Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Meeting a chemist in retirement

Roche has some really lovely looking awards.
Credit: Caitlin O'Hara for The New York Times
In the middle of last week, a story of Dr. Armin Walser, a former Roche medicinal chemist in the New York Times about how one of his inventions has been made into an execution drug. (Dr. Walser is dismayed at this turn of events.)

He does, however, still like talking chemistry and seems to be enjoying his retirement in Arizona.

Best wishes to him, and here's hoping we'll all make it there.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 581 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 581 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

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.

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!

Finally, a link to See Arr Oh's Chemistry Bumper Cars 2017 edition. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

I'm sure everyone has already seen this, but...

Derek Lowe is on the employment market, apparently. 

A battery controversy that I have no expertise to comment upon

Via random clicking on Twitter, this article on Quartz by Steve LeVine about the latest from John Goodenough is very interesting:
Researchers have struggled for decades to safely use powerful—but flammable—lithium metal in a battery. Now John Goodenough, the 94-year-old father of the lithium-ion battery, is claiming a novel solution as a blockbuster advance. 
If it proves out, the invention could allow electric cars to compete with conventional vehicles on sticker price. The improbable solution, described in a new paper from Goodenough and three co-authors, has drawn intense interest from leading science and technology publications. He estimates that the solution could store five to ten times as much energy as current standard lithium-ion batteries. That’s enough to have Google’s Eric Schmidt tweeting about it. 
However, other leading battery researchers are skeptical, even mystified, by Goodenough’s claim. For his invention to work as described, they say, it would probably have to abandon the laws of thermodynamics, which say perpetual motion is not possible. The law has been a fundamental of batteries for more than a century and a half. 
...Hence the excitement over the new paper by Goodenough and his team published in Energy and Environmental Science. A Feb. 28 release from the University of Texas reported they had figured out how to incorporate an electrode—an anode—made of pure lithium or sodium metal, which because of their potential energy has been a top goal for decades. A key is the use of glass as the electrolyte, the substance that connects a battery’s two electrodes and facilitates the shuttling of ions to create electricity.... 
But Goodenough’s battery has pure metallic lithium or sodium on both sides. Therefore, the voltage should be zero, with no energy produced, battery researchers told Quartz.
Goodenough reports energy densities multiple times that of current lithium-ion batteries. Where does the energy come from, if not the electrode reactions? That goes unexplained in the paper.
Here's a long Medium post by Princeton's Dan Steingart, outlining his objections - it's worth a perusal. It will be fascinating to see if anyone can reproduce this.

(From a media criticism perspective, the amount of excitement in the popular press is amusing, especially in contrast with the quizzical nature of the responses in the Quartz article. Also, an open letter to give Goodenough the Nobel Prize, which seems pretty reasonable, current controversy aside.) 

Exploding mass spec pumps seems bad

The TV 801 turbo pump, which may fail and eject fragments.
Credit: Sciex/C&EN
Also in this week's C&EN, an unusual story by Marc S. Reisch:
Scientific instrument maker Sciex has told owners of more than 2,000 mass spectrometers to immediately shut down the instruments because a catastrophic failure of turbo pumps manufactured by Agilent Technologies could “result in serious injury or death.” To date, Sciex says, no one has been injured. 
According to a safety notice dated March 13 for owners of API 4000, API 4000 Qtrap, and API 5000 model mass spectrometers, the rotors of the TV 801 turbo pump can suddenly fragment and be ejected at high speeds. The pumps are used to create a high negative pressure in the instrument’s vacuum chamber.
That seems... dangerous.

(There's probably quite the interesting thread about death-by-analytical-instrument. It seems to me that IRs aren't going to kill anyone, but death-by-NMR-asphyxiation seems pretty mundane/reasonable, although I suspect no one has actually died because of a surprise quench (am I wrong?) Death-by-X-ray-spectroscopy seems reasonable, but again, probably that's happened to no one yet. Death-by-mass-spec wouldn't be as ignominious as death by IR, I think. (Don't you think that's a little too morbid for Monday morning? -ed. Well, yeah, but it is Monday.) 

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

View From Your Hood: Genentech edition

Credit: John Tellis
"The incentive only Genentech can offer"

Picture taken from a chemistry lab at Genentech.

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

Chart of the week: Cambridge and San Francisco uber alles

Credit: Bruce Booth
By LifeSciVC's Bruce Booth, quite the long article about why Massachusetts and San Francisco are pulling ahead in biopharma:
As a macro point, these data reflect the intuitive sense we have of recruiting talent from other regions into Boston: with regards to R&D teams, prior Pharma hubs are shrinking rapidly while Boston is growing. We’ve even recruited a few sun-loving San Diego biopharma vets to move to the Boston market recently.
Readers are probably quite tired of me pounding on this point (and I should limit myself to one of these posts about every month or so.) What does this mean? I'll take a couple of stabs:
  • If you are a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow who intends to work in biopharma, picking an institution that has a healthy pipeline into universities or companies in the Bay Area or Boston would be key. 
  • Although I suspect job security would be no greater than anywhere else, the likelihood of moving would be lower for scientists who live in these areas. 
  • Economic development organizations should consider other new, exciting fields to attempt to start local clusters long before they consider trying to start a biopharma cluster. What is your town going to do that Seattle hasn't done
Overall, you should go read this piece - it's very well done and it's definitely food for thought. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 89 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 89 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 (likely never.)

