.

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption, please) at chemjobber@gmail.com; will run every other Friday.)

Ask CJ: What to present when you're doing a stealth interview?

Credit: etsy
From the inbox, an evergreen of a question:
I'm hoping to have a on-site job interview coming up, and since I am number of years removed from grad school I am faced with a dilemma. I will need to present something technical, but I'm really not sure what would make sense. My graduate work is getting a bit stale at this point, and since it was what I worked on [a number of] years ago I don't know if its an appropriate topic. I am employed at the moment, and have plenty I could present about from my current work, but I know there is a confidentiality line in the sand that I don't want to cross.
I didn't know how to answer this, but I kept remembering this old Derek Lowe post and I finally found it. From 12 years ago, a great set of answers from the Blogfather himself:
There was a good question asked in the comments to the previous post on first job interviews: what do you talk about when you work at one company and you’re interviewing at another? 
Well, I’ve done that myself, more than once (note to my current co-workers: not in the last few years, folks.) And it can be tricky. But there are some rules that people follow, and if you stay within their bounds you won’t cause any trouble. That’s not to say that my managers wouldn’t have had a cow if they’d seen my old interview slides at the time, but I was at least in the clear legally. 
He starts with work that was published, material that is in patent applications and worst of all, material from previous academic work. Read the whole thing.

I think that about sums it up, although I will make a note that this is why it's probably good practice to routinely be working on side projects that are both publishable and not immediately, directly work-related (not that it is easy to find time for such endeavors, nor are they encouraged by management.) Readers, how have you threaded this particular needle? 

VX nerve agent?

That's the word from the Malaysian government on what killed Kim Jong-Un's half-brother. The DPRK is the gift that keeps giving. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Generals against Powerpoint

(An occasional series) From Tom Ricks' book "Fiasco" about post-invasion Iraq, an interesting tidbit about incoming national security adviser H.R. McMaster*:
McMaster also challenged U.S. military culture, all but banning the use of PowerPoint briefings by his officers. The Army loves these bulleted briefings, but McMaster had come to believe that the ubiquitous software inhibits clarity in thinking, expression, and planning.
Best wishes to General McMaster in his new endeavor.

*Always another great opportunity to mention the weirdest named battle of the late 20th century, and then Captain McMaster's involvement. 

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 85 positions

Doing my best to track down all open research-track medicinal chemistry positions. At the moment, the list has 85 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (will likely be included about a year from now?), industrial postdocs (maybe someday soon.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise! (sooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Job posting: research chemist, Boragen, Research Triangle Park, NC

Via random clicking, this position:
We are seeking an entrepreneurial and highly motivated chemist to become an important member of an exciting venture-backed startup team, Boragen. The role of the chemist will be to develop novel chemistry to address current agricultural problems, especially regarding antimicrobials and animal health issues. The successful candidate will support hit-to-lead and lead optimization chemistry for a range of biological targets, as well as some formulation studies using chemical and physical tests. The successful candidate must have an aptitude for innovation in a fast-paced startup environment, and a strong commitment to work with a highly collaborative discovery team. The position will be based in Research Triangle Park, NC. 
Prerequisites:
  • Ph.D. in Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, or related fields
  • Demonstrated expertise in synthetic organic chemistry with experience in the design and execution of complex multi-step syntheses
  • Experienced in developing formulations in agriculture, cosmetics, or pharmaceutical industry is a plus...
Full listing here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Daily Pump Trap: 2/23/17 edition

A few of the recent positions at C&EN Jobs:

La Jolla, CA: Synthetic Genomics is looking for a B.S./M.S. bioanalytical chemist.

Research Triangle Park, NC: Bayer is searching for an environmental fate field scientist. (B.S./M.S./Ph.D., 2+ years experience.)

Rockville, MD: The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is looking for a science communicator; M.S. required, Ph.D. preferred.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and USAjobs.gov show (respectively) "1000+", 424, 8,799 and 9 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 3,532 positions for the search term "chemist" and 19,756 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Polymer Chemist: 13/632. Analytical chemist: 249/301. Research chemist: 43/57. Synthetic chemist:  17/604. Medicinal chemist: 22/45. Organic chemist: 35/79. Process chemist: 21/63. Process development chemist: 8/9. Formulation chemist: 54/57.

Huh, that's a new one: Pfizer is looking for a Ph.D. synthetic chemist with 0-4 years experience:
We seek a creative, enthusiastic, and highly motivated synthetic chemist to join our Applied Synthetic Technologies laboratories in Groton, CT. As part of the Photo-Redox Chemistry team, the successful applicant will contribute, through the development and execution of innovative photo-chemical technologies, to the accelerated advancement of clinical candidates.
Never seen that, I feel.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Uh, wow

Thesis defense flyers have gotten more interesting than when I was a student. (via Twitter)

Is there a medicinal chemist generation gap?

