Thursday, January 31, 2013

Want to talk to a reporter about your postdoc?

Beth Halford of Chemical and Engineering News is for current or recent postdocs who are willing to talk about their experiences, preferably on the record, but she's willing to talk off the record too.

E-mail her at b_halford -at- acs/dot/org 

US GDP falls 0.1%

From the New York Times:
The economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the last three months of 2012, the worst quarter since the economy crawled out of the last recession, hampered by the lower military spending, fewer exports and smaller business stockpiles, preliminary government figures indicated on Wednesday. The Fed, in a separate appraisal, said economic activity “paused in recent months.” 
Still, economists said the seemingly bleak gross domestic product report was not a sign that another recession was looming. The preliminary data showed relatively strong spending by consumers and businesses, even as military spending posted its sharpest quarterly drop in 40 years. 
Forecasters expect that growth this year will rebound to a still-anemic 1.5 percent, a little lower than the pace it has managed over the last three years.
Soooo, that's not good news. That said, my morning Wonkbook e-mail was full of people telling me this was due to a blip in defense spending, a statistical fluke, etc., etc.  I can believe that, but here's what I want to know -- if we're in a recovery, why are GDP predictions for 2013 lower than 2012?

How important is experience outside of school for a BA/BS position in chemistry?

My father, who I love dearly, never ceases to tell me the story of walking into a company many moons ago, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and getting past the receptionist and into the office of a hiring manager. Recently, on his 15001st retelling, he added the small detail that, in graduate school, he had been one of the few users of a very specialized piece of software -- one that the company he was visiting had purchased and could not figure out how to use. He noted the hiring manager had called a bunch of his own technical experts for an impromptu interview.

My father, who I love dearly, has been working for that same company for a number of decades now. His son thinks that he does not really comprehend the modern job market*, with all of its complexity in getting hired. I write this anecdote as an introduction to Susan Ainsworth's excellent and comprehensive article on the difficulties of BS/BA chemists in gaining employment in industry. As I noted on Monday, the (scattered, non-scientifically controlled) numbers suggest that it was difficult for new grads to find work in industry in 2011 and 2012.

Of Susan's sampling of successful job seekers, they had 3 things in common: time spent at industrial internships, REU-type experiences in academia and time overseas. It appears that these things were done in during the summer between school years. There were some comments about "thought leadership", but just means "showing you can get results or solve an actual problem." (I don't know what this "thought leadership" buzzword is, but it's new and I don't like it.)

To me, this could mean a couple of things:
  • Having academic or industrial internship experience is now more important than ever. 
  • The race for a job or a desirable graduate school starts the fall of your sophomore year and maybe sooner than that. (Incidentally, your grades in those years will probably affect your competitiveness for those internship/REU-type experiences.) 
  • "Summers off" past your second year could be lost time. 
Now that I've said that, I have an odd question: does anyone else think this is kind of nuts? Does it seem sort of crazy that in the 1960s and 1970s, our parents seemed to live in a world where they could more or less fall into a position, and now getting a job means starting to think/plan/do 2 years ahead? If it's a reality (and I think that it is), it is an unfortunate one.

Finally, for the undergraduates reading this, I would like to point you to ACS' new site listing undergraduate internships in chemistry. It's a touch tricky (click on the company name to actually get to an application page), but I think it will be a useful tool. Apply now!

*Broadly speaking about the working world, this isn't really true; layoffs, mergers, still-nationally-known scandals, they're all in those decades. 

An ad for a Pfizer "design chemist" position

On LinkedIn, an ad for a Pfizer CVMED design chemist:
The Cardiovascular Metabolic and Endocrine (CVMED) Design Chemist provides scientific leadership in the medicinal chemistry group aligned to the CVMED Research Unit (CVMED RU). This individual is responsible for leading the medicinal chemistry effort on 2-3 projects within the CVMED RU in collaboration with the CVMED Biology Group and synthetic chemistry.  
An outward looking focus is important given the network of resources within World Wide Medicinal Chemistry (WWMC) that will be leveraged to advance CVMED programs. These include, but are not limited to, structural biology, computational chemistry, chemical biology, drug safety and drug metabolism.  
Collaboration with additional external academic collaborators will be necessary to advance the CVMED portfolio and drive discipline excellence within the CVMED RU and WWMC. This design chemist will be responsible for all of the molecular design for their assigned programs and will be directly accountable for their designs advancing projects from exploratory stages to delivery of clinical candidates that survive to positive proof of concept (POC). The design chemist is also accountable for working with synthetic chemists to ensure that design and synthetic excellence drive appropriate selection of target compounds and speed to FIH. (emphasis CJ's) The design chemist is accountable for driving a strong scientific agenda wherein internal research capabilities are integrated with a broader research network to drive new thinking and capabilities in design.  
Qualifications Doctoral level degree, or equivalent with at least 5 years experience in the
pharmaceutical industry and 3 years experience leading design efforts on a project. 
Strong working knowledge and track record of delivery in drug discovery - from exploratory chemistry to clinical testing. 
The role is located in Cambridge, Mass and will require visits to the Groton Connecticut sites for face to face meetings. The frequency of these visits will be 6-12 times per year. 
I've expressed my skepticism about these positions before. (I've seen 200-foot separations between managers and workers cause communication issues; a 2 hour drive?) That said, there are a lot smarter people than I who will be filling these positions; I sincerely hope they can succeed. 

Readers, what do you see in all of this? 

Daily Pump Trap: 1/31/13

Good morning! Between January 29 and January 30, there were 35 new positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. Of these, 13 (37%) were academically connected and 15 (43%) are from Kelly Scientific Resources.

Dayton, OH: UES is looking for a "visiting scientist", whatever that means. (Read "temporary.") They would like someone with skills in synthetic organic and polymer chemistry.

Havre de Grace, MD: J.M. Huber Corporation is looking a B.S. chemist with 5 years experience with paint formulation.

Long Island, NY: Pall Corporation is a company that specializes in filtration; they're looking for a M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist. (Minimum 3 years of experience.)

Baltimore, MD: Shimadzu is looking for a service engineer.

Salt Lake City, UT: Genysis Nutritional Labs is looking for a LC/MS chemist; 3 years experience with LC/MS techniques desired.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) 210, 725, 2293 and 25 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 104 positions for the job title "chemist", with 18 for "analytical chemist", 2 for "organic chemist" and 6 for "research chemist."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Process Wednesday: sight glasses

A fairly standard sight glass
Credit: John C. Ernst
So we've covered problem separations here before, but this is a really neat little suggestion from Francis X. McConville's "The Pilot Plant Real Book" on problem liquid-liquid separations when the issue is that you can't see the phase split:
Occasionally, the interface is so clean that it is impossible to see. In such cases, a conductivity measurement can be most useful to distinguish between the aqueous and the organic phase. It is also useful to sprinkle a pinch of Celite (diatomaceous earth) into the batch. The Celite tends to collect at the interface and helps to accentuate it. The Celite of course must be removed later by polish filtration, and so this is not recommended during the final processing steps. 
One of the things that I've mentioned before is that sometimes, it's actually quite difficult to see the reaction in the plant, because you can't see through the reactor walls like you can with a separatory funnel. You have all sorts of visual cues for a separation through a all-glass separatory funnel: you can typically watch the little bubbles of phases, the vortices, you can shine a flashlight into it (great trick, works like a charm.)