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

Job posting: chemical biology research associate, Merck, Cambridge, MA

Via a random clicking around, a BS/MS chemical biology position (MS, 5 years experience preferred):
The Merck Research Laboratories (MRL) Exploratory Science Center (ESC) Cambridge, a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck and Co., is focused on driving early discovery research. Co-located with Merck’s Cambridge Innovation Hub, the ESC’s disease-area-agnostic research agenda fosters hands-on collaboration between our scientists and external academic and biotech researchers to access and explore the most promising emerging science.  
We are seeking an innovative and experienced chemical biologist to join the Merck Exploratory Science Center (ESC) in Cambridge, MA. 
The successful candidate will become part of a creative and fast-paced team that will discover novel therapeutics targeting one of two (2) initial areas:
  • Interaction of the microbiome and host with the ultimate goal of delivering novel therapeutics to address significant unmet medical need in multiple therapeutic areas
  • Novel prophylactic or therapeutic interventions to address significant unmet medical need in infectious disease.
  • This is an excellent opportunity for someone seeking scientific and career growth in a multidisciplinary area of drug discovery.
Education / Work Experience Requirements:
  • B.S. with (4) years experience in Chemical Biology, Microbiology, Immunology, Cell and Molecular, Biomedical Sciences or related discipline
  • M.S. with (2) years experience in Chemical Biology, Microbiology, Immunology, Cell and Molecular, Biomedical Sciences or related discipline
Full listing here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Interestingly, I think it's fascinating that I feel like I'm seeing more routine chemical biology positions. I would estimate very broadly that I saw 10-20 Big Pharma positions in the last 12 months, and perhaps more. Will be interesting to see if this grows more significantly over time; I would guess there would be another 10-20 industrial positions this year, but I'm not positive. Previous speculation on this blog here and here. 

Daily Pump Trap: 3/23/17 edition

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

Rockford, IL: ThermoFisher is looking for a process validation scientist; B.S./M.S., 2 years experience minimum. Also, a B.S. chemist production position (looks like fun (and potential back problems.)

San Diego, CA: Celgene is looking for a Ph.D. computational chemist.

Cincinnati, OH: Biopace is looking for a director of bioanalytical chemistry. M.S./Ph.D., management experience preferred.

"San Francisco Bay Area": Tosoh is hiring a business development manager for its process chromatography media line.

Culver City, CA: Trace-Ability is looking for M.S./Ph.D. chemists for a project on the "development and validation of novel HPLC systems and methods."

"Metropolican [sic] NYC": AIP Publishing is looking for an assistant journal manager.

Ivory Filter Flask: 3/23/17 edition

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

Slowing down: The number of tenure-track positions is slowing to a trickle...

Claremont, CA: "The Chemistry Program of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges seeks to hire visiting professors in organic chemistry and in general chemistry to begin August 2017." Also, an organic chemistry laboratory coordinator position. 

Bloomsburg, PA: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is looking for a one-year visiting lecturer.

Roanoke, VA: "Biomedical Sciences at Jefferson College of Health Sciences is seeking two Assistant Professors, beginning Fall semester, 2017, to teach chemistry courses for the Program in Biomedical Sciences."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A little absurdist humor

I confess this got very weird, very fast, but it started off really good. (Listen with headphones, don't give your coworkers any ideas about you.)

Also, people who end meetings with "Good meeting!" are odd. There's no such thing as a good meeting.*

*I don't actually believe that, but the number of good meetings are really outnumbered by the number of bad ones. 

ChemDraw Innovation Challenge

From friend of the blog Philip Skinner, an invitation to help change ChemDraw for the better:
We are running the ChemDraw Innovation Challenge. This is a process whereby people can suggest ideas for what they think we should build in ChemDraw next - new features and functionality they they think would help them do their science more effectively. People can comment on and discuss the ideas, vote on them and the top ideas go forward through a few steps until we end up with the best ones which hopefully we will will incorporate into the product. 
Sign ups open today, and everyone can start posting ideas as of Monday. 
The link to the sign up page is here.
 Sounds interesting. 

Warning Letter of the Week: renaming samples edition

A dispatch from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to the general manager of Jinan Jinda Pharmaceutical Chemistry Co., Ltd.:
1.    Failure of your quality unit to exercise its responsibility to ensure the API manufactured at your facility are in compliance with CGMP, and meet established specifications for quality and purity.
Your quality control laboratory disregarded multiple out-of-specification (OOS) impurity results without justification. For example, on September 22, 2015, you encountered an OOS unknown impurity peak during high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) testing of [redacted] 36-month stability batch [redacted]. You terminated the analysis. Testing of a new sample also showed the OOS impurity peak. The chromatogram was then manually rescaled, which hid the presence of this peak. Your laboratory set the integration parameters to omit this peak from integration. Because the peak was omitted, the quality unit was not provided with full information to evaluate whether the stability batch, and potentially other marketed batches, continued to meet quality standards.

In addition, your audit trail showed that from July 1 to 2, 2015, you performed seven sample injections of [redacted] 60-month stability batch [redacted] to test for impurities using HPLC. You permanently deleted the first five sample injections. You then renamed the last two injections and reported that they met specifications. [emphasis CJ's] Your quality unit failed to identify and address these serious data manipulations.
Seems legit.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 581 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 581 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

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.

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!

Finally, a link to See Arr Oh's Chemistry Bumper Cars 2017 edition. 

Ask CJ: how to handle medical leave in a CV or cover letter?

From the inbox, a really interesting question from someone we'll call DF (e-mail has been heavily redacted for privacy): 
I was in grad school for a rather long time, beyond the traditional 2-3 years of masters/4-6 years for PhD.  I was enrolled in the PhD program in grad school, all was going great until I got [cancer].  
I did not wish to let my advisor or coworkers know about it, but my constant absence is a bit obvious in a rather small group and eventually I had to tell my advisor [that I was sick, and in treatment].  While [they were] supportive, [they] simply suggested that I leave with a masters as I was quite late in the program... 
I would like to know if firstly, is it appropriate to address that one was enrolled and completed PhD coursework on a resume?  A relatively new coworker had that listed on his resume but never earned his degree either and seemed kind of awkward to me. 
Additionally, on a cover letter, should I explain this situation?  I do not want any sort of pity or mercy from a potential employer, but I also do not want to get passed over because I was sick and the potential for it to return is probably higher than a healthy, never-had-cancer potential employee.... 
Lastly, if I am choosing to omit all of these things in my resume and cover letter and I field a question in a phone interview asking "why were you in grad school so long for a masters?", is it appropriate to bring up here?  I have always lied in this spot and sort of danced around the question with varying degrees of success.  I don't like to lie, but I also don't want any of the aforementioned to occur.  
DF, I am going to assume that you're in industry now. I certainly know that people do wonder when they see stints in graduate school that are longer than usual; in addition, I know that people begin to wonder what those extended times in graduate school are about.

