Monday, December 30, 2019

Tough times at antibiotics companies

Via Twitter, this New York Times article on antibiotics firms: 
...“Unlike expensive new cancer drugs that extend survival by three-to-six months, antibiotics like ours truly save a patient’s life,” said Larry Edwards, chief executive of the company that makes Xerava, Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals. “It’s frustrating.” 
Tetraphase, based in Watertown, Mass., has struggled to get hospitals to embrace Xerava, which took more than a decade to discover and bring to market, even though the drug can vanquish resistant germs like MRSA and CRE, a group of resistant bacteria that kills 13,000 people a year. 
Tetraphase’s stock price has been hovering around $2, down from nearly $40 a year ago. To trim costs, Mr. Edwards recently shuttered the company’s labs, laid off some 40 scientists and scuttled plans to move forward on three other promising antibiotics....
I'm ready to declare market failure on antibiotics, and move both R&D, manufacture and stockpiling to the government, sigh... 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!



Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy 2020. Back on Monday.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 504 research/teaching positions and 44 teaching faculty positions

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 504 research/teaching positions and 44 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to add a position? Here's a Google Form to enter positions. In 2019-2020, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." As of 9/20/19, we are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

See an error? Please contact us at chemjobber@gmail.com

On December 18, 2018, the 2018 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 513 positions.

Open threads: firstsecondthirdfourthfifthsixthThe current one is the seventh open thread. 

Can't see additional comments? Look for the "load more" button underneath the comment box.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Newest Periodic Bagel episode: Nessa Carson, mistress of robots


Fifth episode of The Periodic Bagel, with guest Nessa Carson ((@SuperScienceGrl), robots, the UK and the "Dear Guido" letter. For the latter segment, it is NOT child-friendly language.

Rate and review us on iTunes!

Feel free to ask questions, add comments and suggestions for guests and topics in the comments.

More abandoned labs causing problems

Via Twitter, this rather distressing story: (nb link has annoying autoplay) 
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It appears now the mercury spill that was first noticed in a Walmart parking lot in west Houston is now widespread, affecting more locations. We now know that law enforcement officials believe suspect Christopher Melder broke into the former Geochem building in the 1400 block of Brittmoore sometime during Dec. 13. 
It is believed the 19-year-old father of two children stole 11 pounds of mercury and put it in his backpack. Law enforcement sources said he then tried to sell the mercury in small batches for $20 each. He managed to sell it twice. 
Around 60 people were decontaminated as a precaution following the discovery of the heavy metal mercury at a west Houston shopping center located in the area of Westview Drive and West Sam Houston Parkway. 
Sources added he was also playing with the mercury, which is how it ended up in the Walmart parking lot, near the Sonic, and now, at the McDonald's and bathrooms inside the Walmart. Authorities also believe it may have made its way into a Bucky's convenience store in the area.
You really wonder how much this kid had to search through the building before he found the mercury...

Friday, December 20, 2019

Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2018 edition

From the NSF's Survey of Earned Doctorates, the latest data, which is for the class of graduates during the 2018 calendar year. First, the demographic data (tab 58): 

All doctorate recipients (number): 2,810
Sex (%): Male 62.0 / Female 38.0 / Unknown 0.0
Citizenship (%): U.S. citizen or permanent resident 60.9, Temporary visa holder 36.4, Unknown 2.7
Marital status (%): Never married 43.6, Married 34.8,  Marriage-like relationship 10.5, Separated, divorced, widowed 1.4, Unknown 9.7
Bachelor's in same field as doctorate (%): 72.8
Master's earned (%): 36.1
Age at doctorate (median years): 28.9
Time to doctorate (median years): From bachelor's 6.3, From graduate school start 5.8, From doctoral program start 5.3

Now, their destinations (tab 59): 

Definite postgraduation study: 924 (36% of respondents to this question)
Definite employment: 772 (30% of respondents to this question)
Seeking employment or study: 830 (32% of respondents to this question)
Other: 66 (3% of respondents to this question)

Definite postgraduation study (%): Postdoc fellowship or research associateship 96.1, Other or unknown 3.9
Definite employment (%): Academe 19.3, Government 4.9, Industry or business 70.3, Nonprofit organization 1.7, Other or unknown 3.8
Primary activity (%): R&D 67.6, Teaching 17.3, Management or administration 3.8, Professional services 10.7, Other 0.5

Median starting salaries for those employed (does not count postdoctoral appointments) (tab 49): 

Total: $85,000
Academe: $51,250
Industry or business: $95,000
Government: $72,000
Nonprofit organization: $58,500
Other or unknown: $54,500

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 500 research/teaching positions and 39 teaching faculty positions

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 500 research/teaching positions and 39 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to add a position? Here's a Google Form to enter positions. In 2019-2020, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." As of 9/20/19, we are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

See an error? Please contact us at chemjobber@gmail.com

On December 18, 2018, the 2018 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 513 positions.

