Friday, July 29, 2016

How many positions posted in pharma for US chemists?

For a very, very long time, I've been wanting to track the number of chemistry-related positions in the pharmaceutical industry, as advertised on their own websites.

For now, just a quick rundown of the number of available chemistry-related (broadly defined) positions in 10 major pharmaceutical companies. I searched on the individual company's website; the search term used was "chemist" and only positions in the US were counted.

Pfizer: 6
Roche: 1
Merck: 10
Novartis: 4
Johnson & Johnson: 18
GSK: 3
Sanofi: 5
AZ: 1
Lilly: 4
BMS: 12
Takeda: 5

At some point, this will solidify into a routine list, but I just thought I would get it started. 

The job growth rate for university chemistry teachers is faster than that of chemists?

A weird conundrum - the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many of you know, issues employment projections every two years.

You know that chemist positions are expected to increase 3% between 2014 and 2024; this is well-below the 7% expected for all positions in the US labor economy.

As many of you know, chemistry professors are not included in that number for "chemists". They're defined as "chemistry teachers, postsecondary." What I did not know until yesterday: these positions are expected to increase by 15% from 2014 to 2024.

Of course, this projection cannot be taken in isolation. We do not know the projected wages for the positions, whether they are all full-time tenure-track positions at research universities (extremely unlikely) or if they're mostly adjunct positions (quite possible.) Also, these are projections - and these projections have certainly not borne out for chemists for the last 15 years.

So - does anyone have an answer for this? I think it's quite a little puzzle. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Help out a chemistry startup

Chemical and Engineering News would like to hear from you, if you know of a science startup that could use some attention. Click here to nominate them (the form is happily quite short.)

The chosen startups will be featured in an October "10 Startups to Watch" issue. 

What's your favorite job searching site?

From the inbox, a reader wonders about how to improve his applicant pool: 
I'm a long time reader of your blog and I have a question that I hope maybe you or your readers can help to answer.  What websites do most people use to find jobs out of grad school? I did a postdoc and then was lucky enough to find a job straight through networking so I don't have much experience.... 
...I've tried LinkedIn, and we have gotten quite a few decent candidates, but I would love to find a way to increase the pipeline.  Any suggestions?
So there are my favorites, C&EN Jobs and Indeed. I suspect that Monster and Careerbuilder are quite a bit less valuable, but I dunno.

I also like the various regional sites that seem to be high-signal, low-noise, such as Seattle's WashingtonLifeScience site and Boston's MassBio careers board. When I get crazy, I'll look at the "science/biotech" section of Craigslist for various cities, but those are pretty low signal.

Readers, your thoughts? 

Daily Pump Trap: 7/28/16 edition

A recent positions posted at C&EN Jobs this past week: 

Neenah, WI: Georgia-Pacific is looking for a research scientist to work on "Air Care" products to, among other things, "Lead the fragrance development process from concept development to  evaluation and qualification." Huh. (B.S., 5-10 years of product development desired.) 

Also, a "papermaking chemist" position with Georgia-Pacific at the same research site. I like the direct title. 

Urbana, IL: The American Oil Chemists' Society is looking for a technical special projects manager; M.S./Ph.D. in chemistry desired. 

Albuquerque, NM: Sandia is looking for a postdoc: 
The Geochemistry Department at Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, New Mexico) is seeking a Postdoctoral Appointee to conduct research in molecular simulation of interfacial phenomena, particularly mineral-fluid interfaces.
Livermore, CA: Lawrence Livermore is looking for applicants to its fellowship program.

South San Francisco, CA: Also, via Twitter: Reset Therapeutics is looking for a research associate in medicinal chemistry. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jacob and Esau

27 The two first years grew up, and Esau became a skillful synthetic chemist, a man of the bench, while Jacob was content to stay in the instrument room, manipulating spectra. 28 Professor Isaac, who had a taste for new reactions, loved Esau, but his collaborator Professor Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was next in line for the NMR, Esau came into the lab. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me take a quick spectra! I'm in a hurry."

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your first authorship on your next JACS paper.”

32 “Look, I am about to give group meeting,” Esau said. “What good is my first authorship to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his authorship to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau his place in the NMR queue. Esau ran his NMR, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his authorship.

with apologies to Genesis
inspired by this very literate angry person

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Job posting: BS/MS process chemist, Newark, NJ

From the inbox, a position with Firmenich: 
We currently have an immediate opportunity for a Chemist to join our R&D Division at the affiliate chemical production site in Newark, NJ.