That said, I think most hiring managers can put these questions aside and ask much more simpler questions, i.e. "is this person a good fit for the position?" or "did this person learn chemistry skills sufficiently in graduate school?" I doubt that the amount of time you're in graduate school will be a major driver of decision making, but I could be wrong.

In regards to being directly asked about it, I don't really think there's any shame in telling the truth, i.e. "I was sick and I needed to get better before I could finish my program."

Readers, I have no experience with this - what is your opinion? 

Monday, March 20, 2017

A random salary survey

It's time to break out the pseudonyms! (TM Derek Lowe).

I'd be really interested in knowing what new M.S. and Ph.D.-level salaries are for positions in the Cambridge, Bay Area, San Diego, RTP and New Jersey. Size of company, relocation package would be helpful, too.

Feel free to e-mail me if you'd rather.

Thanks! Really appreciate it. 

The Trump Administration budget

Also in this week's C&EN, an article summarizing the Trump Administration's proposed budget from Jessica Morrison and Britt Erickson:
President Donald J. Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget would slash federal support for biomedical research, defund the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) and the Department of Energy’s advanced energy research, and lop funding for EPA by nearly a third. 
Overall, the White House plan would offset discretionary funding increases for the military, homeland security, and veterans affairs in part with steep cuts to environmental, energy, and health agencies. 
In addition, the budget blueprint unveiled on March 16 would restart funding for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and calls for $120 million to restart licensing of the facility. It also proposes a $1.4 billion increase—an 11% boost—for DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration to “strengthen the Nation’s nuclear capability.” 
In response, the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN, called for federal science funding stability. “Sustained, predictable and robust funding is an essential ingredient in boosting our nation’s future in the form of discoveries, processes and knowledge, all of which lead to new products, services, industries and jobs,” says ACS Executive Director and CEO Thomas Connelly...
Read the whole article for details.

The proposed cuts include EPA (-31%), USDA (-21%), HHS/NIH (-18%), DOE (-6%) and NASA (-1%.) The Chemical Safety Board is eliminated.

Readers, rather than discuss the benefits (or lack thereof) of this budget, what do you predict the ultimate funding cuts or increases to the various government agencies will be? Do you predict the elimination of the Chemical Safety Board by Congress?

My predictions: EPA budget will definitely sustain 10+% cuts. NIH will be kept flat, CSB will not be eliminated, but will be kept flat. Yours? 

A very passionate letter

I'd be remiss if I didn't note this passionate letter from a professor about the "postdoctoral students" vs. "postdoctoral fellow" debate: 
I read with disdain and a shaking head the letter from the editor of the Feb. 27 issue of C&EN. I wish to write in response to your request for feedback. 
Maybe I’m a rare bird, but I viewed every stage within my education as an opportunity, not as an entitlement. In the field of science, as in the trades, one must pay his/her dues and learn as an apprentice before earning journeyman status. For most U.S. postdocs, that means a minimum training period of five years for the Ph.D. and two years as a postdoctoral fellow of an established tenured or tenure-track faculty member. 
As a postdoctoral student, I was happy to earn my < $30,000 salary (mid-2000s), because it represented more than a 50% raise over what I earned as a graduate student at a top-10-ranked chemistry department. Tongue in cheek, I’ll admit that seeing the astronomical salaries U.S. postdocs earn now, I’m a bit jealous. 
Although I could claim to be an expert in one diminutive subfield of chemistry as a Ph.D. graduate, I was still a student, not yet a scholar. This maturation process did not occur the moment my thesis committee shook my hand and said, “Congratulations, Dr. Chamberland.” The work I did as a postdoc, such as mentoring younger students, taking on a leadership role, reviewing manuscripts and grant proposals, and working insane hours were all part of the gig. It was the last training period for the career I had worked toward for 25 years. I understood that. 
Do today’s postdocs expect more? Do they need to be called a scholar too? Who cares. Just put your head down and get to work. If you do something of value, people will recognize you. 
Stephen Chamberland
Orem, Utah

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Serrated pocket knife blades

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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 80 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 80 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 (likely never.)

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

Daily Pump Trap: 3/15/17 edition

A few positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Brea, CA: Moravek is looking for a peptide chemist; $75,000-$110,000 (depending on experience). 

Boom: Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM) is searching for an experienced energetic materials chemist; M.S./Ph.D., 2 years experience required.

South San Francisco, CA: Genentech is looking for an experienced Ph.D. chemical biologist.

Pleasanton, CA: Astex Pharmaceuticals is hiring an Associate Director/Director, Process Chemistry (M.S./Ph.D., 6-9 years.) 

Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC: Novozymes is searching for a B.S./M.S. analytical chemist.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lock your doors when you're having a Skype interview

If you've been hiding under a rock for a week or so, click on the video above for a very funny treat. (Here is a WSJ interview with Professor Kelly and his family.) Also, it is also worth noting that the Skype interview is growing in popularity - make sure your children, pets and other technological issues do not get in the way of making sure you put your best foot forward.

(Also, is the increase in Skype interviews of potential candidates a good thing? I think the answer is "no" - I think it puts much more emphasis on non-verbal cues from the interviewee, activates all sorts of personal prejudices and provides no more information than a phone interview. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe Skype interviews are another way that the balance between employer and potential employee is tipped to favor the employer.) 