But when you're working with a large enough reactor, the walls are not going to be made of glass -- then, you're going to have to rely on a sight glass.* Sight glasses are smallish glass cylinders attached to the bottom valve of the reactor that your solutions flow through. Experienced operators have told me that they've blinked as they're pumping solutions through the sight class, missed the phase cut and had to send the entire 2,000 gallon batch back around through the reactor (which, of course, costs time and money, etc.) That Celite trick might help a little -- I'll have to try it sometime.

*Unless, like Mr. McConville notes, you're relying on conductivity measurements or a density flow meter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

B.S. and Ph.D. at the same institution?

A reader writes in:
I'm curious if you've ever polled your readers/run a piece on the "disadvantages" of getting your graduate and undergraduate degree from the same research institution (from a top 10 program, in particular). 
...based on life circumstances ([redacted], not wanting to be out of school for too long before going back, etc.), I'm looking at getting a PhD from the same place I got my BS. I've had a few years of research experience in another lab (same institution, though), and I'd be shifting fields somewhat from my undergraduate research focus. 
Any thoughts from you or the readers regarding getting academic and/or industrial positions? Is it as simple as explaining the circumstances to a potential employer?
That's a good question -- I don't quite know the right answer, but I suspect that if it works for you (i.e. you find a good group, that you did well during your graduate work), it does not pose a problem.

I suspect that some (most?) academic institutions might give pause to a tenure-track candidate that worked in the same group for B.S. and Ph.D., but that's rare enough that I doubt there's a good data set to base a judgment on. (I believe it's discouraged.) I don't think that most industrial employers would care, but again, they'd be looking at the quality of your work first. Being able to explain the circumstances would probably be good enough.

I would also ask myself: do I have to get a Ph.D.? Is that the degree that aligns with my long-term goals, career and otherwise? Readers, what say you?

Daily Pump Trap: 1/29/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 24 and January 28, there have been 27 new positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. Of these, 18 (67%) are academically connected.

Princeton, NJ: BMS is hiring an associate research scientist II for medicinal chemistry towards peptidomimetics. B.S. with 5 years experience, M.S. with 2 years experience desired. "Propose innovative ideas and technologies to accelerate efforts to develop novel millamolecules for complex targets." What's a millamolecule?

Zeroes!: EMD Serono (Billerica, MA) is looking for a M.S. chemist with 5 years experience or a Ph.D. with 0-2 years experience for medicinal chemistry positions. Looks good for someone. 3 openings!

San Carlos, CA: Novartis desires a M.S. (w/5 years) or Ph.D. analytical chemist in Pharmaceutical Development.

Sunnyvale, CA: AAT Bioquest is looking for a "postdoctoral research chemist":
AAT Bioquest is currently seeking an accomplished synthetic chemist. This position offers an excellent opportunity for a highly motivated individual to perform cutting edge research work in developing biological assay probes. A primary focus of the role will be route development and final compound preparation as well as complex problem solving in organic synthesis.  Major responsibilities will involve participating in the design and synthesis, purification and characterization of small molecules. Successful candidates will be motivated, creative, hands-on laboratory chemists with the ability to interact effectively with team members. 
Your Job performance will be reviewed within 12 month (sic) with an opportunity to become a staff research scientist. 
I would like to know, why not just have a probationary period and call this person a "staff scientist (probationary)"? Answer: probably money-related, i.e. so we can pay them less. In my opinion, calling these positions "postdocs" is bad, and needs to stop. A postdoc is supposed to be a learning/training experience and not an extended interview. /moralizing

Marlboro, NJ: Ashwin-Ushas is looking for a B.S./M.S. chemist for a position that's titled "chemist-scientist." It sounds interesting, with applications in conducting polymers, electrochemistry, organic chemistry and materials science. Pay is interesting, in that it's a range from 45-80k. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 1/29/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 22 and January 28, there are 21 new academic positions posted to the C&EN Jobs website. The numbers:

Total number of ads: 21
- Postdocs: 1
- Tenure-track faculty:  10
- Temporary faculty: 5
- Lecturer positions:  5
- Staff positions:  0
- US/non-US: 19/2

Wanted: a good GM: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is advertising for a full professorship, department chair and head of the School of Chemical Sciences for all of you out there qualified for this position. I suspect that 'twould be a tough (state funding scenario) but rewarding position. (In the fat chance I would be offered this position, I would demand a weekly supply of fish sandwiches and/or an expense account at the food truck by the library.)

(Hey, why are they advertising this position when folks know darn well that it's being recruited person-to-person? Formality, I guess.) 

Tacoma, WA: The University of Washington - Tacoma is looking for a chemistry lecturer, M.S./Ph.D. required. It's a 3 year renewable appointment.

New York, NY: New York City College of Technology is seeking a tenure-track assistant professor of chemistry. It sounds like teaching duties will involve introductory-level classes.

Frostburg, MD: Frostburg State University is seeking a lecturer in chemistry. "(possible conversion to a tenure-track position at some point in the future)." Allll carrot, baby!

Newark, DE: The University of Delaware's chemistry department is seeking a temporary assistant professor of chemistry; 1 year contracts, renewable for 3 years.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Job posting: B.S./M.S. polymer synthesis chemist

From the inbox, a B.S./M.S. polymer synthesis position in northern New Jersey:
  • Minimum B.S. or M.S. degree in Chemistry or Polymer Chemistry and 2-4 years experience in polymer synthesis and characterization 
  • Experience in Addition Polymerizations is a plus 
  • Graduate study experience is a plus 
  • Hands-on experiences in running analytical instrument such as GC, HPLC/GPC and GC/MS is required
I don't wish to broadcast the contact person's name on the Great Big Internet, so please e-mail me (chemjobber -at- gmail/dot/com) and I would be happy to give it to you.

Podcast: Dr. Rebecca Guenard and Chemjobber on chemophobia, parenting

A couple of weeks ago, Rebecca Guenard (a Ph.D. chemist and freelance writer) wrote an insightful post on the rational and irrational roots of chemophobia and how chembloggers communicate chemistry to each other and the public. She concludes with:
By reducing chemistry’s spotlight to an argument about the good and the bad of chemicals, you lose the bigger, beautiful picture of chemistry.  Argument outreach, lovable chemicals outreach, neither are affective because chemistry is not just about chemicals.  Maybe it is not that big of an issue, most of what I read seems choir directed anyway.  But as a member of that choir, I would like to request a different tune.  
As the author of the occasional post that cracks wise about the ignorance of chemicals and the public's chemophobia, I thought this might be a fun opportunity to talk to her about it. She also had a fantastic section in her post on chemophobia and parenting, which (as a parent), I was in profound sympathy with.

Better yet, this coming Saturday will be Carmen Drahl and DrRubidium's session at ScienceOnline 2013 on chemophobia, so this is our contribution to the pre-conversation:

(I was a little more aggressive with the editing, and I'm concerned that it shows. Any oddities with the sound are my responsibility, and not Dr. Guenard's.)


