Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Chemical Activity Barometer up 0.8% in November

From the American Chemistry Council: 

WASHINGTON (November 24, 2020) – The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), rose 0.8 percent in November on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 1.0 percent gain in October. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer fell 2.4 percent in November.

The unadjusted data show a 1.3 percent gain in November following a 0.5 percent gain in October and a 0.7 percent gain in September. The diffusion index eased from 76 percent to 71 percent in November. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for October was revised upward by 0.38 points and the reading for September was revised downward by 0.06 points. These were highly volatile months for the data. The November data are provisional and subject to revision.

“With seven straight months of gains, the November CAB reading is consistent with recovery in the U.S. economy,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC.

The CAB has four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.

In November, production-related indicators were positive. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were mixed. Resins and chemistry used in light vehicles and other durable goods were strong. Gains in plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were positive. Performance chemistry for industry rebounded and U.S. exports were mixed. Equity prices rebounded and product and input prices were positive. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were positive.

Well, that's good news. Here's hoping it continues into the new year. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 195 research/teaching positions and 17 teaching faculty positions

 The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 195 research/teaching positions and 17 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On November 26, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 482 research/teaching positions and 32 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search?  Go to the second open thread. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

Postdoc: mechanistic enzymology, Basu Lab, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN

From the inbox: 

A postdoctoral position is available in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, IUPUI starting spring 2021. The project involves studying the structure-function relation in periplasmic  nitrate reductase, a mononuclear molybdenum enzyme. These enzymes take part in the global cycling of C, S, N, and As, and impact human health in a myriad of ways. Our approach includes careful kinetic analysis coupled with biophysical experimentation, and with this approach, we  hope to develop an in-depth understanding of these critical enzymes' reactivity. 

This NIH/NSF funded position is for one year with the option to extend beyond the initial year. The  department is well equipped with modern instrumentation such as mass spectrometry facility,  cell culture and protein purification facilities. Experience in enzyme kinetics and molecular  biology is desirable. As a home of major pharmaceutical companies, upcoming biotech  industries, and largest medical school in the country, Indianapolis offers a vibrant scientific  community. The city of Indianapolis is thriving city with a rich cultural environment, plenty of  options for an active outdoor lifestyle. Interested candidate should contact Prof. Partha Basu  (basup@iu.edu).

Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 42 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 42 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 52 positions

 The Academic Staff Jobs list has 52 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, November 23, 2020

The government's ability to accelerate innovation, and production

I've been reading the broad blogosphere for a very long time (since 2001 or so), and so I'm familiar with a lot of the old players. While there are very few of the original players who are still solely blogging (like Derek Lowe, for example), I am amused at the trajectories of progressive bloggers Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, both of whom departed Vox recently, Klein for the New York Times and Yglesias for his own website on Substack. I've been reading Yglesias for a very long time, so it's not a surprise to me that he's returned to one of his favorite themes - that government money can effectively spur new R&D:  
The Pfizer people made a big deal out of the fact that their program wasn’t technically part of the Operation Warp Speed effort that the Trump administration put together. But they are very much part of the program where both the US government and the European Union made large advance agreements to purchase vaccine doses. That guarantee makes a big difference to any private sector undertaking.

And to me it’s a proof of concept for the kind of thing we could be doing in the clean energy space. Say an electric car that meets such-and-such specifications would get guaranteed orders to serve as government fleet vehicles. Or pre-commit to buying electric buses for schools and transit agencies. Nuclear micro-reactors for use on military bases or as backup systems for hospitals. The assurance that a market exists is a big stimulus to private investment, and when strong social consensus exists that innovation would be beneficial, we can get it done....

...So while we both could and should mount a vaccine-esque push for clean energy research and deployment, we so far have not. Hopefully, that will change as more people look at the success of the pharmacological aspects of America’s Covid response and see that directed research programs really do work.

Of course, I quibble with his argument. I think the term "directed research programs" need to be defined before we can agree they "really do work." Is Operation Warp Speed such an example? I'm not so sure, but I cannot deny that advanced purchase agreements are a powerful incentive. God willing, we'll all be arguing this in 2022 in person, but it's hard for me to think that if Pfizer didn't have such an agreement with OWS, they could have still made an agreement with the United States government once they knocked on the door with positive clinical results. Of course, that it's Pfizer (with its $52 billion annual revenue) plays a role - not too many other companies could have self-financed such a venture. 

Regarding his clean energy thoughts, I think such agreements are both science- and economics-dependent. If Elon Musk showed up with an electric school bus that cost $2 million per, would that be viable? It wouldn't - and it takes quite a bit of new science and new engineering to get a competitive price, and I'm not sure how much faster a guaranteed market would really drive said development. Also, how politically viable would such a guaranteed market bet? 

On the other hand, this New York Times writeup of OWS' ability to get logistics stuff done is pretty impressive: 

When Moderna discovered this summer that an air handling unit for its factory could not be delivered over a weekend because of Covid-19 limitations on interstate trucking, the major’s team stepped in. Warp Speed officials arranged a law enforcement escort to accompany the massive piece of equipment from the Midwest to its Massachusetts manufacturing plant.

The team again sprang into action when Moderna discovered that a specialized pump, needed to make the first batches of vaccine for the clinical trials, was marooned in a rail car and was not going to be delivered on time. Federal workers tracked down the train and rummaged through it until they found the pump.

“They put it on a plane, and it arrived on time,” Mr. Andres, the company’s operations chief, said.

The interventions, he said, were “absolutely instrumental.”

Getting yourself moved to the front of the line by the power of the state isn't anything to be sneezed at. (Railroads? How did that happen? Those guys are impossible to work with, I've heard...)

