Friday, February 26, 2021

Have a good weekend

Well, we made it to Friday. Here's hoping that all is well with you, and that you have a great weekend. See you on Monday. 

There's always something mysterious about a qualification sample

From the pages of The Washington Post, this book excerpt about a Syrian chemist in their chemical weapons program, and his communications with the CIA: 
...The chemist appeared to anticipate the question. One late December day, he sent a cryptic signal to the case officer requesting a meeting. He had something to give the young American, but it had to be in private — not at his house, and not in a cafe or another public place where the exchange might be seen.

The arrangements were set. On the agreed evening, the spy and the case officer sat together in the front seat of a Peugeot parked on a quiet Damascus street a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, the scientist produced a small package.

“It’s nearly Christmas. You’re a Christian,” the chemist said, handing over the bundle. “Here’s a Christmas present.” A few minutes later, the American was left alone to ponder what was inside the parcel’s plain wrapping.

The younger man had an inkling, so, as a precaution, the CIA arranged to send a pair of technical specialists to his Damascus apartment to help with the initial assessment. Donning respirators and protective suits, the specialists carefully removed the outer packaging to reveal a small box.

Inside the box was a sealed plastic vial. And within it, visible through the plastic casing, was a clear liquid. The chemist had boasted of his prowess in making exceedingly effective nerve agents. Now he had given the Americans a sample.

Several days passed before the liquid could be fully analyzed. The vial was first repackaged and placed in a shatterproof container, then stuffed inside a diplomatic pouch to be flown out of the country. Once in the United States, it was rushed to a military laboratory, where scientists in hazmat suits gingerly opened the vial for a first look at what was inside.

Always good to make your work known to the world, I suppose. If you're a manufacturer of nerve agents, what are you gonna do, write it up for JACS

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Job postings: multiple, Schrödinger, NYC

From the inbox: 

Schrödinger's mission is to improve human health and quality through the development, distribution, and application of advanced computational methods. As a member of our Drug Discovery Applications Group, you’ll join a dedicated team of designers, modelers, computational chemists, medicinal chemists, crystallographers, biochemists, and biologists with experience working on all common target classes and therapeutic areas. We also engage with Contract Research Organizations (CRO) and Consultants. The group is supported by more than 100 software developers and engineers as well as a large-scale computing infrastructure. 

Full list of open positions here. Best wishes to those interested. 

17 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 15 new positions for February 21.

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 292 research/teaching positions and 48 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 285 research/teaching positions and 47 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 February 25, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 540 research/teaching positions and 70 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 fifth open thread. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 98 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 98 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, February 22, 2021

Job posting: Senior Scientist/Scientist, Protein Chemistry, Genentech, SSF

From the inbox: 

We are seeking a talented Scientist/ Senior Scientist to join the Department of Protein Chemistry – Large Molecule Drug Development at Genentech. We are looking for a candidate to build oligonucleotide therapeutics discovery capabilities within the research drug discovery pipeline at Genentech. The candidate must have a proven record of accomplishments in antisense oligonucleotides, RNAi, or microRNA discovery and the ability to build and champion this therapeutic modality within the research organization at Genentech. Experience in delivery of oligonucleotide therapeutics, large molecule drug discovery, or bioconjugation would be preferred. Experience in early development of oligonucleotide therapeutics is highly desired.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Some medical students can't get matched into residency?

 Via the New York Times, this interesting comment about a specific step in physician training: 

...Dr. Cromblin is one of as many as 10,000 chronically unmatched doctors in the United States, people who graduated from medical school but are consistently rejected from residency programs. The National Resident Matching Program promotes its high match rate, with 94 percent of American medical students matching into residency programs last year on Match Day, which occurs annually on the third Friday in March. But the match rate for Americans who study at medical schools abroad is far lower, with just 61 percent matching into residency spots.

Last year, the Association of American Medical Colleges released a study that found that the country would face a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 physicians by 2033, a prospect made all the more alarming as hospitals confront the possibility of fighting future crises similar to the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet each year thousands of graduates emerge from medical schools with a virtually useless M.D. or D.O.; without residency experience, they do not qualify for licensure in any state....

...The pool of unmatched doctors began to grow in 2006 when the Association of American Medical Colleges called on medical schools to increase their first-year enrollment by 30 percent; the group also called for an increase in federally supported residency positions, but those remained capped under the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act in 2019 to increase the number of Medicare-supported residency positions available for eligible medical school graduates by 3,000 per year over a period of five years, but it has not received a vote. In late December, Congress passed a legislative package creating 1,000 new Medicare-supported residency positions over the next five years.

Well, it seems to me that we should have sufficient spots for close to 100% of medical school graduates, but the problem really seems to be that the Caribbean medical schools don't have nearly a good enough placement record. How do these schools justify charging enormous tuitions if that is the case?