Electronic age discrimination?

From the inbox, a fascinating and distressing accusation about job websites and older workers by CNBC's Bob Sullivan (emphasis mine): 
Older Americans struggling to overcome age discrimination while looking for work face a new enemy: their computers. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently opened a probe into allegations that ageism is built right into the online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt... 
Age bias is built right into their software, according to Madigan. Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it's impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don't go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out. For example, one site's menu options for "years attended college" stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form. 
Madigan's office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, "barring anyone who is older than 52." Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. 
"Today's workforce includes many people working in their 70s and 80s," Madigan said. "Barring older people from commonly used job search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy." 
The Illinois' Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan's office has sent inquiry letters to six top jobs sites:, CareerBuilder, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.
I presume that all of these companies will promptly change their interfaces, and then allow employers to filter out older employees via another sub rosa electronic approach. 

Warning Letter of the Week: questionable water source edition

An unhappy epistle from the Food and Drug Administration to the Chief Executive Officer of 
Badrivishal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals: 
1.    Failure to validate and monitor the water purification system to ensure that water is of appropriate quality and suitable for its intended use.
During the inspection, our investigators found that your water purification system was not adequately monitored and controlled. Because you use water as a drug component and for cleaning your facility and equipment, these failures pose significant risk to the safety of your drugs.

Source waterYou failed to test the source water for your [redacted] water system. The source water emanates from a nearby river and passes through farmland, where it is subject to agricultural runoff and animal waste, before reaching your facility. Your firm stores the source water in an [redacted] tank that has a large [redacted]-facing hole that is open to the environment. Your storage method does not protect your water from dirt and other contaminants, or from the ingress and proliferation of pests and objectionable organisms.
 Well, that sure doesn't sound very appetizing. Here's hoping they fix that hole. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 580 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 580 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

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: 3/14/17 edition

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

Wickliffe, OH: Lubrizol is looking for a Ph.D. organic chemist.

Research Triangle Park, NC: BioCryst is searching for a director of chemical development.

Beijing, China: The Global Health Drug Discovery Institute is looking for a senior medicinal chemist/project leader. Not every day you see Chinese characters on C&EN Jobs: "我们寻求有突出能力的科学家及实验研究工作人员、有经验的管理、以及专业运营团队加入我们! 中心为积极主动、有创造力和创业精神的员工提供多元化、充满活力的工作环境以及良好的发展机会。我们的员工认同GHDDI的使命,分享共同的愿景,携手致力科学和人类健康事业的发展。如您想了解GHDDI的最新招聘信息,请访问我们的官方网站, 有意应聘者请将简历发至"

Ivory Filter Flask: 3/14/17 edition

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

Washington, DC: Howard University is looking for two assistant professors of chemistry; biochemistry preferred.

Victorville, CA: Victor Valley College is hiring an instructor of chemistry; "Initial salary placement ranges from $51,711 to $80,979, based upon education and experience."

Minneapolis, MN: The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities is looking for a term professor of chemistry. (Further explanation.)

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

Tacoma, WA: University of Puget Sound is looking for a visiting instructor in chemistry.

Monday, March 13, 2017

RIP Lloyd Conover

This New York Times obituary for the inventor of tetracycline was quite good: 
Lloyd Hillyard Conover was born on June 13, 1923, in Orange, N.J. His father, John, was a lawyer; his mother, the former Marguerite Anna Cameron, was an artist. His interest in chemistry began in childhood when he watched his father mix cement to repair a retaining wall. 
“There was something about the physical change in matter that really fascinated me,” he said in an interview for this obituary. 
To feed his curiosity, he devised science projects with items he found around his house. In one instance, he took his mother’s pots and pans and melted down lead left behind by a plumber to make a miniature cannon that fired lead pellets, powered by steam. 
He entered Amherst College in 1941 to study chemistry, but his education was interrupted by World War II. He spent three years in the Navy, serving on an amphibious ship in the Pacific and rising to lieutenant junior grade. 
After the war, he returned to Amherst, and he received his bachelor’s degree in 1947. He received his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Rochester in 1950 and went to work for Pfizer, where salaries were higher than in academia, to support his family.
I was surprised to learn that tetracycline had its first-in-human trials within a year of Dr. Conover making it. That seems dramatically faster than modern times. 

An interesting factlet about H1b visa holders and chemistry

Also in this week's C&EN, an article by Linda Wang* about immigrant postdocs and their concerns with the future immigration policy of the Trump Administration. An interesting statistic about the relatively small number of chemistry-related H1b visa holders:
The number of H-1B visas awarded to researchers in the chemical sciences is already extremely low. In 2015, according to data from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, initial H-1B petitions approved in occupations in mathematics and physical and life sciences accounted for approximately 4% of the total approved H-1B petitions. In comparison, 62% of the approved H-1B petitions went to computer-related occupations.
I can't quite tell the accuracy of "", but I presume their database is based on Department of Homeland Security data.  In the 2015 database, the number of Labor Condition Applications for chemists was 2,180, with an average salary of $63,669. By comparison, the number of chemists in the US workforce is estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is around 91,100.

*Full disclosure: my editor.

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

On the air: Saturday, March 11, noon Eastern with Matt Hartings

I'm looking forward to being on the air again tomorrow at noon Eastern with guest Professor Matthew Hartings, friend of the blog and author of "Chemistry in Your Kitchen."

We'll be talking kitchen chemistry, faculty hiring and taking your calls.

Got a topic you'd like me to cover? Leave a comment, call the voicemail line at (302) 313-6257 or send me an e-mail: 

The View From Your Hood: "Chemjobber crossing?"

Credit: Anonymous
From the inbox, a fun picture from Hamilton Township, NJ titled "Chemjobber crossing?"