Open threads: firstsecondthirdfourthfifthThe current one is the sixth. This post will be the seventh open thread, opening on December 17.

Can't see additional comments? Look for the "load more" button underneath the comment box.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 84 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 84 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson). 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 28 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 28 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Seattle's Infectious Disease Research Institute lays off scientists

Via the New York Times:
The future of a tuberculosis vaccine and research into other neglected diseases is in limbo after a Seattle institute abruptly laid off about one-third of its researchers, citing a financial crisis. The sudden staff cutbacks late last month at the Infectious Disease Research Institute have baffled many of the scientists — who were also working on a vaccine for leprosy and research into tropical diseases. 
The layoffs on the day before Thanksgiving also put in jeopardy federal grants for the scientists’ work. This fall, the National Institutes of Health awarded a contract of up to $45 million to the nonprofit and other collaborating institutions to study the body’s immune response to tuberculosis over several years... 
...The 26-year-old Seattle research institute has often struggled financially. It has scrambled to close a gap between research grants from federal and private sources and its overhead costs, and has operated at a loss for years. The founder, Steven G. Reed, stepped down earlier this year from his role as chief executive after years of turmoil in which executives and board members resigned over their dissatisfaction with his leadership.
Sad news for all of these scientists. Best wishes to them, and to all of us. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Spotting fake pills

Sometimes, it’s a funky-looking “i” in the red Eli Lilly and Company logo that tips Mike Dalton off to fraud. Or an irregular dimple pattern on the tinfoil wrapper. Crooks who mass-produce counterfeit pharmaceuticals are creative and ambitious, peddling billions of dollars of fake drugs around the world... 
“When you have a product that is high-demand and high-priced, that’s going to be a drug counterfeiter’s target,” Dalton says. “It’s not hard to make a tablet. Counterfeiters can do that very easily.” 
The internet is a boon to con artists. Websites lure customers with heavily discounted prices. The fake drug’s packaging looks convincing, and serial numbers can be faked. Sometimes, the tampered meds contain traces of the original substance, according to chemist Christa Mulkey, a 27-year Lilly veteran who works in Dalton’s lab. “A lot of time, they want something in it because they want return customers,” she says....
Pretty interesting article - glad someone is doing this.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Newest Periodic Bagel episode: Professor Feier Hou, Western Oregon University



Fourth episode of The Periodic Bagel, with guest Dr. Feier Hou (@happykitten62) of Western Oregon University, who talks with us about cats, crystals and Chinese academia.

Rate and review us on iTunes!

Feel free to ask questions, add comments and suggestions for guests and topics in the comments.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Younger UK industrial chemists express concerns about pay

Nessa Carson, a synthetic organic chemist, says she is “extremely lucky” to be working for a big pharmaceutical company in southeast England. Since she moved back to the UK in 2017, after completing a master’s degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carson says she has seen many friends and colleagues leave chemistry because of a job market that offers young chemists fewer opportunities for exciting science or financial gain than they had hoped for.... 
...The mood in the UK among early-career chemists who actually want to do chemistry is somber. Disappointed by the roles the job market has to offer, chemistry graduates say they are feeling undervalued and underpaid. Many are threatening to leave the country for better opportunities elsewhere. 
Some researchers, however, say they find little passion in working for a CRO. “It’s safe to say that where I am working, nobody at the junior level is particularly happy with their jobs,” says [Redacted], a medicinal chemist who, to protect her job, asked that her full name not be used. 
[Redacted] works for a large CRO in east England that hires chemists on fixed-term contracts. This means job security is low for everybody, she says. “Half the people I work with are [University of] Cambridge graduates, fantastic chemists, but that doesn’t matter. The company offers them no help with career progression.” Earlier this year, the company laid off 15 chemists, then hired another 15 a few months later, she says. 
Another young chemist, [Redacted2], moved to England from Spain for grad school at a public university in the northwest. Like [Redacted], he asked that, to protect his job, his full name not be used. [Redacted2] picked up plenty of job offers in the UK after completing his PhD, but he rejected them all because of the low salaries on offer. 
“Perhaps my expectations were high because I did my PhD on a Marie Curie scholarship, which is roughly double the normal PhD salary in the UK,” [Redacted2] says, referring to a scholarship granted by the European Commission. “But in any case, the offers I got in the UK were about 40% lower than the ones I received in [continental] Europe.”
Sad to hear things aren't going so well for younger UK chemists. Regarding CROs, it's not a surprise to me that people don't find the work particularly enjoyable - "owning" a project is one of the reasons that people get into research, and the CRO model really messes with that in a fundamental way. Here's hoping things improve. 

