Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bleg: reactions that show conservation of mass?

I was talking with a middle school teacher that is looking for a reaction that is more interesting than "vinegar plus baking soda" that demonstrates conservation of mass in an interesting fashion. So, we're looking for:
  • A synthetic reaction that demonstrates conservation of mass (yes, they all do.)
  • This will be done in a school, so the ingredients need to be readily available (purchased at a supermarket, not at a lab supply house.)
  • The ingredients need to be relatively non-toxic.
  • Color changes, physical property changes would be better.
  • Can be a demo, doesn't need to have students doing all of them.
Any ideas? Thanks in advance. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Process Wednesday: the dos and don'ts of scale-up

Credit: Dr. Clemens Brechtelsbauer
But hot filtrations are fun! (No, they're not.)

(Found via a random Googling of "minimum stir volume" a good list of "dos and don'ts" for scale-up included in a presentation by Dr. Clemens Bretchelsbauer of Imperial College, London. The list is credited to F.X. McConville, the author of the strongly recommended "The Pilot Plant Real Book.")

Internship opportunity: MedImmune, Gaithersburg, MD

From the inbox:
There are a number of bioorthogonal reactions which remain unexplored in the area of Antibody-Drug Conjugates. Studying a panel of unnatural amino acids will expand our understanding of the structure-activity-relationship (SAR) of these amino acids and their corresponding tRNA synthetase, thereby expanding MedImmune’s capabilities to design the next generation of ADCs or other protein conjugates.

The summer intern will synthesize and purify a library unnatural amino acids and fully characterize them by LC-MS, 1H NMR, and 13C NMR. These amino acids will then be analyzed for their incorporation efficiency during protein expression using a high throughput method developed at MedImmune.

At the end of the internship, the student will prepare and present a poster at the intern science fair. In addition, the student will present his/her research during our group meeting.

This paid internship is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Preferably, the student would have some experience in synthetic chemistry beyond O-Chem lab. 
Interested? E-mail thompsonpam-at-medimmune/dot/com (note spam-proofing)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Now that's #altchemjobs: E-4 radiology specialist

Fascinating post from a B.S. chemistry graduate on the Chemistry Reddit:
So here's what I did. I was in a similar situation as you. I got to my junior and senior years of college, and realized that I should have majored in education. I didn't want to teach English or anything like that. I had started tutoring and helping others with chemistry, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. So I realized that I wanted to teach chemistry. But at that point, I didn't really want to go on for a Masters or PhD immediately; I was tired of school and studying. Also, my GPA was nowhere near competitive enough to get into a decent graduate program. I had worked too much throughout my college career and slacked off too much as an underclassman to make it up in time. 
So what to do. I know this isn't for everyone, but I joined the Army. I was initially going to commission as an officer in the Navy, but as I say, not a competitive GPA, among other things. So I enlisted in the Army as a Radiology Specialist. Since I had my bachelors, I was able to join as an E4; I didn't have to start at the bottom. My chemistry degree gave me a leg up in understanding the physics, chemistry and biology in the training for my job, and that part was all a breeze. Now I'm at my first duty station, and I've got a national registry in Radiography, which not all military techs bother getting. 
Here's the part that made me type all of this out for you. I'm stationed in Washington, and the hospital I work at has us working a Panama schedule, twelve hours at a time. It's a rotating two on, two off kind of schedule, so I have various weekdays off each week. Somebody mentioned to me, when they found out that I wanted to be a teacher, that all Washington requires for its Emergency Substitute Teachers, is that they have a bachelors degree (doesn't matter what field) and pass a background check. So that's what I did. Being military and having a chemistry degree, the people at the school district were very excited to have me, and the interview was a breeze. I got the job no problem, and I can teach whenever I want. I'm always getting calls for schools needing substitutes.
I suspect that this person will have a far more varied, interesting life than most chemistry graduates, They've certainly shown a lot of adaptability.

(Enlisting! Man, is a B.S. in chemistry what it takes to get to E-4? What kind of rating would they give a Ph.D. who wanted to enlist?)

(I'd hope that'd rate E-5 at least? (not a chance, I'll bet.))

Monday, April 27, 2015

Why do plants flare, anyway?

Also in this week's letters to the editor, an interesting question: 
Wasted Potential Energy 
In the article “Environmental Protection Agency, Refiners Clash Over Hazardous Air Pollution,” I took particular note of the following sentence: EPA “would also strengthen operational requirements for flaring, the process of burning off and destroying excess hydrocarbon gases” (C&EN, Jan. 26, page 27). 
Why does anyone flare anything anymore? These hydrocarbon gases could be used as raw materials in refinery processes. At the very least, they could be burned to produce energy for processes within the refinery instead of wasting the energy by releasing it into the air. What am I missing? 
Allen Hoffman
New York City
I would also really like to know the answer to this question. (I presume the cost of capturing the gas is more expensive than the cost of flaring, but I dunno.)  

This week's C&EN

Interesting bits from this week's C&EN:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Food service, yes. Door-to-door, no.

From The Atlantic, a rather horrifying story by Darlene Cunha:
...Over a cup of coffee, she introduced herself as Tysharia Young and tried to do what she’d come to do: sell me overpriced magazine subscriptions. It was not the first time someone had knocked on my door for this purpose, and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last. Gainesville has had such issues with magazine sellers that our local police department recently issued a public warning. 
Young came armed with an official certificate stating her company’s mission. According to the paper, Certified Management Incorporated was dedicated to helping youth and other troubled souls get off the streets by giving them the opportunity to sell subscriptions door-to-door for points while the company provided room, board, and food. The workers get placed on “crews”—teams of four to 12 people—and travel across the country, canvassing neighborhoods. At each door, they tell residents their personal stories—which generally include a litany of poverty-driven hardships and the need to support a family—and then try to sell them magazine subscriptions for a staggering $75 to $150 apiece. After a week or two, the crew moves on to another city. 
But Young was hundreds of miles from home, and she worried that if she failed to deliver, she wouldn’t earn enough to make it back to her kids. “If you sell too low or you’re a troublemaker, they’ll leave you,” she said. “And I ain’t got nothing.” 
Young is one of tens of thousands of people working for door-to-door magazine crews, and the fear of being left behind is nearly universal. 
I had a college friend who sold encyclopedias for a summer; he made it back and I didn't hear any horror stories. But I'd hate to have one of my kids abandoned in the middle of nowhere, as seems to happen to some of these kids.

I worked food service for a little bit, but I never did any door-to-door sales. I don't think the majority of door-to-door is for charlatans like Certified Management International, but I presume that it's still soul-crushing to try to work through hundreds of rejections and literal slammed doors.