(The relevant duck, if anyone is wondering about this particular inside joke is about.)

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

Rise of the computationalists

As part of the Medicinal Chemistry List*, I have noticed how many computational positions in drug discovery I am running into. The latest one that caught my eye is this one from Pfizer Cambridge:
The Pfizer Computational Sciences group has an opening for a data scientist with expertise in machine learning. The successful candidate will work in close collaboration with groups across Medicinal Sciences organization and will utilize his/her machine learning, data analysis, and scientific programming experience to address challenging problems covering a wide range of research and development activities within Pfizer R&D. To be successful in this role, the incumbent must have the talent and skills to analyze large, multi-dimensional datasets from internal and external sources and to rapidly develop effective in silico models and implement powerful computational solutions.
  • Ph.D. in computational chemistry, computer science, physical or biological sciences, machine learning, or related discipline with 0-3 years of relevant experience required.
  • Familiarity with several machine learning algorithms and packages (e.g. Regression and Classification algorithms, Supervised and Unsupervised learning algorithms, Random Forest, Support Vector Machine, Neural Networks, Deep Learning, Sci-kit Learn, R, MATLAB, Theano, TensorFlow).
  • Experience working with large data sets, preferably in drug discovery setting.
  • Experience with Unix/Linux, HPC environments, and high-level programming language (e.g. Python).
  • Demonstrated track record of applied machine learning and data science through publications in top tier peer-reviewed journals and/or presentations in national or international conferences.
I find it interesting that this position is advertised at the "Principal Scientist" level (my memory might be fuzzy, but that's a R6 (thanks, Anon!) R5, right?) for a Ph.D. with zero years experience. (Typical entry-level Ph.D. is R4.) 

A long time ago, the calculation was that a single synthetic chemist ran $250,000 in terms of salary and overhead (this number must have changed by now) - I wonder how much a computationalist runs, in terms of overhead? More or less? 

*Yes, working on the process chemistry one. 

Indexing for the win

Credit: Warren Buffett
As someone who likes boring index funds, I rather enjoyed Warren Buffett's latest Berkshire Hathaway letter, where he details a $500,000 bet with a hedge fund manager who was allowed to choose 5 funds-of-funds and they compared their ten-year performance. At year 9, the S&P is ahead 85.4% to the nearest fund-of-funds' 62.8%.

(Buffett's letter is (assuming it's actually written by him) very readable and usually has an interesting anecdote or two.)

Some Division of Organic Chemistry news

Via their quarterly (?) e-mail, some announcements from the Division of Organic Chemistry:
The 2017 DOC Graduate Research Symposium (GRS) Deadline Extended to March 20, 2017
The 2017 DOC Graduate Research Symposium (GRS) will be held at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon (Thursday, July 20 through Sunday, July 23, 2017). The DOC Graduate Research Symposium provides an opportunity for 50-65 graduate students in organic chemistry to interact with leaders from academia, industry, various funding agencies and publishers at a single venue. The application deadline for the 2017 GRS has been extended to March 20, 2017. For further details and nomination information see the GRS page.

Leete Award Nominations due April 1, 2017
The Leete Award recognizes outstanding contributions to teaching and research in Organic Chemistry. Nominees must be members of the Organic Division of the American Chemical Society who have made outstanding contributions to both teaching and research. Teaching should be considered in the broadest sense, including of professional chemists, the dissemination of information about chemistry to prospective chemists, to members of the profession, to students in other areas and to the general public. A nominee must also have accomplished outstanding creative work in any area of organic chemistry. Full details are available at:
Best wishes to those interested.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Live on the radio: Saturday, noon Eastern, Matt Hartings

Looking forward to talking with Matt Hartings, author of "Chemistry in Your Kitchen", this Saturday morning at noon Eastern. Watch this space for details.

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 83 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 83 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! (sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Ask CJ: how to transition from bench scientist to data scientist?

From the inbox, a good question:
Any idea on how to transition from bench scientist (chem or bio) into a data scientist position? After a 3 year post-doc I’ve started looking at the job market and see a lot more data scientist than “bench”-scientist positions being advertised. Usually with decent companies like Amazon and Google. 
These positions usually say they are looking for people who can analyze data (probably no problem to spin that since that’s the backbone of acquiring a PhD), but the requirement for expertise in coding. Do you think they are rigidly looking for computer science degrees or would being self-taught or using one of these “free” online code schools be sufficient?
I think they're looking for someone who has a fair bit of experience in coding (or at least the Amazon/Google positions). I suspect that being self-taught but having a lot of experience (i.e. folks in academia who do coding as part of their academic work) would be welcome. I don't know much about various coding languages, but it seems that R (?) is one of the ones that people talk about.

I don't know about the free online code schools, although I do want to point out this Bloomberg News article noting that some of these coding schools charge a lot of money for not-very-successful results.

Readers, you probably have much more experience with this than I - what's your opinion?

UPDATE: Someone we'll call MK writes in with a detailed story about how they went about a similar path to the desired one above:
To introduce myself: I did a physical chemistry PhD (some kind of spectroscopist) and then did something weird: I took a postdoc in [something data/public health/medically-oriented] at a government lab. I stayed in my post-doc for 1.5 years, found a job, and now work as a "biomedical analyst" (not my real title, but very close) in the government. 
Thanks to MK for their contribution.