UPDATE: Changed headline, because you really shouldn't write headlines when you're half asleep. Also, more awake thoughts: There is no similar process for chemical academia, i.e. "what is the unemployment rate, underemployment rate and employment rate of PhD chemists immediately after graduation?" Each school should be required to print the postdoc and full-time employment trajectory of their last 5-7 years of PhD graduates on their grad school enrollment forms.

Q1 2021 GDP looking good?

From Calculated Risk, this perspective on early 2021 GDP forecasts: 
From Merrrill Lynch: Retail sales boosted our 1Q21 GDP tracking estimate by 1.5pp to 5.5% qoq saar. [Feb 19 estimate] emphasis added

From Goldman Sachs: We boosted our Q1 GDP tracking estimate by 1pp to +6.0% (qoq ar). [Feb 17 estimate]

From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report: The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 8.3% for 2021:Q1. [Feb 19 estimate]

And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow: The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the first quarter of 2021 is 9.5 percent on February 18 [Feb 18 estimate]

Well, that's good news. Here's hoping it comes to pass.  

Friday, February 19, 2021

Have a good weekend!

Well, we've made it to Friday. Here's hoping Texas-area readers are all right. Best wishes for a good weekend, and see you all on Monday. 

Still interested in reshoring manufacturing...

Via the New York Times, this comment on White House moves around manufacturing: 
WASHINGTON — President Biden came into office with plans to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic and spur a domestic manufacturing revival for goods such as automobiles and semiconductors.

But one month into his presidency, a global chip shortage has shuttered auto factories in the United States, slowed shipments of consumer electronics and called into question the security of American supply chains.

The shortage of a vital component for automobiles, phones, refrigerators and other electronic devices is posing an early challenge to the administration’s promise to revive a manufacturing sector depressed by the pandemic. And it has spurred an effort by the administration to reach out to U.S. embassies and foreign governments to try to alleviate the shortage, even as the White House acknowledges that there are most likely few solutions to the supply crunch in the short term.

The White House plans to issue an executive order soon that will take steps to address these kinds of vulnerabilities in critical supply chains over the longer term, an administration spokesperson said on Thursday. The order will begin a review of domestic manufacturing and supply chains for critical materials — including rare earths, medical supplies and semiconductors — with a particular focus on reducing dependencies on unreliable or unfriendly foreign actors.

Will be interesting to see if this ~continuation of Trump Administration reshoring efforts will have an appreciable effect on long-term chemical manufacturing employment in the US.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

35 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 15 new positions for February 16 and 20 new positions for February 12. 

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wednesday poetry: Nemesis, by Vijay Seshadri

Published in The Café Review

Your aeroplane is pulling out its stops.

Your aeroplane is growling with its props,


pawing the tarmac with its landing gear,

streaming exhaust.  That one sortie is here


that you’ve been fearfully anticipating.

12-o’clock high, the Red Baron is waiting


in a holding pattern behind the sun,

his mind as focussed as his Gatling gun,


inviting you there, up to the skies,

you, his one absent precious prize.


He wants to silence your persiflage,

to put your picture on his fuselage.


He wants his mind relieved of you.

He wants his gun to talk to you,


embracing the murderous dialogue.

He doesn’t care that you’re just a dog.

Automotive battery research in the NYT

Not every day you see gloveboxes in the New York Times
(photo of QuantumScape in Silicon Valley)
credit: Gabriela Hasbun for The New York Times
Via the New York Times, this article: 

As automakers like General Motors, Volkswagen and Ford Motor make bold promises about transitioning to an electrified, emission-free future, one thing is becoming obvious: They will need a lot of batteries.

Demand for this indispensable component already outstrips supply, prompting a global gold rush that has investors, established companies and start-ups racing to develop the technology and build the factories needed to churn out millions of electric cars.

...One thing is certain: It’s a great time to have a degree in electrochemistry. Those who understand the properties of lithium, nickel, cobalt and other materials are to batteries what software coders are to computers. Jakub Reiter, for example, has been fascinated with battery chemistry since he was a teenager in the 1990s in Prague, long before that seemed like a hot career choice.

Mr. Reiter was doing graduate research in Germany in 2011 when a headhunter recruited him to work at BMW, which wanted to understand the underlying science of batteries. Last year, InoBat poached him to help set up a factory in Slovakia, where Volkswagen, Kia, Peugeot and Jaguar Land Rover produce cars.

Mr. Reiter is now head of science at InoBat, whose technology allows customers to quickly develop batteries for different uses, like a low-cost battery for a commuter car or a high-performance version for a roadster.

“Twenty years ago, nobody cared much about batteries,” Mr. Reiter said. Now, he said, there is intense competition, and “it’s a big fight.”