Readers, any stories of door-to-door sales? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chemical safety updates: Daniel Powell charges dropped, David Snyder ordered to pay restitution

From C&EN's Jyllian Kemsley, a couple of items of interest. First, the story of Daniel Powell, the Colorado teacher charged with assault after injuring a student during a methanol/flame demonstration. The charges have been dropped: 
Last fall, a Denver teacher, Daniel Powell, was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault after a classroom fire seriously burned a student. Powell had lit a small pool of methanol to demonstrate its flame properties, then tried to add more methanol from a 4 L container, Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board investigators said in September. The fire flashed back into the container, then jetted out to hit the student in the chest. Other students sitting nearby were also injured. 
The charges against Powell have been dropped, says Lynn Kimbrough, communications director for the Denver District Attorney‘s Office. “As the case moved forward, further review of the facts led the prosecutor to the conclusion that we did not a reasonable likelihood of conviction – and once that conclusion was reached we had an ethical obligation to dismiss the case,” Kimbrough says...
If the CSB account is indeed accurate, then this at least the fourth incident (the Calais Weber case, the Alonzo Yanes case (pdf), the Reno case) where it was the decision of the demonstrator to:
  • add methanol 
  • from a larger container 
  • to an already lit flame
that caused the injuries. Not especially surprising, but still worth noting. 

It is interesting to see that the charges were dropped - I wonder why? 

Also from Jyllian Kemsley, the David Snyder case (where a Ph.D. synthetic chemist was synthesizing explosives in his apartment and then injured himself) has concluded with restitution payments to the apartment owners: 
Former University of California, Davis, chemist David S. Snyder must pay nearly $100,000 in restitution to the university and a property management company as a result of a 2013 incident in his campus apartment. 
The restitution deal concludes legal proceedings against Snyder that involved 17 felony charges, including possession of explosives and firearms and reckless disposal of hazardous waste. He pleaded no contest to the charges last year and was sentenced to two years and two months in county jail plus two years and two months out of jail under supervision by the county probation department....
I still don't know what he was doing. Not buying his lawyer's story about removing nitrates from water. 

Any advice for someone who has a layoff non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement?

I have a friend who has been laid off -- they'd like to know more about non-disclosure agreements and the non-disparagement clauses of severance packages. Readers, any advice? 

Not quite on topic, but a funny-but-no-so-funny story found while searching on this topic:
A great example of the enforceability of settlement agreements that contain confidentiality agreements is the Gulliver Schools1 case out of Florida. There, Patrick Snay, the former headmaster of a private school, brought a claim for age discrimination. The case settled, and Snay was to be paid $80,000. However, the settlement agreement included a confidentiality agreement. Before he received his settlement proceeds, Snay breached the confidentiality clause of the settlement agreement by informing his daughter that he had settled with the school. And how do we know that? 
Well, Snay’s daughter was kind enough to post a snarky comment about the school on Facebook (which included a reference to Gulliver Schools paying for her trip to Europe and the parting shot: “Suck it.”) When the school learned of the Facebook posting, it refused to pay. Although the trial court had ruled in favor of Snay (who had brought a motion to enforce), the Florida Court of Appeals agreed with the school and reversed. The Florida appellate court found that the bottom line was that the confidentiality clause was clear and unambiguous, it was breached, and disgorgement was the articulated remedy. So goodbye $80,000. 
So I guess Gulliver Schools did suck it, sucking back the nice sum of $80,000.
That's an interesting aspect of non-disclosure agreements - no family.  

Daily Pump Trap: 4/23/15 edition

A few of the recent positions posted on C&EN Jobs:

Santa Fe, NM: This "Director of Global Scientific Support" position at OpenEye is very interesting - it's like a combination of computational chemist and customer service. Ph.D., 3 years with customer-facing work desired.

Santa Rosa, CA: Thermochem is looking for a B.S. chemist to do HPLC and IC work.

Bakersville, NC: Unimin is a mining company (not unknown around here); they're looking for a B.S. chemist to be a research scientist, 5+ years experience desired.

Zeroes!: Chattem Chemicals is looking for a M.S. synthetic chemist, 0-2 years experience.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) "1000+", 1359, 9248 and 19 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 562 positions for the job title "chemist", with 84 positions for "analytical chemist", 23 for "research chemist", 5 for "organic chemist", 3 for "synthetic chemist" and 1 for "medicinal chemist."

Huh, did not know that: Via Indeed, did not know that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission hired chemists. Not a terrible salary, looks like. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Runaway stirplates?

Thanks to a note on the listserv of the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety, I am made aware of certain models of hotplate/stirrer that seem to turn on by themselves and overheat. Here's a bulletin from the Division of Research Safety at UIUC:
Over the past ten years there have been multiple incidents of hotplates spontaneously heating in the OFF position leading to fires and explosions. Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, the University of California, University of Pennsylvania, MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, and Northwestern University have issued safety warnings due to incidents on their campuses related to hotplate malfunction. Hotplates purchased prior to 1984 do not have temperature feedback controls. In particular, the models Corning PC-35 and PC-351 and the Thermolyne Model SP46925 are inherently unsafe by their design. Such older models can spontaneously heat with the heater dial in the OFF position. Other hotplates with reported malfunctions include Corning models PC-200, PC-220 and PC 420 as well as Fisher Isotemp.
This is the first I've heard of it, although I'm not especially surprised. (Here's a poster from Northwestern and a comment from Oak Ridge National Labs.)

Anyone else hear about this? I presume that IKA stirplates don't have this issue, but I dunno.

UPDATE: Nope, Anon1226p in the comments has a picture of an IKA stirplate burnt up because of this issue as well. 

