Thursday, August 18, 2022

Co-op opportunity: Adhesives Analytical and Engineering, DuPont, Auburn Hills, MI

From the inbox: 
The Adhesives Analytical and Engineering groups carry out testing, write reports, conduct instrument and laboratory maintenance in support of new product development and manufacturing quality assurance of existing products; the role requires working in closely with chemists, manufacturing, engineers, technicians, management and suppliers. All work must be carried out using well defined work processes. 

This lab technician will assist other Adhesive groups as needed by performing physical property, adhesion, analytical, and/or mechanical testing and have responsibilities for the creation, distribution, and retention of reports. Equipment calibration and verification are also a part of this position. This position has been successfully filled with rotational college co-ops over the past several years. This co-op student will ‘rotate’ with the current student employee so that there is always one co-op student to fill the position.

ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS:
  • Currently enrolled and pursuing at least a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering related field (Chemistry/Materials Science/Chemical Engineering OR Mechanical Engineering/Physics preferred)
  • Students must have an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 or higher on a 4.00 scale at current university
Position starts in October ideally. Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Sulfur-containing lubricant odor triggers lawsuit

Via Philadelphia's NBC station, this smelly news: 

As the rotten egg smell caused by a chemical release continues to waft in parts of South Jersey, a lawsuit has been filed against the trucking company and maker of the chemical causing the stench and a town hall is planned to address residents' concerns.

A woman filed the suit against TransChem USA and the Lubrizol Corporation Monday in U.S. District Court in Texas. Gina Slavin-Borgesi's suit on behalf of herself and a minor. The suit seeks $1 million in damages.

The chemical leak that caused a rotten smell to stink up parts of South Jersey and downwind from a truck stop off Interstate 295 was eventually contained last Thursday. But the smell has lingered for days.

On Tuesday morning, the smell was still present intermittently in South Jersey, particularly around the truck stop off Interstate 295 where the leak occurred last week.

..."The chemical, Lubrizol-1389 (Zinc alkyldithiophosphate), expels a nuisance odor that may linger for some time," officials in nearby Camden County said in a news release Thursday. "However, Haz-Mat Technicians have monitored and tested the air quality of the immediate incident scene as well as all surrounding areas that have experienced the odor. The results of the testing have confirmed that there is no risk to the public."

I can't imagine this stuff (especially 7000 pounds of it) smells good? I wonder if the smell is normal, or if someone forgot to tighten all the valves on the truck...

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 130 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 130 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position. 

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

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

On August 17, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 83 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching faculty position. On August 18, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 43 research/teaching positions and 6 teaching faculty positions. 

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

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread.  

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 10 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 10 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

 This post will serve as the open thread for this year's search.

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, August 15, 2022

McMurry organic textbook to become free

Via Inside Higher Ed: 

John McMurry's textbook Organic Chemistry has helped millions of students across the globe pass the infamous gauntlet of its namesake class -- also known among stressed-out pre-med students as "orgo" -- since the book was first printed in 1984.

For his bestseller's 10th edition, McMurry has decided to part ways with his longtime publisher, the industry giant Cengage, which has published the book since the beginning. He recently sold the rights to OpenStax, a nonprofit based at Rice University that is dedicated to developing open education resources (OER), learning and research materials created and licensed to be free for the user.

That means for the first time, the digital version of Organic Chemistry and its accompanying solutions manual -- usually priced at almost $100 -- will be available for students to download free.

"My textbook is the best selling organic textbook in the world and has been for some time, but it's expensive. All textbooks are expensive," McMurry said. "I liked the notion of making my work free for anyone."

OpenStax will pay McMurry a licensing fee for the rights, as opposed to the traditional royalty model used by publishers like Cengage, but McMurry won't be accepting it. He plans to donate it directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit research center seeking a cure to the life-threatening genetic disorder, in memory of his son Peter, who passed away in 2019 after a decades-long battle with the disease.

Gotta say, this seems pretty cool.  