Always glad to see chemists of any stripe getting their turn in the sun. It will be interesting to see if the observation that it's a great time to be an electrochemist comes true, and where the battery designers of the future will be located... (can you actually get a degree in electrochemistry?) 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 285 research/teaching positions and 47 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 285 research/teaching positions and 47 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 February 18, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 539 research/teaching positions and 65 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 fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread, which closed on January 20, 2021. Click here for the second thread, which closed on December 22. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

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

This will be the fifth open thread, starting at noon Eastern, Tuesday, February 16. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 98 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 98 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, February 15, 2021

Crime syndicates in Asia getting into chemical manufacturing?

From Reuters, this interesting news: 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Crime syndicates in Asia’s drug-producing Golden Triangle region have likely begun producing ingredients to manufacture methamphetamine, enabling them to avoid restrictions on importing precursors such as pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.

The development shows a new level of sophistication by drug syndicates as “pre-precursors” such as propionyl chloride are far less tightly regulated and easier to obtain.

“It is increasingly clear organised crime are using pre-precursors and have particularly impressive capacities in place to produce their own precursors - something nobody understood until recently,” said Jeremy Douglas, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) regional representative for Southeast Asia.

But more recently production has boomed in amphetamine-type stimulants, especially methamphetamine, or meth as it is known, with the amount coming out of the Golden Triangle rising rapidly for a decade.

Authorities in Asia seizing a record 139 tonnes of meth in 2019, up from 127 tonnes in 2018 and 82.5 tonnes in 2017, UNODC data showed.

Happily, I don't know much about the supply chain for methamphetamine manufacture. It's a bit surprising to me that folks are undertaking the manufacturing of "pre-precursors" - what's more likely, that crime syndicates are starting the manufacture of chemicals like propionyl chloride on their own, or just taking the supply from an already existing plant? 

(surely you can't run a propionyl chloride manufacturing plant without being noticed?)

A tough boss

Via the New York Times, this little Jeff Bezos anecdote: 

Jeff has an uncanny ability to read a narrative and consistently arrive at insights that no one else did, even though we were all reading the same narrative. After one meeting I asked him how he was able to do that. He responded with a simple and useful tip that I have not forgotten: he assumes each sentence he reads is wrong unless he can prove otherwise.

I've met my fair share of skeptical bosses, but I'm not sure I've met one that's skeptical in detail. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Have a good weekend!

Well, we've made it through another week. Happy Lunar New Year to those who celebrate, and hope you have a great weekend. See you on Monday. 

Small US mask manufacturers are having a tough time

Via the New York Times: 

A year into the pandemic, the disposable, virus-filtering N95 mask remains a coveted piece of protective gear. Continuing shortages have forced doctors and nurses to reuse their N95s, and ordinary Americans have scoured the internet — mostly in vain — to get them.

But Luis Arguello Jr. has plenty of N95s for sale — 30 million of them, in fact, which his family-run business, DemeTech, manufactured in its factories in Miami. He simply can’t find buyers.

After the pandemic exposed a huge need for protective equipment, and China closed its inventory to the world, DemeTech, a medical suture maker, dived into the mask business. The company invested tens of millions of dollars in new machinery and then navigated a nine-month federal approval process that allows the masks to be marketed.

But demand is so slack that Mr. Arguello is preparing to lay off some of the 1,300 workers he had hired to ramp up production. “It’s insane that we can’t get these masks to the people who desperately need them,” he said.

In one of the more confounding disconnects between the laws of supply and demand, many of the nearly two dozen small American companies that recently jumped into the business of making N95s are facing the abyss — unable to crack the market, despite vows from both former President Donald Trump and President Biden to “Buy American” and buoy domestic production of essential medical gear...

The article says what we've known for a while: American purchasing agents, CEOs and corporate boards might talk a good game about supporting domestic manufacturing, but they're driven by dollars and cents. Still waiting for that decoupling...

Thursday, February 11, 2021

29 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 27 new positions for February 8.

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

NACE projects Class of 2021 BS chemistry starting salaries will drop 3%

From the inbox, the latest survey projections from the National Association of Colleges and Employers: 

The average starting salary projections for all reported categories of majors for Class of 2021 bachelor’s degree graduates show increases, albeit some of them are on the smaller side, according to NACE’s Winter 2021 Salary Survey.

...Class of 2021 graduates earning degrees in the computer sciences field are one exception to the small increases in starting salary projections. The average salary projection for these graduates is $72,173, which is a climb of 7.1% from last year’s projection of $67,411 for the Class of 2020.

