Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Talk to a Chemist" would not nearly work so well

"Prove your theory that hydroxide is a great leaving group?
For the right price, we're on it. It's gonna take a while, though."
Credit: vigilantcitizen
A very fun and educational (and potentially remunerative?) article by theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder: 
I have kids, and rent to pay, so I tried to think of creative ways to capitalise on 15 years of research experience. [snip] ...And I put up a note on my blog offering physics consultation, including help with theory development: ‘Talk to a physicist. Call me on Skype. $50 per 20 minutes.’ 
A week passed with nothing but jokes from colleagues, most of whom thought my post was a satire. No, no, I assured them, I’m totally serious; send me your crackpots, they’re welcome. In the second week I got two enquiries and, a little nervous, I took on my first customer. Then came a second. A third. And they kept coming. 
My callers fall into two very different categories. Some of them cherish the opportunity to talk to a physicist because one-to-one conversation is simply more efficient than Google... [snip] 
...The majority of my callers are the ones who seek advice for an idea they’ve tried to formalise, unsuccessfully, often for a long time. Many of them are retired or near retirement, typically with a background in engineering or a related industry. All of them are men. [snip] 
...The variety of their ideas is bewildering, but these callers have two things in common: they spend an extraordinary amount of time on their theories, and they are frustrated that nobody is interested.
I am immediately reminded that physics is kind of weird, in that it seems to attract all sorts of impassioned autodidacts*; many fewer, it seems, than chemistry ever does.

This is also surprising, in that I'm surprised that there isn't a physics version of a contract research organization. As many a CRO vet can tell you, you can quite often run into someone who has more money than sense, and who is willing to throw down a few kilobucks to get a real-live chemist to nod politely at their grand chemical plans and run a few experiments for them. Sadly, there aren't enough to keep a CRO's doors open, but enough to pay for at least an entree or three at the company party.

*They can be tragically impassioned, as the Bayard Peakes case instructs us. I don't think there's a chemistry equivalent. 

Process Wednesday: reactions with galvanized drums

I have been remiss in not tracking Scientific Update's process chemistry blog over the last couple of months. They have been posting with some regularity and adding some content from recent presentations at conferences that they run. Here's a nice bit of safety-related information written up by Will Watson: 
At the recent 'Scale Up of Chemical Processes Conference' in Baveno, Italy, Wim Dermaut from Agfa presented some case studies where problems have occurred as a result of reactive chemicals present in waste streams. In the first case study a drum containing a waste stream including diethylhydroxylamine exploded. The most likely cause was caustic present in the empty drum which initially raised the temperature of the waste to a temperature that interaction with Zn led to the runaway reaction (the waste drum was galvanized). 
Interestingly the supplier of diethylhydroxylamine maintained that it was safe as they only saw an endotherm in the DSC, whereas Agfa’s own studies showed an event with an onset at 105°C with a very rapid decomposition. The key difference was that the supplier had carried out their DSC run with an open cell. 
This is the first time that I've heard of a galvanized drum causing a runaway reaction, but I have heard of cases where zinc contamination comes from a galvanized drum. 

Warning Letter of the Week: lizard edition

In a friendly missive from the FDA to the general manager of Unimark Remedies Ltd., this comment about a API manufacturing area:
4.   Failure to properly keep buildings and facilities used in the manufacture of API in a clean condition.
Among other observations, our investigator found that the walls of your manufacturing area had open holes that could permit ingress of insects, birds, lizards, rodents, or other animals to the manufacturing space. During the inspection, the investigator observed dirt and birds in the manufacturing area as well as a lizard in the controlled [redacted] processing area. Your response states that this area of your facility was [redacted]and that the [redacted] had [redacted]. Nonetheless, our investigators found a batch record inside this area demonstrating that you had been conducting manufacturing operations in this space as recently as August 2, 2015 — one day prior to the beginning of the inspection.
Leapin' lizards!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Job posting: 3 assistant professor positions, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Busy day today, but...

This isn't the most lovely news story from the New York Times:
Fired Professor Shot 2 Men Outside Chappaqua Deli, Police Say 
By Jonah Engel Bromwich  
A former faculty member at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine who had been fired shot the school’s dean outside a popular deli in Chappaqua, N.Y., on Monday, apparently in an act of revenge, the authorities said. 
The former employee, Hengjun Chao, 49, of Tuckahoe, N.Y., was charged with attempted second-degree murder after he allegedly fired a shotgun and hit two men around 7 a.m. outside the deli, Lange’s Little Store, about a mile from the home of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the New York City suburb. 
Both men were taken to Westchester Medical Center and treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, the police said. 
Mount Sinai officials confirmed that the dean, Dr. Dennis S. Charney, 65, of Chappaqua, was one of the victims. The name of the other victim was not released. 
“This is an extremely disturbing event,” Dr. Kenneth L. Davis, the chief executive of the Mount Sinai Health System, said in a statement. “Fortunately, Dr. Charney’s injuries are not life-threatening, and we expect he will fully recover.”...
Click here to read the whole thing. Here's the Retraction Watch coverage of it; at first glance, looks to be a PI who shouldn't have been a PI. Sounds like he'll spend some time in the pokey for this. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Commenting note

The spam filter is hungrier than usual recently; if your comment has been swallowed by the spam filter, e-mail me at and I can usually get it to cough it up. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Glass cutters

Small, useful things (links):
Again, an open invitation to all interested in writing a blog, a hobby that will bring you millions thousands hundreds tens of dollars joy and happiness. Send me a link to your post, and I'd be happy to put it up.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Help out an ex-DuPonter with their retirement funds

From the comments, Anon641p has an excellent question (lightly edited for grammar): 
....I came home to mail from DuPont ( I worked for them for 1981 to 1995) that said I can (but don't have to) cash out my defined benefit pension as a lump sum... And I have to decide between Sept 12 and Oct 16 of this year... Obviously this has to do with the merger. 
I would rather take it under the original plan as a little secure longevity insurance, but I wonder, given everything, if that is wise...  
Obviously they are trying to disburse the money in the plan as quickly as possible, which makes me wonder if it will be around in the long run (I have at least 5 years before I retire) 
I know there are other ex-DuPonters that read this blog, I wonder if they have gotten the notice yet and what they are thinking of doing about it...
I suspect that there really isn't much of a difference between the two choices, but I suspect that there are both tax implications and questions as to where the lump sum would be transferred to.