Summary: Lab chemist will work in the organic synthesis and/or process safety lab under the direction of Senior Chemist. Primary focus of the job is development and improvement of the industrial processes for manufacturing aroma chemicals, 
Education: B.S. (Chemistry, preferably from ACS-accredited program, or Chemical Engineering) or M.S. (Organic Chemistry or related), or equivalent. For B.S., at least 4 years of experience, for M.S. at least 1 year of experience, but willing to consider exceptionally qualified new graduates.
Link is here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Daily Pump Trap: 7/26/16 edition

A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Beerse, Belgium: Janssen is searching for an experienced medicinal chemist to work on early drug discovery - the position is Alzheimer's related. Ph.D. and 2-5 years of industrial experience desired.

(It's funny that whoever input the position into C&EN Jobs hit the "Confidential Employer" button, but the name of the company is in the description itself.)

St. Louis, MO: I feel like it's not common for Monsanto to post positions, but here's 3 of them.

(How to people who live in St. Louis feel about Monsanto/their employees? Better than the rest of the country, I suspect.)

Rolla, MO: Brewer Science, looking for a M.S./Ph.D. scientist. (M.S. + 6 years.)

Albuquerque, NM: Two postdoctoral positions at Sandia.

Ivory Filter Flask: 7/26/16 edition

A few of the academic positions posted at C&EN Jobs: 

Stanford, CA: Stanford University is looking for a senior research safety specialist.

It's that time again: mostly 2017 positions.

Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago is searching for an assistant professor of chemistry. 

Oxford, OH: Miami University has two assistant professor positions open. 

Framingham, MA:  Framingham State University is looking for an assistant professor of analytical or physical chemistry. 

Lausanne, Switzerland: They're searching for assistant professors at Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); looks like one biologically-oriented position, and one broader search. 

Lookout Mountain, GA: Covenant College is looking for a professor of chemistry. I feel like the desired qualifications are kinda broad?: 
The successful candidate would be expected to teach the analytical chemistry/instrumental analysis sequence and the physical chemistry sequence. A background in inorganic chemistry would best complement the current faculty. 
Looks to be an open rank search.

The List: I'm planning on starting the Chemistry Jobs list very, very soon, but Andrew Spaeth has beat me to it, and has started a list here. It's a good one, with 28 positions so far. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles in this week's C&EN:

Friday, July 22, 2016

The View from Your Hood: Zurich, Switzerland

Credit: Anonymous
An anonymous submission from ETH Zurich.

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption, please) at; runs every other Friday.)

Credit: Anonymous


From here: "Your acceptance into a PhD program puts you in the top 5% of the general populace in terms of academic ability, so don't ever forget that." 

No, I don't believe that at all. 

(The rest of it is fairly anodyne advice.) 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Daily Pump Trap: 7/21/16 edition

A few of the positions posted by C&EN Jobs: 

Summit, NJ: Holy smokes, there are a lot of positions (ten) posted by Celgene for its New Jersey site.

La Crosse, WI: The USGS is looking for a GS-13 research chemist. An interesting note: 
PLEASE NOTE:  This will NOT be a job interview.  This is to advertise the position and to make contact with potential interested candidates.
Dunno what this means, in government-speak. Offered salary: 71k - 117k.

Malvern, PA: Progenra is looking for two experienced B.S./M.S./Ph.D. medicinal chemists (1-10 years experience). 

Zeroes!:  Adesis (New Castle, DE) is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. synthetic organic chemist, 0-5 years experience desired. 

Sudbury, ON: SNOLAB is an unusual place (I understand they have a great big mineshaft?) They're looking for a temporary chemical analyst. 

Stow, OH: Saint-Gobain is looking for an experienced B.S./M.S./Ph.D. senior research engineer for ceramics work. 

San Luis Obispo, CA: Promega Biosciences is looking for an experienced M.S./Ph.D. chemist to be a manufacturing manager. 

"Israel": Did not know that L’Oréal had R&D facilities in Israel; they're looking for a senior formulator. 