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, November 20, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

Well, we made it another week, folks. I hope you have a good weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

This week's C&EN

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

34 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Common Organic Chemistry is resolving some technical difficulties, but has ported over the list to Google Drive for now. There are 22 new positions for November 18,  and 12 for November 16.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

Job posting: Deputy Division Director, Division of Chemistry, MPS, NSF, Alexandria, VA

 From the inbox, a position at the National Science Foundation: 

The Division of Chemistry (CHE) is responsible for programs with a total annual budget of more than $200 million. These programs support research and education that expand the knowledge base of the science of chemistry through single investigator and collaborative research programs (catalysis; life processes; measurement and imaging; structure, dynamics and mechanism; environmental chemistry; macromolecular, supramolecular and nanochemistry; synthesis; and theory, modeling and computational chemistry), Centers for Chemical Innovation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Research Instrumentation and Facilities, and Special Projects. The mission of the NSF Division of Chemistry (CHE) is to support innovative research in chemical sciences, integrated with education, through strategic investment in developing a globally engaged U.S. chemistry workforce reflecting the diversity of America.

Within the Division, the Deputy Division Director works with the Division Director in providing leadership and management to the Division’s programs and assists the Division Director in carrying out Division-wide responsibilities such as the preparation of budget submissions for Congress, oversight and management of the Division budgets, and the recruitment of scientific staff.  The incumbent also supervises and provides leadership and guidance to administrative and support personnel within the Division.  Externally, the Deputy Division Director represents the Division in a variety of MPS-wide, NSF-wide and interagency activities related to research and education, and in interactions with the community.  The Deputy Division Director assumes the Division Director’s role in the absence of the Division Director.

 Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What are three virtual ACS National Meetings going to do to early careers?

I'm sure you got this message from ACS' CEO via e-mail, or maybe you didn't: 
I am reaching out today to share the news that we will hold our spring 2021 ACS meeting entirely virtually April 5-16, 2021. Meeting virtually for ACS Spring 2021 will enable the meaningful sharing of scientific information, while ensuring everyone’s safety. 

Originally planned as an in-person event in San Antonio, TX, in March 2021, the meeting was transitioned to a virtual event as a result of the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases locally, nationally, and globally, and predictions for worsening conditions throughout the winter season. The virtual format was chosen out of concern for the health and safety of our members, meeting attendees, staff and residents of San Antonio.

We are committed to ensuring that the virtual meeting will give participants the most robust and rich experience possible. We have lengthened the footprint of the meeting to allow for a maximum amount of science to be shared with the widest possible audience. The program will include 10 weekdays of live sessions followed by two weeks of on demand content, at the presenters’ discretion.

The window for abstract submissions will open on December 16, 2020, and close on January 18, 2021. Abstracts questions can be directed to abstracts@acs.org.  Registration will open in January for the virtual meeting with fees set at $99 for ACS members, $149 for non-members, and $29 for students. Unemployed member and 50-year emeritus members will be able to attend at no cost.

I think this is a pretty logical move - even with vaccines, it's hard to imagine that people would be meeting in March 2021. Friend of the blog Harry Elston had a good question - what will three consecutive virtual meetings do to early career researchers in chemistry? 

I'll be honest and say that I don't know. In discussions of the National Meeting, there is always a lot of chatter about how these venues aren't nearly as good as smaller meetings, such as Gordon Conferences. I broadly agree. At the same time, I think there is genuine value in the breadth of the meeting, and also far more opportunity for serendipitous meetings of old friends and colleagues in other subfields, and new ones as well. The virtual meetings offer some good points: the price is much, much lower (especially with the lack of travel) and that offers an opportunity for students of all institutions to participate. 

I think it's unlikely that there will be a measurable impact to the careers of students who were not able to stand awkwardly in front of their Sci-Mix posters for 3 hours, and participated virtually instead. Still, for those of us who are in the middle of our careers, it bears some amount of consideration and watching. 

Cool story on chalk

Via the New York Times, a group of manufacturers thinking about a quality product and technology transfer: 

The bright-white sticks drop one by one into the whir and clatter of a weatherworn piece of machinery, where they are stamped with the most celebrated name in chalk: Hagoromo.

The early stages of the process look a lot like food production. The ingredients in what the company’s owner calls a “recipe” are dumped into a mixer originally designed for bread dough, and what comes out is fed into a kneader originally intended to make udon noodles.

Of the thick grayish mass that emerges, four ingredients are known: calcium carbonate, clay, glue and oyster shells. The other three are a secret. In a video posted to YouTube about the chalk, an American fan offers a guess as to one of them: angel tears.

Hagoromo chalk is a cult favorite of elite academics, artists and others around the world who praise it for its silky feel, vibrant colors, scant dust and nearly unbreakable quality. Mathematicians in particular are prone to waxing poetic about it, and buying it in bulk. 

Despite its renown, Hagoromo is still produced on a relatively small scale, using custom-made equipment, much of it run by two laborers who are identical twins — a throwback in a high-tech era where interactive displays are replacing chalkboards.

It's hard not to get romantic about the glory of manufacturing, where a high-quality product is made for adoring customers. Good story, very enjoyable. Read the whole thing. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 178 research/teaching positions and 16 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 178 research/teaching positions and 16 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On November 19, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 470 research/teaching positions and 30 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search?  Go to the second open thread. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

Job posting: visiting assistant professor, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

From the inbox: 

The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Fairfield University seeks a Visiting Assistant Professor beginning January 1, 2021. This appointment and its possible renewal through the 2021-2022 academic year are contingent upon final approval of funding. The successful applicant will have the ability to teach lecture and laboratory classes in General Chemistry, as well ability in one or more of Chemical Analysis Laboratory, Physical Chemistry, Chemical Instrumentation Laboratory and/or Biochemistry Laboratory. A PhD is required, as is a commitment to innovation and demonstrated excellence in using technology in the classroom. Fairfield University is pursuing in-person instruction. Individuals seeking remote employment should not apply. Review of applications will begin immediately.