...I think we should trade the 12-year exclusivity period from biologics to small molecule drugs. 
Why would this help? Because small molecule drugs are far easier to copy and far easier to produce than biologics. Extending the exclusivity period for small molecules at the expense of biologics might provide the incentive needed to get biopharma to ramp up their chemistry departments again. And in the long term, more small molecule drugs could not only address a lot of serious illnesses, but would also mean more drugs will eventually be made available at extremely cheap prices once they become generic, rather than the more modest 20-50% discount expected for biosimilars (the generic version of biologic) drugs.... 
...There are practical reasons to try to do this now. In the world of biopharma, small molecule approaches have been losing favor to biologics because biologics can command higher prices, are harder to copy, face less severe competition, and tend to have much longer product life cycles. Given the attractiveness of biologics from a business standpoint, the industry has curtailed its discovery efforts around small molecules. A generation of expertise in medicinal chemistry is growing older and the few scientist replacements aren’t being trained quickly enough in all that institutional knowledge. Persuading biopharma to go back to small molecules would help stem the loss of knowledge, which would increase the odds of creating great, eventually generic small molecule drugs.
Is it really true that "the few scientist replacements aren't being trained quickly enough"? Is there a demographic gap between soon-to-retire medicinal chemists and their younger replacements? I could believe such a thing, but I'd like to see some data.

Dr. Serikawa suggests that this would be a good long-term idea for the country; I'm inclined to agree (seeing as how the point is "employ more medicinal chemists".) Somehow I doubt biopharma management and their shareholders would agree, though.

Would a President Trump agree to this? It scratches his "drugs are too expensive" itch, and that might be worth something. I can't imagine that pharma-oriented senators would be excited, though. 

"CHEM PhD and UNEMPLOYED"

Credit: detail of this photo
An interesting detail noticed by Twitter user mem_somerville at the Rally for Science in Boston this past weekend.

Does anyone know who this person is? I wouldn't mind helping them out.

UPDATE: They've been found. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

US chemistry Ph.D.s awarded: 1994-2015

A little tabulation of the data in the NSF's Survey of Earned Doctorates. Data set here.

It's interesting how the number of organic chemistry Ph.D.s went up, just as the number of pharma jobs probably started declining in 2003 or so. 

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 563 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 563 positions.

Have you had a Skype/phone interview or an on-site with a position on the Faculty Jobs List? Please add the date of the interview to the open thread. The open thread is here.

Do you see anything that needs correcting? Please leave a comment in the open thread, or e-mail me at chemjobber@gmail.com

As the 2017 Faculty Jobs Open Thread has gotten longer, the Blogger software that this blog is run on has added a new wrinkle: when you initially load the thread, it loads only the first ~220 comments and then has a "load more" button near the bottom of the page near the comment box. Only after pressing that button about 7 times does it load the latest comments.

Finally, a web forum! Because the open thread has gotten more unwieldy, I have opened up this web forum ("Chemistry Faculty Jobs List"). Feel free to join/post!

Daily Pump Trap: 2/20/17 edition

A (very) few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Foster City, CA: Gilead is hiring a senior EH&S program manager and also a senior EH&S specialist.

"AdvanSix, previously Honeywell": A listing in Colonial Heights, Virginia for a senior research scientist. It's a M.S./Ph.D. position, with these basic qualifications:
  • MSc organic or physical organic chemistry with 5 – 10 years experience
  • Ph.D in organic or physical organic chemistry 0 – 5 years experience – highly preferred
  • Ph.D Chemical Engineer with 5-10 years extensive experience in Organic and Analytical chemistry 
  • 5 or more years of developing and testing new chemical products and finding applications for them preferred, experience optimizing and commercializing chemical processes a plus. 
That "highly preferred" is very interesting. 

Somerville, MA: Voxel8 is searching for a senior polymer chemist; no education requirements, 6+ years experience. Listed salary is 85-100k. 

Job posting: visiting assistant professor of organic chemistry, Davidson College

Via Twitter, a visiting assistant professor position at Davidson College (Davidson, NC):
Davidson College, a highly selective, nationally-ranked liberal arts college 20 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina, invites applications for a one-year visiting position in organic chemistry to begin July 1, 2017. Duties include teaching laboratory classes in organic chemistry and possibly directing student research. Candidates must have an M.S. in chemistry for appointment as Instructor or Ph.D. in chemistry for appointment as Visiting Assistant Professor.  ABD candidates will be considered.  Teaching experience is preferred. 
Submit applications online only at http://employment.davidson.edu including a letter of application, curriculum vitae, teaching statement, undergraduate and graduate transcripts, and the names and contact information for three references who have agreed to provide letters of recommendation.  Consideration of completed applications will begin February 28, 2017 and continue until the position is filled but all applications must be completed by April 1. Please direct inquiries to Felix Carroll, Professor of Chemistry, at fecarroll@davidson.edu.
Best wishes to those interested. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 2/21/17 edition

A few of the academic positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Scranton, PA: Marywood University is looking for an assistant professor of biochemistry.

Dubuque, IA: Loras College is looking for a visiting assistant professor for August 2017.

Greenville, SC: Furman University is hiring two visiting assistant professors; one inorganic, the other open.

San Antonio, TX: Trinity University is searching for a visiting assistant professor. "Salary: competitive."