ACS Philadelphia Career Fair Watch: 25 positions listed. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A proud moment for chemistry students everywhere

From English-language German news outlet, an all-too-common story
A 28-year-old student at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich used the laboratory to analyse drugs for two dealers in return for some cocaine. 
An unnamed student at the university appeared before court on Monday after giving in to stress and resorting to helping drug dealers with their business.
Two pushers wanted to know how pure their product was, so they recruited a 28-year-old student to be their Heisenberg and test it for them. They posted cocaine and crystal meth to the student, and he brought it to the Grosshadern Klinikum - LMU’s hospital and research centre and part of the largest hospital complex in Munich. 
There he proceeded to test the drugs to determine the potency of the active ingredients.The student was surprised that he was in trouble and told the court that he didn’t know he was guilty of any offence. 
The Chemistry student also defended himself to the Munich court by saying that his tests failed to produce anything meaningful. “I made up the results,” he said. 
As a reward for his 'findings', the dealers gave the student between two and four grams of cocaine.
This sounds like some sort of bizarre comedy movie, especially when the dealer's name was "Shiny Flakes" (HT to Lisa Jarvis for this last detail.)

(It is interesting to me how this thing always seems to involve students and not chemistry professionals - a problem of youth, or do professional chemists want too much money to ply their trade illegally?) 

Warning Letter of the Week: foreign debris edition

In today's batch of FDA warning letters, one to Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK. It's mostly about penicillin residue in non-penicillin manufacturing areas (that's problematic), but I found this section interesting:
C. Foreign particles found in [redacted] API [redacted]

Your investigation into foreign particles found in [redacted] batch [redacted] identified:
  • green fibers consistent with scouring pads
  • red flakes consistent with paint in the manufacturing plant
  • black particulates consistent with glass particles 
You concluded that these were “acceptable intrinsic” contaminates.

Your response is inadequate. It failed to include a root-cause evaluation of glass particles and the foreign materials found in these drugs. You also failed to evaluate the impact of the contaminants on all other drugs manufactured with the same equipment in the same facility.

In response to this letter, provide a risk assessment for the (b)(4) manufacturing process and other drugs produced with the same equipment. Include an evaluation of the physical condition of your facility and of your cleaning and preventive maintenance procedures for your manufacturing equipment. 
Scouring pads! That's a new one.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Job posting: M.S./Ph.D. organic photovoltaics chemist, Merck KGaA, Chilworth, UK

From the inbox, a position with Merck KGaA in Chilworth, UK (near Southhampton). They're looking for "an experienced polymer chemist...; [t]his is a role in material design and discovery, in close collaboration with applications and scale-up teams." Description:
Your role: Your primary role will be to carry out the design, synthesis, purification and analysis of new materials for commercial OPV applications. Particularly, your work will focus on polymer synthesis, related polymerisation reactions and process optimisation for these materials. You will use your ability, experience and knowledge to develop materials and an in-depth understanding of the parameters which control the performance and quality. You will work with a talented multi-disciplinary team of people, contribute to the generation of intellectual property and support product scale-up and initial introduction to customers.

Who you are:
  • You have an MSc/PhD in chemistry, chemical engineering or material science in the field of polymer research plus applicable experience or a degree plus several years relevant experience.
  • Extensive hands-on experience in the synthesis and purification of polymers and scale-up processes with a deep understanding of reproducibility and reaction kinetics of polymerisation, particularly for industrial commercialisation of multi-monomer condensation polymers is essential.
  • Experience in the field of organic electronic applications would be an advantage.
Read the whole thing - best wishes to those interested. 

Daily Pump Trap: 7/19/16 edition

A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs over the last week:

Woburn, MA: Organix is looking for M.S./Ph.D. synthetic chemists.

(Organix is looking for a M.S. chemist? Is that new?)

La Jolla, CA: Calibr is looking for synthetic/medicinal chemists for postdoctoral positions.

(Is anyone else noticing the plethora of small non-academic institutions calling entry-level Ph.D. chemists "postdoctoral fellows"? (Needed caveat: this really isn't about Calibr, that's just something that reminded me about my feelings about it.) Does anyone else think this contributes to the devaluing of entry-level Ph.D. chemists? Senior graduate students, I urge you to think about taking these positions, and asking potential employers:
  • You're calling this a postdoctoral position - what kinds of unique training am I going to get? 
  • What is the fate of your postdocs? Where do they go? 
  • Will I be the first postdoc at your company? How can we assure that I get the training and mentorship implied in the title?
  • Will I be allowed to publish my work?)
Cleveland, OH: Lubrizol is looking for an experienced chemist to be a technical manager for wood coatings. 