Last week's C&EN

A few of the articles from the most recent issue of Chemical and Engineering News:

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 493 research/teaching positions and 36 teaching faculty positions

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 493 research/teaching positions and 36 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to add a position? Here's a Google Form to enter positions. In 2019-2020, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." As of 9/20/19, we are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

See an error? Please contact us at chemjobber@gmail.com

On December 11, 2018, the 2018 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 502 positions.

Open threads: firstsecondthirdfourthfifth. The current one is the sixth.

Can't see additional comments? Look for the "load more" button underneath the comment box.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 84 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 84 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson). 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 28 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 28 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Good ol' abandonment of chemicals in Illinois

Lawrence D. Rutledge, 57, of Belleville, Illinois, has been sentenced to five years of federal probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $335,934.87 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“U.S. EPA”) for clean-up expenses associated with his illegal storage of hazardous waste in St. Clair County, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Steven D. Weinhoeft, announced today. 
Rutledge pleaded guilty to the charge in July.
In 1997, Rutledge started a business called Advanced Asymmetrics, Inc., to synthesize specialty chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. The business was located inside a commercial building at 109 South Kossuth Street in Millstadt, Illinois, in close proximity to a residential area and a senior living home. Over time, Rutledge accumulated numerous containers of chemicals and chemical waste at the Millstadt facility. Sometime around 2011, Rutledge stopped paying the county property taxes on the Millstadt facility, and over the next few years, the electrical service and the water service (both water supply and sewer) to the facility were shut off. 
In August 2015, employees of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (“Illinois EPA”) and the U.S. EPA entered the facility and discovered hundreds of containers with labels indicating the presence of acids, caustics, and other chemicals, as well as hazardous waste. Some of the metal containers had rusted, and crystallization had started to occur on metal surfaces. Some had even fallen over and broken open. Sodium cyanide, which is extremely toxic, was stored within one inch of a container containing acid, presenting the potential formation of cyanide gas. Investigators also discovered a container labelled as a shock-sensitive picric acid, which is highly explosive.
So it's pretty clear that Advanced Asymmetrics did not do well. It's my understanding and broad experience that it takes a lot to get criminally prosecuted by USEPA, so I imagine this is an egregious case. So here's my question for discussion: when companies go bust like this, what happens with the chemicals? Clearly, the organization is financially responsible, but what happens when the company doesn't have any cash? Who pays for Veolia to show up? 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Always time for a glassblowing video



From the Richmond Standard (which is apparently funded by Chevron), an article about Chevron Richmond's glassblower:
...For 20 years, (Marianna) Pittner has been the go-to glassblower at the Chevron Richmond Technology Center (RTC), where she is tasked with creating a wide variety of custom glass apparatus for a fleet of ambitious chemists.  From a sizable workshop equipped with torches, lathes and oodles of glassware of varying heat sensitivities, Pittner repairs and creates beakers, test tubes and a host of other glasswear that Chevron scientists need in their quest to modernize the production of transportation fuels, lubricating base oils and other related products. The fuel additive Techron, for example, is one of the more widely known inventions created at the RTC. 
On a daily basis, chemists drop into Pittner’s workshop with requests to create custom glass pieces of varying specifications. At times, she’ll create pieces straight from examples that chemists draw by hand in notebooks. Often, she’ll meet with chemists to come up with blueprints for designs that solve problems in the research process, such as creating glass apparatus that manipulate direction of flow and temperature of the solutions undergoing tests. 
“I will never tell the chemist I can’t do that,” Pittner said. “I will figure it out; I enjoy the discovery. You have be very logical and problem-solving to make it in this field.” 
 Every chemist should have a great glassblower to help them. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Job posting: Formulation & Characterization Group Lead, Catalent, Madison, WI