Monday, February 20, 2017

This most unusual opening to an article you will read this week

Also in this week's C&EN, a story about earwax in the cover story about naturally-derived catalysts: 
As a teenager in the 1960s, Charles V. Johnson of Lake Geneva, Wis., was tinkering with his chemistry set when he discovered that earwax could serve as a catalyst for making pigments. Later on, as a zoology undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Johnson took a daring chance in a chemistry lab: He applied earwax to a boiling chip and substituted it for a palladium catalyst in an organic synthesis experiment. It worked well to make trans-stilbene, although his professor didn’t seem impressed. 
“That’s the thing that has bothered me most,” Johnson told C&EN in a 2012 interview. “My instructors didn’t think there was anything to it.” After graduating, Johnson worked as a chemical technician at Sigma-Aldrich until he retired. He occasionally toyed with using earwax as a catalyst over the years to, for example, polymerize a methacrylate-based material he bummed off his dentist. 
Johnson often contemplated what the active catalyst might be in earwax, but he wasn’t able to do an analysis to find out. Most likely, it’s an amino acid or protein, he assumed. Amino acids such as proline are well-known organocatalysts. And catalytic proteins, known as enzymes, have been used since the dawn of civilization—though not knowingly until modern times—for food and beverage processing.
Naturally, I suspect palladium in the boiling chip, but who knows? I tend to doubt that squalene has catalytic properties for carbon-carbon bond formation...

(Does anyone remember Dylan and his earwax?)

A myriad of feelings

Also in this week's C&EN, a letter to the editor:
It is sad to see the words “Graduate & Postdoctoral Student Chemistry Research” in the title of a symposium to be held at the next ACS meeting. And not just any symposium, but a presidential event, no less. C&EN in its coverage goes on to refer explicitly to “postdoctoral students” (C&EN, Feb. 6, page 65). 
Postdocs are scholars, not students. They have completed the longest and most advanced courses of study available in their fields and earned the highest degrees attainable—degrees that qualify them to be professors. Far from being students, postdocs are highly trained scholars who assist faculty in teaching students, guiding projects, and supervising research groups under the leadership of their principal investigators. 
Postdoctoral scholars are frequently used as cheap academic labor and at least one recent study, based on longitudinal data over more than 30 years, has shown that doing a postdoc is injurious to their long-term career earnings (Nat. Biotechnol. 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3766). To this injury, ACS is now adding the proverbial insult by calling them students. ACS and its president owe an apology to this underappreciated group of our colleagues. 
Andrew J. Lovinger
Arlington, Va.
It would be vaguely interesting to know who wrote those two words; I doubt it was C&EN.* 

I have always preferred "postdoctoral fellow" to "postdoc", but I'm a Title Voluptuary, I suspect. 

*Reminder: I write a column for C&EN, so fair warning, I'm probably biased.

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles from this week's C&EN:

Friday, February 17, 2017

6 mL transfer pipets

A list of small, useful things (links):
Again, an open invitation to all interested in writing a blog, a hobby that will bring you millions thousands hundreds tens of dollars joy and happiness. Send me a link to your post, and I'd be happy to put it up.

Have a great weekend!

What killed Kim Jong-Nam?

Lethal on landing?
Credit: The Drive
Regarding that crazy story about North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's half-brother being killed in a Malaysian airport, friend of the blog Josh Bloom asks a darn good question: 
Organic chemists are a different species (1). While the world was pondering the geopolitical ramifications of the assassination of Kim Jong Un's half-brother Kim Jong-Nam, we were all wondering "what the hell was in those needles?" 
This morbid curiosity became even more so as the story changed. Instead of needles, different reports said that a liquid was either sprayed in Kim's face or applied with a cloth. For us chemists, that is even crazier. What on earth could be applied to the skin and cause dizziness, a headache, and then death so quickly? This has led to speculation about what chemical was used, because, given the "facts" that we now have, there is no obvious answer...
(Here's a little context for this story.)

He's actually got a list, which is helpful and sorta kinda morbid - but mostly helpful. Me, I'm going for an isocyanate of some sort, but maybe I'm wrong. It was probably fentanyl or something else boring-ish.

Readers, what say you? Animal, vegetable or mineral?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 81 positions

Doing my best to track down all open research-track medicinal chemistry positions. At the moment, the list has 81 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Check out the other bottom tabs on the list for various notations and side experiments.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (will likely be included about a year from now?), industrial postdocs (maybe someday soon.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise!

Weird personal finance question about retirement investing in the Trump era

This gets a little political, so I won't be offended if you don't read this. It's mostly about retirement.

Job posting: process chemist, Abide Therapeutics, San Diego, CA

Via random clicking, a position with Abide Therapeutics in San Diego, CA:
Process Chemist:  
Description: The successful candidate will optimize the synthesis of potential drug candidate molecules directed toward the inhibition of serine hydrolases and function as part of a cross-disciplinary team to advance compounds into clinical trials. The candidate will execute process chemistry optimization of synthetic routes to lead molecules in addition to preparation of novel building blocks and key intermediates on large scale. 
The successful candidate will participate in discussions with contract manufacturing organizations (CMO) to enable the preparation of compounds for preclinical and clinical evaluation on multi-kilogram scale. Additionally, the candidate will engage in pre-formulation activities for lead molecules and early development of solid oral dosage forms. The successful candidate will also contribute to preparing the CMC section of IND applications and investigational medicinal product dossiers in collaboration with consultants, QA specialists and CMOs. 
The chemist will work independently, use databases and information tools to keep current with process chemistry trends and contribute to patent applications and publications. 
Experience and Education Requirements: 
  • BS/MS in Organic Chemistry with 5-7 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry
  • Experience with process chemistry, scale-up and cGMP principles; pilot plant experience a plus
  • Experience interacting with CMOs
  • Experience advancing compounds from discovery into Phase 1 clinical trials...
Click here for full listing. Best wishes to those interested. 