Milford, OH: PPG, also looking for a coatings chemist; this time it's beverage-related.

Davis, CA: Novozymes wishes to hire a B.S./M.S. chemist for an analytical position towards metabolomics.

Pleasanton, CA: Astex is looking for a contract analytical chemist; B.S. and 5 years experience required. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 7/19/16 edition

A few of the academically-related positions posted on C&EN Jobs this past week:

Philadelphia, PA: Drexel looking for a NMR facility director; 58.2k - 87.4k offered.

University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University is looking for a NMR facility director.

Pittsburgh, PA: Raman spectroscopy postdoc desired at Pitt.

Pullman, WA: I've never figured out what the Institute for Shock Physics is, but they're looking for another postdoc.

Hempstead, NY: Hofstra is looking for an experienced EH&S officer.

The Kingdom of Saud: KAUST, still looking for an analytical lab head.

2017 positions: Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY) is conducting an open search for a biochemistry professor. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Academic chemists and Slack

Also, in this week's C&EN, an article (and a podcast!) by Matt Davenport about Slack (the messaging service) in academic chemistry groups: 
(Anne) McNeil had been leading a group of chemists developing new gels and polymers at the University of Michigan for seven years, when, in 2014, she won a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professorship. She earned the honor thanks to her proposal to develop an education program to engage high schoolers and young undergrads from diverse backgrounds with real chemistry research. To do this, she had to add a new division to her team. 
“My group size doubled when I got the HHMI professor grant. Suddenly, I had this second research group working in a new area—education—on a different floor and office space,” McNeil says. “I was having a hard time staying on top of everything on both sides. Slack has changed all that.” 
Slack is messaging software available for tablets, smartphones, and computers designed for teams and work groups. Slack creates a self-contained online chat room that’s exclusive to team members. Those members can then message one another directly or via public discussion channels organized by task, project, or topic. Teams at a variety of companies and agencies are using Slack, including Samsung, LinkedIn, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, and even C&EN.
There's a list of handy apps at the bottom of the article as well - check it out!  

This week's C&EN

From this week's C&EN:
  • Cover story: Beth Halford writes on the current state of rapamycin research. 
    • I feel like FDA is barely equipped to make a judgment on anti-aging/life extension drugs... I wonder what a future with them will be like? 
  • Looks like the National Toxicology Program isn't too concerned about the toxicity of MCHM. (article by Jessica Morrison)
    • This is one of those things where most of the West Virginia public won't know or believe this, I suspect. 
  • Enjoyed the profile of Ingevity (article by Michael McCoy), a company that takes the waste of paper product companies and makes specialty chemicals. 
    • Why is it that hearing about other companies that have difficulties with their supply chains makes me feel better? 
  • It will be fascinating to see what kind of collaborations Cuba ends up doing with ACS. (article by Linda Wang)  
  • More HPLC history in the letters to the editor.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rewarding, I'll bet

Before I forget, a nice profile of Salvatore DiRosa, an Italian medicinal chemist in last week's C&EN (article by Andrea Widener), including finding a position after a site closure: 
2013: Surviving a company’s demise
 La Rosa had been at Siena [CJ's note: Siena Biotech, in Tuscany] for nine years when the company, which was owned by a bank, fell victim to the recent global financial crisis. “I was still there, but I knew what was happening. It was one of those situations where you say, ‘What am I doing here? I’m waiting for this situation to collapse.’ ” 
Today: Finding cures for children’s tumors
A former colleague offered La Rosa a job in New York City at the nonprofit Children’s Tumor Foundation, which supports research into neurofibromatosis, a benign tumor that can be debilitating. Now La Rosa is vice president for R&D. Working with patients and doctors is completely different from working in industry, he says. And he loves it. “There is a really strong drive to do something that is useful for patients today.”
Italian biotech companies can be owned by banks? Huh. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Smart concept introduced in today's NYT on the STEM Ph.D. glut