Readers, any help here?

UPDATE: A reader sends in a scan of the attached information sheet. 

One week to negotiate an offer?

In a recent "In the Pipeline" thread, a surprising tidbit from a biotech hiring manager:
...More recently, I made an offer to a recent PhD grad. Again, it was a very generous package, yet when the offer was made, this person came back saying he was worth more (despite him not having any industry experience). I felt like pulling the offer right there. Instead, I waited him out, and when the one week expiry came, I told him we had to make an offer to someone else. I found out later that he was holding our offer to a competitor in order to get a higher salary from the competitor. Good riddance that he was never hired.
There are a lot of interesting details here, but the 1 week deadline on the offer seems a little short.

I am under the impression that two weeks is a reasonable time frame, but maybe I'm wrong. Readers, what has been your recent experience? 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Massachusetts wins, NJ/PA loses

You knew it, I knew it, the scientific community knew it (via the Boston Business Journal's Don Seiffert): 
Recent growth can largely be attributed to Shire plc (Nasdaq: SHPG), which last year added around 1,200 jobs in Massachusetts, establishing its U.S. headquarters in Lexington as well as expanding both research and manufacturing facilities. 
The manufacturing growth is a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak picture of such jobs in the Bay State. The state has lost about 50,000 manufacturing jobs, or 17 percent, over the past 10 years, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of that decline came between 2008 and 2010, right after the worldwide recession hit. 
The increase in drug manufacturing in Massachusetts also comes despite a declining number of biomanufacturing jobs nationally. The United States lost more than 24,000 biopharma manufacturing jobs, an 8 percent decrease, in the past decade, according to MassBio’s report. Such states as New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been the hardest hit: Those two states alone lost nearly 23,000 drug manufacturing jobs since 2006. (emphasis CJ's)  
MassBio’s 2016 Industry Snapshot shows that the number of biotech research and development jobs grew by nearly 7,000 since 2007, and continues to make up about half the total 63,000 jobs attributed to the biotech industry.
 Well, it's great for Boston, I guess. 

Postdoc side gig: chocolate maker

From a Naturejobs post about non-traditional positions, this rather wonderful tidbit about a chemist:
Even so, scientists who are committed to a side pursuit say that they sacrifice their social life, and sometimes their rest. “I didn't do much else besides my research and making chocolate,” says Adam Kavalier, a chemist who developed the logo and concept for his company, Undone Chocolate, during his postdoc at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. “I didn't sleep much: I worked weekends and nights. I did not take vacations,” he says. “But I already had a passion for making chocolate, and once I decided to make it a business, that became an obsession.”
From a brief Google search, more about Dr. Kavalier's early experiments:
Adam Kavalier came across cacao, the plant used to make chocolate, while he was studying plant biochemistry and how plants make medicinal compounds in graduate school at the City University of New York. (He then got a post-doctorate degree at Weill Cornell Medical College.) He started making chocolate at home and bringing it into the lab to test its antioxidant levels. He became obsessed with finding beans to craft the most antioxidant-rich chocolate possible. 
“It sort of started as this analytical processing thing,” Adam Kavalier says. “Making chocolate takes several steps and involves making some of your own machinery. I love to build things and love to make things ... So it filled a lot of different passions for me, both on the science side and the artistic side.” 
Adam Kavalier spent about five years experimenting with recipes in their 700-square-foot New York apartment. The couple had to put an acoustic sound barrier wall over their kitchen door because they’d often have two or three noisy chocolate grinders going at once. Then, because they were worrie about the vibrations disturbing their neighbors downstairs, they stacked up yoga mats. The entire space was filled with huge containers of beans, and nibs, ginders, a temperer, a fan, and other equipment. “It just took up the entire apartment,” Kristen Kavalier says. “The only room that never had chocolate in it was the bedroom, and actually at one point I think it did.”
Sounds like a lot of fun. (For those interested, here's Undone Chocolate's website.)

What is it about scientists and starting food manufacturing businesses? The obvious answers are obvious: cooking is chemistry, after all, and all the lab skills we learn port very naturally to the kitchen. It also appears to be a business that has a relatively low barrier to entry, i.e. you have free capital in your kitchen. At the same time, I can't help but note that food manufacturing is a low-margin, high-volume affair (albeit somewhat higher margin in the luxury chocolate business that Dr. Kavalier is in.) If I had a nickel for every chemist who has started a food-related business or talked about starting one, I'd have a lot of nickels...

Daily Pump Trap: 8/25/16 edition

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

Cambridge, MA: GENEWIZ (there's a new name to C&EN Jobs) is looking for a B.S./M.S. oligonucleotide synthesis chemist.

Woburn, MA: Ahhhh, Organix with its traditional postdoctoral ad. Also, a polymer postdoc position at Nano Terra (Cambridge, MA).

Charleston, TN: Wacker is looking for a senior quality manager; 10 years experience desired.

ACS Philadelphia Career Fair Watch: 17 positions from Monsanto, 33 positions from WuXi. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

ACS Philadelphia Career Fair: 172 openings, 710 job seekers

Reported to the ACS Council this morning at the Philadelphia National Meeting:
Job Seekers: 710
Employers: 37
Number of Jobs: 172
Recruiters Row Booths: 17 
Résumé Reviews: 348
Mock Interviews: 194
 4:1 job seeker-to-jobs ratio is better than San Diego this last March, and somewhat better than average for recent years. 

USDA to Purchase Surplus Postdoctoral Fellows for Food Banks and Families in Need, Continue to Assist Ph.D. Producers

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to purchase approximately 10,000 postdoctoral fellows (approximately 2 million pounds of scientists) from university inventories to assist food banks and pantries across the nation, while reducing a Ph.D. surplus that is at its highest level in 30 years. The purchase, valued at $20 million, will be provided to families in need across the country through USDA nutrition assistance programs, while assisting the stalled marketplace for doctoral and postdoctoral producers whose revenues have dropped 35 percent over the past two years.