(Incidentally, one of the things that I have always said is that "STEM is really about TE." I think coding schools are an interesting example of actual T shortage - in other words, people have decided that there is enough demand to set up new, private coding schools to teach skills that employers will pay for. As of yet, I am unaware of anyone setting up "chemistry schools." (Of course, how much of this new commercial activity is actually about extracting federal student loan dollars is another question.) )

"Private employer screws up, taxpayers foot the bill"

In an article titled "Facing skills gap, employers send workers to college" at Marketplace, a wonderful example of the sweet deal sufficiently large manufacturers can wring out of localities: 
This is Cambridge-Lee Industries, in Reading, Pennsylvania. For nearly 75 years, this plant on the Schuylkill River has produced copper tubing, mostly for plumbing, heating and refrigeration. 
[New vice president of human resource] Fischetti is facing a challenge a lot of manufacturers in the area have: an aging workforce. During the long manufacturing downturn in the 1990s and 2000s, the factories that survived had no trouble finding skilled workers, he said, and many didn’t invest in training younger ones. 
“Over time that has now hurt our organization, where we have a population that are very far along in their career that are really good,” he said, “but we have this population that we recruited but we never developed.” 
With the economy growing and about a quarter of the area’s manufacturing workforce set to retire in the next 10 years, employers like Cambridge-Lee now find themselves scrambling for skilled workers. 
Gee, seems like quite a problem - maybe you need to train some more people?
“We said, 'If you want to increase your skillset, pick a class, pay for it, go to it. If you pass, we’ll reimburse you,'” he said. “So I asked, 'How effective was that? How many people did that?' And the answer was none.” 
Why would they go to class in their spare time, he said, when they were working 60 or 70 hours a week? So Fischetti started a new program to send workers to Reading Area Community College. One day a week, they work a half shift and then spend the rest of the day in class, learning how to troubleshoot and repair mechanical breakdowns. The company pays them for their time and travel, and covers the tuition. 
That sounds great! I wonder who is paying for it.
The training isn’t cheap. It’ll cost about $62,000 for the first crop of 16 workers, but Cambridge-Lee will be reimbursed more than half of that with state and federal funds. The company is one of about 20 local employers receiving funding through the Berks County Workforce Development Board to train existing workers.
Something tells me that if Cambridge-Lee lays off workers or closes the plant, neither the state of Pennsylvania or the federal government will get reimbursed. 'Twas ever thus. 

EdX class in medicinal chemistry

From the inbox, Professor Erland Stevens of Davidson College is once again teaching his class on medicinal chemistry:
I am the instructor for a free medicinal chemistry MOOC on the edX platform.  The course is currently offered as a collaboration between Davidson College and Novartis and has drawn over 40,000 registrants in its past four iterations. 
The course is running again starting Monday, March 13th.  The class runs for 7 weeks and hits FDA approval, protein structure and activity, pharmacokinetics, metabolism, lead discovery/optimization.  The target audience includes chem/bio/pharmacy students, recent pharma hires, and anyone with an interest in drug discovery.  Any student who is able to understand an organic structure should be fine on the prerequisites (chem/math/bio).
Sounds interesting!   

Daily Pump Trap: 3/9/17 edition

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

Topeka, KS:  Kansas Health & Environment Laboratories is looking for an organic chemistry lab manager; B.S./M.S./Ph.D. position. $25.68/hr offered.

San Francisco, CA: Nurix is looking for medicinal chemists; senior scientist and senior scientist II. (Both Ph.D.)

St. Louis, MO: American Radiolabeled Chemicals is hiring experienced radiochemists.

 Albany, NY: Atmospheric chemistry postdoc:
A motivated post-doc is sought to investigate homogeneous and heterogeneous photochemical reactions of atmospheric importance by using cavity ring-down spectroscopy and its variants.  Ph.D. in physical chemistry, atmospheric chemistry or related fields is required. Prior experience in laser spectroscopy is preferred. 
Position is with the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ooopsie in a water treatment plant in Alberta

It's almost-not-quite a Process Wednesday, but it's this story of a stuck valve causing a little bit of a stir in a town in Alberta (via the CBC): 
Credit: Facebook/CBC/Sheila Pockett (?)
The Town of Onoway in central Alberta is apologizing to its 1,000 residents after drinking water from taps started running bright pink.
Complaints about strange fuchsia-coloured water started pouring into the town office Monday night.
As you can see the picture, that's some really pink water. Here's the town's explanation: 
"Yesterday, during normal line flushing and filter backwashing, a valve seems to have stuck open allowing potassium permanganate to get into the sump reservoir," reads the statement. "The reservoir was drained, however some of the chemical still made it into the distribution system. 
"While it is alarming to see pink water coming from your taps, potassium permanganate is used in normal treatment processes to help remove iron and manganese and residents were never at risk."
Glad that some thorough flushing seems to have gotten rid of it. I'm a little bit surprised the town's water treatment plant is apparently betting that valve never sticks open; I'm guessing that there were multiple holes in the Swiss cheese to allow this incident to happen. Also, just by looking at the solution, what ppm permanganate do we think that is? 

Reach out to an old friend today

Also in this week's C&EN, I really liked this Career Navigator piece about 25 reasons to get in touch with a former colleague. I think it's a little weird to quote all 25, so I'll pick 12:
  • I saw an article about this topic, and it reminded me of our conversation.
  • I saw these in the store, and it reminded me of how much you like them.
  • I am about to graduate, and I wanted to thank you for getting me started on this path.
  • I have come to realize you were right on that idea we argued about.
  • I saw that you published a new paper. Congratulations!
  • I was organizing my desk and admiring that gift you gave me.
  • I wanted to let you know how that project turned out.
  • I’m going to the ACS national/regional meeting and would love to meet you there.
  • I started a new project and am using some of the things I learned on the last project we worked on together.
  • I was searching old e-mails, and I came across one from you.
  • I attended an event where they did something that I knew you’d think was a great/horrible idea.
  • Someone came to me with a problem, and I gave him/her the same advice you once gave me.
There are plenty more in the article, but I liked the ones that I picked.

One of the great joys of the blog is that, over the years, I've made many, many new friends and I love shooting them texts, e-mails and Twitter DMs and just saying hello. Here's hoping that you reach out to friends, old and new, today. 

