Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NPR covers #chemjobs in the RTP area

Listening to All Things Considered on the way home yesterday, a fascinating #chemjobs story in the middle of a series on financial success (and lack thereof). It's based out of North Carolina's Research Triangle area, so it's not a surprise that there are pharma/chemical industry ties:
Donald Zepp, 67, and his wife, Carmen — 26 years his junior — have a 4-year-old son together. Both have been married before and both were well-employed before. Donald taught at Cornell and worked for the multinational agrichemical company Rhone-Poulenc until he was downsized. Carmen worked in the finance department of the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline but quit after surviving ovarian cancer. 
"It was eight years before I joined the legion of people who on getting out of corporate America say, 'That was the best that ever happened to me,' " Donald says. "It took eight years, but I did reach that point where one day I said, 'You know, I'm really happy, this beats the hell out of working.' " 
The Zepps live in Wendell, N.C., 20 miles east of Raleigh, where they bought the local music store. Together, they've gone into business selling banjos. [snip] The Zepps cheerfully describe their economic situation as "dismal" and say they get by, for the most part, on his pension and Social Security. [snip]
...Phil Luby is another refugee from corporate life who struck out on his own. He says he used to make $200,000 a year marketing pharmaceuticals. When he was downsized in 2008, he rolled the dice on the used car business. It was a tough business to get into then, but he says things are improving.
Dr. Zepp appears to have been laid off from Rhone-Poulenc from a position as a Ph.D. entomologist. I don't wish to speculate too much on Dr. Zepp's career, but one imagines that he tried at least a little bit to find other work in his field. The same goes for Mr. Luby, I'll bet.

That two of three people formerly connected with the chemical/pharma industries were laid off is no surprise, I suppose. While both people seem to have landed on their feet (and Dr. Zepp seems genuinely happy about his new job), one wonders if, in better economic times for our sector, whether they would have stayed in their positions.

Best wishes to all of us. 


  1. Thanks for the heads up. Rhone-Poulenc becoming Aventis did cause a lot of downsizing - that was back around 2000. The folks I worked with formed their company after pooling their severance packages. So Dr. Zepp's career change came with an earlier down turn in the local economy.

    Some small companies have grown (and many of those gone away again) but it does feel like RTP is not quite as strong as it once was. GSK aren't using whole swathes of their campus any more.

  2. I was downsized from my postdoc a couple of months ago, but it's still pretty much a good unpaid job that I have right now writing papers, but now I had more time to write applications to academia and a research proposal. Still, I love not working. Now if the boss asks me if that draft is ready, I'm not really worried about completing it next day, or even setting up the DFT calculations that same day, since I don't work for him (though I still have to worry about a good reference letter)! I only work on it if I feel like it. I wish I could not work forever... (and I hope that the places I'm applying to haven't found out that I don't have a real job right now). I don't know why it's a big stigma to be unemployed and people think you're radioactive waste if you haven't been employed in your field for a year. I've had a lot more free time so I've been going to more scientific talks at the university that are outside my field, I read more research papers and books, and I'm a lot better at the local language. Plus I'm playing a lot more sports and I think I've taken off some weight and put on muscle. This is the life, I'm telling you. Too bad the old bank account can only take one more year of it.

    1. Uncle, I'm sorry about the loss of your job. Let me know how I can help.

    2. Well, the most important thing right now is, (don't let anybody know...) Shhhh.... Can't have breaks in my CV. I'm actually enjoying life for now since I have some savings. If anyone really asks, I'll say that I was 'finding myself' or something, which actually could be close to the truth. Maybe I'll volunteer as an English teacher at a local school, but I'll need to get info from the embassy saying I haven't been convicted of crimes. Which I'll do after resubmitting two rejected articles.

  3. At 67 he _should_ be retired.

  4. If you like this 'All things considered', and you have some time to waste, you should try the Canadian version. 'Ideas with Paul Kennedy'. It's the same thing, so you have 2x as many episodes now. A lot of their episodes when they talk about economy, etc... are American centered actually.


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