"We understand that the nation's academics are experiencing challenges due to market conditions and that food banks continue to see strong demand for fresh meat of any variety, even postdocs, which are a little gamy," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This commodity purchase is part of a robust, comprehensive safety net that will help reduce a postdoc surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein, science-based and soft-skilled food to the tables of those most in need. USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to make tasty meals from underemployed postdocs and provide for added stability in the academic marketplace."

"By supporting a strong academic safety net and growing domestic and foreign markets for well-trained, highly-skilled meat that can solve the toughest problems, USDA is committed to helping America's Ph.D.-producing operations remain successful while expanding the alternatives to tenure-track academic positions to include being ground up for dinner," said Vilsack.

While USDA projects postdoctoral demand to increase throughout the rest of the year, many factors including low world prices for postdoctoral labor, increased Ph.D. supplies and inventories, and slower demand have contributed to the sluggish marketplace for research scientists.

USDA will continue to monitor market conditions in the coming months and evaluate additional actions, if necessary, later this fall.

For the literal-minded, this is satire.
with mild apologies to the Department of Agriculture

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

NLRB: Graduate students are employees, can unionize

Via Gary McDowell, the National Labor Relations Board has reversed a 2004 decision on the ability of private universities to bar graduate students from unionizing: 
Board: Student Assistants Covered by the NLRA 
August 23, 2016 
3-1 Columbia Decision Overrules Brown University 
Washington, D.C. — The National Labor Relations Board issued a 3-1 decision in Columbia University that student assistants working at private colleges and universities are statutory employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act. The Graduate Workers of Columbia-GWC, UAW filed an election petition seeking to represent both graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, along with graduate and departmental research assistants at the university in December 2014. The majority reversed Brown University (342 NLRB 483) saying it “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the Act without a convincing justification.” 
For 45 years, the National Labor Relations Board has exercised jurisdiction over private, nonprofit universities such as Columbia. In that time, the Board has had frequent cause to apply the Act to faculty in the university setting, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court. 
Federal courts have made clear that the authority to define the term “employee” rests primarily with the Board absent an exception enumerated within the National Labor Relations Act. The Act contains no clear language prohibiting student assistants from its coverage. The majority found no compelling reason to exclude student assistants from the protections of the Act. (emphasis CJ's)
The full decision is linked here. Here's Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik on the decision:
Graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities are entitled to collective bargaining, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday. The NLRB said that a previous ruling by the board -- that these workers were not entitled to collective bargaining because they are students -- was flawed. The NLRB ruling, 3 to 1, came in a case involving a bid by the United Auto Workers to organize graduate students at Columbia University. 
The decision reverses a 2004 decision -- which has been the governing one until today -- about a similar union drive at Brown University. 
Many graduate students at public universities are already unionized, as their right to do so is covered by state law, not federal law. 
The ruling largely rejects the fights of previous boards over whether teaching assistants should be seen primarily as students or employees. They can be both, the majority decision said.
I'll be honest and say that I can't imagine that this will have much of an effect on things - someone still has to organize the union, and I can't imagine that graduate students will want to spend the time to make this happen. I just don't see an organized constituency that will want to go do the work, and that it will be sustained over the years. Nevertheless, there are a fair number of graduate student unions.

That said, it is interesting to me how, if you're a private university assistant professor, the cost of labor (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) have gotten higher than it was 2 years ago. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 8/23/16 edition

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

Houston, TX: Rice University is searching for an assistant professor in organic chemistry.

Santa Cruz, CA: UC Santa Cruz is looking for an assistant professor "in the area of Biomaterials/Bioinorganic/Inorganic Chemistry." Looks like biomaterials is an interest for this position. 

Lausanne, Switzerland: Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is looking for an assistant professor to work on inorganic materials. 

Moraga, CA: Saint Mary's College of California is looking for an assistant professor of organic or analytical chemistry. 

Philadelphia, PA: Drexel University is looking for an assistant professor of inorganic chemistry. 

Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University is searching for an assistant professor of biochemistry.

The List: There are 126 positions on the 2017 Faculty Jobs List.

Postdoc: Ryter lab, University of Montana, Missoula, MT

From the inbox, a postdoc at the University of Montana:
A Post Doctoral Scientist position in synthetic chemistry is available immediately on our interactive multi-disciplinary research team focused on the design, synthesis, and development of novel vaccine adjuvants and immunomodulators at The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA under the direction of Dr. Kendal Ryter. We are Seeking a highly motivated individual with a strong theoretical background and relevant laboratory experience in organic synthesis and modern purification and characterization techniques (NMR, HPLC, LC-MS, etc) and with a solid understanding of medicinal chemistry and relevant biochemical disciplines. Previous experience with carbohydrate, heterocyclic and phospholipid chemistry is preferred. 
 Full description and contact information here. Best wishes to those interested. 

How to transition from industry to academia for an inorganic chemist?

From the inbox, an interesting question from someone we'll call TG: 
I'm hoping that either you or your readers have some insight into how best to go about transitioning from industry to academia. I have a sort of unusual background ([CJ's redaction: some post-college industry experience], then an inorganic PhD in a strong but not top 5 department, then a polymer/nano postdoc, then back to industry) and after about [redacted (less than 5)] years in R&D with a large international company I've realized that the only part of my job I find rewarding is mentoring interns and junior scientists and that I'd rather be working on fundamental rather than applied questions. 
I was a bit too headstrong (or something like that) and rushed through both grad school and my postdoc [redacted] so while I have [enough] first author papers that seem to check all the quality boxes, I realize I'm publication light overall and didn't take many opportunities to build a network. Do my (filed) patent applications count for anything? Is applying for inorganic positions with my background a fool's errand? Any advice or insight is appreciated.
Part of this question is going to be "does TG want to be a professor at a Ph.D.-producing institution, or do they want to teach at a small college?" I think that TG's background would probably fit both (especially since TG has been productive in industry). Further communication with TG indicates they would like a research university position, as they have less teaching experience. (PUI profs - is lack of instructor experience important?)

Over the years, my observation is that academics are fairly open to odd backgrounds, as long as the "quality boxes" have been checked. Writing a good set of documents (cover letter, research proposals, teaching philosophies, etc.) will be key to explaining your interest in the transition, I'd think.