C&EN: Dow looking at small nuclear reactors for plants

In this week's C&EN, this interesting news from Matt Blois: 

In its quest to cut carbon emissions, the chemical giant Dow wants to try something new: using small, modular nuclear reactors to power one of its plants on the US Gulf Coast.

Dow, which in the past has hinted at its interest in nuclear power, says it is partnering on the project with X-energy, a company developing gas-cooled nuclear reactors. Dow hopes that the reactors will be providing process heat and power to one of its facilities by about 2030.

The project would be a first for a manufacturing company, Dow says. The company is also taking an equity stake in X-energy, which expects to commission its first reactors in Washington State by 2027 as part of a US Department of Energy demonstration program.

The initiative is part of a push by Dow and other major companies to reduce carbon emissions in the chemical and plastics sectors. Dow is already planning to use carbon capture to create the world’s first carbon-neutral ethylene cracker, at a site in Alberta. Meanwhile, Clariant and Linde are trying to develop an entirely new method of ethylene production that uses catalysts in an oxidative ethane dehydrogenation process that promises lower carbon emissions.

As someone who considered Fukushima to be the modern death knell for civilian nuclear power, this is pretty interesting to see. Here's hoping nuclear power catches on. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Have a great (belated) weekend

I'm on vacation, so I've had a pretty great week. Seen some pretty amazing sights, spent time with family. Hope that you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

24 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 24 new positions for August 10. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

DOJ: Retired doctor selling DNP as a weight-loss drug

From a Department of Justice press release: 
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that William Merlino, 85, of Mays Landing, NJ, was convicted at trial of selling misbranded drugs online, arising from his scheme to sell a toxic industrial chemical as a weight-loss drug which he manufactured in a lab in his home.

In December 2019, the defendant was charged with one count of introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce in connection with operating a business through which he packaged and sold Dinitriophenol (DNP) for human consumption from at least November 2017 until March 2019. In the 1930s, before the law required drugs to be proven safe before they were marketed, DNP was used as a weight-loss drug despite significant negative side effects, including dehydration, cataracts, liver damage, and death. The chemical has never been approved for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but has a variety of industrial/commercial uses, such as herbicides, dyes, and wood preservatives. Using Twitter to advertise, eBay to sell, and email to communicate with clients, Merlino earned approximately $54,000 from clients in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. through the sale of this drug. During trial, a witness from the shipping service the defendant used to ship the drug to customers testified that they referred to Merlino among their colleagues as ‘the yellow man,’ due to the fact that every time he would bring in a package to ship, he would have yellow dust from the chemical on his skin, nails and clothes.

After a year-long investigation by the FDA, investigators served a search warrant at the defendant’s residence, where they found bulk DNP, packaging and encapsulating materials, and a pill press. Subsequently, while awaiting trial on this charge, Merlino faked a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in order to attempt to avoid trial; the jury heard evidence that the defendant altered a doctor’s letter and his medical records. As a result, the defendant is now separately facing obstruction of justice charges related to these fraudulent submissions to the court.

DNP! I remember using it as a derivativization reagent in sophomore organic chemistry, and being told about the weight-loss potential. Who knew that people were still using it!?!?  

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 102 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 102 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position. 

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

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

On August 10, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 73 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching faculty positions. On August 11, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 34 research/teaching positions and 5 teaching faculty positions. 

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

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread.  

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, August 8, 2022

Well, *that's* an interesting letter

Tucked in the letters to the editor in C&EN, an unusual comment about the death by exposure to dimethylmercury of Dartmouth chemistry professor Karen Wetterhahn: 

I read the article on Karen Wetterhahn with a profound sense of loss and sorrow that has not fully abated after 25 years. I was one of Karen’s graduate students, and I have come to recognize that she trained her other students and me very well.

I’d like to share an anecdote about Karen’s teaching style. Karen cultivated an air of omniscience, which certainly drove her students to prepare well for discussions with her about their research. One of her favorite questions was, “Don’t you know?,” implying that the student had not done their homework. Karen had wide-ranging knowledge, but she also had human limitations. Once, I called Karen’s bluff and confessed that I didn’t know the answer to a question, so I asked her what the answer was. We both chuckled when she admitted that she didn’t know either. Nevertheless, all her students learned the importance of asking insightful questions.