Warning Letter of the Week: unneeded analyses edition

A friendly note to the folks at Chongqing Pharma Research Institute Co., Ltd. in Chongqing, China from our friends at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research:
During our inspection, our investigators observed specific deviations including, but not limited to, the following.

Failure to maintain complete data derived from all laboratory tests conducted to ensure compliance with established specifications and standards.
Our investigators reviewed audit trails from various stand-alone pieces of laboratory equipment you used to perform high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography (GC) analyses. Our investigators found that you had deleted entire chromatographic sequences and individual injections from your stand-alone computers.

For example, your written system suitability procedure for [redacted] requires only six injections. However, your records showed that on January 5, 2016, you injected seven system suitability standards when performing system suitability for batch #[redacted]. The audit trail showed that the final standard injection was permanently deleted from the instrument’s computer. Your analyst told our investigator that it is laboratory practice to perform more injections than are required by the procedure, and then delete any undesirable result to ensure passing system suitability results.
Without providing scientific justification, you repeated analyses until you obtained acceptable results. You failed to investigate original out-of-specification or otherwise undesirable test results, and you only documented passing test results in logbooks and preparation notebooks. You relied on these manipulated test results and incomplete records to support batch release decisions.
That's one way to do a system suitability run!  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 566 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 566 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

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!

How is the assistant professor class of 2010-2012 doing?

A question inspired by an e-mail: 

Does anyone know how assistant professors going up for tenure are doing these days? Is it a "no grants, no tenure" sort of thing? Or is it more nuanced than that? (I expect it's more nuanced, but only slightly more.)

(UPDATE: To clarify, I'm asking more for R1 assistant professors, but I'd be interested in small colleges as well, especially my vague understanding that smaller schools are expecting external funding (or at least applications for external funding) of their newer faculty.) 

Actually, this gets to a favorite question of mine: do we have any idea about the percentage of assistant professors of chemistry who are promoted to associate professor each year? What is the best statistical data set for this? 

Readers, your thoughts?

UPDATE: Professor (and associate dean!) Chris Cramer weighs in for Team Nuance.  Also, I clarified above. 

Daily Pump Trap: 3/7/17 edition

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

Livermore, CA: A startup (Assay Technologies) is looking for an associate technical director. Ph.D. in chemistry, 70-95k offered.

Houston, TX: Not every day that you see an ad from Halliburton; they're looking for a B.S. chemist to be a "Western Hemisphere Regulatory Specialist."

It's like a Captain Planet supervillain convention: Altria (formerly Philip Morris) is looking for a B.S. analytical chemist.

Los Angeles, CA: Medical Chemical Corporation is searching for a B.S. chemist to be a chemistry laboratory manager. (60k offered.) 

Job posting: one-year contract faculty, St. John's University, Queens, NY

From the inbox:
The Chemistry Department at St. John's University in Queens, NY invites applications for a one-year contract faculty position to teach analytical and general chemistry courses. The positions require a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry or closely related fields, with post-doctoral experience preferred. Applicants should demonstrate a deep commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, and to working with students from diverse backgrounds, and a record of successful undergraduate teaching. The successful candidate also will have an opportunity to participate in departmental activities such as seminars, undergraduate research, and other opportunities for professional development.

Interested candidates may submit their resume and teaching philosophy, and the names of three references. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled, but only applications received by March 28, 2017, can be assured full consideration.

St. John’s University is an Equal Opportunity Employer and encourages applications from women and minorities.
Full posting here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Ivory Filter Flask: 3/6/17 edition

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

Moorhead, MN: Minnesota State University Moorhead is looking for an assistant professor of chemistry; analytical/physical chemistry-related. "$55,179 - $57,855 depending on experience."

Hamilton, ON: McMaster University is searching for an assistant professor of chemical education. "The current annual salary floor is $74,707 for an Assistant Professor with an appropriate doctoral degree."

Waco, TX: Baylor is looking for a mass spectrometrist.

Westminster, MD: McDaniel College is looking for an visiting assistant professor of physical or analytical chemistry.

San Luis Obispo, CA:  Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo is hiring full-time lecturers.

Philadelphia, PA: The University of the Sciences is searching for a visiting assistant professor of organic chemistry.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ask CJ: People I Won't Work With

Blooming where planted.
Credit: Derek Lowe
From the inbox, a great question: 
Dear CJ, 
 I've been approached to apply for an interesting position, but it would mean working with a person I have known to regularly engage in bad management techniques such as micromanaging and gaslighting employees who come forward with concerns about the workplace environment. 
The job would mean a new level of prestige and could lead to some very fruitful collaborations, but I'm happy in my current position where I have a very hands-off supervisor and a lot of freedom to pursue projects that interest me personally. 
Should I pursue prestige and (maybe) a little more money? Or should I be content to bloom where I'm planted?  
Cheers, Anon
That's a great question, Anon. I personally think that unless you can extract some sort of promises of no interaction with this unpleasant person (which I suspect you cannot), I wouldn't accept the new position. I suspect that you should bloom where you're planted, or at least bloom where you can bloom (and it doesn't sound like you would thrive in the potential new environment.)

Readers, what do you think? Can you think of a situation where you have moved to a new organization where you knew there would be personality conflicts and managed to avoid problems from the start?

What the he-double-hockey-sticks is IUPAC?