The United States is producing more research scientists than academia can handle. 
We have been told time and again that the United States needs more scientists, but when it comes to some of the most desirable science jobs — tenure-track professorships at universities, where much of the exciting work is done — there is such a surplus of Ph.D.s that in the most popular fields, like biomedicine, fewer than one in six has a chance of joining the club in the foreseeable future. 
While they try to get a foot in the door, many spend years after getting their Ph.D. as poorly paid foot soldiers in a system that can afford to exploit them. Even someone as brilliant as Emmanuelle Charpentier, who in 2015 became head of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology after a momentous discovery in gene editing, spent the previous 25 years moving through nine institutions in five countries.
The article goes on to talk about a good idea from operations researcher Richard C. Larson (at MIT):
Dr. Larson and his colleagues calculated R0s for various science fields in academia. There, R0 is the average number of Ph.D.s that a tenure-track professor will graduate over the course of his or her career, with an R0 of one meaning each professor is replaced by one new Ph.D. The highest R0 is in environmental engineering, at 19.0. It is lower — 6.3 — in biological and medical sciences combined, but that still means that for every new Ph.D. who gets a tenure-track academic job, 5.3 will be shut out. In other words, Dr. Larson said, 84 percent of new Ph.D.s in biomedicine “should be pursuing other opportunities” — jobs in industry or elsewhere, for example, that are not meant to lead to a professorship. 
Here's Professor Larson's paper, which I regret I had not heard about until now. For readers of this blog, it's mostly not new information, but it is still worth a read. Good stuff, too late. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 7/14/16 edition

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

Champaign, IL: Someone in chemical engineering at UIUC is looking for a synthetic organometallic chemist for a postdoctoral position.

Last Minute Lecturer: Damien College (Amherst, NY) is looking for a visiting professor of chemistry, to begin in August 2016.

Daytona Beach, FL: I can't quite tell what this non-TT position at Embry-Riddle is, but it's laboratory coordinator like, even as it is called "assistant professor."

Boston, MA: Northeastern University is searching for a chair of its Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

Wolfpack searching: North Carolina State University, also searching for chemistry chair.

Detroit, MI: Biochemistry/molecular biology-type postdoc at Wayne State University.

Next year, already?: Amherst (Amherst, MA) is looking for an assistant professor in analytical inorganic chemistry. The University of Portland (Portland, OR) is looking for an assistant professor in organic chemistry. Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA) is looking for two assistant professors, one in analytical chemistry, the other in biochemistry.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Anyone know anything about brain cancer treatment at Duke?

A reader would like to know about the reputation of the Tisch Brain Center at Duke University Hospital? (not for them, but for a friend) 

How does one evaluate hospitals and their effectiveness for treatment of life-threatening diseases, anyway? 

Drug tests use cobalt thiocyanate?

I promise it's not Recreational Drug Week on the blog, but I did want to point out this long New York Times Magazine article about field tests for drugs, and how those field tests can give false positives (and how those false positives can ruin people's lives): 
The field tests seem simple, but a lot can go wrong. Some tests, including the one the Houston police officers used to analyze the crumb on the floor of Albritton’s car, use a single tube of a chemical called cobalt thiocyanate, which turns blue when it is exposed to cocaine. But cobalt thiocyanate also turns blue when it is exposed to more than 80 other compounds, including methadone, certain acne medications and several common household cleaners. Other tests use three tubes, which the officer can break in a specific order to rule out everything but the drug in question — but if the officer breaks the tubes in the wrong order, that, too, can invalidate the results. The environment can also present problems. Cold weather slows the color development; heat speeds it up, or sometimes prevents a color reaction from taking place at all. Poor lighting on the street — flashing police lights, sun glare, street lamps — often prevents officers from making the fine distinctions that could make the difference between an arrest and a release. 
There are no established error rates for the field tests, in part because their accuracy varies so widely depending on who is using them and how. In Las Vegas, authorities re-examined a sampling of cocaine field tests conducted between 2010 and 2013 and found that 33 percent of them were false positives.
(Later in the article, a pretty decent description of mass spectrometry.)

I'm surprised that there hasn't been a switch to an antibody-based test, but I am guessing there are both cost and technical issues there. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Job posting: research scientist, Living Proof, Cambridge, MA

From the inbox, another full-time position at Living Proof:
This position requires the successful candidate to be an adept, hands-on chemist with extensive experience in materials and polymer, polymer materials modification and characterization, and formulation development. 
Fundamental understanding of material synthesis, characterization, structure-property relationships and utilization towards application development is also required. 
Ph.D. in Chemical engineering, Polymer science, Material Science, Chemistry or a related discipline. 2+ years industry or equivalent experience developing novel compounds or materials including polymers, solvents, drug delivery agents and formulations, polymeric systems, and related material development.
Full description here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Ask CJ: What if I like pot?