Daily Pump Trap: 2/16/17 edition

A (very) few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Charleston, TN: Wacker is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be the lab manager for its plant in Tennessee. It's also looking for an assistant production manager (looks interesting and busy.)

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and USAjobs.gov show (respectively) "1000+", 420, 8,781 and 11 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 3,248 positions for the search term "chemist" and 20,600 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Polymer Chemist: 15/711. Analytical chemist: 288/348. Research chemist: 43/53. Synthetic chemist:  18/672. Medicinal chemist: 22/43. Organic chemist: 36/81. Process chemist: 24/63. Process development chemist: 7/8. Formulation chemist: 60/65. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Transitioning from process to medicinal chemistry?

A very good friend of mine transitioned from medicinal to process chemistry relatively early in their career, but has anyone ever heard of people going from the plant to the bench (loosely speaking)? From the inbox:
Do you have advice, experience, or anecdotes of chemists who switch from process to discovery/medicinal chemistry?  I am a process chemist [redacted] and want to switch to the discovery/development side of the field.
I've not heard too much about this. It seems to me that you'd have to demonstrate some knowledge, comfort or willingness to learn about the more biological aspects of medicinal chemistry.

Readers, what say you? Got any stories to tell? 

A report from Bristol on that TATP incident

Via Jyllian Kemsley's The Safety Zone blog, a writeup of that TATP incident from senior people at the University of Bristol. It was written by the dean of the Faculty of Science (Prof. Timothy Gallagher) and the head of the school of chemistry (Prof. Nicholas Norman). I'm going to excerpt this, but you should go over there and read the whole thing: 
On 3 February 2017, a graduate student in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol was carrying out a literature procedure to oxidise an aldehyde to the carboxylic acid using aqueous acidified chlorite. The experiment was carried out on a 5 mmol scale (just under 1g of aldehyde) and risk assessments identifying all hazards had been undertaken and signed off by both student and supervisor. The reaction solvent was acetone (50 mL). 
Part of the procedure involved adding a quantity of 30% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) solution to remove some of the by-products of the reaction, whose presence was (apparently) associated with a yellow colour (possibly including chlorine dioxide). The literature indicated that H2O2 be added until this yellow colour had disappeared, which should have required about 1 mL of peroxide solution. 
The student, focusing on the yellow colour, which did not completely disappear, continued to add hydrogen peroxide solution until about 50 mL had been added. During workup to remove the solvent, the student realised that the solvent volume was not decreasing and that the liquid was becoming viscous, and so likely contained far more “product” than was expected. GCMS analysis indicated the presence of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), and it was estimated that this could amount to 30-40g if all the excess H2O2 had reacted with the acetone solvent. 
At that point, the graduate student immediately alerted the supervisor, who escalated this to the Head of School. A series of decisions were made and actions taken that resulted in the disposal of the suspected TATP by means of a controlled explosion carried out by the emergency services. 
Nobody was injured and no damage was done in the lab. Although the TATP presented an explosion hazard, the risk of explosion was considered minor due to all material remaining in solution; TATP is far more sensitive to detonation as a solid. Immediate disposal was warranted, however, due to the risk of precipitation/crystallisation of a solid material.
The authors have some statements that I will summarize (errors made are mine)
  1. The student was overfocused on removing the yellow color in the reaction, even as the risk of H2O2 + acetone had been identified.
  2. The role of the acetone was overlooked. 
  3. When the student recognized how they had made an error, they reported it immediately to their supervisor. "This was highly responsible – the most important thing done – and shows the value of investing in developing and fostering a culture in which colleagues recognise errors and misjudgements, and they are supported to report near misses."
This seems like a reasonable response and a fairly quick one, all to the credit of the University of Bristol.

I'd sure like to know what the "workup to remove the solvent" was. Did the student put this material on a rotary evaporator?

This incident reminds me of a favorite list of "what if" questions from McConville's "Pilot Plant Real Book", including the question "Consider the possibility of operator error - over charging or undercharging raw materials, adding materials in the wrong order, omitting a component, overheating, holding for too long at reaction temperature, opening or closing the wrong valve, etc."

Finally, it would be great if there was some kind of central repository of chemical incident information. This report would certainly be a good candidate for inclusion in it. I wonder if the chair of the department of chemistry at UCLA has such a report to file? 

A peculiar case of remarkable similarities

Tables 4 and 5 from Mandapati et al. and Seelam et al.
Via Twitter, Lana Hiscock found some very interesting similaries between two Tetrahedron Letters papers. She also wrote it up on Reddit: 
"Recently I discovered two almost identical, and in places copied and pasted, articles on synthetic methodology (both published within the last 6 months). Amazingly, neither journal has any link on their website which I could find for reporting apparent plagiarism. Not only that, but I caught the outright copying easily and it's something that should have been picked up in peer review.... 
...Additionally, and highly suspiciously, they all refer to water as a "grenary" (or "greenary" in one case) solvent. If you Google "grenary solvent" you get the ChemistrySelect paper as the fourth result. If you can read the articles, it's obvious, in my opinion, that these papers are all related to a common ancestor."
In her Reddit post, she points to four separate papers (a 2016 Tet. Lett., a 2017 Tet. Lett., a Synth. Commun. paper and a ChemistrySelect.). This Reddit comment from Auntie Markovnikov indicates there may be both plagiarism and self-plagiarism going on.

