Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chemist and Navy vet out of work, living in motel for 16 months

From a longtime reader, an August article on an unemployed chemist in North Carolina:
Charles Davis is a chemist, a Navy veteran, a white-collar guy who loves science. And he can't find a job. He lives in a motel room, and he keeps in his refrigerator and his cupboards the basics he can afford: bologna, white bread, green beans, grape jelly, peanut butter and soup. This has been Davis' home for 16 months.

He makes 15 calls a day, following up on the 626 resumes he has sent out to companies in 10 states. He catches a bus downtown every week to huddle in front of a library computer to look for a job. [snip]

There was a time when life was good. He played point guard for Savannah State University and spent nine years in the Navy and 17 years as a chemist, doing everything from environmental science to product development. In March 2009, he had a temporary job with a local research lab, and he had expected it to blossom into a full-time gig. It didn't happen. The sour economy hit that research lab, too. [snip]

Davis has his days where he wonders where he'll turn. Members of Davis' family are struggling, and most of them live in Buffalo, N.Y. Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration can't help because he's not battling alcohol, drugs or depression. Still, he knows he can't give up. So, he makes his calls, catches a bus downtown, prays for strength and says to himself constantly: "To quit, you might as well die."
I don't have anything wise or pithy to add. Mr. Davis is a good representative of the human capital that is being lost because of high unemployment in our industry. I wish him nothing but the best in his search; my thoughts and prayers are with him and folks like him.


  1. "human capital"

    I like that, as it seems to be an under appreciated and untapped resource.

  2. I have so much sympathy for everyone who is out of work. I felt so lucky to find a job after I was laid off. I don't know if Mr. Davis will read this column, but I wonder if he has looked into federal jobs? Unfortunately it takes a long time to get through the federal jobs system (several months) but it's worth checking into. As a veteran, he would get extra points on his application. There are a number of agencies that hire chemists. It can be daunting to apply and then wait months to hear back, but it can pay off. I don't think a lot of chemists think about jobs in the federal government, but there are a surprising number of scientists working for different agencies.

  3. Somewhat analogous to Doug Prasher's story, though I am surprised that the V.A. office can't do more to help this guy. Reading stories like this make me even more annoyed to hear some fellow chemists complain about not getting large bonuses or salary increases when there are many educated, diligent people who are barely getting by.

  4. He is likely a BS chemist. Everyone knows there exist boundless opportunities for the Phd chemist.
    The national academy of sciences has made it clear a shortage of QUALIFIED candidates exist.

    Since grad school for chemists is free, he has no one to blame but himself.

    I don't know what to think of the mindless propaganda I read on this blog.

  5. "Everyone knows there exist boundless opportunities for the Phd chemist."
    "The national academy of sciences has made it clear a shortage of QUALIFIED candidates exist."

    make up your mind, please.

  6. Anonymous baitor. I'm not sure where you are going with this. If you live forever, anyone can make a fortune in most anything. We only have what? maybe 60, tops, productive years in our lives, only 10 of which can have sustainable high energy. Some of us want relationships, friends, and some (and I don't know why anymore) want children. Success not just for ourselves, but for those that come to depend on us. Whereas, I can sit in the woods for eternity and bang rocks together and eventually be a millionaire if I didn't have need of food, love, or wasn't faced with my mortality.

    Just right now, some of us just trying to get by and are waiting for the perceptions of what a chemist is truly worth, Ph. D. or otherwise.


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