Readers, your thoughts? 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The plight of Venezuelan academic chemists

Also in this week's C&EN, a fascinating (and sad) article by Barbara Fraser about the troubles that Venezuelan chemists have in getting supplies and funds to do research: 
...That’s no minor issue, according to Botello, who depended on the free meals because his scholarship did not even cover the rent for the room where he lived.
His academic adviser, Jorge Mostany, retired a year ago and took his young family to Spain. 
Mostany, who is finishing his term as president of the Venezuelan Chemical Society, was exhausted by scrounging for diapers, milk, and other necessities on a salary that had dropped to the equivalent of about $50 a month. He now lives in an annex to his parents’ home in Alicante, Spain, where he collaborates with University of Alicante colleagues but does not have a position. 
Databases of journals in Venezuelan university libraries are four or five years out of date because of lack of funds. Students pass photocopied books around, and researchers ask friends in other universities or abroad for items they cannot obtain. 
When repeated power outages blew fuses in a laboratory at Metropolitan University and no replacements could be found, Scharifker tweeted his frustration. In response, students in Florida shipped him fuses. 
Theft of computers and lab equipment is common, especially on the Central University’s open campus, where criminals once burst into a classroom and stripped the students of their cell phones and laptops...
Best wishes to them.  

This week's C&EN

A few articles from this week's (double) issue of C&EN:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pretty cool idea at the #ACSPhilly career fair: a fashion show

Just wanted to flag the "Dressing for Success" Fashion Show at the ACS Philadelphia Career Fair at 3 pm on Monday in Hall C in the Career Fair. "Does [insert article of clothing] this make me look dumb?" is a question most scientists ask at some point, especially after I wore a clip-on tie to my first job interview as a chemist (I got the job, but no thanks to the tie, I suspect.) 

Friday, August 19, 2016

The View from Your Hood: St Andrews, Scotland

"From the Biomolecular Sciences Building at St Andrews"
credit: Stephen Thompson
From reader Stephen Thompson:

"I was lucky for this to be the actual view from my hood. Its a view from the labs on the top floor of the Biomolecular Sciences Building at St Andrews, looking out over the fairways of the Old Course, the Hotel, The Cairngorm Mountains off to the left and the North Sea out to the right. It was amazing to be able to watch the Scottish seasons roll by over 4 wonderful years during my PhD."

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

TAOC Symposium next Wednesday

For those of you going to the ACS meeting in Philadelphia (starting on Sunday), an invitation to the Division of Organic Chemistry's Technical Achievements in Organic Chemistry Symposium.

It's next Wednesday, August 24, from 8:30 until 5 pm at the Terrace Ballroom II at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Congratulations to all the winners! More details can be found here. 

Illinois economics professor finds lack of skills gap in manufacturing

From a University of Illinois press release (reprinted in the Rock River Times): 
Three-quarters of U.S. manufacturing plants show no sign of hiring difficulties for open positions, says new research from Andrew Weaver, a professor of labor and employment relations at Illinois. 
“Not a week goes by without someone declaring that a huge skills gap exists in the U.S. workforce,” he said. “A lot of ink has been spilled on this topic, but it’s frequently without evidence. The popular sentiment encourages people to think that employers have high skill demands, but U.S. workers just aren’t up to snuff, and that’s why manufacturing work is being outsourced overseas.” 
However, the results show that U.S. manufacturers are generally able to hire the skilled workers they seek. 
“We estimate an upper bound of job vacancies due to a potential skills gap of 16 to 25 percent of manufacturing establishments – a finding that sharply contrasts with other surveys that have reported figures of more than 60-70 percent,” Weaver said.
This survey was done of 2700 randomly selected manufacturers, yielding 903 responses. The survey was done in 2012 and 2013. From the actual paper ("Skill Demands and Mismatch in U.S. Manufacturing"), an excerpt of the concluding paragraph:
Overall, the results qualify our view of skill mismatch. Three-quarters of U.S. manufacturing plants show no sign of hiring difficulties. We estimate an upper bound on potential skill gaps of 16 to 25% of manufacturing establishments. This finding contrasts sharply with other, nonrandom surveys that have reported figures in excess of 60 or 70% (Deloitte 2011). 
Among the minority of manufacturing establishments that do show potential signs of hiring distress, the relationship between skill demands and hiring problems is not simple or clear-cut. While higher-level math demands are predictive of hiring difficulties, higher-level computer demands are not. Extended reading skills are unexpectedly prominent as predictors of long-term vacancies. Many other skill demands, including those for soft skills and problem-solving/initiative skills, are not associated
with hiring difficulties. 
When we examine the mechanisms that might contribute to hiring difficulties, a mixed picture emerges. High-tech plants, often thought to be hampered by inadequate workforce skills, are not associated with significantly greater hiring difficulties. Beyond higher-level math and reading demands, the two largest and most consistently robust predictors of hiring difficulties are demand for unique skills and membership in an industry cluster. Both of these factors raise questions about the relationship between a manufacturing establishment and other regional actors, including other firms, educational institutions, and training providers. The positive relationship between unique skill demands and long-term vacancies indicates that a number of establishments are unwilling or unable to solve their skill challenges through internal training, even for skills that are highly specific to a particular plant. 
I'm looking forward to reading this paper more thoroughly; I'm also looking forward to the deafening silence on it from all the local business journals and the Manufacturing Institute as they continue to complain about a skills gap, and how local community colleges need to help them out with it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

This Craig Lindsley op-ed is worth reading, and worth some skepticism

"We can ill afford another Klendathu, and/or the death of basic science."**
credit: wikia
Via Tehshik Yoon's Twitter feed, an interesting op-ed by Professor Craig Lindsley in ACS Chemical Neuroscience on the apparent favoring of translational science over basic science. I take issue with the opening quote from Genentech's Dr. Wendy Young: 
“The pharma and biotech industry has heavily relied on academia to train the next generation of synthetic chemists. Without duly trained synthetic ‘jocks’, our drug discovery efforts and innovation in the United States will dwindle. Without question, innovation has been a core strength of the United States, and this is due to the training in deep basic science.”
Surely there is no other reason for drug discovery efforts in the United States to dwindle. 