I haven't been able to check all four papers, but I have downloaded both Tetrahedron Letters papers and as you can see above, there are remarkable similarities in the methods table.

Amusingly, if you search a phrase in both of the Tetrahedron Letters papers ("The reactions are rapid and facile and accomplished at room temperature"), you find yet another paper, this one from 2011 and published in Green Chemistry Letters and Reviews. The subject matter is rather similar; one wonders if this is the original source.

As more and more of the literature becomes open-access, isn't there some way to program bots to crawl the literature and look for plagiarized text? Might be a useful thing... 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 560 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 560 positions.

Have you had a Skype/phone interview or an on-site with a position on the Faculty Jobs List? Please add the date of the interview to the open thread. The open thread is here.

Do you see anything that needs correcting? Please leave a comment in the open thread, or e-mail me at chemjobber@gmail.com

As the 2017 Faculty Jobs Open Thread has gotten longer, the Blogger software that this blog is run on has added a new wrinkle: when you initially load the thread, it loads only the first ~220 comments and then has a "load more" button near the bottom of the page near the comment box. Only after pressing that button about 7 times does it load the latest comments.

Finally, a web forum! Because the open thread has gotten more unwieldy, I have opened up this web forum ("Chemistry Faculty Jobs List"). Feel free to join/post!

Vanderbilt graduate student needs insurance okay for cancer care

UPDATE: The insurance company decided to cover him. Hooray!

This situation with a Vanderbilt chemistry graduate student seems bad (emphasis mine):
The standard drugs used for AML will not be sufficient in my case. Fortunately, there is a drug in a Vanderbilt clinical trial that is available (called midostaurin) that has been shown to help patients with my particular mutation to achieve remission. However, moving forward, the Vanderbilt insurance company for graduate students has decided that they will not pay for ANY care (hospital stay and standard care) associated with this clinical trial. 
To be clear, the clinical trial is funded by a pharmaceutical company and does not need to be covered by the insurance company. The insurance company solely has to pay for the ROUTINE STANDARD care that goes along with the clinical trial.
More details here. Best wishes to Mr. Kantor.

UPDATE: The insurance company decided to cover him. Hooray!

Job posting: material development chemist, Covaron, Ann Arbor, MI

From the inbox, a research chemist position at Covaron Advanced Materials, a startup in Ann Arbor, MI:
Job Title: Material Development Chemist
Location: Ann Arbor, MI 
The successful applicant will have a Masters or PhD degree in chemistry or materials science and experience working in a research and development environment. Consistent delivery of successful development outcomes is more important than duration of work experience for this role. Must be amenable to the unique pace, challenges, and opportunities of a ‘startup’ company and culture. 
The Material Development Chemist will be responsible for the following:
  • Develop resins to meet material performance and processing requirements
  • Develop quantitative structure-property-chemistry mechanisms for controlling resin performance
  • Resolve material, processing and quality problems of ingredients and finished materials...
About Covaron 
Covaron Advanced Materials is an award winning startup advanced materials company specializing in controlling organically modified aluminosilicates to solve the real world problems of our customers and the markets we serve. We are expanding our development group with new team members that are excited and engaged in the collective purpose of making the world a better place through the power of materials.
Full listing here; Indeed posting here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Daily Pump Trap: 2/14/17 edition

A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs: 

Kenilworth, NJ: Merck is searching for an associate principal scientist for bioprocess development; M.S./Ph.D. (4-8 years experience desired.) 

A champion title, if there ever was one: Syngenta (Greensboro, NC) is looking for a "Product Metabolism Method Development Technical Expert" (B.S. analytical chemist with 3 years of experience desired.) 

Diamond Bar, CA: South Coast Air Quality Management District is looking for air quality chemists. " No experience is required for Assistant Air Quality Chemist.  For the Air Quality Chemist, three years as an Assistant Air Quality Chemist or equivalent is required.  SUBSTITUTION:  A Master of Science (MS) degree in Chemistry may substitute for up to one year of the required experience; a doctorate in chemistry may substitute for up to two years of experience." Offered salary: Salary/Wage: $5,302 - $7,888/month. Seems reasonable? 

Ivory Filter Flask: 2/14/2017 edition

A few of the academic positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Kent, OH: Kent State University is searching for a tenure-track professor of analytical chemistry.

Madison, FL: North Florida Community College is looking for a chemistry instructor. (M.S. desired.)

Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College is looking for a visiting assistant professor.

Shreveport, LA: Centenary College of Louisiana is looking for a visiting assistant professor of analytical chemistry.

Montreal, QC: Concordia University (in Canada) is looking for a biochemistry postdoc. Posted salary is $47,500. (That's a remarkably close number to the magic postdoc number.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reddit AMA with Phil Baran

Prof. Baran is answering questions at Reddit. Go over and ask him anything!

UPDATE: A few of the highlights:

Jobs in the OLED sector?