For full consideration submit a cover letter, a CV, and graduate school transcripts, a statement of teaching philosophy to the University portal by November 23, 2020. Three letters of recommendation should also be sent directly to chemistryVAP@fairfield.edu.

Best wishes to those interested.  

Job posting: dean, College of Science & Mathematics, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ

From the inbox: 

Rowan University is seeking an innovative and entrepreneurial leader to serve as the Dean of the College of Science & Mathematics (CSM).  The Dean will lead the development of a new vision for CSM in collaboration with faculty, staff, and students which advances the University’s mission to provide access to an affordable, quality education for a diverse student body, to create new knowledge to serve humankind, and to serve as an economic engine for our region and the state of New Jersey. We seek a candidate who will lead the CSM community in our scientific, technological, and educational response to society's challenges in sustainability, climate change, and social and environmental justice.

As the chief academic and administrative officer of CSM, the Dean’s responsibilities include: (1) oversight, enhancement, and development of high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs including stackable and micro-credential programs; (2) expansion of the college’s research endeavors; (3) recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty and student body and promotion of an inclusive environment; (4) fundraising, development of new revenue sources, and budgetary oversight; (5) alumni relations, and (6) enhancing the visibility and reputation of the college.  The Dean will work closely with the Provost and fellow deans to support Rowan University’s distinctive identity, while moving towards Carnegie 1 research status.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 39 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 39 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 51 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 51 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, November 16, 2020

Weirdest story you will read today

Via the New York Times, this bizarre news: 

It was supposed to be a fun family summer trip to Yellowstone National Park. Two cousins, a neighbor and their families packed two chickens, canoed about eight hours and hiked to the Shoshone Geyser Basin, where they decided to cook their chickens in a hot spring.

But dinner didn’t go quite as planned. In fact, it led to three of them pleading guilty to petty offenses. They were sentenced to two years’ probation, banned from the park for that period and fined between $500 and $1,200, according to court documents.

“A ranger responded and found two whole chickens in a burlap sack in a hot spring,” she said. A cooking pot was also found nearby. When Mr. Romriell went to check on the chicken — the group was bathing in the river nearby — he found the park ranger, who then questioned him and the rest of the group of 10 people about it. The next day, the ranger returned to the men’s campsites and issued them citations requiring a mandatory court appearance.

In September, the three men pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Casper, Wyo., to foot travel in a thermal area, according to court records. Mr. Romriell also pleaded guilty to the additional charge of having food in a thermal area...

So there are a bunch of dumb questions to ask, like: 

  • Why would you want to eat chicken stored in a burlap sack? 
  • Why would you risk your life to get near enough to a hot spring to cook a chicken in it? 
  • Why would you think you wouldn't get caught? 
But here's my real question - why would you think it would taste good? Aren't all the hot springs pretty sulfurous? The water smelled pretty bad to me when I visited 19 years ago...

(The article says that the men said it tasted good? Who knows.) 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Have a good weekend!

 

Well, we've made it through another week. I hope you have a good weekend, and we'll see you on Monday.

Pfizer's vaccine storage plan

Via the New York Times, this interesting set of facts about the COVID-19 vaccine: 
...Pfizer is making the vaccine at facilities in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Puurs, Belgium. The doses distributed in the United States will mostly come from Kalamazoo. In Kalamazoo, vaccines will go into vials (five doses per vial). Vials will go into trays (195 vials per tray). Trays will go into specially designed cooler-type boxes (up to five trays per box). Pfizer plans to have about 100,000 of the coolers by the end of this month and more than double that total by March.

The reusable boxes, each toting between 1,000 and 5,000 doses and stuffed with dry ice, are equipped with GPS-enabled sensors. Pfizer employees will be able to monitor the boxes’ locations and temperatures as FedEx and UPS transport them to hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The boxes “will have eyes on them at all times,” Ms. Alcorn said.

Representatives of UPS and FedEx said they had been planning to play a major role in distributing vaccines and were ready to go.

Once the Pfizer coolers reach their destinations, hospitals or pharmacies will have a few choices of how to store the vaccine. The easiest option is using ultracold freezers, but not many sites have them. Otherwise, the facilities can stash the trays in conventional freezers for up to five days. Or they can keep the vials in the cooler for up to 15 days, so long as they replenish the dry ice and don’t open it more than twice a day.

Good times for dry ice manufacturers! 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

46 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Common Organic Chemistry is resolving some technical difficulties, but has ported over the list to Google Drive for now. There are 14 new positions for November 11, 16 for November 9 and 16 positions for October 21. 

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

Job posting: Deputy Division Director, Division of Chemistry, MPS, NSF, Alexandria, VA

From the inbox, a position at the National Science Foundation: 

The Division of Chemistry (CHE) is responsible for programs with a total annual budget of more than $200 million. These programs support research and education that expand the knowledge base of the science of chemistry through single investigator and collaborative research programs (catalysis; life processes; measurement and imaging; structure, dynamics and mechanism; environmental chemistry; macromolecular, supramolecular and nanochemistry; synthesis; and theory, modeling and computational chemistry), Centers for Chemical Innovation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Research Instrumentation and Facilities, and Special Projects. The mission of the NSF Division of Chemistry (CHE) is to support innovative research in chemical sciences, integrated with education, through strategic investment in developing a globally engaged U.S. chemistry workforce reflecting the diversity of America.