0:00 - 1:44: Introduction, parenting and chemicals
3:03: Rational concern about chemicals for your offspring
3:30: Rebecca and the phosgene plant
4:20: Parents and BPA
6:30: CJ, his kids and kilo-scale work
8:35: CJ dislikes "Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families"
11:45: Rebecca: "Dose makes the poison", not matter how true, isn't particularly effective
14:00: Did you have a Nalgene bottle?
17:10: Are some adults just lost to chemophobia?
18:30: CJ's rant about Facebook, and Rebecca's excellent response
21:09: Rebecca is going to #scio13 -- lucky!
22:00: CJ: Why ranting against chemophobia is fun
24:00: Rebecca: Different ways to talk about chemistry to different people (so true!)
26:00: Rebecca: "Chemists are nuts" -- a fun way to talk about chemistry is to talk about the chemists.
28:00: Who communicates chemistry well?*

*Rebecca also notes that Prof. Michelle Francl communicates chemistry well; I agree heartily. Sarah Everts' fantastic oral history of East German chemists is here. 

B.A./B.S. graduates having a hard time

We'll be coming back to this again (like tomorrow), but I want to note Susan Ainsworth's article in this week's C&EN on the difficulty of B.A./B.S. new graduates in finding work:
Credit: C&EN, ACS Starting Salary Survey
...many other fledgling B.A. and B.S. chemical professionals have been struggling to find jobs in their chosen discipline. In the most recent American Chemical Society survey of new graduates in chemistry and related fields, in 2011, 14% of recent bachelor’s degree recipients reported that they didn’t have a job but were seeking one, up from 12% in 2010 (C&EN, June 4, 2012, page 36). In contrast, 9% of new Ph.D. grads said they were seeking employment in 2011, up from 6% in 2010. 
Results of the 2012 new-graduates survey won’t be available until April of this year. In the meantime, a sampling of career services coordinators at universities across the U.S. reports that the employment landscape for new B.S. and B.A. chemists, biochemists, and chemical engineers hasn’t changed much from last year. 
For B.S. graduates in the chemical sciences, the job market “appears to be even a little more challenging this year,” observes O. Ray Angle, director of University Career Services at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 
Among its 2012 B.S. grads in chemistry and biochemistry, 33% found jobs, 50% went on to grad school, and 17% are still seeking jobs and remain unemployed, Angle notes. In comparison, 43% of its 2011 grads found jobs, 47% went on to grad school, and only 10% were seeking jobs.
The article is full of interesting stories of young chemists' (successful and less so) job hunts -- best wishes to them.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Interesting, amusing, frustrating quotes by members of the Shakhashiri Commission

From Michael Price's interesting article in ScienceCareers comparing the Tilghman report with the recent report from the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences:
Although language in the report specifically highlighted the crowded market for Ph.D. chemists, in interviews with Science Careers, members of the ACS commission downplayed the idea of shrinking graduate student enrollment, focusing instead on the need for departments to broaden the range of skills they teach so that there is less redundancy among Ph.D. graduates. One of the major obstacles to young chemists finding jobs, they say, is that too many departments prepare students with the exact same sets of skills.... 
..."Obviously, the biotech industry has collapsed in terms of employment, but that doesn't mean that chemists are not being employed," (Georgia Tech chemistry professor Paul) Houston says. "There is a large chemical industry, and there are still some very good jobs at the bigger chemical companies, but there are a lot of jobs at start-up companies and smaller outfits, too. So one of the things that we thought a lot about is what kind of training does a graduate student need to be successful in that kind of market." 
...Resistance can be found even in the commission's ranks. (Georgia Tech chemistry professor) Schuster, for example, does not believe that chemistry departments should reduce their graduate enrollments. "Opportunities in chemistry, viewed as the 'molecular science', are growing as disciplines such as biology and materials science become ever more 'molecular,' " he writes. " 'Population control' is not necessary or desirable. What is required is increased diversity of skills and perspective so that students see and embrace all of the opportunities of the 'molecular science.' "
I respectfully remind Professors Houston and Schuster of a variety of facts:
  • For 2011 and 2012, American Chemical Society member unemployment is at 4.6% and 4.2%, which are (respectively) the highest and 2nd highest unemployment numbers in recorded history for the ACS Salary Surveys. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has measured "chemist and material scientist" employment for 2011 and 2012 at 6.1% and 5.5% (respectively.)
    • I should also note that it is the conventional wisdom that most working chemists believe, but cannot prove, that these numbers are underestimated. 
    • I also note that we should not be comparing these numbers to the National Unemployment Rate (currently at 7.8%), but we should be comparing them to the unemployment rate for bachelor degree holders (currently at 3.9%). 
  • ACS member salaries have fallen between 2002-2012 (measured in constant dollars) by -0.2%. 
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures chemist job growth at 4%, while all occupations are expected to grow at 14% for the period between 2010 and 2020. 
    • To Professor Houston's point that there are jobs in the chemical manufacturing sector, the expected job growth in chemical manufacturing for that period are as follows: Basic chemical: -15.1%, Resin/synthetic rubber, etc.: -7.1%, Agrichemical: -22%, Pharma: -0.7%, Paint, coating, adhesive: -11.3%, Cleaning products: -6.3%, Other: -17.3%, Plastics: 21.3%, Rubber, -7.4%
  • The small company discount (50 employees or less) by the ACS Salary Comparator is 17% lower than the median salary, I believe. 
As to Professor Schuster's point that other fields with higher job growth are becoming "more molecular" and will offer more positions to chemists, I ask this: is there any evidence that chemists and their graduate degrees  are somehow more competitive? If not, would 'population control' indeed be a necessary step? 

David Snyder arraigned

The latest on Dr. David Snyder, the UC Davis postdoc who was apparently experimenting with explosives in his campus apartment from Jyllian Kemsley at The Safety Zone:
UC Davis chemist David Snyder was arraigned this afternoon on three counts of reckless disposal of hazardous waste, three counts of possession of a destructive device or explosive, one count of possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device, and two counts of possessing or bringing a firearm onto campus. All ten counts are felonies.
Dr. Kemsley notes the AP's report, where they talk to Dr. Snyder's attorney:
Snyder's defense attorney, Linda Parisi, said her client had the materials for research. "What happened in Dr. Snyder's apartment was an accident. He harbored no intent to build or detonate an explosive device," she said. "He is a chemist working on a variety of projects."
I would really like to know a couple of things:
  • What were the destructive devices that the Yolo County DA are charging Dr. Snyder with possessing? (I am fully prepared for them to be potentially underwhelming.) 
  • What is "the variety of projects" that Dr. Snyder was working on, and why couldn't he have done them in his laboratory? 
This case confuses me; I await more data. 

Job search stats: industrial positions, These Modern Times

Thank you to the 30 plus people who input their job search data into my post last week. I've started crunching the data by first separating the data by academic versus industrial job searches, education level and by separating by time period. In my mind, I separate "modern chemistry employment" into 4 eras:
  • The Golden Years: pre-2003 
  • The Clouds Before The Storm: 2003-2007
  • The Great Recession: 1/1/08 to 7/31/2009
  • These Modern Times: 8/2009 - present
If someone else has better names for these eras, I'm all ears. 

I've focused my efforts on industrial positions in These Modern Times because that's the bulk of the entries. I'll be covering the other entries next week. 