Encouraged by aggressive capacity expansion among manufacturers of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, suppliers of display raw materials are proceeding with investments of their own. 
Universal Display will spend $15 million to double production capacity for phosphorescent OLED emitters at PPG Industries’ plant in Barberton, Ohio. PPG has been providing contract manufacturing services to New Jersey-based Universal since 2000. Fitted with a clean room, the Barberton plant makes organometallic emitter molecules that feature an iridium metal complex. 
Separately, Samsung-owned Novaled has started constructing a $21 million R&D facility and company headquarters in Dresden, Germany. Novaled claims its materials—organic dopants—are present in most of the world’s OLED displays. 
In Switzerland, Idemitsu Kosan is setting up an OLED materials R&D center that will employ researchers from BASF, with which Idemitsu has been collaborating. The Japanese company is a technology leader in blue emitters. Creating blue remains challenging for materials suppliers because blue OLED materials convert energy less efficiently. 
Also in Switzerland, BASF has acquired the display materials supplier Rolic. Employing 110 people, Rolic is a technology leader in photoalignment materials and films used in the production of OLED displays and liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), BASF claims...
Interesting to see that relatively few positions are being created in the United States for this field; I wonder why that is? (Perhaps they are already here? I seem to recall DuPont making a bunch of R&D hires in this field a year or two ago.)

This week's C&EN

A few articles from this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

I disagree: this is bad

From a brief perusal of Vanguard's* investment blog, this interesting set of statements from Vanguard's chief economist (emphasis mine):
...At the start of 2016, the Fed projected that the federal funds rate would revert to a long-term average of 3% to 4% sometime after 2019. Rates in that neighborhood are consistent with growth (and inflation) rates similar to the 3%-plus expansions fueled by a growing labor force and heavy borrowing in the decades before the housing crisis. 
That’s unlikely. Those one-time boosts are behind us. We estimate that the U.S. economy has a potential growth rate of about 2% per year. This is neither good nor bad; it’s simply a consequence of demographic, technological, and market forces that have been reshaping growth, inflation, and interest rates for decades....
First, let me say that I agree: it seems to me that the long-term trend for GDP in the United States is closer to 2% than 3%. (Note: the first reporting of GDP growth for Q1 2017 is April 28. That will be an interesting day.) 

Second, I don't understand how Dr. Davis can say that "2% a year is neither good nor bad." A lower long-term GDP growth for the country is bad for its citizens, it would seem - it would mean less income, less wage growth and fewer jobs. Am I wrong for thinking this? 

*I'm a very big fan of the Vanguard approach to investing (i.e. indexing.) I'm boring (and possibly stupid) like that.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The View From Your Hood: (still) cloudy skies edition

Sometime in the last month.

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption, please) at chemjobber@gmail.com; will run every other Friday.)

I mustache you to take note

More on the Bristol TATP incident; 40 grams made, was not isolated

Jyllian Kemsley tracks down the details of the recent Bristol explosive incident: 
A University of Bristol graduate student inadvertently synthesized approximately 40 g of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) on Friday, prompting building evacuations and a controlled detonation by an explosives team, chemistry professor and Faculty of Science dean Timothy C. Gallagher has confirmed to C&EN. No one was injured in the incident. 
The TATP was in solution and not isolated as a solid. When the student realized what had happened, the student handled the situation very responsibly, Gallagher says. Further response by the department, university, and emergency personnel “went like clockwork,” Gallagher adds. 
Gallagher says that he is “absolutely convinced” that the preparation of TATP was unintentional rather than deliberate or with malicious intent....
I will be very interested to read more about this when the report is (hopefully) released to the public. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The most alarming sentence I read today

"Worse, my devotion to the job hollowed out my marriage." 

(In the midst of an long article by a University of Maine tenure-track assistant professor of communications Josh Roiland about his money troubles and the money troubles of people who desire tenure-track positions in the humanities.)

(Is there a job for which I would sacrifice my marriage? My answer is "no.") (Sorry for moralizing.) 

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 82 positions

Doing my best to track down all open research-track medicinal chemistry positions. At the moment, the list has 82 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Check out the other bottom tabs on the list for various notations and side experiments.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (will likely be included about a year from now?), industrial postdocs (maybe someday soon.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise!

Daily Pump Trap: 2/9/17 edition

A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

High Point, NC: Cambrex is looking for a process chemist; B.S./M.S./Ph.D. with 3-10 years industry experience preferred.

Merrimack, NH: Solidscape looking for a principal scientist for 3D printing; Ph.D, 5 years formulation experience desired. Sounds like fun!

Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois: The Department of the Navy is hiring a physical sciences technician (for drug testing work?) $32.3-$47k offered.

Longview, TX: Flint Hills is looking for a Ph.D. polymer analytical chemist; 10+ years experience desired.

Greenwood, SC: Fujifilm is looking for a B.S. chemist (with 1-10 years experience) to be an analytical chemist on film. Film?