This brings me to a deeply troubling point raised in the article. I don’t agree with the conclusion about how Karen was poisoned. Karen taught me that if you disagree, you better have data on your side, so here goes. The New England Journal of Medicine article estimated that Karen likely absorbed about 1,344 mg of mercury, meaning she likely absorbed 0.44 mL of dimethylmercury. To do so meant she had to have been splashed with more than that—probably closer to 1 mL since some of the compound would be lost to evaporation or remain in the glove. This is a lot more than a drop or two.

When I was in Karen’s lab, I did some experiments using coaxial nuclear magnetic resonance tubes, which allowed a small volume of an external standard between the tubes. I don’t know what Karen was using for an NMR tube, but in currently available technology, where the reference goes into the center of a larger sample tube, typical volumes for the inner reference standard for a 5 mm tube are 60 ┬ÁL, while the outer sample volume is 10×. If Karen was using less than 0.1 mL of dimethylmercury, how could she have absorbed 10× what she was transferring? (Her lab notebooks might provide insight.) My supposition is that either she was splashed with more dimethylmercury than what was released from the pipette through her glove, or there was another method of ingestion, conceivably involving the deliberate actions of another individual.

Samuel Brauer
Shelton, Connecticut

Editor’s note: An investigation into Karen Wetterhahn’s death concluded, “The rapid, monophasic, first-order increase in the mercury content of hair is consistent with either one or several episodes of exposure to dimethylmercury beginning on or about August 14, 1996, and is consistent with the evidence (reports from coworkers and information from labeled vials and laboratory notebooks) that a single accidental exposure to dimethylmercury occurred on August 14. . . . Our patient’s accidental exposure may have resulted from both transdermal absorption of the liquid (given the lack of protection provided by disposable latex gloves) and inhalation of vapors (even though the work was conducted under a fume hood)” (N. Engl. J. Med. 1998, DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199806043382305). Wetterhahn did not record in her lab notebook the quantities she used or planned to use, according to John Winn, a Dartmouth professor emeritus of chemistry, who was chair of the department when Wetterhahn died.

I'm not an analytical chemist, so I can't pretend to have an educated opinion about who is right or who is wrong, but it seems that there are more possible explanations other than deliberate poisoning...

(Read all the letters for lots of articles about dimethylmercury in the good old days...)


Friday, August 5, 2022

Have a great weekend!


Well, my work week will extend a bit, but it's been a relatively successful one. Here's hoping that you had a good week, and that you have a great weekend. See you on Monday! 

 

C&EN: Major chemical company Q2 results look good (for now):

Via C&EN's Alex Tullo: 

The largest chemical companies posted upbeat results for the second quarter despite external economic factors, namely the war in Ukraine, which is driving up European energy costs. Chemical executives worry that the coming months could see a full blown crisis that could scuttle European chemical production.

For the second quarter, the world’s largest chemical maker, BASF, posted a 16% increase in sales and a 17% increase in profits versus the same period in 2021. Elemental to the company’s gains were its chemicals and materials businesses, which saw sales increases of 27% and 30%, respectively, mostly due to higher product selling prices.

A weakness for the company was its surface technologies unit, which houses its automotive catalysts business, hit hard by sluggish car production. BASF’s second quarter sales in China declined by 17% due to COVID-19 lockdowns in the country.

In a speech to analysts, BASF chairman Martin Bruderm├╝ller said that compared to the first quarter, uncertainty around the economic outlook has increased. “The main reasons for this are the ongoing war in Ukraine, the risks associated with natural gas supplies in Europe, and the resulting high prices for raw materials and energy as well as China’s zero-COVID strategy and related lockdowns,” he said.