Industrial B.S./M.S.-level position, time period, number of full apps/on-site interviews (no phone)/offers

#10: 5/10-present, 500/15/3
#16: 10/10-12/10, 1/1/1 
#13: 6/12-9/12, 50/3/1
#24: 11/12-present, 40/0/0

Industrial Ph.D.-level positions, time period, number of full apps/on-site interviews (no phone)/offers

#30: 2009-2012: "Hundreds"/5/4
#9:  3/09-2/11, 400/9/1
#15: 8/09-12/10, 100/3/1
#4: 9/09-9/10, 172/7/2
#27: 9/09-3/10, 55/2/1
#12: 9/10-3/11, 4/1/1
#23A: 12/10-5/11, 70/2/1
#6: 3/11-9/11, 50/2/2
#25: 8/11-10/12, 156/7/1
#1: 3/12-10/12, 86/2/2
#19: 4/12-present, 80/1/0
#32: Spring 2012 - Fall 2012, 46/0/1
#23B: 5/12-10/12, 70/3/3
#11: Fall 2012 - present, 40/1/0
#20: 10/12-present, 51/1/0

I haven't done a thorough statistical analysis of these different entries (coming soon), but here's what I see:
  • There's no real detectable difference between the odds for a B.S./M.S. position versus a Ph.D. position (with this small data set, anyway.) 
  • It's not uncommon for successful job searches to take over 50+ full applications. The smallest number is 4; it makes CoulombicExplosion quite an outlier. What was your trick, CE?
  • Successful job searches take between 6 months and one year, as we might have expected. 
  • The likelihood of any one full job application turning into an on-site interview is well below 5% and probably closer to 1%. 
  • However, the likelihood of an on-site interview turning into an offer is closer to even money. 
As Dr. Zoidberg said, it would be great to hear from all the successful job searches as to what tips they would offer to readers. I would like to know if they feel that their searches were due to any particular factor. 

Readers, what trends do you see? 

Lastly, I want to make sure that no one feels thinks I'm pretending this is a scientific, statistically-valid survey of job searches in chemistry. It's not (yet.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

RIP Daniel Havey

I am sad to note the passing of Prof. Daniel Havey, a father of two preschool girls and a professor at James Madison University. Press reports are that Prof. Havey committed suicide and was found in a JMU laboratory.

Like SeeArrOh said, if you're feeling this way, it's okay to get help.

My sincere condolences and prayers to his family, friends and coworkers.

A public recording of a prediction/bet on US real GDP in 2013

@Brandon_Vara was first to take the bet, so we're putting ten dollars cash money (and Twitter recognition) on the trajectory of the US economy for 2013. We are setting the over/under at 1.8%, with me taking the under and him taking the over (just slightly.) The numbers from the US Conference Board for US real GDP will be the information source.

@SeeArrOh and @Lewis_Lab were also voting for the over; we've yet to fully determine (non-caish) stakes there. In all sincerity, this is a bet I hope to lose. 

I guess we're getting somewhere

From ScienceCareers forum:

Huh; that's a little unexpected. 

Daily Pump Trap: 1/24/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 22 and January 23, there were 27 new positions posted on C&EN Jobs. Of these, 3 (11%) are academically connected and 9 (33%) are from Kelly Scientific Resources.

Nice!: A decentish looking haul, thanks to Phenomenex's recent (some repeat) postings.

Loveland, CO: Hach is looking for a R&D chemist, with possible some synthetic applications. M.S. w/5 years or Ph.D. with zero experience is desired. I have no idea what this position is about, especially with this incredibly helpful description:
The Chemist II, R & D develops chemical products and product applications with some supervision and guidance in the design and test of various analytical equipment, subassemblies, and chemical formulations for use with Hach's systems for analysis.
Yeah, that.

Bartlesville, OK: Chevron is looking for a Ph.D. chemist to be a polymer NMR scientist.

Edison, NJ: Horiba Instruments (cue jokes with that name) is looking for a M.S. analytical chemist; ICP experience desired.

Warrington, PA: Polysciences is once again looking for 2 M.S./Ph.D. chemists; 5 years industrial experience desired. I would really like to know what's going on there, since they're an ACS Careers perennial. Growing/flipping chemists?

Orange, TX: Invista is looking for a B.S. chemist to be a R&D technician.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) 201, 628, 2,351 and 18 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 98 positions for the job title "chemist", 15 for "analytical chemist, 1 (in Deutschland!) for "organic chemist" and 6 for "research chemist."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Podcast: See Arr Oh and Chemjobber on interview stories

Following on the job-hunts-by-the-numbers post (numbers to come!), See Arr Oh had the idea of telling funny stories about job interviews. So we decided to do a podcast!

0:00 - 1:31: See Arr Oh's introduction
1:50: Chemjobber and the state trooper
5:00: See Arr Oh and the middle of nowhere
7:22: Chemjobber and the rental car keys of doom
9:30: See Arr Oh and the snowstorm
12:08: The weirdest question See Arr Oh's ever been asked
14:15: "This salary number is Too Damn High."
16:50: See Arr Oh and the HR lady
18:05: Interview advice
23:20: See Arr Oh and the metal refinery foreman, conclusion
26:00: Bonus track

So these were funny, but I am sure you have funnier stories. Please, have at in the comments. 

What was David Snyder doing?

Jyllian Kemsley is covering this interesting case on the UC Davis campus:
That “‘small chemical explosion’ in a UC Davis student housing complex” wasn’t meth. The university researcher who set off the explosion, 32-year-old Ph.D. chemist David Snyder, was arrested over the weekend on explosives and firearms possession charges.
Literature searches indicate that Dr. Snyder is a synthetic chemist, with a patent and a J. Med. Chem. paper to his name (and also a regional ACS conference poster.) He's apparently a postdoc, if you look at California state employee records.

I don't know what he was up to, and I don't care to speculate very much, other than to say this: if one were going to be experimenting on explosive compounds, it would seem wise to do it in a laboratory, where requisite safety equipment is. (Throwing aside, of course, that you would be risking your labmates' life as well as your own.) As I said on Twitter, most people in the lab don't really pay attention to what other people are up to in their hoods (even when they should be.)

I guess I'll be following this story, too. 

Paula Stephan in Chemistry World

Paula Stephan, who is an expert on the labor economics of science, is in Chemistry World (emphases mine): 
...Chemists have often had an edge over those trained in the biomedical sciences because of the large number of research positions for chemists in industry. But in recent years, industry hires have lagged – in part because of mergers and acquisitions in pharma and in part because of a fragile economy...
What can be done to solve the imbalance? First, graduate programs should be required to tell students the truth about job placements. Second, the incentive to staff labs with graduate students and postdocs must be altered. Raise the ‘wage’ (that will get the attention of PIs); require faculty to develop alternative training tracks for students. In other words, make faculty understand that there is a serious cost to using graduate students and make them pay for part of it out of their research budgets and their time. Third, put more funds into supporting graduate students on fellowships and training grants and fewer funds into supporting students as graduate research assistants. Fourth, create incentives for faculty to staff their labs with permanent help rather than relying on temporary labour. Finally, if need be, lessen the coupling between research and training. While effective training requires a research environment, effective research can be done outside a training environment. If universities don’t have what it takes to exercise self-control, then turn some of the research funds over to institutes that are not in the training business. Abstinence is, after all, the most effective form of birth control.