n-Hexane, benzene, still troublesome in China

An interesting, sad Wired article about Chinese occupational exposure to industrial solvent and the difficulty surrounding getting health care after the injury from the exposure:
THEY CALLED IT “banana oil.” Long Li didn't ask what was in it. All she knew was that she was supposed to use it to clean cell phone screens, hundreds of them every hour. Fumes filled the air in the windowless room where she worked, in a three-story factory outside the southeastern China city of Dongguan. 
Long, the 18-year-old daughter of peasant farmers from Guizhou, was supposed to dip her rubber-gloved right index finger into the oil and then rub each screen for 10 to 20 seconds. The company—Fangtai Huawei Electronic Technology—gave Long and her coworkers paper masks, but they rarely used them. They were too hot, and anyway the women who worked there often exhaled onto the screens because the condensed moisture from their breath made cleaning easier. Long worked from 8 am until 11 pm, and as late as 4 am in the busy season. 
...But if working conditions were improving at Chinese factories, Long did not see it. Soon after she began working at Fangtai Huawei, her fingertips started tingling. After a few months, her feet and hands were numb. Long couldn't hold the screens properly. Her coworkers started getting sick too—Zi Renchun, a 25-year-old from Yunnan province, lost her appetite. Shang Jiaojiao, who had begun working at age 14, had joint pain and eventually could barely lift herself out of bed. By summer, some of the workers were collapsing. 
In mid-July, Long found herself unable to move her legs. “I was just lying on my bed all day and needed help to eat,” she says. Long ended up in a hospital in Guangzhou with more than 30 other Fangtai Huawei workers. Doctors found they'd been exposed to n-hexane, presumably in the “banana oil.” It's an industrial solvent that causes neurological damage at just 50 parts per million. Workers using it are supposed to wear respirators and operate in a ventilated area. As treatment, Long endured daily injections—she says they “hurt more than anything else in the world.” We interviewed her in a hotel a few blocks from the hospital; officials there wouldn't answer our questions or allow us to see her on the premises. Long still tries to stay cheerful. “When I cry,” she says, “I cry secretly.”
Another one that I'm rather horrified by, from the same article:
In 2007, when he was 20 years old, Ming Kunpeng began working at a factory then owned by Dutch company ASM International—a leading manufacturer of assembly equipment for computer chips, phones, and tablets. For two years, Ming cleaned motherboards with chemicals including benzene, a sweet-smelling and particularly effective industrial solvent and degreaser. It is also a carcinogen. Where people still use it, the International Labour Organization recommends wearing helmets with a face piece blowing clean air and gloves made of Viton, an expensive heat- and chemical-resistant fluoroelastomer. Ming Kunpeng says he was given only masks and standard gloves. 
In 2009 he was diagnosed with leukemia from benzene exposure, according to medical records. But as recently as 2013, changes to China's health care system continued to make health care untenable for him—and many others with work-related problems. When the family asked ASM for compensation, the company refused to pay, disputing the cause.  
A good reminder that chronic solvent exposure is bad (if you needed a reminder) and why the regulatory state (despite all of its many, many faults) manages to keep us from getting leukemia and other neurological damages.

(Is it really necessary to hand-clean screens and motherboards with industrial solvent? Surely there's a better way?)

UPDATE: DoD comments, and I reclarify what I meant above. (added "hand", which is what I was really getting at.) 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tears, followed by laughter, followed by tears

Via a friend of the blog, a funny LinkedIn ad. 

Ask CJ: Should I write a letter about my former advisor to the department?

From the inbox, an interesting question from "JGN" (this comment has been redacted for privacy and edited for clarity): 
I'm an [chemistry] graduate student working for a [prominent chemist]. Due to many [administrative problems] and me not seeing eye-to-eye with my advisor for a myriad of reasons, I've been fortunate enough to "leave with a Masters" and to gain entrance into another PhD program elsewhere. 
My question to you is this: 
Is it wise or a good idea for me to send a grievance to HR, [the university administration], and the chemistry department faculty a list of transgressions my advisor has committed after I have left? My advisor is toxic, corrosive and vindictive. I would have done this sooner, but I had heard stories of people attempting this in the past and no justice was served. 
This letter I doubt would help me in any way (in fact it may hurt), but I feel as though this man is getting away with years of abuse and no one is willing to do anything about it.
My thought process is that a letter addressed to other faculty in the department wouldn't do much to harm Professor Z's standing at your department or your university. This is exactly the sort of thing that professors have been great at ignoring (and let's be frank, it's not like this would get dealt with significantly better in industrial settings.) I think that it is best for you to move on and let your silence speak.

But my advice leans towards the exceedingly small-c conservative.

Readers, can you think of an instance where a graduate student has been truly wronged, they've publicly complained and then gotten a desired outcome (whether it's restoration for them, or a rebuke for the professor)? The last time we talked about this, there didn't seem to be a lot of examples. Any more?

UPDATE: As I hoped, chemistry professor (and associate dean) Chris Cramer has some good thoughts. 

Job posting: experienced computational chemist, AstraZeneca, Waltham, MA

From the inbox: 
We are currently recruiting a highly qualified computational chemist who will be joining our fast-pace multidisciplinary oncology team. The successful candidate will support project teams from target identification through lead optimization. The candidate is expected to have a degree of independence and proven record of excellence in a number of computational chemistry and cheminformatics techniques to assist in the identification and advancement of small-molecule drug discovery programmes. The qualified candidate will be creative, detail-oriented and a problem solver able to work collaboratively with a passion for drug discovery. 
The candidate will work closely with chemists and project teams to design compounds with improved potency, selectivity, functional activity and/or ADME properties. The work will include helping project teams analyse, interpret, and visualize biological data, and communicate these results. Additional responsibilities may involve using modeling and bioinformatics tools to provide druggability assessment for novel target classes, predicting novel druggable sites for known target classes, or mining databases for chemical starting points. The candidate will be expected to plan, write and publish high quality scientific papers with original results. 
* A PhD (or equivalent experience) in computational chemistry, biophysics, or a related field, and 5 years industry experience
* Sound understanding of physical and medicinal chemistry concepts and demonstrated success in addressing medicinal chemistry design challenges
* Experience in structure-based drug design (e.g., docking and scoring, virtual screening, library design, homology modeling)
* Familiarity with chemoinformatics and bioinformatics tools for database similarity searching, pharmacophore modeling, QSAR modeling, and identification and analysis of protein binding sites
* Experience with in silico predictive methods for the improvement of physico-chemical and ADMET characteristics
* Strong programming/scripting capability (e.g., python, perl, OEChem toolkit, C++) is desirable
* Excellent written and oral communication skills and the ability to communicate complex information clearly
* Ability to work effectively within collaborative, multi-disciplinary teams
Link here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