Within the Division, the Deputy Division Director works with the Division Director in providing leadership and management to the Division’s programs and assists the Division Director in carrying out Division-wide responsibilities such as the preparation of budget submissions for Congress, oversight and management of the Division budgets, and the recruitment of scientific staff.  The incumbent also supervises and provides leadership and guidance to administrative and support personnel within the Division.  Externally, the Deputy Division Director represents the Division in a variety of MPS-wide, NSF-wide and interagency activities related to research and education, and in interactions with the community.  The Deputy Division Director assumes the Division Director’s role in the absence of the Division Director.

 Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 165 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 165 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On November 12, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 463 research/teaching positions and 29 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search?  This is the second open thread. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 38 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 38 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 51 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 51 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, November 9, 2020

3M invented scratch-and-sniff?

 Via the New York Times, a fun article by Caity Weaver about a $590 scratch-and-sniff luxury T-shirt delved into the pioneer of this technology:  

...Scratch-and-sniff is a feature, a deed and a technology derived from the experiments of Gale Matson, a chemist who grew up in a small town in Minnesota and later went to work for his local global manufacturing conglomerate, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. One of Mr. Matson’s first tasks after joining the company was to refine the practice of producing ink copies of documents without the use of messy black carbon paper. While tweaking a manufacturing technique known as microencapsulation in 1966, he invented what we now know as scratch-and-sniff.

Its basic concept is this: A bunch of itty-bitty plastic-coated balls, filled with scented substance, can be made to rupture with light physical contact (Mr. Matson suggested “fingernail pressure”), releasing their scent into the air.

Mr. Matson’s patents describe how he created capsules filled with “one part perfume oil and two parts diethyl phthalate,” and coated them onto a sheet of paper. The paper remained odorless until the capsules were scratched open....

...Gale Matson died in 2004 after more than 30 years at the company, which is known today as 3M. Its scarlet logo appears on products ranging from neonatal monitoring electrodes to helicopter blade repair paste to Scotch tape.

“He loved working at 3M,” Mr. Matson’s son Tim recalled. “They say you bleed 3M red.”

“I never got to see where he worked, because it was in a secure location,” he added. “Until they patented something and disclosed the inventions, it was all trade secrets and tight security.”

Surprisingly, there’s not too much information on the internet about the life of Dr. Matson, although his obituary notes that he was a 50 year member of the ACS. I wonder if he knew that his legacy in chemistry to the world would be to be known as the inventor of scratch-and-sniff? 

(3M didn't have like "Family Day" or something where people got to tour the workplace?)

Friday, November 6, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

Well, we made it to Friday, mostly in one piece. I hope you all have a great weekend. See you on Monday. 

Industry offers/postings being pulled?

So it's November now, and we should be in the middle of the fall hiring push for industrial chemists. What is the feeling out there? What's your opinion on how the process is moving along? Slow? About as fast as normal? Are you seeing posting being suddenly pulled, or offers disappearing due to budgets? 

Readers, what do you think? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Early 4th quarter GDP estimates

From Calculated Risk: 

From Merrill Lynch:

We expect growth to slow to 3% qoq saar in 4Q amid the stimulus stalemate. [Oct 30 estimate] emphasis added

From Goldman Sachs:

We left our Q4 GDP tracking estimate unchanged at +4.5%. [Nov 3 estimate]

From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report

The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 3.2% for 2020:Q4. [Oct 30 estimate]

And from the Atlanta Fed: GDPNow

The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the fourth quarter of 2020 is 3.4 percent on November 2, up from 2.2 percent on October 30. [Nov 2 estimate]

Well, here's hoping things get better...

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 154 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 154 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On November 5, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 447 research/teaching positions and 28 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 37 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 37 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 49 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 49 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, November 2, 2020

The craziest academia story you will read today

In this week's C&EN, this completely unbelievable story of a graduate student getting hurt, and the trouble it took for her to get her injury compensated (article by Sam Lemonick) (emphasis mine): 
...She remembers the next few hours as frustrating: The ambulance crew didn’t seem to know how to treat her injury. The emergency room staff initially thought her accident involved a few liters of hydrofluoric acid. After she sat for several hours in an exam room using a wet paper towel to soothe the burn, doctors sent her home with instructions to wash the area with soap and water, saying there wasn’t much else they could do.

But that frustration was minor compared with what happened over the next several months, as Dastjerdi landed in the maddeningly complex world of US workers’ compensation laws and how they do—or do not—cover medical expenses for graduate students injured while working in a research lab. Dastjerdi dealt with collection notices for overdue hospital bills and confusing and contradictory information from BU officials. Eventually she hired a lawyer who convinced the university to pay some of her medical expenses.

Dastjerdi is far from the only US graduate student or postdoctoral researcher to be injured while at work. She is also not the only one to have been surprised that collecting a paycheck does not safeguard against personally paying medical bills for work injuries. Nor is BU the only institution with unclear policies—a C&EN review found that other schools’ stances seem similarly vague, and a federal fight continues over whether graduate students are considered employees for certain purposes. It’s yet another vulnerability for graduate students in a system in which they have the least money and power.

I had an injury that needed some stitches (broke some glass into my thumb) when I was in graduate school, but I genuinely don't remember who paid my bill. This is one of those weird gray areas where schools will do what they can to pretend that graduate students aren't employees because they're students-in-name-partially-and-workers-in-name-partially. 

As I've said in the past about a worse incident: 

Another reminder for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to not become Schrödinger's employee, and determine their status in terms of worker's compensation, benefits and the like. (Short answer: whatever status benefits the university? That's your status.) 

 It's 2020, and the above is still true. Read the whole thing. 

This week's C&EN

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


Friday, October 30, 2020

Have a great weekend

 

We made it another week. Hope you have a restful weekend, and see you on Monday. 

