Friday, September 17, 2010

Intermediates are important, too.

Photo credit: Washington Post/TWP,

In Derek Lowe's post on SixSigma! (snerk) in drug discovery and how chemists tend to work as individuals instead of a team, Kay writes:
The problem with working on a "group" project is that the person who makes the final compound often gets the credit for the work, since their name is on the compound. If you are a lower level chemist, you may get shuttled off to do scale-up, and if you stay there long enough, it can derail your career. You may be doing work that is crucial for the team, but it tends to be invisible work that may not be recognized when it comes to raises and promotions. At the small company where I worked, it led to a lot of competition and infighting among the chemists.
I hate to admit it, but I have also found this to be the case. The person who does all the intermediate steps, purifications and chromatography often seems to be little more than a lab sherpa, humping molecules through a five step synthesis for the med-chem glamor folks. The person who tacks on a head-group with a Suzuki and registers the compound seems to be the important one. (N.B. I am obviously oversimplifying here.)

This is not quite right, in my humble opinion. Armies can't fight without their logisticians, and medicinal chemistry teams can't make new drugs without that gal down the hall who did the 100 gram Sonogashira. I think there's a lot to be said for the team approach to chemistry projects, but until people learn to really, truly share credit, it's going to be every man and woman for themselves. (And just putting their name on the obligatory acknowledgements slide just doesn't cut it, all you Powerpoint chemists.)

UPDATE: Okay, okay, it wasn't the first hit, it was the fourth hit. What, you want dejected Patriots? No, these are hard-working chemists I'm trying to analogize here! You want linemen! and blocking sleds! (even if they are terrible....)


  1. So, couldn't you find a picture of the New England Patriot linemen? Having a picture of the Washington Redskins and then Tom Brady is best way to ensure only the last person gets credit.

  2. Yeah, it was the first image to come up under "offensive lineman" on Google Image Search. You're right, though. (Can metaphors pay for dinner?)

  3. Some people might take "offense" that these are actual offensive lineman - although the 'Skins are 1-0 this year.

  4. and McNabb is so "metro" really ...

  5. I find it HIGHLY unlikely that the FIRST hit when you typed in "offensive linemen" was the Skins. They didn't look nearly as terrible as the Chefs' o-line, but WASHINGTON? C'MON MAN!

  6. J-bone and friends -- see the update, please.

    (But at least some of you are paying attention to my graphic. That's nice to hear.)

  7. Ha ha! Thanks for the update. As a fan of an AFC West team I LOVE seeing dejected Patriots players. But I see your point, Washington it is (they still looked a whole helluva lot better than Dallas on Monday)

  8. Mmmm, no. Tuck rule (that should say it all). I have reason to hate the Pats specifically (and Tom Brady most of all).

  9. Ahhhh. The NFL is better when the Silver and Black are good; I hope that day is soon. Best of luck for the season...

  10. 1) I don't think it would really be the same if the Raiders were a run-and-gun finesse team, even if they won. It'd be like the 49ers moved across the bay.

    2) The Raiders won't win until: 1) Al realizes that his glory days were forty years ago, and he should let people who have had more recent competencies run his team, 2) he moves to Miami and watches his team on TV, or 3) he sells them. Between the drafting and the inability to pick or keep good coaches (having to get back surgery to accommodate the arm hole tends to winnow the list of candidates), whoever is running the team shouldn't be.

    They're not the Browns, though.


  11. Hap, most of Raider Nation would agree that Al giving up control of the team would be great. We just all know it'll never happen.

    They looked sloppy against the Lambs, and I see they're back to their old ways of giving up 100 yds in penalties.

    Playoffs?!?! You wanna talk about playoffs?!?!


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20