David Harwell and the STEM panel: no hope

From a random clicking around, I happened upon one of my old bugaboos, Bayer MaterialScience, and a YouTube of flogging of the "STEM crisis" in a December 2013 panel. If you'd like to listen to it, there's over 90 minutes of self-congratulatory hogwash from a variety of people who claim that there is a vast shortage of STEM workers. I was pretty irritated at it, but then I heard this exchange from Dr. David Harwell, an American Chemical Society staff member, asking the panel a pretty darn good question (starts at 1:21:17 on the video): 
David Harwell, American Chemical Society: Thanks for the conversation, it's been great. I'm David Harwell, from the American Chemical Society. It's National Chemistry Week, so yay! 
Our unemployment rate in chemistry is 3.5% - that's good, until I look at new graduates. So new graduates, new bachelor's in chemistry are over 16% unemployment, new PhDs, 9%. 
So I'm not so worried about those more experienced people -- we've been able to place them. What I can't place are the new grads because I think that we overshot, there's this miscommunication that you've been talking about, where people have been encouraged and there's uh, for these students, or students that can't find a job, they feel that there's a broken covenant. Often times when I'm counseling them, they're saying "You told me" -- I didn't tell them anything -- but somewhere along the way, somebody promised them, "Get a degree in STEM and you'll be taken care of." And so they end up going for their master's or their Ph.D. because they can't get a job and at least they'll get paid in grad school in chemistry. That's the good thing about chemistry. 
So how do we, how can we address this - you have two lost boys, I have 6,000 lost students. How do we address their needs, can we get them back into the workforce somehow? Is there demand for them, or is it only at the manufacturing level?  
Laurel Rutledge, VP for Human Resources at Bayer MaterialScience: (laughter) I'm like, you know, chemists, you know seriously, I'm thinking about some retirements that we've had and some very serious changes in our workforce and Bayer is a company that's 150 years old, 150 years of making science make sense, that's Bayer. And so, we have, and it's a place that people don't leave. They come to Bayer and they retire from Bayer. What means is that if you look at the way the generational curve is happening, we are approaching a point in time where we are going to have more people retiring as fast as we need them. So, I'm not sure what's happening everywhere else, but we are looking for people daily. Daily. Entry as well as experienced, bachelor's, 2 year degrees, master's degrees, Ph.D.s, we want 'em. We want 'em.  
Nicole Smith, Research Professor and Senior Economist: And you know, it's not much consolation to tell them, well, your 16% is much lower than the 27% for some other degrees. But, what I would say is that you need to extend your search. All chemistry majors don't have to become chemists and first evaluate what your competencies are, sit down and you can go to the end O*NET site, discover what your knowledge, skills and abilities are, what your interests are and look outside of that. 40% of jobs require STEM competencies today that are not your traditional chemist, mathematician, actuary job. They're way beyond that, so just broaden that set and you can have a lot of opportunities outside of the chemist occupation. 
I've heard Dr. Harwell talk a few times, but I don't think I've ever heard him grok the #chemjobs problem for younger chemists as well as he does here. "Broken covenant" is a great way to put it. And the answers that he gets are appalling -- the VP for Human Resources basically tells him that, from where she sits, he's wrong, and the economist basically tells him to tell students to look elsewhere (gee, no kidding.)

I don't know what kind of long game the STEM shortage myth makers are playing, but it is clear that (much like many of us) when they are confronted with contrary evidence, they dismiss it pretty easily.  

This week's C&EN

Lots of interesting tidbits in this week's C&EN:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Science nightmares

It's been a long week of late nights and late consultations at work.

Last night, I dreamed that I was up for my doctoral thesis defense and I couldn't find the presentation room, didn't have a presentation and I was pretty sure that I didn't have my Powerpoint slides. It has been quite a number of years (5+) since I somehow managed to squeak by successfully defended my thesis, so that was interesting. 

It has been the only time in my life where I have woken up from a dream and realized, "I need to blog about this." 

I also remember a time in graduate school where I dreamed my advisor looked at me and said "[CJ], I don't think you're Ph.D. material." Considering that he was always supportive of me (and continues to be), it was obviously my subconscious feelings of inadequacy at work. 

Readers, what have been your dreams about science been about? 

More coming, but have a great weekend! 

Job posting: experienced Ph.D. medicinal chemist, Seattle, WA

The candidate is expected to utilize cutting-edge chemistry techniques to design and synthesize novel peptide conjugates, as well as the characterization of the physiochemical properties of both free and conjugated Optides. The position requires a strong background in protein chemistry, bioconjugation and analytical techniques. The chemistry will include highly potent/toxic chemotherapeutic agents and incorporation of radiolabeled tracers. Key goals are to design and execute on the synthesis of highly potent chemotherapeutic PDCs, develop novel means of improving pharmacokinetic properties while maintaining efficacy, and establish critical acceptance criteria for development and progression of optimized PDCs. The position will require contribution with a high degree of independence as a senior member as well as mentorship of junior team members. The candidate will act as the medicinal chemistry expert on a multidisciplinary team to develop effective anti-cancer therapeutics. 
To be considered the successful candidate must have:
A PhD in chemistry or related field with 8+ years of post-graduate research experience
Expertise in the synthesis of highly potent chemotherapeutic compounds.  Experience with conjugation techniques is highly desired
Experience with medical chemistry optimization of therapeutic candidates is desired
Training/experience in the use of radioactivity
Experience with solid phase and/or peptide/peptidomimetic chemistry techniques is highly desired
Well-organized with strong attention to detail
Best wishes to those interested. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

C&EN request for stories of infertility

From the inbox:
Nobody likes to talk about infertility, but it’s a growing problem, especially among busy professionals who are putting off starting a family to start their careers. Once they start down the path of infertility treatments, however, it can be financially draining and take an emotional toll.

C&EN senior editor Linda Wang is looking for chemists (both male and female) willing to share their experiences with infertility and what impact it’s had on their lives and careers. Sources may choose to remain anonymous. E-mail Linda at if you are willing to contribute to the conversation.
Note e-mail address has been spam-proofed.  

The most brutally honest sentence I read today

I've been reading Daniel Drezner (professor of international political economy at Tufts) for a very long time. This was a very interesting statement on his part:
The first is that if your goal is to become a professor and you are not accepted with a scholarship into a top-20 political science program, I would not in good conscience recommend that you get a PhD.
Most of the professoriate in international relations comes from the elite schools. Whether this is because these schools function as a prestige cartel or not is immaterial: the reason will not change the current realities. The academic job market is brutal; getting an academic job without a degree from a top-20 institution is even more brutal.
I applaud him for his honesty.

(The whole article is good, and a reflection of what I should be doing here more often.) 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tom Connelly to C&EN readers: meet ACS' new girlfriend, hotter than ACS' old girlfriend

This was an interesting portion of new ACS executive director Tom Connelly's "Hello, nice to meet you!" column in this week's C&EN
...Like our profession, there are aspects of our society that also require examination. We need to continue to strengthen our service to members, while recognizing that their needs are changing. Our membership must reflect the full scope of the practice of chemistry. Our industrial membership has been drifting down recently. It is important to understand this tendency at its root causes and to reverse it. We need to update our value proposition for chemists and engineers in industry, and for their employers. 
We cannot ignore the fact that we are operating in a challenging job market and also that more and more of the world’s chemists are practicing outside the U.S. and the other developed countries. Increasingly, our journal authors are in developing countries. More than half of CAS revenues originate outside the U.S. These new realities must be reflected in all aspects of our society.
Regarding the "root causes", Occam's Razor suggests that the loss of industrial members might have something to do with the Great Recession and the recent historically high unemployment of ACS members.