Harvard replies to Professor Lieber: not helping you out

Continuing news in the story of Professor Charles Lieber from the Harvard Crimson (by James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen): 

Harvard filed an opposition Thursday in response to Chemistry professor Charles M. Lieber’s lawsuit alleging the University is contractually obligated to pay for his legal defense against federal fraud charges. In its filing, Harvard’s lawyers argued Lieber relinquished his right to indemnification and advancement of defense costs when he knowingly lied to the University and the federal government about his activities in China.

...Harvard’s opposition to the motion, however, alleges Lieber intentionally lied to Harvard and federal authorities, precluding him from receiving indemnification under the policy.

“Employees who privilege their own interests over Harvard’s, whether by acting in bad faith, violating University policies, engaging in various forms of misconduct, or seeking an improper financial benefit, are not entitled to indemnification or, therefore, advancement,” Harvard’s opposition reads. “Lieber engaged in precisely the kind of self-dealing conduct that precludes advancement.”

“It cannot be the law that a professor can (i) mislead Harvard, (ii) allegedly lie to the United States, (iii) cause Harvard to make misstatements to the United States, (iv) get charged criminally, and then (v) insist that Harvard must advance his defense costs—regardless of his conduct—because the stakes in the criminal case are high,” the opposition concludes. “Any such holding would effectively compel Harvard, in violation of its policies and expectations of faculty conduct, to advance defense costs from its charitable assets to employees who engage in bad-faith conduct for the purpose of enriching themselves.”

Apart from the obvious (i.e. we’ve gotten to the point in the relationship between Professor Lieber and Harvard where it’s open conflict), I think it is interesting to note that Harvard is being clear that they feel Professor Lieber misled them. I’m still stumped as to why Professor Lieber did this, but perhaps we will learn this before long. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Daily Pump Trap: 10/29/20 edition

A few of the postings from C&EN Jobs and elsewhere: 

Cleveland, OH: Sherwin Williams is looking for a R&D chemist.

Wilmington, MA: Royal DSM is searching for a BS chemist to be an applications chemist.  

Chesterfield, MO: Bayer is searching for an experienced analytical chemist.  

West Lafayette, IN: AMRI wishes to hire an experienced MS/PhD chemist for a senior research scientist for particle engineering. 

Durham, NC: Verdesian Life Sciences is looking for an experienced BS/MS/PhD chemist for agricultural chemistry work. Salary: "Up to $111,000 per year + benefits, bonus potential"

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Accent discrimination in the UK?

Via Marginal Revolution, this story in The Guardian: 

Universities must act to eradicate discrimination against working-class students, including the mockery of regional accents, equality campaigners have said.

A Guardian investigation has found widespread evidence of students at some of the country’s leading universities being ridiculed over their accents and backgrounds, in some cases prompting them to leave education.

The analysis found discrimination against working-class students was particularly prevalent among Russell Group universities. The group, which is made up of 24 institutions, has a reputation for academic excellence.

In a series of Guardian interviews, students past and present reported bullying and harassment over their accents and working-class backgrounds. Some said their academic ability was questioned because of the way they spoke.

The Social Mobility Commission (SMC), which monitors progress in improving social mobility in the UK, described the situation as unacceptable and said accents had become a “tangible barrier” for some students.

This week the Guardian reported complaints of a “toxic attitude” towards some northern students at Durham University. Last month the university launched an inquiry after wealthy prospective freshers reportedly planned a competition to have sex with the poorest student they could find.

People will find different ways to distinguish the in-group from the out-group, so it shouldn't be a surprise that there is discrimination based on accent. I suspect that happens a lot less in the United States, although I can't imagine someone with an intense Noo Yawk accent having a great time of it at UT-Austin, or a someone with a Southern drawl getting 100% fair treatment at Harvard from fellow students. 

I imagine this kind of treatment extends its way into the workplace as well, but, in chemistry, I imagine it's much more about foreign accents than it is about various regional accents in the United States.  

Chemical Activity Barometer Up 0.9% in October

From the American Chemistry Council: 

WASHINGTON (October 27, 2020) – The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), rose 0.9 percent in October on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis, a marked deceleration from the 1.5 percent gain in September and 2.6 percent gain in August. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer was down 3.3 percent in October.

The unadjusted data show a 0.1 percent gain in October following a 0.8 percent gain in September and a 1.9 percent gain in August. The diffusion index eased from 65 percent to 59 percent in October. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for September was revised downward by 0.26 points and the reading for August was revised downward by 0.30 points. These were volatile months for the data.

“With six consecutive months of gains, the October CAB reading remains consistent with recovery in the U.S. economy,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC.

The CAB has four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.

In October, production-related indicators were mixed. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were largely positive. Resins and chemistry used in light vehicles and other durable goods were positive. Gains in plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were mixed. Performance chemistry and U.S. exports were mixed. Equity prices rebounded, while product and input prices were positive. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were positive.

 Hopefully, the upward trend continues. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 146 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching faculty positions

 The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 146 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On October 29, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 434 research/teaching positions and 25 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 35 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 35 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 47 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 47 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, October 26, 2020

Mexican government busts industrial-scale meth lab

From the Associated Press, this news: 
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Soldiers and police in Mexico seized an industrial-scale meth and fentanyl lab that was so big it startled investigators, federal prosecutors announced Sunday.

The lab had chemical preparation vats about two stories tall that could process 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of raw material at a time, said Felipe de Jesus Gallo of the federal Attorney General’s Office.

“In the Attorney General’s Office, we have no record of any seizure of equipment of this size before,” Gallo said.

The mega-lab was uncovered this past week in a storefront advertising industrial cleaning products on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Behind the storefront was a warehouse, with tall stacks of drums and 265-gallon (1,000 liter) tanks holding precursor chemicals, which Gallo said could be used to produce methamphetamines and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Hard to know how large the reactors were, but I'm a little surprised that these reactors (16000 liter reactors?) are the largest the Mexican government has seen so far. I'm surprised the cartels haven't gone in for flow chemistry by now.  