Adelphi, MD: The Army Research Laboratory has a variety of postdoctoral fellowships; offering 100k. Not bad, not bad.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and USAjobs.gov show (respectively) "1000+", 427, 8,622 and 10 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 2,704 positions for the search term "chemist" and 17,034 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Analytical chemist: 193/246 . Research chemist: 42/52. Synthetic chemist:  11/456. Medicinal chemist: 18/38. Organic chemist: 26/69. Process chemist: 14/38. Process development chemist: 6/7. Formulation chemist: 52/55. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 2/9/17 edition

A few of the posted positions at C&EN Jobs: 

Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee is hiring a professor and director of its Center for Renewable Carbon. 

Cambridge, MA: MIT is looking for a tenured professor of biomedical imaging. 

Boulder, CO: UC-Boulder is hiring a NMR facility director; offering 80-100k. 

Could be worthwhile?: I did not know that the NRC offered postdoctoral funding. $45,000 to $80,000 offered. (Huh.) 

Lawrence, KS: The University of Kansas is searching for a postdoc for its core facility. 

Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth is recruiting an organic chemistry laboratory coordinator.

Swarthmore, PA: Swarthmore College is looking for a visiting assistant professor of organic chemistry. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Inlet wrenches

A list of small, useful things (links):
Again, an open invitation to all interested in writing a blog, a hobby that will bring you millions thousands hundreds tens of dollars joy and happiness. Send me a link to your post, and I'd be happy to put it up.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 553 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 553 positions.

Have you had a Skype/phone interview or an on-site with a position on the Faculty Jobs List? Please add the date of the interview to the open thread. The open thread is here.

Do you see anything that needs correcting? Please leave a comment in the open thread, or e-mail me at chemjobber@gmail.com

As the 2017 Faculty Jobs Open Thread has gotten longer, the Blogger software that this blog is run on has added a new wrinkle: when you initially load the thread, it loads only the first ~220 comments and then has a "load more" button near the bottom of the page near the comment box. Only after pressing that button about 7 times does it load the latest comments.

Finally, a web forum! Because the open thread has gotten more unwieldy, I have opened up this web forum ("Chemistry Faculty Jobs List"). Feel free to join/post!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Did 10000 people show up at a Charlotte job fair for Siemens Energy?

(What follows is classic blog material, i.e. an argument about a very small point. But it's in the New York Times, so hey, it matters.)

From a tweet by Derek Lowe, a link to an article by author Jeffrey J. Selingo in The New York Times about vocational workforce training with a rather compelling anecdote: 
When the German engineering company Siemens Energy opened a gas turbine production plant in Charlotte, N.C., some 10,000 people showed up at a job fair for 800 positions. But fewer than 15 percent of the applicants were able to pass a reading, writing and math screening test geared toward a ninth-grade education.
That's a hell of an anecdote - it certainly suggests that there's a problem with North Carolina high school education or the North Carolina workforce. But is it accurate?

Let's start with the provable facts. There is indeed a Siemens Energy facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. This facility was originally there and expanded to include a gas turbine manufacturing line in November 2011. It employs somewhere around 1500 people as of 2012.

However, there is no evidence that I can find (not in the Charlotte Observer or any other North Carolina media outlet) of any job fair being held by Siemens for the opening of this plant. I think that's kind of remarkable, especially since it seems to me that job fairs tend to get a lot of media coverage. It seems reasonable that a job fair being held in 2010 or 2011 or 2012 by Siemens would receive a fair bit of publicity, especially one that received a visit by "some 10,000 people." Those are minor league baseball stadium numbers.

Rather, here's a relevant anecdote by Julie Cook Ramirez at Human Resource Executive Online (written in 2014, emphasis mine):
But when the company sought to expand its Charlotte, N.C., generator and steam-turbine plant to include a gas-turbine facility in 2011, it hit a hiring snafu. 
The expansion required Siemens to hire an additional 1,500 people, nearly tripling its existing Charlotte workforce of 800. Since many of the area's textile companies had shut down, the area was rich with unemployed people eager for a new opportunity. But while nearly 10,000 people submitted applications through the Siemens website, the vast majority didn't have the requisite science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- or STEM -- skills.
So, this story has a similar narrative (our applicants didn't have the skills we wanted), but things have changed - it's applicants to a website. Next, here's a relevant article from Lori Montgomery of The Washington Post describing the opening of the Siemens plant:
State and local officials kicked in millions of dollars in tax rebates to land Project Cardinal. The state also offered $3 million to provide customized training to workers at the new plant. 
More than 9,000 people applied for the jobs; 4,700 were evaluated at state expense, starting with a career readiness test that measured math and reading skills. Those who needed extra help were offered free classes at the community college.
This (Ms. Montgomery's version) makes a lot more sense to me, although her account is not a direct contradiction.

I suspect what actually happened is this: the Siemens announcement was made and the North Carolina state economic development folks (see page 19) set up a website where anyone could apply to work at the plant. Considering that unemployment offices tend to push people to put in applications (especially for mass hiring events like this one), the website got a lot of applicants from 1) unemployed folks and 2) folks with less education. It's not especially surprising that a significant portion of them did not have particularly good math or reading skills. I think Mr. Selingo's anecdote was factually incorrect, and when compared with competing narratives, it loses quite a bit of its force.

(Regarding Mr. Selingo's larger point that "apprenticeships are good" and "college shouldn't necessarily be for everyone", sure, that seems very reasonable. I don't think anyone (outside of higher education administrators, anyway) is arguing against that. That said, it seems to me that states (unemployment offices, economic development offices, community colleges, etc.) already bend over backwards to supply manufacturers with help assessing and training their potential workforces for free. Why should we spot these folks any more goodies? Also, is there any actual evidence that manufacturers are seeing long-term job growth that would support such an investment by the state? My suspicion is "no, not really.")