From the inbox, a question that I would have never thought about until now: 
I am a [redacted] year graduate student, hoping to get out of my institution with a PhD and obtain a job in industry in the next year. In my undergraduate and graduate years, I have always used marijuana responsibly. I enjoy pot, and its not something I want to give up. I understand that most industrial positions require an initial drug screening test, but my question is this: 
Do you know how regularly your average commercial company would test its chemists? Are there professionals in the chemistry field, who can smoke pot and survive? Do you know of any chemists who are open about their THC use (personally or professionally)? Have you heard of strict testing policies etc? 
Just looking to get some idea of how thorough companies' "no tolerance" policy actually are... Should I expect to give this up forever, or lose my job/become blacklisted... Or are there other chemists such as myself, who use pot responsibly, off the clock, under the radar?  
Thank you!
Your anonymous 420 friend.
Anon420, I honestly have no idea, having never used the stuff. I have been drug tested once (at an initial drug screening, when I worked for a Big Pharma briefly), and never tested again. I am positive that there are professionals who work in both the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, smoke pot and do just fine, but I haven't met any of them.

I haven't heard of strict or routine drug tests, but I am sure they exist as well. I presume that this is something where 1) if you get hired, you will be facing a drug test before long, and 2) it will be the only time during your career with that organization where you will be drug tested. Smaller companies, who knows? Larger companies, I suspect it's the one-and-done sort of thing.

Readers, surely you have more experience in these matters than I do. Your thoughts? 

Monday, July 11, 2016

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles from this week's issue of C&EN:

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Academic chemistry in Venezuela not doing so hot?

Via the science web magazine Undark, sad stories from Venezuela (by Aleszu Bajak):
...“Theft has become routine,” said Gioconda San Blas, a biochemist and president of Venezuela’s Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, who recently wrote about the looting of Venezuela’s laboratories. “And they’re not only stealing things. They’re taking biological samples. How do you replace the biological heritage of a laboratory?” 
“The federal sources of science funding are practically paralyzed due to an absence of economic funds,” said Alberto Fernandez, a chemistry professor at the the Central University. “We’re living a tragedy.” 
Gabriel Fraute, a chemistry graduate student at the University of the Andes in the western city of Mérida, said he had to pick up a job at a restaurant to help support his family while he tries to finish his thesis. In the laboratory, he says, things are dire. Virtually no reagents are left in the country, making chemical experiments of any kind difficult, if not impossible. 
“We’re very behind in instruments. They’re very old, broken and difficult to repair,” he said. “It’s also difficult to access scientific journals.”
Yikes. I know things haven't looked so great for Venezuela in the post-Chavez area (and it's not like I presumed that Venezuelan academic science was particularly well-funded), but this sounds pretty dire. I wonder - where do Venezuela graduate students go to study? Brazil? The United States? Readers, what say you? 

Friday, July 8, 2016

The View from Your Hood: UIUC roof edition

Credit: Anonymous, "("The Precipice"?)"
An anonymous submission from the chemistry department at UIUC.

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption, please) at; runs every other Friday.)

UCCLS: Static electricity, not a spark from a pressure gauge, triggered the UHawaii explosion

Last week, the University of Hawaii - Manoa released the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety's report on the explosion of a hydrogen/oxygen mixture. The link goes to the short news conference and the reports from UCCLS.) Jyllian Kemsley has written a blog post about it, as well as a short C&EN article that I quote from here (update: emphasis mine): 
An electrostatic discharge between postdoctoral researcher Thea Ekins-Coward and a gas storage tank containing hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide likely caused an explosion at the University of Hawaii, Mānoa, in which Ekins-Coward lost one of her arms, according to a report by the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety (UCCLS). 
UH hired UCCLS to conduct an independent investigation of the March 16 accident and released the report on July 1. Another investigation by the Honolulu Fire Department, released in April, concluded that the cause was a spark from the pressure gauge. UCCLS dug deeper than the fire department and contracted with an outside laboratory to recreate and test the experimental setup. Those tests ruled out all causes other than a static discharge...
I have much more to say on this, but I wanted to note that the report has been released, and that the cause of the explosion was not the digital pressure gauge, as originally suspected by the Honolulu Fire Department.