Paula Stephan is professor of economics at Georgia State University, US, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is the author of the book How Economics Shapes Science.
I think it's the fourth and fifth problems that are problematic for the long-term. How to (de?)institutionalize research (creating permanent staff, moving to research institutes outside of academia) without destroying incentives and creativity? I don't know if I have an answer to that, and I don't know if it's the right question.

Process Wednesday: one way to get people to understand safety issues

Thanks to See Arr Oh's very kind Christmas present to me, I've had the joy of reading through "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", Richard Feynman's autobiography-by-anecdote.

In the section where Feynman is at Los Alamos, the scientists working on the atomic bomb suddenly realized that the large-scale Oak Ridge, Tennessee plant will have too much uranium-235 in too high of a concentration at certain times in the process itself and the warehousing of the intermediates (enough U235 in one place and you get a criticality event). It falls to Feynman to go and tell Oak Ridge that they have a problem. But how to get that point across?:
...The next day there was going to be a big meeting. I forgot to say that before I left Los Alamos, Oppenheimer said to me, "Now, the following people are technically able* down there at Oak Ridge: Mr. Julian Webb, Mr. So-and-so, and so on." I want you to make sure that these people are at the meeting, that you tell them how the thing can be made safe, so that they really understand."  
I said, "What if they're not at the meeting? What am I supposed to do?"  
He said, "Then you should say: Los Alamos cannot accept the responsibility for the safety of the Oak Ridge plant unless _________!"... 
...When I arrived, sure enough, the big shots in the company and the technical people that I wanted were there, and the generals and everyone who was interested in this very serious problem. That was good because the plant would have blown up if nobody had paid attneion to this problem. 
There was a Lieutenant Zumwalt who took care of me. He told me that the colonel said that I shouldn't tell them how the neutrons work and all the details because we want to keep things separate, so just tell them what to do to keep it safe. 
I said, "In my opinion it is impossible for them to obey a bunch of rules unless they understand how it works. It's my opinion that it's only going to work if I tell them, and Los Alamos cannot accept the responsibility for the safety of the Oak Ridge plant unless they are fully informed as to how it works!"
Thankfully for Oak Ridge, they listened to Feynman. I don't often think to myself that "washing one's hands publicly" of a matter is an effective means of communicating chemical safety issues to the plant. But I sometimes wonder what would happen if I did so...

*What a compliment for Oppenheimer to call you technically able! 

A contribution to the Pierre-Yan debacle

Shawn Burdette of WPI tweeted an interesting set of coincidences between two papers, a JACS from Pierre of the University of Minnesota in 2009 and an interesting counterpart in Chemistry: A European Journal from Yan of Beijing Normal University in 2013. Apparently, Professor Pierre is very unhappy with the similarities between the two articles. See Arr Oh has nailed down the similarities in the texts quite well; I have little to add. Go over there and read.

I can add the now-required Cantrilling of the text. To left, Thibon, A.; Pierre, V.C. JACS, 2009, 131, 434. and to the right, Yan, X.; Lv, S.; Guo, R. Chem. Eur. J. 2013, 19, 465.

Orange text indicates text that is the same words. 
Suffice it to say that there is A LOT of similarity in the text in these two papers, especially in the introduction and the conclusion sections. The chemistry and figures are also remarkably similar. 

What I found most bothersome is that even the supporting information seemed similar. While most SI language is pretty boilerplate, I found it remarkable that the odd spacing of "over night" (e.g. "further dried under high vacuum over night at room temperature.") was in the JACS SI on only the 3rd and 4th intermediate, and lo and behold! That same wording is only in the 3rd and 4th intermediates of the Chem. Eur. J. SI. 

I am a big fan of alternate hypotheses, so I'm game for an explanation from commenters, or better yet, the authors. (One should note that Blogspot is not available in the PRC, so that might pose a problem for both SAO and myself.) 

I think it's long past time for all journals to subscribe to some sort of plagiarism software, like TurnItIn. If college students can't do it, neither should chemistry professors. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Anyone want to make some bold predictions?

I'm in a betting mood for some reason. Anyone want to take a guess on the trajectory of the US economy for 2013? Here's the Conference Board's estimates as of January 9, 2013:

If the over/under for the US real GDP was set at 1.8%, I'd take the under - but I'm a pessimist. I think there's a case to be made for the over, but not by much.

If anyone wants to make a bet in the comments or by e-mail, I'm game. I'm a chicken, though, so I won't be wagering anything of value more than, say, $20 with one reader only. (I'm only prepared to lose a Jackson; items of alternate value (blogposts, etc.), I'll listen.) Anyway, put your thoughts in the comments, and we'll look this time next year. 

A second MA crime lab chemist arrested? Ya gotta be kidding me

From the files of "not just one bad apple", another chemist working for the same state crime laboratory system as Annie Dookhan has been arrested:
BOSTON (CBS) -  A chemist from the State Crime Laboratory in Amherst has been arrested. 
Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Sunday, Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, was arrested Saturday night and charged with allegedly tampering with drug evidence, possessing class A drugs and possessing class B drugs. Coakley said the two drugs were heroin and cocaine. Farak is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Eastern Hampshire District Court... 
Coakley said she does not believe Farak’s arrest jeopardizes the reliability of drug certificates or puts into question the fairness of trials for drug defendants. 
The Amherst Drug Laboratory stores and analyzes alleged controlled substances seized by local and state police. On Friday, members of the Amherst Laboratory contacted State Police to report a discrepancy in the controlled substance inventory held in evidence, according to Coakley’s office. 
State Police say after an investigation they believe Farak removed a substance from a case that had previously tested positive for cocaine and replaced it with a counterfeit substance that no longer tested positive...
One hopes that this was sort of fluky. (Hopes!)

Problems commenting? E-mail me

Ever have a problem commenting on this blog? Don't worry, it's not just you.

First, try switching browsers. I write the blog on Google Chrome, and Blogger/Blogspot is a Google platform, soooo... I've heard that switches between IE, Firefox and Chrome can conquer the comment box.

Second, if all else fails, e-mail me at chemjobber -at- gmail/dot/com and I will be happy to help, or if all else fails, I will post your comments myself. Seriously.

Last, has anyone ever tried to comment and figured out how to solve their troubles? If you can, leave a comment (yes, ironic.) 

Daily Pump Trap: 1/22/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 17 and January 21, there were 44 new positions posted on C&EN Jobs. Of these, 6 (14%) were academically connected and 21 (47%) were from Kelly Scientific Resources.

Now here's something different: Most of USDA's postdoctoral positions are analytical in nature (naturally, right?) Anyhow, they're looking for a synthetic postdoc in Wyndmoor, PA. Healthy salary, too, with a 2 year appointment: 61,245.00 to $79,615.00. Nice!

Columbus, OH: Chemical Abstracts Service is looking for scientific information analysts for a nomenclature-related position; "a strong background in the amino acid, peptide and/or carbohydrate areas" and "a graduate degree" desired. 50-60k; sigh.

West Greenwich, RI: Got 10 years of knowledge in the use of plastics in biopharmaceutical applications? Amgen would like to hire you.

New York, NY: D.E. Shaw is at it again, hiring computationalists for its drug discovery efforts.

