Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A status change for analytical chemists?

Also from this week's C&EN, an interesting letter to the editor: 
A Worthwhile Career 
“Seeking Analytical Chemists” is a welcome exposé of how analytical chemistry “used to be known as a service discipline” (C&EN, March 30, page 42). It is heartening to read that at least some companies now consider it to be “an integral part of the development organization.” 
In the past, analytical chemists were treated as servants not only by biased and misinformed R&D managers but also by their colleagues in other disciplines. Analytical chemists often received lower salaries and bonuses; were slower to be promoted; and were not given proper credit for contributions to solving research, product development, commercialization, and patent issues. 
I recall an analytical group supervisor in the 1980s who proudly stated that he would never hire analytical chemists. Some managers in the 1990s even suggested changing the title analytical “research fellow” to “service fellow.” Even today, the title “technical fellow” is sometimes substituted for research fellow to distinguish an analytical chemist from peers in other disciplines. 
During my own long career at DuPont, my emphasis was always on helping to solve my colleagues’ problems; we were all most successful when we worked in a fully cooperative environment. Despite occasional setbacks and disappointments, I thoroughly enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of my career. It was never just a job. A few enlightened managers and cooperative peers made it all worthwhile. 
Anthony Foris
Wilmington, Del.
I had no idea that analytical chemists were treated in a less-than-equal manner long ago; fascinating stuff. Well, good to know that things have changed at least a little.  


  1. One thing that can lead to that servant mentality is how the analytical chemists are organized. Here at BCC (Big Chemical Company), our analytical chemists are in a "shared services" group and are not attached to one division of the company. Hierarchically (sp?), they are lumped in with maintenance services. They have a ton of responsibility to turn samples around quickly (especially if it was shot over here from a nearby plant), and sometimes get handed giant batches of samples at a time. I'd say some scientists here do treat them more as a service group, put here to churn out data at their command (especially the GC group and the wet labs). I could stereotype the people who generally treat them this way, but I wont. While I sometimes miss doing my own analysis, I recognize that they are experts in their fields and consider them valuable partners/collaborators in R&D.

  2. I know that at some medium-large pharma co's there is a disparity between what equivalent chemists in analytical development and formulation / chemical development make, which from what I've heard anecdotally is a holdover from the "support crew" mentality era.


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