C&EN: "Dow, Johnson Matthey win trade-secret case in China"

In this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News, an article by Hepeng Jia: 

Amid a trade war and other disputes between China and the US, the Western chemical makers Dow and Johnson Matthey have won a trade-secret lawsuit in a Chinese court against Shanjun Clean Energy Technology over their jointly owned oxo alcohol technology. The two companies expect to be compensated with an undisclosed but “significant” amount of money.

The technology is a catalyzed low-pressure process for producing oxo alcohols, often used to make plasticizers. The firms have licensed the technology for more than 20 projects in China.

Liu Wei, an associate professor of intellectual property rights (IPR) law at Shanghai Jiaotong University, says the ruling indicates a growing professionalism in Chinese courts. “It is clear evidence that China’s IPR protection has achieved great progress,” he says.

Will be interesting to see if these sorts of wins continue in the future.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

Well, we made it another week. Here's hoping you have a relaxing weekend, free of customer audits. See you on Monday. 

FDA: Lilly plant making COVID-19 antibody treatment has numerous findings

Via Bloomberg, this unfortunate news: 

U.S. drug-safety inspectors have found continuing quality-control problems problems at a New Jersey plant Eli Lilly & Co. is using to help produce its Covid-19 antibody therapy, posing a potential obstacle to the company meeting its goal of producing 1 million doses by year-end.

In an Oct. 2 memo, Food and Drug Administration compliance officers wrote that findings from an inspection of the facility in July and August “support a major failure of quality assurance.” They noted that Lilly planned to make its antibody therapy at the plant and said the inspection group “feels it is still imperative that FDA take action.”

The assessment was based on a four-week site inspection that ended on Aug. 21, the details of which haven’t previously been reported. The compliance officers recommended that the company receive a warning letter, one of the agency’s strongest enforcement measures, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. Agency inspectors found that in some cases Lilly employees didn’t investigate potential quality problems and routinely overrode testing systems, according to the documents.

...At that time, inspectors found the company’s system for tracking manufacturing quality wasn’t secure and could be accessed and modified by anyone, according to the documents reviewed by Bloomberg...

...In one case described by FDA inspectors, a Lilly employee allegedly used the wrong material in a critical purification step. In another, after routine checks revealed a potential impurity in a drug product, an employee retested it to get a passing result, according to the documents, instead of attempting to figure out why there were signs of an impurity in the sample.Lilly managers downplayed quality missteps in a data-management system FDA has access to during inspections called TrackWise, according to inspection documents. Drugmakers use such workflow tracking systems to record the outcomes of quality checks during the manufacturing process.

A confidential informant told the FDA that Lilly managers documented more details of quality concerns that required personnel action in the company’s human-resources system, according to the Oct. 2 memo. Agency inspectors said in their report that they repeatedly asked to review the human-resources records, but said Lilly refused to grant them access.

It's very surprising to me that there was a computer system without an audit trail in a facility that manufactures a biological. I'd really like to understand the context around the mis-charge of material - I would presume there were about 7 deviations to get there, but I dunno...

I'm looking forward to more context from the inevitable warning letter.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Daily Pump Trap: October 22, 2020 edition

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

Coshocton, OH: Wiley Companies is searching for a MS/PhD experienced chemist for process development work. 

Your home?: Schrodinger is looking for a BS chemist for a sales account manager position for the Midwest US, Southeast US, and Mid-Atlantic US.  Guessing this is a remote position mostly. 

Dudley, MA: GentexOptics is looking for a BS/MS analytical chemist to be a lab manager, and a BS chemist to be an analytical chemist. 

Bethesda, MD: NIDDK has a tenure-track opening for the laboratory of chemical physics. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Crystal mining for a living?

Via the New York Times, a fun article about crystal mining at the Herkemer diamond mines and the people who are beginning to do it for a living: 

For example, after having their jobs and schooling upended by the pandemic in the spring, Frank and Kyndall Stallings, 22 and 27, of Charleston, Mo., pivoted to digging for crystals.

“It all started in February, when Frank took me to the diamond mine in Arkansas for Valentine’s Day,” said Ms. Stallings, of the couple’s visit to a $10-a-day public mine called Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro.

While they didn’t bring home a diamond, they did find a tiny piece of quartz. The experience was a thrill of life-changing proportions. By mid-March, Mr. Stallings’s work as a financial adviser had slowed significantly, Mrs. Stallings’s classes for a bachelor’s degree in horticulture had gone remote, and a job she had recently been offered — data entry at a hospital — never started.

With their newfound time, the Stallingses were mining nearly every day.

By mid-April, the couple had sold everything they owned on Facebook, burned everything they couldn’t sell in a bonfire, packed up their truck and hit the road to work as freelance crystal miners.

“Fifty dollars a day to dig, and if you dig really hard you find $2,000, $3,000, $5,000 worth of crystals,” Mr. Stallings said, referring to Ron Coleman Mining, a crystal mine in Arkansas where the couple recently unearthed a “once in a lifetime” 15-pound clear quartz point, which they later sold for $1,500.

While $5,000 days are extremely rare, the Stallingses do earn a living selling specimens of gold, amazonite, pyrite, quartz, fluorite, shark teeth and obsidian out of the back of their Toyota RAV4 and on eBay.

Sounds like a lot of fun and you probably get a really good tricep workout. Probably no 401k plan, though. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 136 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 136 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On October 22, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 417 research/teaching positions and 20 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread.

Job posting: assistant professor, inorganic chemistry, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

From the inbox:

Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) of Inorganic Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (www.chab.ethz.ch) at ETH Zurich and its Laboratory of Inorganic Chemistry (LAC) (www.lac.ethz.ch) invite applications for the above-​mentioned position. The research activities at the LAC encompass synthesis of inorganic compounds on the molecular and nanometre scale, extended solids, and characterisation of complex reaction systems with high resolution methods at the atomic and molecular levels.  