(I am in agreement with Dr. Young (and the quotes from Professors Baran, Corey and Buchwald) that academia provides the raw material for industrial drug discoverers i.e. new Ph.D.s in organic chemistry. I don't see that decreasing any time soon, but perhaps I am wrong - only time will tell.) 

I should lay out my priors here and say that I agree with Professor Lindsley's basic point: "We can ill afford the death of basic science." The overall flattening of NIH funding is not A Good Thing in the long run.* Also, I prefer that the federal government bias its funding towards basic science, as opposed to "translational research." The United States has a long history of reaping vast rewards from studying basic science, and it's not clear to me that translational research has nearly the same track record. 

But here's what I want to know, and what I feel is missing from Professor Lindsley's op-ed: what are the numbers surrounding federal academic funding of organic chemistry? Is there evidence that " the last 10 years that research funding for basic organic chemistry and/or molecular pharmacology is in rapid decline"? Also, Professor Baran says that the decrease is disproportional. I believe the former, and I could believe the latter, but the trends aren't clear to me. Where can this data be found? 

Finally, if it is true that there has been a disproportionate decrease, who is the audience for these complaints? Who sets funding priorities at NIH? Seems to me it's probably a conversation between the the relevant Congressional committee and senior leadership at NIH? Who should we be yelling at? 

*I could easily imagine altering NIH funding mechanisms to both accommodate an increase in NIH funding, and not generate a surplus of new Ph.D. chemists, but this blog post is too small to contain an explanation of it. 
**reference to Starship Troopers

Physician shortage in 2025?

For those of you (possibly including myself*) who look at medicine as a possible alternative career, an interesting assertion from the 2016 report by the American Association of Medical Colleges, regarding the employment outlook for physicians:
Physician demand continues to grow faster than supply leading to a projected total physician shortfall of between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians by 2025. As with the 2015 projections, under every combination of scenarios modeled, an overall physician shortage is projected. Though this total projected shortfall exceeds the 46,100 to 90,400 physician shortfall estimated by the 2015 study (Exhibits ES-1 and ES-2), the 2016 updated projections of a physician shortfall in 2025 are of a similar magnitude to the 2015 projections. Differences between the 2016 update and the 2015 projections largely reflect the use of more recent data and improvements to methods.
Obviously, this is a projection and the world is woefully short on accurate soothsayers. For what it is worth, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also sees a 14% increase in positions for physicians and surgeons for the 2014-2024 time period, which is faster than the 7% growth projected for all jobs.

*Note to my employers: I really like my job, and I like hanging out with my kids. Neither of those things are compatible with going to medical school.

(Other caveats: wage growth, unemployment, difficulty in getting medical education, etc., etc.)

Daily Pump Trap: 8/18/16 edition

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

Indianapolis, IN: Elanco is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. biochemist for DMPK work.

Cleveland, OH: Lubrizol is searching for a regulatory compliance specialist; B.S., 0-5 years experience.

Indianapolis, IN: Lilly is looking for a senior engineer for its Process Design and Development group.

Bay City, TX: Chemicals Incorporated is looking for a general manager. The website is quite the treat (said the guy with the world's most boring-est blog template).

Boston, MA?: Cabot Chemicals is looking for an experienced B.S. chemist to be a buyer; I find myself more tempted by this career path than I could have imagined 10 years ago.

Wenatchee, WA: AgroFresh is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist; looks to be GC/MS-related.

ACS Philadelphia Career Fair watch: 101 positions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Irritation at publishers: 'twas ever thus

From the inbox, Anonymous sends this irritated letter in Science (1931, 79 (2053)) from Benjamin Harrow of the City College of New York, who doesn't want to pay Beilstein anymore. $60!!!

(Amusingly, $60.55 in 1931 dollars is $958.63 in 2016 dollars, which I suspect is a relative steal.)

Warning Letter of the Week: R&D folder edition

Via Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, an interesting warning letter to Zhejiang Medicine: 
Your laboratory personnel conducted unofficial testing without appropriate documentation, justification, and investigation.

Our inspection found that analysts performed multiple gas chromatography (GC) analyses of [redacted] samples for residual solvents. Analysts performed these unofficial analyses and recorded them in separate “R&D” folders before conducting the officially reported sample analyses. The original, unofficial analyses stored in separate R&D folders were not part of the official quality control records for your API, and your firm did not consider the results of these unofficial analyses to evaluate the quality of your API or make batch release decisions for numerous batches of API.

Our investigator reviewed chromatograms found in the R&D folders and noted that some displayed large unknown peaks that were not reported in the official records for the same samples. The presence of such peaks in the chromatograms may indicate the presence of unknown and uncharacterized impurities (including potential contaminants) in your drugs. 
That folder of data? Oh, that's nothing, don't worry about it.

A pleasant little tidbit: Zhejiang Medicine is responsible for supplying vancomycin API to Pfizer's Hospira unit. (via the South China Morning Post.) I'm sure they're fully compliant with cGMP with vanco, though. 

Daily Pump Trap: 8/16/16 edition

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

Clark, NJ: Quite the little bolus of research positions with L'Oreal.

Cincinnati, OH: Patheon looking for a B.S./M.S. analytical development chemist.

Egg Harbor Township, NJ: Signature Science is looking for an analytical chemist with an eye towards explosives; looks to be a DoD/IC contract position? Offered 75k-85k.

Milford, OH: PPG Industries is looking for a beverage coatings chemist. B.S. and 1-3 years experience desired.

Athens, GA: Noramco is looking for an experienced B.S./M.S./Ph.D. process chemist.

Newark, DE: Wilmington PharmaTech is looking for process chemists at all levels. (Has anyone heard of this company? I feel like they're new.)

ACS Philadelphia Career Fair Watch: 98 positions posted. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 8/16/16 edition

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

Salt Lake City, Utah: The University of Utah is hiring two assistant professor candidates in the areas of synthetic organic chemistry, chemical biology, bioanalytical and/or biophysical chemistry. Looks to be open rank-ish.

Louisville, KY: Bellarmine University, looking for an assistant professor of inorganic chemistry.

Providence, RI: Brown University is searching for an assistant professor of chemistry; appears to be a broadly-based search for an organic chemist.