It is important to note that, although all categories are projected to see increases in their salaries, not all majors within the category are expected to do so. For example, the overall average salary for math and sciences majors is expected to increase 1.3% to $63,316. However, chemistry majors, who fall into this category, are projected to see their average salary drop 3% to $59,625, while math majors are expected to average $67,360—a 4.5% increase.

I can't access the report, so I can't quite see how the sausage is made to get to this number. Would be interesting to know what the errors bars around these projection are, and how well these projections actually bear out.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Hacking hits water plant in Florida

Via the New York Times, this bad news: 

Hackers remotely accessed the water treatment plant of a small Florida city last week and briefly changed the levels of lye in the drinking water, in the kind of critical infrastructure intrusion that cybersecurity experts have long warned about.

The attack in Oldsmar, a city of 15,000 people in the Tampa Bay area, was caught before it could inflict harm, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County said at a news conference on Monday. He said the level of sodium hydroxide — the main ingredient in drain cleaner — was changed from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, dangerous levels that could have badly sickened residents if it had reached their homes.

“This is dangerous stuff,” Mr. Gualtieri said, urging managers of critical infrastructure systems, particularly in the Tampa area, to review and tighten their computer systems. “It’s a bad act. It’s a bad actor. It’s not just a little chlorine, or a little fluoride — you’re basically talking about lye.”

So that's bad, i.e. someone is up to no good with the internet, and intends to do Americans harm. (Imagine if they had access to the potassium permanganate supplies!) Here's my question - why are we hooking up physical infrastructure to the internet? That seems unwise... 

NYT: oxygen tank shortages in Mexico

Via the New York Times, an understandable, but sad story: 

MEXICO CITY — Children call him begging for oxygen for their parents. Grandparents call gasping for air in the middle of the night. People with no cash offer him their cars instead.

Juan Carlos Hernández tells them all the same thing: He has no oxygen tanks left.

After surviving his own bout with the coronavirus and then losing his job, Mr. Hernández began selling oxygen tanks out of his car. Then a second wave of the coronavirus slammed into Mexico this winter and demand for oxygen exploded, spawning a national shortage of devices that deliver the lifesaving resource.

...The government has sent the Mexican National Guard to protect trucks transporting oxygen tanks and required suppliers to prioritize oxygen produced for human consumption over industrial oxygen used by companies. Mexico City opened several stations where people can refill tanks free.

But Mexico doesn’t produce oxygen tanks and can’t import them from the United States right now. “It’s impossible,” Mr. Sheffield said. “The demand is very high in the States.” Orders from China will take months to arrive.

So Mexicans are left to jostle for the limited supply of oxygen tanks being passed from household to household by entrepreneurial types like Mr. Hernández.

I seem to recall an aspect of this happening in Los Angeles. The pandemic has had a way of showing the weaknesses in our supply chains. Hard to know who makes gas bottles, but I can't imagine there are a lot of suppliers. Best wishes to the people of Mexico, and to all of us. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 279 research/teaching positions and 44 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 279 research/teaching positions and 44 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 February 11, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 537 research/teaching positions and 59 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 fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread, which closed on January 20, 2021. Click here for the second thread, which closed on December 22. 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

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 50 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 50 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: 96 positions

 The Academic Staff Jobs list has 96 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, February 8, 2021

BLS: Unemployment rate for January was 6.3%; payrolls rose 49000 positions

Credit: Calculated Risk
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the national unemployment rate dropped to 6.3%, 
and
 payrolls rose by 49000 positions in January.

The broader U6 measurement of unemployment was 11.1%, down from 11.7% in December.

The chemical manufacturing subsector saw a rise in positions from 841100 in December to 851600 in January, a rise of 10500 positions (seasonally adjusted).

The unemployment rate of college graduates was 4.0% for January 2020, while by contrast the unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma was 9.1%.

Agilent wins IP case against Chinese firm

From this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this article from Craig Bettenhausen: 

The instrument maker Agilent Technologies has won a $1.25 million patent infringement judgment against J&X Technologies, a gas chromatography firm started in China by former Agilent employees. J&X did not defend itself in court or respond in any way.

J&X was formed by four former Agilent gas chromatography (GC) researchers in Shanghai who worked for years to develop a better way to pass samples between two different separation columns in what’s known as 2-D GC, even securing a patent for Agilent on the technology in 2012. But Agilent didn’t bring the technique to market, going instead with a competing approach. In early 2015, the researchers left and formed J&X to commercialize their work.

Later that year, the researchers approached Agilent about licensing the patent, but the company declined. So J&X went ahead and commercialized a device anyway, Agilent claims in court documents, using information in the patent and copies of lab notebooks and technical drawings the researchers had copied or taken before quitting.

 I imagine that enforcing the patent cost close to a million bucks, so I imagine this was a "principle of the thing" decision by Agilent. Will be interesting to see how this plays out...