UPDATE: Changed headline, adding bolding. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Daily Pump Trap: 7/7/16 edition

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

Cleveland, OH: Lubrizol, doing its traditional recruiting for 2 Ph.D. chemist positions; 90-95k offered.

London, UK: Nature, looking for a chemistry/chemical biology editor.

Fredonia, KS: Systech Environmental Corporation is looking for a laboratory manager; B.S. degree and 3-5 years experience in hazardous waste management desired.

Toronto Montreal, ON QC, Canada: The Structural Genomics Consortium is looking for a Ph.D. organic chemist to be a project manager; looks like an interesting position. 75-85k - how will that work out for you in Ontario?

(UPDATE: Interesting, the person who posted the ad at C&EN Jobs added an extra 5K to the bottom end of the salary, compared to the ad on the SGC's website.)

Burnaby, BC: Fibria Innovations is looking for an experienced (M.S./Ph.D.?) elastomer chemist. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

This is bonkers: people are buying generic sofosbuvir API and making their own?

I am rather skeptical about this report, but it is fascinating and terrifying to think about. From the Economic Times of India (via the Endpoints e-mail newsletter): 
Patients are buying the active ingredients that go into making the medicine off the internet and making their own capsules. The 'Chinese rat poison' that patients are gleeful about is a reference to the active pharmaceutical ingredients purchased in bulk from a Chinese manufacturer off the internet, which they are using to formulate their doses.  
"A year ago, we did not have the access to Sofosbuvir combination, because of which we would buy the API from China and India and formulate our own drugs. Now, we see in countries like the US, Romania, Canada and the UK, patients are buying the API and formulating the Hep C drugs. People are doing this because desperate times call for desperate measures. The drug is too expensive for people to buy, which is forcing them to resort to these measures," Dr James Freeman founder of the FixHepCBuyers Club in Australia told ET.
...Jefferys explains buying a 12-week treatment of Indian generic Harvoni to treat Hep C genotype 1 will cost about $1,400, including shipping. To buy the API equivalent would be less than $750. The API route has also become an easier way to deceive the customs who get suspicious looking at the larger parcels of medicines that are shipped in bottles... 
For what it is worth, there actually is a FixHepCBuyers club website; dunno anything about that.

So here's what I want to know - who is making generic sofosbuvir in India? Is it coming out of the licensed plants in India? And if you're making generic sofosbuvir, who are you selling to? (If you're rolling your own sofosbuvir tablets, how do you know you're getting the right dose? You doing QC on that stuff? How do you even know it's the right material?)

Assuming this is actually happening, it seems that we find out what happens when you have relatively poor patients, unethical generic manufacturers, a high price for a drug and a globalized industry. Hard to say what to do (and I'm not a direct Gilead shareholder*), but it seems to me that lowering the price of Sovaldi to the point at which these generic manufacturers are run out of business might be a good idea.

Other weird questions: Has this happened before? If you were Gilead, what could you do about it? (Should you go and bust the sellers in India? Can you, from a legal perspective?)

*I'm sure I own Gilead stock indirectly via index funds. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

ACS Council considering changing bylaws to extend unemployment dues waiver to 3 years

Also in this week's C&EN, a short article by the chair of the Committee for Membership Affairs, James Landis, listing the available benefits to unemployed ACS members and a proposal for another one: 
The Committee on Membership Affairs (MAC) is a standing committee of the ACS Council that is assigned to promote membership recruitment and retention in ACS while ensuring that present members receive membership benefits and services at the highest levels possible. Part of this involves proposing and maintaining the bylaws for categories of membership and dues for the society. One of these categories is “unemployed.” In times of unemployment, a member may contact the national office and request a waiver of their dues while they are looking for work. Currently, the bylaws of the society allow the member to have dues waived for up to two years. 
During periods of economic dislocation such as the Great Recession and the globalization of the chemical industry, a person’s job search may take a lot of time. The Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs (CEPA) suggested that ACS’s bylaws be changed to allow unemployed members of the society to remain as members without paying dues for a period of up to three years. 
In 2015, MAC examined this proposal and prepared a market data study in which unemployed members were informed that they could request a third-year dues waiver. As a result, MAC obtained the below data: 
Consecutive years unemployed
One year of unemployment: 882
Two years of unemployment: 331
Three years of unemployment: 179 
Expanding this benefit to a third year prevented 179 members from being ­removed from membership in the society. Although this is only a small portion of membership, MAC considers this to be a worthwhile change to the bylaws because it is “the right thing to do” for the members. 
As a result, MAC has prepared a petition to amend the ACS bylaws to make this a permanent change. This petition will be presented to the ACS Council at the ACS national meeting in Philadelphia in August. Please let your local section and division councilors know if you are also in favor of this change.
It is not surprising that there are a very small number of unemployed members, compared to the number of domestic ACS members (80,000 or so.) I presume that many unemployed chemists do not bother to apply for a waiver and simply leave the ACS, so it's hard to imagine that they are included in these counts.