Edmonton, AB: The University of Alberta is conducting an open rank search for professors in the fields of analytical chemistry and environmental chemistry.

College Station, TX: Also, Texas A&M, searching for an assistant professor in the following specialties:
Energy and Sustainability, Molecular Sensing and Diagnostics, and Synthetic Organic Chemistry and Synthetic Biology in the Service of Human Health.
Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University is looking for an assistant professor of physical chemistry.

Shanghai, China: NYU Shanghai is looking for a theoretical/computational chemist.

The List: The 2017 Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth) is at 97 positions. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Job posting: senior scientist, BioCellection Inc., San Jose, CA

From the inbox, an interesting position at a Bay Area startup:
Senior Scientist, Chemistry 
For the chemical R&D stream, we are looking for an expert knows how to use chemistry to turn plastic polymers into depolymerized form. This chemical process is crucial for the downstream biological component to be fully effective. You will develop a process viable for the benchtop and interact with BioCellection biologists to ensure that your resulting depolymerization product is a viable carbon feedstock for the degradation microbes. It is important to keep in mind the sustainability and costs associated with different components of this method so you can upscale the prototype to industrial operations. 
It is required that you possess the following:
  • Ph.D. in organic chemistry (synthesis or catalysis) or organometallic chemistry
  • Experience working with polymers
  • Excellence in critical thinking, experimental design, and troubleshooting
  • Experience in upscaling chemical processes
  • Ability to understand the implications of proposed chemical work on the downstream biological processes
Full posting here. Best wishes to those interested. 

A new website for employment outlook tracking for the Ph.D. job market:

A guest post from Rachel Harris, a chemist, reader of the blog, and proprietor of

The Survey of Earned Doctorates is a remarkably complete and accurate yearly census that collects the demographic data and future plans of people who have recently obtained their PhD. Due to its large scope, however, this national survey is limited in the level of specificity it can obtain from its respondents. The placement classifications are broad (postdoc, employed, still looking) and the employment categories, when broken down further, don’t really elucidate that much either (Academe, Government, Industry, Nonprofit, and Other). Finally, it does not account for those who leave PhD programs with a master's degree and subsequently go on to have great careers.

Enter the Highly Informative Repository of Employment Data for PhDs (HIRED-PhD), a database designed to improve transparency regarding post-graduation employment for people with advanced degrees. Individual research groups keep much better tabs on their alumni than a national survey ever could - why not aggregate this information such that we can compare employment outcomes by university, department, and PI?

Do higher departmental rankings really translate into better job opportunities? Which research group should you join if you’re dead-set on teaching at a PUI? What jobs do people get that fall under the incredibly vague “Other” umbrella? HIRED aims to answer questions like these, and to provide current and soon-to-be grad students with information to help them make career-defining decisions.

HIRED will use data scraped from group websites to track the career trajectories of alumni, along with metrics like time to graduation, department ranking, degree obtained (PhD/MS/MA), and length of their PI’s career. The database will also include information on the employment institutions (universities, businesses, or nonprofits) such as number of employees, year founded, industry (higher ed/energy/pharma/etc.) and location.

To learn more about the project, visit the website or the Github repository, which contains some sample data and documentation. If you’d like to contribute your research group’s alumni data, or if you have suggestions for other interesting metrics, please contact me at

Monday, August 15, 2016

"There are no available national statistics about injury and illness rates specifically in research laboratories."

In 2013, William Banholzer (a senior Dow executive), Gary Calabrese (a senior Dow Corning executive) and Pat Confalone (a senior DuPont Crop Protection executive) wrote a letter to Chemical and Engineering News with the following statistic:
The facts are unequivocal. Occupational Safety & Health Administration statistics demonstrate that researchers are 11 times more likely to get hurt in an academic lab than in an industrial lab. 
At the time, this was almost immediately challenged by Jyllian Kemsley, because it was based on OSHA statistics for entire institutions, not the laboratories themselves.

However, this "11 times safer" statistic continues to circulate, even as it is unfounded. Today, C&EN added an editor's note to the original letter to the editor:
EDITOR’S NOTE: The statistic presented in this letter that “researchers are 11 times more likely to get hurt in an academic lab than in an industrial lab” is inaccurate. The authors actually compared the overall injury and illness rate for academic institutions to Dow Chemical’s overall injury and illness rate. The overall rates would include accidents in areas such as groundskeeping, dining halls, and manufacturing facilities as well as in research laboratories, and the university rates may not include events that harm students. There are no available national statistics about injury and illness rates specifically in research laboratories.
It will be interesting to see if Google's webcrawlers and diligent fact-checking will manage to correct the record and purge this statistic from our collective memories, and here's hoping that we actually have national-level statistics about chemical laboratory incidents in our lifetimes. 

This week's C&EN a double issue for next week. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

8 inch pie plates

A collection of small, useful things (links):
Readers, an open invitation to all interested in writing a blog, a hobby that will bring you millions thousands hundreds tens of dollars joy and happiness. Send me a link to your post, and I'd be happy to put it up.

Also, did I miss anything? Feel free to add it in the comments. Have a great weekend! 

Postdoctoral positions: synthetic and computational, NASA/IBM, Mountain View, CA

From the inbox, two postdoctoral positions with a joint NASA/IBM focus. First, a computational postdoc:
AMA is currently accepting applications for an on-site position at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA for a scientist/engineer with experience in Computational Modeling of Advanced Electrolytes for Energy Storage Materials. The position supports the ESTRAD contract which pursues the research and development of advanced materials, computational capabilities, and vehicle designs to advance planetary entry systems.
Full listing here. Second, a synthetic postdoc at the same location:
AMA is currently accepting applications for an on-site position at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA for a scientist/engineer with experience in Synthesis and Characterization of Advanced Electrolytes for Energy Storage Materials. The position supports the ESTRAD contract which pursues the research and development of advanced materials, computational capabilities, and vehicle designs to advance planetary entry systems.
Full listing here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Job posting: Research Scientist, Merck KGaA, Southhampton, UK

From the inbox, a position located in the UK with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany:
R&D Scientist (MSc/PhD in chemistry, colour chemistry, physics, material science, engineering or relevant discipline) in Organic Photovoltaics, 
The position is at the Chilworth Technical Centre (near Southampton, UK) of Merck KGaA. Full posting here. Best wishes to those interested. 