Dalian, China: Kingchem is looking for a Chief Scientific Officer; 15 years in chemical development, Chinese, English skills desired.

Cincinnati, OH: Collins Ink would like to hire a director of UV development; M.S. in chemistry and Japanese fluency desired. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 1/22/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 15 and January 21, there were 15 academic positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. The numbers:

Total number of ads: 15
- Postdocs: 2
- Tenure-track faculty:  10
- Temporary faculty: 1
- Lecturer positions:  0
- Staff positions:  2
- US/non-US: 14/1

Toledo, OH: The University of Toledo is looking for an assistant professor for photovoltaics; an interesting challenge!

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. NMR spectroscopist to assist with the running of IU's NMR facility.

The Woodlands, TX: Lone Star College is looking for a M.S. chemist to be chemistry faculty.

Baton Rouge, LA: LSU desires a Ph.D. analytical chemist for a postdoctoral position performing AFM.

Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University is filling 5 openings for members of its The Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology; looks like faculty-level appointments, no mention of the t-word.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Interview: Pierre Morieux, ChemDraw wizard

Pierre Morieux’s name may not be well-known to you, but he’s the ChemDraw wizard that showed up on Derek Lowe’s blog a couple of months ago. In a truly weird and wonderful series of events, he’s now been hired by Perkin Elmer Informatics as a Chemistry Field Marketing Manager (Perkin Elmer is the company that produces ChemDraw and the ChemBioOffice software suite). His story was neat enough that Philip Skinner (a Perkin Elmer employee) contacted me to tell this story -- it’s really cool.

Pierre has a lot to say in his story, so I’m going to bring it to you under the jump. I hope you enjoy; I certainly did.

What follows is an e-mail exchange between Pierre and Chemjobber; it has been lightly edited for clarity.

Chemjobber: Can you tell us a little about your background?

(Hmmm... “ChemDraw wizard”, I wonder if I can get that written on my business card)

I am 30 years old, heavily trained in Chemistry and I come from a French educational background. I did a 2-year undergrad technician training in chemistry at the IUT of Orsay, France. I then went on to a so-called Engineering School of Chemistry, called Chimie ParisTech (formerly known as ENSCP in Paris, France) from which I graduated in 2006. The French Engineer degree would be equivalent to an American Master's degree.

CEPA makes its report to the Philadelphia ACS conference

The official write-up of the presentations made to the Fall 2012 Philadelphia ACS Council is up, including the Committee on Economic and Professional Affairs' (chaired by Dr. Lisa Balbes) report:
The unemployment rate for ACS chemists fell from the all-time high of 4.6% as of March 2011 to 4.2% in March 2012. This number was still high, and CEPA was concerned.

The percentage of ACS chemists who experienced some period of unemployment during 2011 was 8.2%, down slightly from the year before, with a median length of unemployment of four months. Industry members had the greatest probability of a period of unemployment.
Some 12% of ACS member chemists said that in the prior three years they had accepted a position or compensation package that was less than their previous position in order to maintain employment. 
In addition, 9% of chemists felt their current position was not in-line with their professional goals, 8% felt it was not commensurate with their level of education or training, 6% said it was not professionally challenging, and 6% said it was not related to the field of their degree.

The rise and fall of salaries for chemists measures the demand for our services and expertise. In 2012, salaries in real dollars declined for Ph.D. and M.S. chemists, while B.S. chemists kept pace with inflation. In addition, many members reported that they were “underemployed” and that some employers were hiring higher degree holders at “rock-bottom” prices. 
Overall, the majority predicted their situation would be about the same in March of 2013, with only 25% expecting their employment situation to improve. Interestingly, postdocs and those currently unemployed were significantly more optimistic than those employed full-time or part-time. 
The percentage of respondents employed in domestic chemistry-related manufacturing jobs continued to decline, while the share of nonmanufacturing jobs also showed decline. Self-employment remained stable, accounting for roughly 2% of respondents.
There's some new information in there, so I'll be circling back to this. For now, do be sure to check out the slides that are attached with the report, including the still-irritating comparison of ACS members with construction workers and nursing home attendants*.

*Honorable occupations, both of them.

This week's CEN tidbits

From this week's C&EN:
See next post for the big news of the week. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

In Reversal, Chromium Is Said to Weigh Admitting Nickel Use

LAGUNA BEACH, CA (CJ Press) - Chromium, who in 1986 was forced to share credit with the element nickel for a key carbon-carbon bond forming reaction, has told associates and academic chemists that it is considering publicly admitting that it uses performance-enhancing nickel during its catalytic cycle.

Chromium would do this, the associate said, because it desires to come clean and recover from the negative image from movies such as "Erin Brockovich" and really big bumpers from 1950s Chevies.

For more than two decades, Chromium has vehemently denied ever nickel, palladium, or manganese doping, even after academic chemists laid out their case against the element in numerous high-profile reports in the chemical literature, including lot-to-lot elemental analyses, interviews with other elements and reports from multiple laboratories from different institutions across the globe.

When asked if Chromium might admit to nickel doping, its longtime lawyer said, "Chromium has to speak for itself on that, perhaps only to Oprah or Rudy Baum."

(inspired by this NYT article)

What is your job hunt story, especially in numbers?

Thanks to Twitter conversations with @SeeArrOh, I was wondering what folks' hit rates with their job searches was. When I was looking for my first job after my postdoc, I clearly remember sitting at my bench in the lab in January or February 2008, turning to my postdoc adviser with a year left on my contract and saying, "I think the economy is looking worse, so I think I'm going to start applying now." Because he was such a good guy (and is!), he said, "Yes, I will support you in whatever you choose to do." It took me until November to find a position. So here's the numbers:

Time period: January/February 2008 until November 2008
Desired position: Entry level Ph.D., industrial
Number of full applications (cover letter, CV, research summary, etc.): 50-60
Number of on-site interviews: 5 (2 local in SD (1 temp), 3 out of region)
Number of offers: 1 (November 2008)

For my current position, the story is very different (personal networking matters!)

What's your job hunt story, especially in numbers?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Welcome, Blog Syn!

I have other posts scheduled for today, but they're being written. I want to take a moment and point you to See Arr Oh's project with katmatcher, BRSM and Organometallica called "Blog Syn". They're looking at an interesting Fe/S-catalyzed benzimidazole synthesis that was recently published in J. Am. Chem. Soc. 

After 3 separate people (BRSM, katmatcher and OM) in 3 separate laboratories have done the chemistry in the paper, they've labeled it "moderately reproducible." 

It'll be interesting to see how they verbally describe papers from here on out. I suggest a few other terms to be introduced, including "totally sketchball", "rock solid" and the ever-popular "This reaction is so rugged my 90-year-old grandma could run it." 

I have 3 things to say about it:
  • This is awesome. It's really important and good for the wider chemistry community. More people should be telling each other their results like this. It's beautifully documented, too. 
  • Vinylogous is right; this needs established PI support for it to thrive as well as it should. While there are definitely future (and current!) assistant professors reading about this and thinking about it, I think that a couple of brave associate and full professors throwing their weight behind this now would be fantastic. 
  • I think that this would be a perfect project for senior theses (and maybe as part of a candidacy exam?) 
Readers, please go over there, read and comment. Also, thoughts on how to make this better? Got a procedure to vet? 