The new assistant professor is expected to develop an outstanding research programme in the following areas: main group chemistry, materials chemistry, solid-​state chemistry, computational chemistry, physical method developments and combinations thereof. The development of highly interdisciplinary research projects at the interface of inorganic chemistry and physics, materials science, or biological sciences are additional key assets. Collaboration with theoretical and experimental groups at ETH Zurich is encouraged, and teaching in the areas of General and Inorganic Chemistry is expected at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Assistant professorships have been established to promote the careers of younger scientists. ETH Zurich implements a tenure track system equivalent to other top international universities. At the assistant professor level, commitment to teaching and the ability to lead a research group are expected.

Applications should include a curriculum vitae, a list of publications, a statement of future research and teaching interests, and a description of the three most important achievements*. The letter of application should be addressed to the President of ETH Zurich, Prof. Dr. Joël Mesot. The closing date for applications is 15 December 2020. ETH Zurich is an equal opportunity and family friendly employer, strives to increase the number of women professors, and is responsive to the needs of dual career couples.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 34 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 34 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 47 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 47 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, October 19, 2020

This week's C&EN

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

BASF closing Muskegon plant; ~70 jobs impacted

From MLive: 

MUSKEGON, MI — A multinational chemical company will close a Muskegon Township facility within the next two years, citing a consolidation of production. The Germany-based BASF announced Monday that it will close a herbicide production facility, located at 1740 Whitehall Road in Muskegon Township, by 2022.

The township facility, formerly a Bayer CropScience facility, produces glufosinate-ammonium (GA) for use as a non-selective herbicide. It has been in operation since 1975.

...Muskegon Township Supervisor Jennifer Hodges told MLive that she had not been informed about the closure prior to being contacted by media. She said the local plant employs about 70 people, and she has since been told the plant is expected to be closed by July 2021...

Best wishes to those affected. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

Well, we made it another week. I hope you had a great week, with or without rubber chickens. See you on Monday. 

Charles Lieber is suing Harvard

From Chemical and Engineering News' Bethany Halford: 

Nanoscientist Charles M. Lieber, who faces charges that he lied to US federal authorities and did not declare foreign income or a foreign bank account to the Internal Revenue Service, is suing to require his employer Harvard University to cover the costs of his defense in the criminal case. Lieber, the former chair of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and claims that Harvard’s indemnification policy requires the university to cover the cost of his defense. Lieber filed the complaint on Oct. 9 in Massachusetts Superior Court.

An indemnification policy requires an employer to compensate or defend employees who face legal liability for doing their job. Such policies are common. According to his complaint, Lieber requested indemnification from Harvard in March. In May and July, Harvard’s executive vice president Katherine N. Lapp denied the request in letters alleging, among other things, that Lieber did not act in good faith.

Lieber’s complaint states that his defense is complex, with allegations that go back at least 7 years, witnesses in China, and thousands of pages of documents, many of which may require Mandarin-to-English translation. Lieber’s attorney Marc Mukasey declined to say how much the legal defense would cost, but estimates in the complaint suggest it could range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million. “Payment of all of the costs of a robust defense would substantially, if not completely deplete Professor Lieber’s resources,” the complaint states...

I think it's surprising that Professor Lieber has decided to do this, but I imagine it's a last ditch effort to extract cooperation from Harvard. I cannot imagine that Harvard is enthusiastic about its current position. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Coronavirus vaccines need shark livers?

Via the New York Times, this interesting article:

Several companies in the race for a coronavirus vaccine have stumbled upon a new and unexpected hurdle: activists protesting the use of a substance that comes from sharks in their products.

The oily compound, called squalene, is churned out by shark livers and has immunity-boosting powers, which has led several companies to use it as an ingredient in vaccines. A group called Shark Allies has mounted a campaign calling on the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies to halt the sourcing of the compound from sharks, warning that mass distribution of a coronavirus vaccine could require harvesting tissue from more than 500,000 sharks....

...Shark livers are considered among the best sources of the compound. Between 63 million and 273 million sharks die at the hands of humans each year, and liver oil is harvested from at least a couple million of them, according to Catherine Macdonald, a shark biologist in Florida.

Two of the companies under the scrutiny of Shark Allies are GlaxoSmithKline and Seqirus, which each manufacture adjuvants that contain about 10 milligrams of squalene per dose. Those ingredients are found in a number of coronavirus vaccines currently being tested in humans, including products from Sanofi, Medicago and Clover Biopharmaceuticals, which have all partnered with GSK.

According to one estimate, between 2,500 and 3,000 sharks are needed per metric ton of squalene. Shark Allies extrapolated from these statistics to arrive at their widely quoted numbers tabulating the potential ecological toll on sharks.

So there's ~400 grams of squalene per shark? Who knew? (Sounds like no one really knows, and it depends on the shark) The sharks have gotta like Amyris: 

She pointed to Amyris, a California-based company, which has been pursuing a synthetic alternative.

Will be interesting to see if Amyris succeeds...

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 125 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 125 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On October 15, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 406 research/teaching positions and 16 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 33 positions

 The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 33 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 45 positions

 The Academic Staff Jobs list has 45 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, October 12, 2020

UPenn chemistry cutting admissions 20%

From last month, this news: 

@PennChemistry will be admitting PhD students in the coming year, although our entering class size will be a bit smaller. 

Here's a more detailed explanation. 

Surprisingly, not too many other chemistry departments are doing this. (none?) Will be curious to see what happens.

Mental health question for readers: ADHD/depression during graduate school?