How many positions posted in pharma for US chemists?

A quick rundown of the number of available chemistry-related (broadly defined) positions in 14 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: 1
Roche: 1
Merck: 8
Novartis: 2
Johnson & Johnson: 11
GSK: 4
Sanofi: 8 (LinkedIn)
AstraZeneca: 2
Lilly: 4
BMS:  18
Takeda: 8
Gilead: 22
Vertex: 3
Boehringer Ingelheim: 0

A brutal indictment of job retraining

From the Wall Street Journal, an analysis of the counties in the United States that have been most hit by trade with China. The article focuses on North Carolina and the furniture industry and starts with this anecdote: 
Stuart Shoun, 59 years old, has been laid off three times since 1999. After one layoff, the Hickory machinist studied architecture at a community college but then couldn’t find a job and returned to the furniture industry. He makes $45,000 a year, the same as he did nearly 20 years ago and $14,000 a year poorer after adjusting for inflation.
The article goes into more detail on the industries devastated by the switch to Chinese manufactured goods in the United States, and then delves into the details of "trade adjustment assistance":
Government efforts for laid-off workers haven’t helped much. Washington’s formal program to retrain workers hurt by import competition, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, pays for two years of college tuition and extends unemployment-insurance payouts. 
A 2012 evaluation ordered by the Labor Department found that program participants, especially those older than 50, generally made less money four years after starting the program than those who didn’t sign up. The others went back to work more quickly. 
Mr. Shuford, Century’s chief executive, calls the job-relief program a “Band-Aid for an economy that has a sliced artery.”
I am broadly sympathetic to claims that trade is, on balance, good for the United States. But until we actually figure out how to help those who lose their jobs due to trade, I cannot blame my fellow citizens for being skeptical.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

ACS setting up a chemistry preprint server

I don't have a dog in this fight, but folks will probably want to know about this. From the ACS press release: 
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 2016 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) today announced its intention to form ChemRxiv, a chemistry preprint server for the global chemistry community, proposed as a collaborative undertaking that will facilitate the open dissemination of important scientific findings. The Society is presently in the process of inviting interested stakeholders to participate in helping to shape the service ahead of its anticipated launch.
Here's the C&EN article by Andrea Widener going into a few of the details. Here's hoping it's more successful than the ACS Network.

How to make a great decade?

Apropos of absolutely nothing, a question stolen from MetaFilter: 
Let's say, hypothetically, there is a MeFite who will turn 40 next year and is wondering what types of things they can do or avoid during the upcoming decade so on their 50th birthday they can look back and say, "Wow, what a great decade that was?" 
Actionable, specific ideas based on your own positive or unfortunate experiences are the most welcomed (see a doctor about ____ vs. "stay healthy"'; plan an overseas trip every single year vs. travel more, etc.). But all ideas are neat!
If you look through the thread, there's a lot about health and money. That kind of advice is happily welcome. Advice about what do to in your career would be helpful too. Readers?  

Does anyone know about the C/hee/ky Scie/ntist Associ/ation?

From the inbox, a good question:
Have you heard of the Chee/ky Scie/ntist*? Know anyone who is/was an Ass/ociate and can say if it was helpful? It looks super interesting, but also potentially scammy. 
Heh. So, bluntly put, I think it looks scammy as well. Joining a private discussion group for over $300 seems outlandish. The website screams "scam" to me as well, although maybe that's just because the template seems to be associated with supplement folks. That said, I'm sure there are plenty of intelligent folks who've forked over the money and gotten good advice and good networking out of it. Here's hoping, anyway.

Personally, I suspect that it's not oriented towards chemists (i.e. sure seems to be a lot of life scientists) and that there's no strong evidence that Associates achieve more success in obtaining positions than those who do not. Readers?

*Googleproofing to (a likely futile) attempt to avoid anonymous hordes on non-regular readers coming into plump the website.

UPDATE 25AUG2023: Interested in talking about your experience with the Cheeksters? Email Catherine Offord at coffordwrites at gmail dot com

Daily Pump Trap: 8/11/16 edition

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

Malvern, PA: Interesting to see an advertisement for a Teva process chemist; B.S./M.S./Ph.D. with experience desired.

Irvine, CA: Allergan is searching for a principal scientist for formulation-related research; M.S/Ph.D. w/8+ years experience desired.

Decatur, GA: Georgia-Pacific is looking for 3 M.S./Ph.D. entry-level positions. Also, they're advertising their accelerated sales program.

Wilmington, DE: Chemours is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist, specializing in chromatography.

Northborough, MA: Saint-Gobain looking for a senior research engineer for bonded abrasives R&D; M.S./Ph.D. w/experience desired.

That's a big job: FDA is looking for "consumer safety officers" for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, which is "responsible for ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of the U.S. food supply." Looks to be a bachelor's level position? Offering 77,490.00 - 119,794.00.

Parlier, CA: USDA has an opening for a postdoctoral position to "isolate, synthesize, and bioassay natural products that mediate plant-insect interaction." Offering 59,246.00 - 71,012.00. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 8/11/16 edition

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

Austin, TX: The University of Texas - Austin is looking for two new assistant professors.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard's got its usual posting for fall 2017.

Naperville, IL: North Central College has an opening for a tenure-track position; interesting that postdoctoral experience is required preferred (thanks VTJ!).

Hamilton, NY: Colgate University is looking for an assistant professor of biochemistry.

Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wilkes University is looking for an assistant professor of biophysical chemistry. "The applicant will have a broad background in chemistry with expertise in experimental physical biochemistry."

St. Petersburg, FL: Eckerd College is searching for an assistant professor of analytical chemistry.

OMAHA: Creighton University (Omaha, NE) is looking for an assistant professor of analytical chemistry.

Williamstown, MA: Williams College is searching for two professors; an assistant professor in biochemistry and one in physical/analytical/environmental chemistry.

The List: The 2017 Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth) is at 83 positions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cupping Trend Hits Elite Chemistry Scene

PHILADELPHIA (CJ News Service)  Audience members were shocked on at the ACS National Meeting when Professor Chad Mirkin of Northwestern University removed his suit jacket, revealing purple marks on his wrists resulting from cupping. "It steadies my laser pointer hand," he explained to the National Meeting attendees as he prepared to give the opening Fred Kavli Innovations in Chemistry Lecture.