(Occam's Dull Spoon suggests that we need another ACS Presidential Commission to determine what happened to those industrial members - perhaps they were abducted by aliens or decided that forced early retirement at 51 with 10 years left on a mortgage and 3 kids needing to go to college was a great way to start one's golden years.)

Dr. Connelly's apparent nonchalance at "the challenging job market" (where? I wonder) and immediate pivoting to the rest of the world suggests to me that the American Chemical Society is becoming an International Chemical Society that has an unusually high number of paying American members. If so, I suspect that these new realities will include a further drop in American dues-paying members.

Time to get a new ghostwriter! 

Job posting: Sr. Research Scientist II, Analytical Development, Gilead , Edmonton, AB

From the inbox, another worthwhile Canadian position: 
Position Description: Gilead in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is seeking an experienced and knowledgeable professional to assume the position of Sr. Research Scientist II in Gilead Alberta’s Analytical Development department.  
Essential Duties and Job Functions: 
- Responsible for directing and executing scientific research for the development of drug candidates or the research support of marketed drugs.
- Investigates the feasibility of applying advanced principles and techniques of related scientific specialty to products and problems.
- Advances the development of state-of-the-art techniques to characterize substances, assays and tools.
- Plans, designs, implements and analyses laboratory experimentation to advance scientific knowledge of drug substances or drug products.
- Directs Research Associates or members of project teams in the initiation and execution of laboratory experimentation, considering economic, regulatory and safety factors.
- Works on a wide range of problems where analysis of situations or data requires evaluation of intangible variables, requiring regular use of ingenuity and creativity.
- May act as a spokesperson, internal consultant, or advisor to top management on corporate research and development direction.
- Maintains in-depth knowledge of principles and theories, applying such knowledge to the direction that supports Company interests.
- Demonstrates technical proficiency, scientific creativity, collaboration with others and independent thought in suggesting experimental design and research strategy.
- Must think critically and creatively and be able to work independently, determine appropriate resources for resolution of problems and have strong organizational and planning skills.
- Excellent scientific communication skills (both verbal and technical) and interpersonal skills are required.  
Knowledge, Experience and Skills: 
- 12+ years of industrial experience and PhD in Chemistry.
- BS or MS degree with extensive industry experience.
- Aptitude to make significant contributions within specialty and sustained strong performance and accomplishments that align to company goals.
Job code 21448. Interested? Contact Mark Yedor at

Job posting: M.S./Ph.D. synthetic chemists desired, Montreal, Canada

From the inbox, an astute reader passing along an ad:
NuChem Therapeutics is looking for MSc or PhD chemists (preferably with experience) to join our team in drug discovery and custom synthesis. Please contact me at or at 5/1/4-2/8/3-1/9/2/0. 
Best wishes to those interested. (I've spam-proofed the phone number and removed the "@" from the e-mail, but other than that, it's the same. 

Teleconference blues

The ACS Network is slowly building its variety of bloggers on its Industry Voices site. One of the more interesting bloggers is Quan Zhou, who is working in life sciences in Shanghai. This post of his about teleconferences (TCs) is quite good, I thought:
...Obviously, the difference between a late night TCs and normal TCs is when it is held.  Recently, I have been working on a global project that involves four different sites located in Cambridge UK, San Diego US, Boston US and Shanghai China, respectively. On projects like these, it is impossible to find a perfect time to hold regular TCs for all four sites. In this case our teleconference was finally scheduled for 3pm in UK, which is 7am in San Diego, 10am in Boston and 11pm in Shanghai. It is slightly painful, although not impossible to adjust for the awkward time - by turning your alarm clock 2 hours ahead if you are in San Diego or staying up 2 more hours if you are in Shanghai like me, you can make it work.

When planning these types of TCs it is even more important to carefully select the participants that you need to include on the call. The odd hours make it even more of an inconvenience for those colleagues who are asked to attend but are not critical to the issue being discussed.  Onetime we had a TC discussing a primarily chemistry related project. At the end of the TC, it was almost 12pm for the biologist who had been asked to attend.  He did not have much input for this particular meeting and finally exclaimed, “You chemists could have had this meeting without me.”
Read the whole thing. It's good, and a good perspective on teleconferences and one that's not often heard. 

Want to do a survey on your career path in science?

From the inbox, a survey:
While the number of PhDs conferred in the U.S. has increased over the past several decades, the number of tenure-track faculty positions has remained flat. Recent studies have illuminated the change in career decisions of some PhDs over time, but none has described or visualized a career map detailing where recent PhDs are currently employed.

The study “Identifying Career Pathways for PhDs in Science” will endeavor to accomplish this visual representation by collecting current employment data from PhDs who have studied, worked, or trained in the U.S. and received a doctorate in the last ten years. The study author and administrator is Melanie Sinche, Senior Research Associate in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

If you have received a PhD in any of the physical, life, engineering, computational, or social sciences between 2004 and 2014 from any institution worldwide and have ever studied, worked, or trained in the United States, you are invited to participate in a survey study by completing the online survey below.

The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and includes questions about career interests, activities, current employment, and motivations for choosing your career. At the end of the survey, you will be invited to participate in a drawing for one of five (5) $100 gift cards to Responses to this optional drawing will not be linked in any way to the Career Pathways survey.

The survey can be found at
Seems like a good idea to participate.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

The most incorrect article you will read this week on undergraduate chemical education

Chemistry Departments Try to Attract More Students by Retooling the Major 
Universities begin to overhaul traditional curricula in science field that some worry is churning out too few graduates for nation’s needs 
Forget economics. Chemistry might be the real dismal science. 
Undergraduate programs have been characterized for decades by rigid, yearlong sequences of organic, physical and biochemistry classes that emphasized rote memorization and taught about reactions in isolation. They left little room to pursue side passions—and attracted worrisomely few students, policy makers say. 
As business and biology majors get a reboot, chemistry professors find themselves waging a fierce battle to appeal to undergraduates who might want a scientific grounding to pursue careers in forensics, molecular gastronomy or politics, but who are turned off by the degree’s onerous demands...
I think it's rather interesting to note that the number of chemistry graduates is actually up, according to the NSF's most recent data, from 10,388 in 2000 to 12,888 in 2011.* **

The article goes on to suggest that goes on to suggest that the American Chemical Society is an industry group (it's not - it's a non-profit professional society), that medicinal chemistry is useful to attending medical school (nope, not really), and that Emory University didn't tell its students what "bonds" do until their sophomore year. It suggests that chemotherapy and nuclear chemistry are related (uh, sort of, not really?) and that the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University are teaching their students something called "three-step synthesis." What the heck is that?