A nursing surplus?

From last June, noted employment commentator and Wharton professor Peter Capelli on nursing jobs (my emphasis):
Community colleges are jammed with people who’ve already got college degrees, people trying to get practical degrees. The nursing shortage is no longer. Even the employers have said there’s no shortage of nurses now, because so many people were chasing those certificates and those degrees and those learning experiences. 
Thanks to @CoulombicExplosion, I see some confirmation for that opinion this week via CNN:
About 43% of newly licensed RNs still do not have jobs within 18 months after graduation, according to a survey conducted by the American Society of Registered Nurses. "The process has become more and more discouraging, especially since hospitals want RNs with experience, yet nobody is willing to give us this experience," said Ronak Soliemannjad, 26, who has been searching for a nursing job since she graduated in June.
They interview Professor Peter Buerhaus, a registered nurse and a health economist, who has an interesting hypothesis:
Prior to the recession, about 73,000 nurses left the profession each year due to childbearing, retirement, burning out or death. But when the recession hit, spouses lost jobs, 401(k)s lost money, and facing financial uncertainty, fewer nurses chose to leave work, Buerhaus said. "Many of those nurses are still in the workforce, and they're not leaving because we don't see a convincing jobs recovery yet," Buerhaus said. "They're clogging the market and making it harder for these new RNs to get a job."
My thoughts on the CNN piece:
  • Profound sympathies to young nurses, who are getting into a tough field because of practical reasons. I suspect a lot of nurses will be moving to fairly remote places to do healthcare; that's not fun. 
  • Buerhaus' working hypothesis is that nursing employment is counter-cyclical; that nursing employment is high when unemployment is high and vice-versa. His NEJM paper from 2012 indicates he thinks that nursing employment will trend back down as the economy improves. I'll be frank, I'm skeptical, because I'm waiting for other shoes to maybe drop in 2013. 
    • That said, those same shoes (slowdowns in China, overall middling GDP growth in the US (predicted to be 1.5 or 2%), a crummy UK/Europe economy) were supposed to drop in 2012. 
  • Buerhaus' NEJM paper seems to say that it's possible to have 2 problems: a short-term pop in the supply of nurses and a long-term shortage as the US population ages and demands more healthcare. 
    • I wonder how that might apply to chemistry? 
  • If you go to the American Society of Registered Nurses, you'll see a "Save the Grads" program. It's a program to locate entry-level positions exclusively for young nurses. It'd be pretty darn great if other professional societies, say, the American Chemical Society, would be willing to do the same thing. 
Readers, thinking about nursing? (Get some good shoes.) 

Daily Pump Trap: 1/17/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 15 and January 16, there were 29 new positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. Of these, 6 (21%) were academically connected and 20 (69%) were from Kelly Scientific Resources. 

Richmond, VA: Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories is looking for a mass spectrometry postdoc. Here is the job description:
Mass Spectrometry Post Doc responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

- Analytical method development and validation for target compounds in complex matrices utilizing LC-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS
- Additional research objectives will be to identify and implement novel analytical methods in support of product development within R&D
- Cross-functional interactions with R&D scientists with diverse backgrounds and experience.
- Position may require minimal travel within the continental U.S.
Here's the question that I have for Eurofins and anyone who might be considering this position -- how are the responsibilities any different than a junior/senior scientist position? If so, why are they calling the position a "postdoctoral fellow"? (This is a question that anyone who is contemplating an industrial postdoc should ask themselves.)

Torrance, CA: Medical Chemical Corporations is looking for a B.S./M.S. chemist to be a production chemist. Sounds like fun.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) 204, 619, 2,334 and 14 positions for the search term "chemist." Linked shows 105 positions for the job title "chemist", with 16 for "analytical chemist", 7 for "organic chemist" and 6 for "research chemist." 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

RIP Sheri Sangji

Four years ago today, Sherharbano (Sheri) Sangji died of her injuries sustained while running a reaction with tert-butyl lithium in the laboratory of Professor Patrick Harran at UCLA.

My thoughts are with her friends and her family. 

A modest proposal for personalizing lab PPE

Paul at ChemBark put up a great post last night about teaching younger kids to use their PPE and how best to get them to use it well:
I thought we needed to do a better job of making eye protection cool/fun, so first, we ordered them some safety glasses like “real scientists” wear (for general use) in lab. I bought three varieties of glasses from my favorite safety company. Each pair was only about $2—well worth the investment. 
At the next club meeting, we let the students choose what model and color they wanted. (To my surprise, the boys all wanted red frames while the girls opted for the black or clear frames.) Finally, in order to let the kids establish a personal connection to their PPE, we brought some knickknacks to let them personalize their glasses. These included rolls of colored tape and packets of jewel stickers that the kids could use to “bling out” their frames. This model had particularly wide frames that gave the kids a bunch of space to decorate.
I think this is a really interesting idea with a potential application to training actual young scientists (i.e. summer interns or 1st year graduate students). Most university chemistry stockrooms will only have a few  models of different kinds of laboratory glasses. Concerns about fit or comfort (or different shapes of faces) aren't really ever taken into consideration. Why couldn't young scientists get a fitting (or better yet) customization for their own faces for their lab glasses? (They could even maybe build prototypes and get them sent off for actual manufacture.)

That would be a great way for them to take ownership of lab glasses. You could imagine addressing the same problem with regards to lab coats (the small lab coat problem, for example.) Also, you could imagine getting federal dollars (which are already going to purchase PPE that sits on cabinets, etc.) for such a training program.

Better yet, if they had to pick lab glasses/lab coats and approach a variety of artificial-but-potentially-real safety problems (simulated acetone sprays, the shot of benzyl bromide I once took to the face, spilled 500 mL graduated cylinder to the chest etc.), it might get young scientists to see their PPE as their friend and protector, not some imposed burden. Readers, thoughts? 

Process Wednesday bonus: making lots of stuff while making money

See Arr Oh suggested I participate in "Up-Goer Five"-speak, which is describing your job while using the thousand most common words in the English language:
In my job, I make plans to make lots of stuff. When you make lots of stuff, you have to do it different than if you make little bits of stuff.  
First, someone says they will buy lots of stuff from my team. Then, we plan to make the stuff in little bits. We find out how other people made the stuff in books; sometimes they tell people how they did it. Sometimes, we can do what they said they did. Sometimes, we can not. Sometimes, people made stuff in ways that make sense; sometimes, they did not. Sometimes, people made stuff in ways that can not be done when we make lots of stuff. Then, we have to figure out how to change it to a better way. Sometimes, there are many steps to make the stuff. We try to take away as many steps as possible; each step takes time and money. We make the stuff in little bits. 
We also make sure the stuff is good enough. There are lots of ways to make sure the stuff is good enough; we ask the person buying the stuff how to make sure the stuff is good enough.  
We say ahead of time how we are going to make the stuff, and how good it is going to be. We have people to make sure the stuff is as good as we say that it is going to be.  
Then, we give it to another team that actually makes the stuff, along with our plan. We tell them about the plan. They follow (sometimes) the plan and they make some stuff, more than we made. They dry the stuff, and we make sure the stuff is good. Once that is done, they make LOTS of stuff. When that happens, my team and I can worry. We stay up all night sometimes to make sure the stuff is good. After they dry the stuff and we make sure it's good, we send it to the people who are buying it and they say it is good.  
Then, they give us money. Sometimes, they ask us to make the stuff again. Sometimes, they do not.  
Making stuff is always fun, but making lots of stuff is even more fun, but it can make you very nervous.
Readers, how do you think I did? If you want to try it, here's the link to the text editor that will tell you when you went outside of the list.