I favor keeping unemployed members within the Society, and helping them to find fulfilling work. Towards that end, I will be contacting my local section and divisional councilors, and I hope you will too. 

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles from this week's issue of C&EN:
  • Cover: Deuterium drugs, by Bethany Halford
    • I think the best part of the article was the scientist saying "people always come to me as if this is a new idea, and I have to warn them..." 
  • Cheryl Hogue has a long article about the recent revision to TSCA.
  • New helium field discovery (article by Marc Reisch)
    • There's some media criticism to be done (not about C&EN!) about how this story played out in the scientific press. A lot of sites were just about straight copies of the press release, there were a couple of short articles that debunked the "helium shortage" narrative. 
    • All of that said, I would really like to know what the overall helium industry thinks of this new discovery; I suspect it is not as world-shattering as the discoverers think, but we shall see! (I suspect they would say that it is the discovery method itself they are most pleased about.)
  • The Charest settlement, covered by Jyllian Kemsley. 
    • Don't miss the comment from the former director of med chem at the Broad Institute. 
  • Bibiana Campos Seijo doesn't have happy things to say about Brexit.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

It's Independence Day in the United States, which is a national holiday. We'll see you tomorrow!

Update: I've been looking for an opportunity to talk about this, and today seems appropriate. If you are a fan of American history (and musical theatre, and hiphop), you may enjoy the musical "Hamilton." A favorite song of mine on the album is "One More Time", which is probably the loveliest musical rendition of George Washington's Farewell Address to date. A lovely portion: 
Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
Have a good Independence Day, folks. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bottle openers

Small useful things (links) (for a long weekend):
Have a great weekend! 

Astronaut sounds like a fun bench chemistry job

I really enjoyed Sarah Everts' interview in this week's C&EN with Helen Sharman, the first British citizen in space: 
What kinds of experiments did you do on Mir? 
We did a lot of agricultural experiments. They were very interested in growing food in space. And in the way magnetic fields affect plant growth. So how potato roots can be pulled in a certain direction if you have a strong enough magnetic field around them. We also had a miniature lemon tree. We wanted to see if we could keep it alive by supplying all the right gases. It was at the space station for three years but died eventually. We were also growing crystals of the protein luciferase. 
The experiments were fairly foolproof—I’d call us space technicians not scientists. Astronauts don’t invent the experiments. We don’t analyze the data, and by and large, we don’t make conclusions. We send the data down to Earth. But at least when we were carrying out the experiments, my chemistry degree made it easy for me to understand what was going on inside the boxes and what to do if there were problems. 
Can you explain why protein crystals grow better in space? 
Imagine crystallizing something on Earth. As bits of the solute move from the solution into the crystal, that local bit of solution becomes less dense—only very marginally. But it’s enough to effect convection currents in the solution. For strongly ionic solutions, convection doesn’t matter: The ionic bonds are so strong that convection currents don’t get in the way of forming nice ionic crystals. But proteins are big, floppy molecules, often with very weak interactions between the molecules that make up the crystal. Even very small convection currents create dislocations within protein crystals. Bits that aren’t quite right. 
In an orbiting space station, warm air doesn’t rise—you don’t get convection in anything. So there are no convection currents in a solution as crystals are crystallizing. You can grow protein crystals of a much higher quality at an orbiting space station, and you can grow them much bigger.
I wonder if there's ever been any efforts to launch a robotic crystallization laboratory?