A couple of other random questions: who interviews for Ph.D. admissions to organic chemistry programs these days? There can't be very many schools that have instituted this. Who are the policy makers who believe that there are a shortage of chemistry majors? I want to know this, so I can egg their homes tell them they're wrong. Which one of you has been through rote memorization for physical chemistry? That's a really dumb approach, so dumb that I doubt anyone actually does it.

Finally, I would really, really, really like to know this: who is responsible for this mess of an article? There are many good articles to be had about innovative approaches to chemical education - this is not one of them.

*link to NSF SEI Excel spreadsheet here.
** Also, holding fire on the headline and subhed, because reporter may not be responsible for them.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Job posting: synthetic organic chemist, Google, Mountain View, CA

...If you get excited about building new things and aren't daunted by the challenge of building something from scratch, then our team might be your next career step. 
You will be responsible for the design and implementation of bench-scale synthesis experiments to support various project needs. You have expertise and hands-on experience in synthetic organic chemistry is expected, along with knowledge of polymer chemistry. 
Use synthetic organic methods to prepare various quantities (mg to 10’s g) of materials for use by project team members.
Initiate and manage outside custom synthesis projects on an as needed basis.
Interface with team members of different technical backgrounds in engineering and science. Use technical expertise and laboratory techniques to address problems in support of research and development of the team.
Provide and present progress reports; present issues, results to the team.
Contribute to other project activities as appropriate. Develop competence in other lab techniques. 
Minimum qualifications 
PhD degree in synthetic or polymer chemistry, or related field, or equivalent practical experience.
3 years of industrial experience with experience in synthetic and polymer chemistry.
Experience and ability to use state of the art chemical instrumentation (HPLC, GC, NMR, etc.) and interpret the results. 
Preferred qualifications 
Experience and knowledge in fluorescence and other optical chemical reagents development.
Experience relevant to development of medical devices that involves chemistry as an essential part (i.e. biosensors, in-vitro assay, and in-vivo monitoring).
Knowledge and experience of enzyme modification, bioconjugate techniques.
Ability to work independently and also enjoy the work in a multidisciplinary environment using chemical approaches to design and develop chemistry methods to solve applied problems.
Willing to perform hands-on lab work.
I think this speaks to the breadth of what Google is thinking about doing more than anything else -- I guess this is an indication that they're responding to Peter Thiel's challenge after all. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Daily Pump Trap: 4/9/15 edition

Good morning! A few of the positions posted on C&EN Jobs recently:

Richmond, VA: So I'd really like to know what this "Senior Scientist Postdoc" position with Eurofins is about. They'd like industry experience as well.

What the hell? Bluntly put, if it's a postdoctoral fellowship, it sure as hell isn't a "senior scientist" position.

Mansfield, TX: Tyco Fire Protection hiring a B.S./M.S. analytical chemist - something tells me that'd be a pretty interesting position.

Stanhope, NJ: This "senior research scientist" position with Isolatek (what do they do? fireproofing, it seems) looks lucrative at 100-120k.

Watsonville, CA: Driscoll's is looking for a senior scientist for "managing and leading plant metabolomics research at Driscoll’s main research facility." I'm going to guess that finding someone who can do this is going to be pretty tough?

Oregon, OH: Toledo Refining Company looking for a senior chemist; B.S. + 5-10 years experience.

Interesting: Rarely see paint companies around these parts, but Benjamin Moore posted three jobs recently. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Labs come in many forms

Inside a rare earth mineral processing plant (Credit: Kate Davies/Unknown Fields)
Credit: Kate Davis/Unknown Fields/BBC
Via BBC and the Unknown Fields project, a lab (note buret) at a rare earth mining/processing facility in Inner Mongolia. (What does the sign on the wall say? "Wear safety goggles", I suspect.

Job posting: Drug designer, Schrödinger Inc., New York City

From the inbox: 
At Schrödinger our mission is to revolutionize drug discovery through the use of breakthrough computational methods. The latest advances in our technology allow us to identify high quality lead compounds and efficiently optimize them for clinical development. Our drug discovery team of 20+ scientists includes designers, modelers, computational chemists, medicinal chemists, crystallographers, biochemists, and biologists with well over 100 years of drug discovery experience. 
The drug discovery team is supported by more than 100 software developers. Three of the programs we’ve worked on in the past 5 years have progressed into the clinic and an additional one is expected to enter trials later in the year. Members of the drug discovery group are included as inventors on more than 40 US patents and patent applications filed by our collaborators. As our group continues to grow, we are looking for highly motivated individuals with experience designing drug candidates in 3D. 
Play a key role in our drug discovery projects
Design molecules to meet project goals
Work closely with collaborators and other members of the drug discovery group to drive programs and our technology forward 
Essential Qualifications and Experience: 
Ability to design compounds in a 3D structure-based environment
Understanding of protein-ligand interactions and small molecule conformations, ionization, and tautomeric states
Ph.D. in organic or medicinal chemistry
Modeling experience
Exceptional communication skills
Desirable Skills: 
Practical understanding of the application of physical organic chemistry principles to drug discovery
Computational chemistry experience 
Interested candidates can apply through our website at: 
Schrödinger, Inc. is an equal opportunity employer.
 Best wishes to those interested! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Job posting: chemical biologist, University of Cincinnati

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Cincinnati invites applications for a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level, to begin in the 2015-16 academic year. A Ph.D. in Chemistry, Biochemistry, or closely related field and one year of post doctoral experience is required. The candidate is expected to develop and maintain a vigorous externally-funded biochemical research program, aspire to be visible at the national/international levels, and be an enthusiastic and effective educator at all levels.  The successful candidate, to be part of the biochemical division in the Department of Chemistry, is expected to have a strong contribution to a new scientific cancer cluster being formed with special consideration given to the areas of small-molecule/metabolite profiles of cancer. 
This position is part of a university-wide scientific cluster focused on precision cancer medicine and cancer-omics. The cluster will support cross-disciplinary collaboration between chemical biology, medicine and pharmacy to catalyze innovative cancer research. The University of Cincinnati is a Research-Extensive University with outstanding facilities and infrastructure to support researchers and local collaborative interactions with UC Medical Center, Cincinnati Children’s Medical Campus, VA, EPA, and the FDA....
My correspondent tells me that, even though the deadline has passed, they are still accepting applications. Best wishes to those interested. 