Also in this week's C&EN, an explanation that I needed in an article by Jyllian Kemsley on IUPAC (emphasis mine):
Sometimes called the “United Nations of chemistry,” IUPAC is formally a union of national chemistry or science associations that currently represent 57 countries, including Bangladesh, Croatia, Cuba, Kuwait, Nigeria, and Uruguay. IUPAC is governed primarily by a council composed of delegates from member nations. Individual chemists and companies may also join the union. 
IUPAC’s work is done on a project basis, and anyone, whether formally affiliated with the union or not, may propose a project. Proposals are reviewed and approved by IUPAC’s divisions, which represent branches of chemistry, or standing committees, which represent areas such as chemistry education.... 
...Overall, approximately 1,400 volunteers actively contribute their time and expertise to IUPAC, supported by five full-time staff members, including Soby. IUPAC’s 2017 budget is about $1.5 million, which covers salaries and funding for projects, including travel for groups to meet in person, conferences, information technology, and other expenses.
IUPAC’s strength is its ability to gather outstanding scientists from all over the world to weigh in on projects of international importance. “These people are highly committed and give their very best,” says Mark Cesa, a retired industrial chemist who has been involved in IUPAC for two decades through its Committee on Chemistry & Industry and is the union’s immediate past-president.
Just for comparison's sake, the American Chemical Society's 2015 operating budget was somewhere around 500 million dollars. (click on the first set of "talking points.")  

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Final thoughts about graduate school and mental health

Note: this post is the final one in a dialogue between Vinylogous Aldol and I on grad school and its effects on mental health. Yesterday's post can be found here, the opening post can be found here. 

Hey, Vinylogous:

Wow! Great post yesterday - you consistently put things in a way that I wish I had:

The collective action problem of mental health: You make a great point in your beginning paragraphs about asking universities/departments to consider mental health in comparison to academic response to the Sheri Sangji case (where the response of chemical academia arrived from the Los Angeles District Attorney extracting compliance from the University of California):
Mental health is going to be similar [CJ’s note: to the Sangji case]. I don't see a clear path going forward that would encourage change. There's a massive collective action problem that still persists. And it's even trickier than chemical safety—there's more vagueness, less accountability, fewer particularized harms. 
My impression is that as humans we all suffer from profoundly terrible objective foresight. ("Maybe it'll be different for me," we think. It usually isn't, of course). And that's part of the grad-school-mental-health problem. The only people who might realistically make a substantial change (grad students themselves, acting en masse) are only in the system for a few years, and those there for longer (PIs and administration) have little to gain from changing anything.
It hadn’t occurred to me to describe this as a collective action problem, but I think you’re right. It’s not clear which party (individual graduate students, individual PIs, departments, universities) would take the lead in implementing solutions. (I sense that universities departments have been dealing with mental health issues on the part of their students and professors since time immemorial - and, I suspect, up until 1960 or so, the answer was to sweep issues under the rug.)

As you well know, I am a pessimist, and I don’t think there will be there a grand solution that can be imposed from above (either from the state, federal or professional society level.) That said, I wonder if what we can do is find high-profile departments that either have or are growing a reputation of taking care of its graduate students and postdocs from a mental health perspective and encourage other departments to emulate them. If some large professional society for chemists were to endow a $10,000 award for departments who had a good programmatic approach... hmmm....

Politics: I was delighted when you took our discussion in a direction that I didn’t expect with your comments about politics:
It's difficult to clearly articulate the reasons for graduate student political involvement, I guess. But I do wonder if it would be a good thing (maybe as an extension of it being a good thing for grad students to have outside interests in general). What are your thoughts, Chemjobber? I'm interested in your take on whether graduate students would benefit by being more active in this area (isn't that in the spirit of "Broader Impacts?").
As you and I have talked about in the past, there’s a lot of value in having some kind of outside activity that takes you outside the lab. In this case, political activity seems to be just as worthwhile. The positives that I can see would be getting to meet people that aren’t in a university setting (e.g. door-knocking, etc.) and having community (other politically-active folks, etc.) There’s nothing to keep a graduate student grounded than someone who isn’t in academia saying “They’re asking you to do what?... That’s not normal, right?”

At the same time, I wonder if this particular activity (advocating for increased funding for scientists from federal sources and a minimum of political interference in scientific activities) would be terrifyingly existential and would result in tears in almost all circumstances. It’s hard to imagine this as an activity that would promote mental health for the individual student (there’s that collective action problem again!) My recommendation: if you're interested, pursue this after a thorough self-assessment.

Finally, regarding political disputes with PIs: I think this is a problem that may present itself in the coming years. I remember getting into rollicking debates with my PI and my group members during my Bush 43-era stint in graduate school. I have a very, very, very difficult time imagining that professors would take out political disagreements on their students or postdocs, but I am sure that it has happened. It’s probably happened enough that, for the most part, it’s still best not to talk about sex, religion or politics with your boss.

Quick hits: 

The centrality of the PI: A great comment from tautomers at Reddit:
The most important aspect of mental health in grad school comes from your PI as far as I am concerned. I got diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in my 3rd year, and have had multiple issues with it since then. Throughout the entire ordeal, my adviser has been incredibly supportive in every way possible. If it weren't for him and his willingness to understand, even with all the medical treatment I get, I would not be where I am today. 
The most important thing we can likely do is to get PI's to understand how much of a big deal mental health can be. Grad school is so stressful that in the majority of cases it's going to be a major play in any mental illness. If the PI is open, the student is more likely to open up, and likely get the help they need.
Couldn’t agree more with them.

Ouch: Your wisecrack about “wistful sentiments… about the moral and work-ethic superiority of all adults north of 40..."

Et tu, Vinylogous? (Seriously, though, I hear you. I seem to recall that Al Meyers’ wisecracking about lazy graduate students was about them reading newspapers.)

Being a Muslim international student in graduate school: Regarding this topic, you’re absolutely right that these students would be subject to extra mental health stresses. I wonder if there is something that departments and PIs could do to build relationships and generate trust between the students/postdocs so that they could come to them with discrimination or legal issues (although I suspect the legal issues would be something the university would be much more prepared to deal with.) If I were a PI or a senior group member, I'd be doing what I could to cross cultural divides, include them in group activities and stand up for Muslim/international students in my group.

Well, here's best wishes to you and our readers for good mental health and success in our endeavors, chemical or otherwise.

Cheers, Chemjobber