Via Twitter, this position:
Position Title: Supervisor, Formulation and Characterization Group
Location: Madison, WI
***Please note that relocation assistance is available for the right candidate*** 
Position Requirements: 
The responsibility of the Formulation & Characterization Group Lead would be inclusive of the following tasks:
  • Manage Madison Formulation & Characterization Group (4 direct reports)
  • As a member of the Analytical Development Leadership Team, collaborate with clients to deliver world class formulation and characterization studies.
  • Develop and train junior formulation and characterization scientists.
  • Enhance value of formulation, stability, and characterization studies performed in Madison to clients through high-value add activities
Education or Equivalent:
  • Ph.D. in Chemistry or related field with at least 5 years of industry experience
  • MS in Chemistry, or related field with at least 7 years of industry laboratory experience
  • B.S/B.A. in Chemistry, or related field with at least 7-10 years experience in a laboratory environment
Experience: 
  • Thorough understanding of the origins of protein stability, degradation, and folding and the various factors that can affect proteins during the pharmaceutical development process.
  • Expertise in the wide range of analytical techniques applied to formulation and stability studies; Mass Spectrometry expertise desired. 
  • Experience in formulation development for proteins, not limited to antibodies, highly preferred
  • Experience in both drug substance and drug product development.
  • Experience in the statistical analysis and interpretation of formulation and stability data to drive decisions.  Proficiency in JMP and/or R preferred.
  • Excellent technical writing skills, and experience with authoring protocols, reports, and procedures for regulatory submissions
  • Experience mentoring and training junior staff
Link to full position here. Best wishes to those interested.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bet Chemours did not mention Mark Ruffalo in its forward guidance

An interesting comment from Wall Street about the new movie Dark Waters about the PFOA story in West Virginia: 
The movie “Dark Waters” about the effect of deadly chemicals in West Virginia is “very damaging” for DuPont de Nemours Inc., Wall Street analysts at Fermium Research wrote in a report before its theatrical debut on November 22. 
Analyst Frank Mitsch -- who watched a sneak preview -- thinks that “Dark Waters” will probably be a hit film and may cast a shadow over DuPont shares and the entire chemical industry. The movie focuses on DuPont and Chemours Co.’s already-settled litigation over perfluorooctanoic acid production. 
DuPont’s shares fell as much as 2.7% on Friday in New York, while broader market inched higher. 
“We can see a scenario where interest in DD from individual investors (85% institutional ownership according to Bloomberg) dissipates, though also a broader concern for the chemicals sector given the negative portrayal,” he added.
The number of companies targeted by Hollywood biopics over the years is actually pretty high, but it's amusing to think about the effects of a movie on a stock price...

(Anyone seen the movie? I'm planning on streaming it at some point in the future.)  

If you're going to steal secrets, don't get caught redhanded

From this week's Chemical and Engineering News, the latest in the IP theft world (by Marc S. Reisch):
A federal grand jury in St. Louis has indicted former Monsanto researcher Haitao Xiang for stealing crop productivity algorithms with the intention of handing them over to a Chinese government research institute. After Xiang quit his job in June 2017, he downloaded the algorithms to a micro-SD card, according to the indictment. He then purchased a one-way ticket to China; federal officials stopped him at the airport and seized the card. If convicted, Xiang faces up to 15 years in prison and a $5 million fine on each of several espionage charges, and up to 10 years for each of several trade secret theft charges.
Important caveat: ham sandwich. I wonder how they caught him, and how they knew this was happening? It will be interesting to see what happens to Mr. Xiang. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 484 research/teaching positions and 34 teaching faculty positions

The 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 484 research/teaching positions and 34 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to add a position? Here's a Google Form to enter positions. In 2019-2020, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." As of 9/20/19, we are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

See an error? Please contact us at chemjobber@gmail.com

On December 4, 2018, the 2018 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 486 positions.

Open threads: firstsecondthirdfourthfifth. This will be the sixth open thread on December 4, 2019. This thread closed at 12:25 PM Eastern on December 17. The next thread is the seventh.

Can't see additional comments? Look for the "load more" button underneath the comment box.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 84 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 84 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson). 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 28 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 28 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Job posting: Sr. Scientist, Process Chemistry, Firmenich, Newark, NJ

From the inbox, this position at Firmenich in Newark, NJ:

Key Responsibilities:
  • Research & development of chemistry pathways towards Firmenich molecules
  • Industrialization of the newly developed processes
  • Generating ideas to improve the economic and environmental efficiency of our manufacturing processes and implementing them from lab to production
  • Actively contribute to global project teams with R&D, Engineering, Operations
  • Support of the existing production processes through deep involvement in daily operation of Firmenich largest chemical plant
  • Contribute to technology transfers between Firmenich manufacturing plants as well as with external partners
  • Supervision of lab associates
Requirements:
  • PhD in Organic Chemistry or closely related field with preferably undergraduate training in Chemical Engineering
  • 8+ years of industrial process chemistry/chemical development experience, preferably in specialty/fine chemical industry
  • Strong knowledge of modern synthetic organic chemistry, catalysis & process chemistry
  • Hands-on experience at least in synthetic chemistry and separation operations like fractional distillation
Link to position here. Best wishes to those interested.