For those of us (myself included) who are thinking about an economic downturn in late 2022, this is good news. Now we wait for winter... 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

23 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 23 new positions for July 30. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

C&EN: great profile of Michaeleen Doucleff

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, a fun profile (article by Bethany Halford) of PhD physical chemist and NPR reporter Michaeleen Doucleff, including this funny tidbit (emphasis mine):
2010–12

While doing her postdoc, Doucleff moonlighted as a freelance writer, penning articles for health magazines after a day in the lab. Realizing that she didn’t want to be a researcher, Doucleff applied for academic teaching positions and jobs at scientific journals. She decided to take an editing and writing position at the journal Cell. “That’s where I realized I love writing,” she says. But her writing almost got her fired. Doucleff angered her bosses at Cell when, without their permission, she wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about why Adele’s “Someone Like You” is a tearjerker. Their response prompted Doucleff to apply for an opening at National Public Radio (NPR).

I imagine that there might be circumstances where there would be limits to what kind of writing an editor can participate in, but this seems a bit extreme. 

It's funny how employers don't like their employees having side gigs, but it seems to me that's the sort of thing that should be established clearly and requires some kind of financial compensaion for not taking other positions...  

Covestro: Winter is Coming

Very similar to The Polymerist's comments, this concern about steam generation at Covestro's German plants: 
German materials giant Covestro warned Tuesday that the rationing of gas could see some of its sites shut down, as its CEO stressed the importance of reducing the company’s reliance on fossil fuels.

In a statement outlining the company’s performance in the second quarter of 2022, Covestro said it was undertaking “various measures” to lower, over the short term, its gas requirements in Germany, where the firm’s facilities represent roughly 25% of its worldwide production capacity.

These measures include using oil-based steam generators. “If gas supplies are rationed in the further course of the year, this could result in partial load operation or a complete shutdown of individual Covestro production facilities, depending on the level of the cutback,” the company said.

“Due to the close links between the chemical industry and downstream sectors, a further deterioration of the situation is likely to result in the collapse of entire supply and production chains,” it added.

I cannot imagine the level of disruption in the US if natural gas was suddenly cut off (or reduced!) in the United States. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 86 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 86 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position. 

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

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

On August 3, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 62 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching faculty positions. On August 4, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 28 research/teaching positions and 5 teaching faculty positions. 

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

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Polymerist; Winter is Coming

The Polymerist is a continued must-read, with last week's comments on the natural gas crunch really key: 

I don’t usually write about natural gas and oil on Tuesdays, but things are developing quickly over in Europe and I’m concerned. If you don’t know there is a major natural gas pipeline called Nord Stream 1 that delivers natural gas to Germany, Europe’s largest economy and chemical producing powerhouse, and it’s been undergoing maintenance since July 11th. Maintenance is normal. A good preventative maintenance program keeps things running smoothly and it usually only last 10-12 days. Natural gas started flowing again on July 21st, but only at 40% of normal levels, which had started before the planned shutdown.

...No matter how you look at this problem this is not a good thing for the European chemical industry. The chemical industry is reliant of natural gas for two primary things:

  • Feedstock: steam reforming of methane to make carbon monoxide, steam cracking ethane/propane to make ethylene/propylene)
  • Steam generation: applying heat and performing #1

If you ever get a chance to hang out in a large scale chemical manufacturing operation the use of steam is everywhere. Steam is how heat gets moved around (heated oil is also used, but less common) and whenever you need steam it’s often generated at the site. If you want to run a distillation you need steam. If you want to steam crack some stuff, guess what, you need steam. If you want to run your reaction at 200 C or higher you need steam. Without steam the chemical industry for the most part stops running and without the raw materials to make stuff, which the chemical industry makes, then supply chains falter even more than they are now.

There's a lot of room for DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM in my thinking for chemical manufacturing in the fall, i.e. it feels like China's supply chain/zero COVID disruptions are never-ending and the Ukraine/Russia issues are making things extremely hard for Europe, which means that it's going to be hard for American chemical manufacturing supply chains. I'd like to think that both things won't happen, but I have a much stronger sense that the European situation is going to be brutal. Here's hoping I'm not right.