Interesting headline from Chemistry World

Chemists in demand as cannabis industry experiences explosive growth 
The US’s rapidly growing cannabis industry – medical and recreational – desperately needs chemists. That was the conclusion of a session at the American Chemical Society’s spring conference in Denver, Colorado, on 23 March. ‘We need chemists to tell us what we have,’ said Chloe Villano, founder of the Colorado-based cannabis business consulting company Clover Leaf. 
She said a better understanding of the science behind cannabis is essential to providing safer and better products, which include oils, extracts and edibles. Chemists can help by, among other things, analysing samples to examine microbiologicals and providing residual solvent testing to ensure cannabis concentrates are free of impurities, Villano suggested...
It would be great if there was some sort of data about the increase in chemistry jobs in the cannabis field - somehow I doubt we're going to see that any time soon. That said, if this is your thing, now might be the time...

(You know what would be the best measurement? Used analytical equipment sales in Colorado and Washington, I'll bet. Also, I wonder if the big instrumental companies have decided if they're going to sell to these labs...?)

Monday, April 6, 2015

STEM is TE: salary edition

Interesting graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that Matt Yglesias has highlighted. I've annotated it. Fairly obvious that, in terms of salaries, STEM is TE (and a little M.) 

Medicinal chemistry: "not a commodity"

In a sidebar in Lisa Jarvis' cover article in this week's C&EN, the chemist founders of Flexus Biosciences say some things that warm the cold cockles of my heart: 
Amid the growing mania for cancer immunology, the Flexus founders saw their Goldilocks: IDO1 and TDO2, enzymes known for helping cancer cells hide from an immune response. The targets were getting little attention, but inhibitors of them are likely to be complementary to the immuno-oncology antibodies. 
The next step was to put the targets in the hands of the right people to translate them into drug candidates. But opinions vary on who those people are. In the start-up world, so much is about the “showmanship of just rolling out your Nobel Prize-winner founders, luminaries, and other people who are really smart and really good at many things, but quite often, drug discovery is not one of them,” Jaen says. 
For Rosen and Jaen, the right hands meant scientists with a track record for drug discovery. The pair mined their network and wound up hiring a team that skews heavily toward veterans of Tularik and Amgen. 
Their goal was to build a real discovery engine—not a virtual one. At a time when many start-ups rely almost entirely on outsourcing, Rosen and Jaen are believers in the art of designing drugs in their own labs. 
“There are a lot of things the world has started to treat as a commodity in terms of drug discovery that we don’t really believe is a commodity,” Rosen says. “We wanted to get the best medicinal chemists and biologists.” 
Supported by $38 million in financing, the team of more than 30 scientists was able to swiftly generate a series of IDO1 inhibitors that became the object of several firms’ affection. After a highly competitive process, BMS agreed to acquire the firm for $800 million up front and up to $450 million in milestones.
I like the cut of Terry Rosen's jib. 

This week's C&EN

Lots of interesting news tidbits in this week's C&EN:

YP: Reaching an industrial postdoc in analytical chemistry

Last week, I expressed that I hoped that Linda Wang's story in C&EN about analytical chemists in industry did indeed reflect higher demand for analysts, a claim that I feel is not borne out yet with data. YP wrote in with their story; it has been redacted for privacy.
As an undergraduate, I attended [medium-sized state school] and majored in chemistry. There were several options in the chemistry major--you could pick the ACS certified option, general chemistry, or the biochemistry (the options have further diversified since then). Because I loved chemistry but also wanted to do biomedically-based research, I completed both the ACS certified and the biochemistry options--4 extra classes in total. At the time, I did not think very much about it; I was still in that strange undergraduate phase of loving learning for the sake of learning, so I enjoyed taking those extra labs and analytical chemistry lecture courses. 
Fast forward to grad school. Unlike many of your readers, I did not go into organic synthesis. I attended [prominent R1 school] and did a biophysical chemistry-project in [very, very famous professor's] group. This meant that I learned a lot of molecular biology very quickly, but also had to be reasonably adept at other aspects of chemistry... making me a jack of all trades, master of none type of scientist. Exactly the type industry does NOT want. Why did I pick this path? I was fascinated with the science, and Professor [redacted] makes one heck of a sales pitch. Also, I was not sure what I wanted to do after grad school; I thought I could keep my options open for a bit longer, maybe teach at a SLAC. 
For personal reasons, I looked for a job in [small East Coast city] after grad school. I ended up doing a postdoc in a cancer biology group, which was great, because coming out of a chemistry group I knew I needed a better understanding of biological processes as well as technical training. Three years later, the two-body problem reared its ugly head again, and my spouse and I decided that the greater Boston area gave both of us the best chance to have fulfilling non-academic careers, especially given the stresses in the academic world right now. [They] found a job almost immediately, but I spent 4 months in total looking for a job. 
I applied for a research associate position with a small contract research organization, [redacted], on a day when I was feeling desperate for a job. I was overqualified for the position, but the HR rep realized that I fit the qualifications for a recently-opened industrial postdoc position. and here is where the analytical skills come in: the HR rep requested all of my transcripts, because the position required understanding and problem-solving skills in analytical chemistry. Even though I took those courses 10 years ago, the mindset was still there. My biology knowledge will be useful, too, for characterizing biologics. I had a great interview with the company--this included a technical interview so that I could demonstrate problem-solving skills--and I will start the position [very soon]. 
Thanks to YP for their story -- best wishes to them, and to all of us. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

PD: "...I’ve not once regretted how things have turned out."

Today's story on leaving graduate school is from PD; it is longer, but a worthwhile reflection from someone who has had some time, plenty of career success and some time for perspective. 
All these stories people are sharing assume people went to grad school for the same reasons and got there on similar paths.  At least for me, the backstory is important in understanding why I “left” with a master’s degree.  (I think it is interesting to point out that chemists consider it “leaving” with a master’s degree, while the rest of the world considers it “graduating” with a master’s degree.) 
What was the plan going into grad school? 
I came out of undergrad in the mid 90’s with biochem and chemistry degrees.  This was pre-internet, so for you younger readers please keep in mind how much more difficult it was to get information back then.  I went to grad school because I’d had a “pair of hands” research job in undergrad at a government lab that showed me I’d need to take my education further to have a satisfying career.  I also felt like I didn’t know nearly as much as I should about either biochem or chemistry.  Much of that feeling stemmed from my lack of engagement during undergrad, mostly a result of me having a little too much fun while I was there.  Being interested in both biochem and chemistry, my plan for grad school was to learn more about what tied them together - organic chemistry - by getting a master’s degree.  My naïve perspective at the time was that people went to graduate school to get graduate degrees, meaning either a master’s or a PhD.  I would certainly find out later that chemists do not see grad school in that light.   
I applied to two large Midwest US schools which were in the top ten for chemistry grad schools, not necessarily because I thought I belonged there, but mostly in an effort to stay near my future wife, who would be at our undergrad institution for two more years.  Thankfully I got into the one closest to her and we’d be able to see each other most weekends as the drive was only an hour and a half.  I also would be able to see many of my undergrad friends on weekends, which I now realize allowed me to keep some perspective on life outside of grad school by maintaining a social circle that typical grad students can’t access.   
Why did you leave?  Your thought process in leaving? Was it deliberate (over a period of time) or sudden?    
Without going into a ton of detail, it was relatively apparent to me in my first semester that I was towards the bottom of the talent pool of the incoming organic chemistry class, but I was enjoying the experience.  The process of joining a group was something I was wholly unprepared for compared to my peers.  I don’t remember exactly when or who I had this conversation with, but I was asked by one professor whose group I was considering joining why I came to grad school.  When I revealed the plan to intentionally get a master’s degree, I was told “the way it worked in this department”.  I quickly started to limit disclosure of my intentions to potential advisors and peers in conversations, now realizing that I was there to do something everyone else viewed as a failure.  In my own mind though, I took a “let’s see what happens” attitude.  If I ended up liking it, maybe I’d stay for a PhD.  If I didn’t, I would leave.