Does anyone have resources for succeeding in graduate school while managing ADHD and depression? What works best? 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

We've made it another week. It's certainly been a bonkers one, and I am very much looking forward to the weekend. Have a good one, and we'll see you on Monday. 

Consultants, I dunno

A Deloitte commentary about the oil and gas sector: 
...Then came the shale boom a decade ago and the industry ramped up its hiring. But problems started appearing in 2014 when the boom triggered a collapse in oil prices to US$50/bbl, and the talent narrative shifted to mass layoffs. From July 2014 to June 2016, the industry laid off 200,000 people. Additionally, the short-cycled nature of shales made hiring extremely cyclical. During 2014–2019, the sensitivity of OG&C employment to oil prices was at its highest, especially in upstream and oilfield services (OFS) sectors (see sidebar, “About 70% of jobs lost in 2020 may not come back by the end of 2021 in a business-as-usual scenario”).

The employment situation took a turn for the worse due to COVID-led slowdown of the economy and the resulting oil price crash, leading to the fastest layoffs in the industry—about 107,000 workers were laid off between March and August 2020, apart from widespread furloughs and pay cuts. Even the relatively stable sectors, such as refining and chemicals, reported up to 35,000 layoffs combined. Such large-scale layoffs, coupled with the heightening cyclicality in employment, are challenging the industry’s reputation as a reliable employer.

I'm unconvinced of the arguments in this article, but it is worth pondering anyway...  

Thursday, October 8, 2020

34 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, there are 10 new positions for October 7 and 24 for October 3. 

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

96 positions were posted in September. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Faculty jobs down across disciplines

 Via Science magazine's Katie Langin, the impact of COVID-19 on academia: 

The scarcity of academic jobs is a perennial problem for U.S. science trainees. But this year, across STEM disciplines, faculty job openings at U.S. institutions are down 70% compared with last year, according to an analysis of job advertisements on the Science Careers job board. (The Science Careers news team operates independently from the job board.) Only 173 U.S.-based jobs were posted between July and September this year, compared with 571 during the same period last year. Non-U.S. job postings dropped by 8%.

“It’s about double-worse than I imagined,” says Andrew Spaeth, an industrial chemist and the co-creator of a popular online faculty job list for chemists. “I thought we’d see a hit—maybe 30%,” he says, but his site currently lists roughly 70% fewer openings compared with last year. An ecology and evolution job list reveals a similar drop, with 65% fewer openings this year.

It's cold comfort to see that it's not just chemistry that's been impacted by COVID-19. Here's hoping that the industrial chemistry job market can attempt to absorb some of the faculty candidates that might ponder a career in industry... 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 114 research/teaching positions and 10 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 114 research/teaching positions and 10 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, 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." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On October 8, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 381 research/teaching positions and 11 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 31 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 31 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 44 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 44 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. 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, October 5, 2020

Judge dismisses remaining Arkema charges

Via Houston Public Media, a judge's decision: 

A Harris County judge has dropped the remaining charges in the criminal trial against French chemical manufacturer Arkema and its executives, leaving county prosecutors with no convictions in a case tied to a chemical fire during Hurricane Harvey.

In what was the second directed verdict in two days, Visiting Judge Belinda Hill ended the case against the company and former Crosby plant manager Leslie Comardelle, finding not enough legal evidence for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion. They had faced felony charges for reckless emission of air pollutants.

I suspect this would have depended on the jury's reading of the term "reckless". I also think that the Harris County prosecutors have set a new standard for the many petrochemical firms in its jurisdiction, and I imagine that the threat of arrest and trial are driving some Houston-area plant managers to listen to their EH&S managers just a little more. 

(If you'd like to read a back-and-forth with one of the reporters on this case, click here.) 

This week's C&EN

A few of this week's articles in Chemical and Engineering News

Friday, October 2, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

We made it through another week! Hooray! Hope you have a great weekend, and see you on Monday. 

Layoffs in the broader economy

Via the New York Times, bad news from corporate America: 

The American economy is being buffeted by a fresh round of corporate layoffs, signaling new anxiety about the course of the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty about further legislative relief.

Companies including Disney, the insurance giant Allstate and two major airlines announced plans to fire or furlough more than 60,000 workers in recent days, and more cuts are expected without a new federal aid package to stimulate the economy.

...Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the country’s largest book publishers, said Thursday that it was cutting 22 percent of its work force, including 525 employees who were laid off and 166 who chose to retire. The company is a major supplier of educational books and materials, a business hit hard by school closings.

The Walt Disney Company said Tuesday that it would eliminate 28,000 jobs, mostly at theme parks in Florida and California. Many of the workers had been on furlough since the spring, but the company said it was making the cuts permanent because of “the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic.”

Not much from the manufacturing economy (although it's gotta be a bad time to be in the aerospace industry), and not much from pharma or the chemical businesses. Crossing my fingers for chemists...

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Chemical Activity Barometer rose 1.6% in September

From the American Chemistry Council: 

WASHINGTON (September 29, 2020) – The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), rose 1.6 percent in September on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 2.7 percent gain in August. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer was down 4.3 percent in September.

The unadjusted data show a 0.7 percent gain in September following a 2.2 percent gain in August and a 1.9 percent gain in July. The diffusion index rose from 35 percent to 65 percent in September. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for August was revised upward by 0.89 points and that for July was revised upward by 0.42 points.

“With five consecutive months of gains, the September CAB reading is consistent with recovery in the U.S. economy,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC.

...In September, production-related indicators were mixed. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were positive and suggest further gains. Resins and chemistry used in light vehicles and other durable goods were positive. Gain in plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were mixed as economic recovery in the service sector slows. Performance chemistry improved, while U.S. exports were mixed. Equity prices flattened, while product and input prices were fairly stable. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were positive.

 Glad to hear things are on the rise in the broader economy.