Process Wednesday: ball mills

Inspired by Jyllian Kemsley's article on mechanochemistry, I decided to take a look at the august pages of Organic Process Research and Development to see if there are any examples of it on industrial scale. From mentor-by-literature Neal Anderson [1] in a review on continuous processing:
Mechanochemistry has been used for the solvent-free preparation of BH3 for the semiconductor industry. Such ultrahigh-intensity grinding can lead to internal temperatures above 500 °C, and vibratory ball mills were used for the solvent-free preparation of calixarenes.
Planetary Micro Mill model
“Pulverisette 7” (classic line)
(Fritsch GmbH)
Here's an example of a Sukuzi reaction being run in a ball mill by Schneider et al. [2]:
KF-Al2O3 (5 g, 32 wt % of KF), 4-bromoacetophenone (2, 5 mmol, 1.106 g), phenylboronic acid (1, 6.19 mmol, 0.755 g), Pd(OAc)2 (0.18 mmol, 3.56 mol % 0.04 g) were added to the grinding beaker (volume: 45 mL) together with an adequate number of milling balls and placed inside the Planetary Micro Mill model “Pulverisette 7” (Fritsch GmbH). Another grinding beaker filled with a similar batch was mounted on the opposite position of the rotating disc. The mixtures were subsequently milled with the respective rpm and time. The crude product was immediately extracted with 2 mL of deionized water and 3 mL of ethyl acetate.
From their conclusions:
When carrying out the Suzuki-Miyaura reaction with high rpm at adequate reaction times and grinding material one can obtain quantitative yields. The following order of the investigated parameters regarding their positive influence on the formation of 3 [CJ: the Suzuki product] can be derived : rpm > milling time > size of milling balls > number of milling balls > grinding material.
So it doesn't appear that there are any examples on kilogram-scale as of yet that I've found -- I'm sure I'll find an example soon enough!

[1] Anderson, N.G. "Practical Use of Continuous Processing in Developing and Scaling Up Laboratory Processes." Org. Process Res. Dev., 2001, 613–621.

[2] Schneider, F.; Stolle, A.; Ondruschka, B.; Hopf, H. "The Suzuki−Miyaura Reaction under Mechanochemical Conditions." Org. Process Res. Dev.,  2009, 13, 44–48.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Payroll taxes kick in -- ugh

So the shakeout from the fiscal cliff hits first today for me, with my first paycheck of 2013. You'll have to trust me when I say that it's 2.9% lower; I can't quite figure where the difference is, but it's mostly under the Social Security line item on my paystub, because the payroll tax cut has expired:
Workers’ share of the Social Security payroll tax, which had been temporarily cut from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for two years, was immediately snapping back to the higher level. 
The result is smaller paychecks for all wage earners, with the country’s economic recovery still sluggish and unemployment stubbornly high. A worker making $50,000 in 2013 will take home $38.46 less per two-week paycheck, or $1,000 per year.
A look back tells me that I didn't expect the payroll tax cut to be extended, and I was wrong. Well, I guess my payments to my bookie will be a little lower this month. (kidding kidding)  Here's hoping that the extra money is going straight into some pharma retiree's pocket for a job well done.

Martin Mackay out at AZ

Reader question: where I can put my old data?

A longtime reader writes in with an interesting question:
I recently took advantage of a slow period at work to scan my part II thesis (from [CJ edit: the 80's]) and my Ph.D. thesis (from [CJ edit: the late 80s]). Both of them (and in particular my Ph.D.) contain unpublished results that may none the less be useful to someone (particularly if they are investigating [CJ edit: synthesis of a unique alkaloid], which does seem to crop up in the literature from time to time), if only to save them from repeating the same experiments. 
So my question is, do you know of a suitable place on-line to deposit such information?
I frankly have no idea, although I note that there is no chemistry Arxiv. Readers, a little help?

UPDATE: There are indeed chemistry papers on arXiv -- I thought so! Thanks, anon!

UPDATE 2: Rich Apodaca suggests 

Daily Pump Trap: 1/15/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 10 and January 15, there were 79 new positions posted on C&EN Jobs. Of these, 14 (17%) are academically connected and 57 (72%) are from Kelly Scientific Resources.

Sigh: These mornings without much to report from C&EN Jobs are pretty frustrating.

You again: Seattle Genetics is looking, yet again, for a senior process chemist. Someone, help these people out!

Grrr: Vertex is looking for a temporary Ph.D. chemist (research scientist) at its San Diego facility. And of course, it's saying it's unpaid. FWIW, I believe this is an error. An embarrassing error, but an error nonetheless. (Look, Vertex, please don't make me wrong.)

Who are they looking for at Bayer, Ferro and Aceto?: Bayer shows 3 positions for the search term "chemist." Ferro doesn't appear to have a "job listings" page. Aceto shows 2 sales positions that require a chemistry background. (Just as a reminder, I'm picking companies based on their position in the top and bottom of Chemical Week's "CW75 Stock Index." I'll have to get a pharma list as well.) 

Ivory Filter Flask: 1/15/13 edition

Good morning! Between January 8 and January 14, there were 16 academic positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. The numbers:

Total number of ads: 16
- Postdocs: 2
- Tenure-track faculty:  10
- Temporary faculty: 3
- Lecturer positions:  1
- Staff positions:  0
- US/non-US: 11/5

Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University desires an assistant professor of experimental physical chemistry.

Oneonta, NY: Hartwick College is looking for a visiting assistant professor; looks like they want someone to teach analytical chemistry in September 2013.

San Antonio, TX: Trinity University is looking for a visiting assistant professor of biochemistry.

Palo Alto, CA: Stanford's Material Science and Engineering department is looking for an assistant professor.

Small college of the Week: Fontbonne University (home of the Griffins, student population: 3,120, SA-LUTE!) is looking for a tenure-track professor of organic chemistry. Responsibilities include: "teaching 200-level courses in organic chemistry for Biology and Dietetics students, oversight of the General Chemistry course, oversight of undergraduate research projects, and student advising." Sounds like a good time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

BLS: 2012 chemist unemployment was 5.5%, down 0.6% from 2011

So there it is, folks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (via The Wall Street Journal)  is reporting that "chemist and material scientist" unemployment is down 0.6% to 5.5% for 2012. If case anyone is interested, here's the last six years of data:

2012: 5.5%
2011: 6.1%
2010: 3.1%
2009: 4.5%
2008: 2.4%
2007: 1.3%

I don't really buy the individual number (these numbers come from the Current Population Survey, which samples ~80,000 households. The number of chemists in these households? Not high.) But the trend is believable. The ACS member unemployment number basically shows a similar pattern, with unemployment in March 2012 falling to 4.2% from March 2011's 4.6%. We still have a ways to go.

Best wishes to all of us.