It's soooo haaaard to fiiinnnd aaaa chemiiisssttttt

From the inbox, a link to a new social network space called GradSquare and this sad/interesting blogpost by the founder of it, Marco Altamirano:
About a year ago, I met someone at a conference who worked at a food chemistry lab in New Orleans. She was telling me about how her company had tried to hire a chemist with a Masters or PhD by putting some ads out on various job boards, but no one with the right credentials had applied. I thought this was strange because, having recently finished grad school at Purdue, I knew several Masters and PhDs that would have loved to relocate to New Orleans with their proposed starting salary....
(We should note for the record that, apart from being an entrepreneur, Dr. Altamirano is (was?) a philosophy instructor at LSU.)

I'm pretty sure the problem is that food chemistry is a niche field and the qualifications/training are pretty specific - I strongly suspect the food company would be better served with personal contacts for job searches.

As Dr. Altamirano's social network, hey, a more targeted version of LinkedIn aimed at employers and graduate schools could work? I dunno. LinkedIn is pretty crappy as a social network, so I would welcome competitors. Anyone have any experience with GradSquare?

UPDATE: Frequent commenter bluekirby notes a GradSquare podcast with a plant chemist for Sherwin Williams who tells his story; it's quite good, I thought, in tracking the trajectory of a career in (broadly speaking) our field. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Job search apps are so great!

Credit: willandbeyond
From reddit user (and longtime chemblogosphere denizen) willandbeyond.

Good job, Silicon Valley. 

Job posting: two lecturer positions, UC Merced

From the inbox, two temporary teaching positions:

A summer lecturer position, teaching "Principles of Organic Chemistry" and "Organic Synthesis and Mechanism."

Also, a fall lecturer position, teaching general chemistry and organic chemistry.

Best wishes to those interested.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Zucchini Bread Lobby is at the root of our troubles

From key news source C&EN Onion:
..."Many have long argued that the agricultural market in the United States has been bogged down by under-production of zucchini.  However, our most recent analysis of the current market conditions points to an excess in zucchini supply, coupled with falling demand for domestically grown summer squashes in general, as the real culprits," stated study author Francis Ericsson, PhD. 
The report goes on to state that chief among those touting the purported zucchini shortage is the zucchini bread lobby, whose employers pump hundreds of millions of dollars into perpetuating unsupported ideas about the state of the zucchini market...
Read the whole thing - and weep.

There Is No Zucchini Shortage

I hate to keep banging the same drum over and over again, but to reiterate:

There is no zucchini shortage. 

The people at the American Zucchini Society can't be bothered to track the production of zucchini in garden beds across America. I know that vital photosynthesis is done by zucchini plants across the country, but: 

There is no zucchini shortage. 

I know that restaurants across the country are claiming that it's harder and harder to find zucchini in restaurants, but that doesn't seem to track with their composting of thousands of zucchini a year! It's a shame that recruiters claim that kitchens across the country demand zucchini, when we know that their signs read "No Zucchini Sliced Here."  

There is no zucchini shortage!

Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

From the literature, we find a highly-cited publication for chocolate zucchini cake: 
Chocolate Zucchini Cake II, 
by Sandi 
"A great cake for all that zucchini at the end of the season, and the kids love it too!" 
Original recipe makes 1 9x13-inch cake 
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour milk
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups zucchini, finely diced
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. Cream butter, oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and sour milk. Beat until smooth.
  3. Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon together and add to creamed mixture. Beat well. Stir in diced zucchini.
  4. Pour into a 9x13 inch pan and sprinkle top with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

This sounds like a nice recipe, but it is yet another example of the Great Zucchini Glut. Would there possibly be any reason for zucchini to be a perfectly good chocolate cake recipe other than the massive oversupply of zucchini to the kitchen? We need zucchini supply reform if we are to stop the spread of unnecessary zucchini consumption. 

(Incidentally, how accurate are toothpicks for in-process checks? Was it a cGMP toothpick? What was the sampling procedure? I'd hate to see what an FDA inspector would have to say about this recipe.) 

Joking amongst zucchini

A postdoc left two zucchini on the dashboard of his car and went into a convenience store to pick up some bread and a six-pack of beer. He thought to himself, "I hope these zucchini are still there when I get back to my car." When he paid for his items, he returned and there, sitting on his dash, were four more zucchini, along with 2 postdocs asking if he had a position in his lab for them. 

Daily Cutting Board: 4/1/15 edition

A few of the recipes available from Z&EN Jobs:

Tennessee?: This recipe seems to be for a product engineer? working for a gardener named Mike? It's very confusing.

Meriden, CT: Want to dig through really old zucchini before it gets thrown into the Great Compost Heap in the Sky? That's this Tradebe position in Connecticut.

Wiscasset, ME: Here's an interesting recipe that will accept all lengths of zucchini, if they're old enough. I sense that with the job title "materials designer", they're really looking for squash.

New Jersey: Want to make lots of zucchini for the consumer market? Sounds like its pilot plant ops, so there might be a call for someone who can lift a big shovel.

Looking at other garden beds: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and USAjobs show (respectively) 1000+, 1000+, 1335, 8732 and 24 for the search term "zucchini." LinkedIn shows 543 recipes for the fruit titled "zucchini", with 26 for "research zucchini", 86 for "analytical zucchini", 6 for "organic zucchini", 3 for "synthetic zucchini" and 0 for "medicinal zucchini."