Time for a union?

On this weekend's radio show, we got a call from someone I'll call BQ suggesting chemists to
Unions always have the most interesting
patches. Credit: fffound
unionize in order to raise wages during the second hour. 

I've gotta admit, I'm skeptical. Private sector union membership has been in decline for decades*; I doubt that chemists could reverse that trend. But ever since the election, I am downgrading my ability to predict the future. I am more open than ever to be told that I am wrong - readers, have at. 

It seems to me that the time to create a union for chemists would be a time where individual chemists had power to exert over employers, i.e. employers suddenly have a high demand for chemists, and individual chemists forced employers to negotiate with a newly-formed union. Chemists would have to spend a lot of time organizing that union and signing up all the new graduates, etc., etc. 

Anyone have a different scenario? Let's have it. 

*This has been an active move on the part of private corporations - it did not happen in isolation.

The search goes on

If I had a nickel for every cry for every call for a singular voice to champion chemistry to the public, I'd have a hell of a lot of nickels. Also in this week's C&EN, an editorial from a group of professors connected with UNESCO (Stephen A. Matlin, Goverdhan Mehta, Henning Hopf, Alain Krief) with this ages-old complaint:
Chemistry lacks well-recognized voices such as those of Craig Venter for genomics research and Stephen Hawking for cosmology. Statesmanlike celebrity chemists can and should contribute significantly by capturing broad attention in the media, galvanizing societal esteem, and igniting young minds to project the dimensions of chemistry in all its diverse roles. Of course, the champions may be important and busy people devoting their time to doing great science. But it is incumbent on them to give attention to and communicate about the field that sustains their creative urges and provides the basis for their visibility and careers.
It should be noted the article goes on to call industrial chemists to champion green chemistry and all of us to advocate for chemistry.

(I'm really bored with the continual call for celebrity chemists to seize the commanding heights of mass media and get people excited about chemistry. Does anyone think it would have influence? I dunno.) 

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles from this week's C&EN:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bristol chemistry incident

Via the Chemistry Reddit, a rather unusual story (emphasis mine):
Several University of Bristol buildings have been evacuated, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that the emergency was sparked after a student produced TATP, an explosive used by terrorists, by mistake. 
The incident, which appears to have occurred in the Chemistry Building, has led to the evacuation of much of the University Way area. Five fire engines are believed to be on the scene, as well as several ambulances and an environmental response unit. A safety cordon has been extended down as far as Whiteladies Road. 
Multiple sources have told Epigram that the leak involves the tricatone triperoxide, a highly explosive chemical more commonly known as TATP. TATP is thought to have been the explosive used in the Paris attacks of 2015. Reports suggest that a third year PhD student accidentally made 90g of the chemical as a by-product...
It's my understanding that the 90 gram number is theoretical, that this was a pre-planned experiment, and that the powers that be were aware of it beforehand; it will be very interesting to see if there is a writeup of the incident that is broadly disseminated to confirm or deny this RUMINT.

On the air: today, 2 PM Eastern with Dr. L.C. Campeau



On the air at 2 PM Eastern with Dr. L.C. Campeau, process chemist.

The number to call in is (845) 277-9235. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

On the air: Saturday, February 4, 2 PM Eastern with L.C. Campeau

I'm looking forward to being on the air again tomorrow at 2 PM Eastern with guest Dr. L.C. Campeau, process chemist and chemTwittersphere denizen.

We'll take some calls and the second hour will be open lines.

Got a topic you'd like me to cover? Call the voicemail line at (302) 313-6257 or send me an e-mail: chemjobber@gmail.com 

The jobosome

With sincere apologies to Arjun Raj's flightosome. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 75 positions

Doing my best to track down all open research-track medicinal chemistry positions. At the moment, the list has 75 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Check out the other bottom tabs on the list for various notations and side experiments.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (will likely be included about a year from now?), industrial postdocs (maybe someday soon.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise!

John Carroll takes it to pharma CEOs

I really enjoyed this Endpoints post about all these pharma CEOs going to the White House and telling the President that they will be hiring people. He then lays out their actual records from the past few years: 
“We’re looking at ways to expand,” Joe Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, told Trump. “One of the things that can help us is a lower tax rate.” 
Novartis is well known as a global player that doesn’t leave a stone unturned when it comes to finding new efficiencies. That cost-cutting spirit drove an R&D overhaul last year, and new programs aimed at doing everything the Swiss company can do to hold the line on costs. That approach has had a big impact on employment. 
Novartis counts FTEs. At the end of 2016 they employed 118,393, 23,037 in the US and 55,205 in Europe. Five years earlier, the score was 123,686 total and 27,242 in the US. The cuts were clearly aimed at its US staff....
Read the whole thing - you'll either laugh or cry or perhaps you'll do both.

(In all seriousness, there is something a little strange about President Trump asking pharma folks to bring manufacturing jobs to the United States, i.e. API plants don't seem to me to be all that labor-intensive. (That said, those jobs tend to have a pretty decent median wage.) Who knows?)