The cupping trend has been popular with celebrities and Olympic athletes, so it is unsurprising that elite chemists have turned the the technique to perfect their laboratory and communication skills. A few years ago, Professor Phil Baran of the Scripps Research Institute posted a photo on Instagram showing his biceps covered with 8 clear cups and a postdoc using a heat gun to warm another cup prior to placing it on the skin.

Rumors suggest that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have been using cupping to improve circulation to the head before oral examinations, and some have claimed cupping increases the steadiness of their hands for TLC spotting.

“We know that science says it isn’t detrimental,” Dr. Mehmet Mercola said. “We know that science says it does in some cases help out, like taking virgin coconut oil to prevent heart disease or drinking lemon juice to increase your body's alkalinity. So we’re at least going to expose young chemists to it years out so they can get into a routine. The pain is worth it - kind of like graduate school.”

(written with a co-author)
(with vague apologies to this overly credulous NYT article)

Warning Letter of the Week: Haywood Jabuzzoff edition

A truly excellent warning letter to Xiamen Origin Biotech Co., Ltd. of Xiamen in Fujian province in China:
2.    Failure to transfer all quality or regulatory information received from the API manufacturer to your customers.

You repeatedly falsified and omitted information on the certificates of analysis (CoA) you issued to your customers. For example, your firm fabricated the name of an employee, and you used that name as the false signatory authority on the CoA you sent to your customers. You also omitted the name and address of the original API manufacturer and did not include a copy of the original batch certificate. Finally, you included an “expiration date” on your CoA that exceeded the manufacturer’s labeled expiration date, but you had no basis for the extended retest/expiry period.
Regulators and customers rely on CoA to provide accurate information regarding drug quality and pedigree. Omitting and falsifying information on CoA compromises supply chain accountability and traceability and may put consumers at risk.
I really don't know what to think of that, but I suspect that Xiamen Origin Biotech could hire well-known cGMP consultants Mike Easter and his associate Ima Hogg. 

Congratulations to the 2016 winners of the TAOC award!

From the inbox, an invitation to the Division of Organic Chemistry's Technical Achievements in Organic Chemistry award. The symposium will be in two weeks, August 24, from 8:30 until 5 pm at the Terrace Ballroom II at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at the fall ACS meeting in Philadelphia. The awardees are:
Kyle Baucom, Amgen
Thomas Caferro, Novartis
Matthew Daniels, Novartis
Emily Hanan, Genentech
Brian Huckabee, Eli Lilly and Company
James Jewell, Merck
Brian Jones, Pfizer, Inc.
Neil Kallman, Eli Lilly and Company
Brian Kotecki, AbbVie
Scott A. Savage, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Wes Schafer, Merck
Michelle Tran-Dubé, Pfizer, Inc.
Congratulations to all the winners! More details can be found here. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

The View from Your Hood: Hawaiian storm edition

Credit: Jim Ciszewski
From reader Jim Ciszewski: "From a few years ago, when I was postdocing at U Hawaii -Mānoa, from atop Bilger Hall (the chemistry building), an afternoon storm brews."

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

Your first seven jobs?

Marian Call asks: What were your first seven jobs?

Mine: computer lab assistant, night dorm clerk, lab assistant, grader, camp counselor, analytical chemist, graduate student

UPDATE: Twenty years makes memories fade. Computer lab assistant, night dorm clerk, lab assistant, aide at a nursing home, grader, camp counselor, analytical chemist

UPDATE 2: Another one forgotten. Computer lab assistant, night dorm clerk, lab assistant, aide at a nursing home, coffee/bagel store clerk, grader, camp counselor

I'll let you define it yourself, but my first seven jobs were all paid (and all basically temporary.) Readers?

In 2018, it will be illegal to ask for salary history in Massachusetts

From the New York Times, an interesting development:
In a groundbreaking effort to close the wage gap between men and women, Massachusetts has become the first state to bar employers from asking about applicants’ salaries before offering them a job. The new law will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position. 
...Nationally, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the United States Census Bureau. A number of factors affect that statistic, including the career fields women choose, but economists consistently find evidence of pay disparities not offset by other variables. 
...The Massachusetts law, which will go into effect in July 2018, takes other steps as well to combat pay discrimination. Companies will not be allowed to prohibit workers from telling others how much they are paid, a move that proponents say can increase salary transparency and help employees discover disparities.
I find asking for salary histories pretty crummy, from the perspective of a job-seeker. (I gotta say, it has always seemed to me to be the employer saying "please lie to me" as well.) I could imagine some unknown unintended consequences happening, but I'm no soothsayer.

Boston is the trendsetter, I suspect, for salaries and benefits in the biotech/pharma industry; it will be fascinating to see how this cascades out (or doesn't) into the rest of the industry. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Daily Pump Trap: 8/4/14 edition

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

Doylestown, PA: Arbutus Biopharma is one of the small companies featured in Rick Mullin's article this week on medicinal chemistry in Bucks County, PA. They're looking for an experienced medicinal chemist. (B.S./M.S./Ph.D. desired, 4-8 years experience.)

Um, what?: Bruker is looking for a NMR sales representative in Massachusetts; 3-5 years experience required. Sounds like a fair bit of travel. What's this bit?: 
May be required to pass security clearance investigation.
That's... interesting. 

Huntsville, AL: Nektar is a regular at C&EN Jobs; they're looking for experienced Ph.D. (?) analytical chemists. (3 openings) This is a funny juxtaposition: 
The individual will have to evaluate and interpret complex data and test results (e.g., stability studies, GC/MS, LC/MS/MS studies). To qualify, you must have a Ph.D. in Chemistry or in Pharmaceutical Sciences preferably with a core expertise/experience in Analytical Chemistry/Separation Sciences/Instrument Analysis area with 2-5 years of relevant Laboratory experience in the pharmaceutical industry....
...A PhD in a scientific discipline is required. Equivalent experience may be accepted. A minimum of 2-5 years work experience in a research and/or development environment is required. Post-doctoral work may serve as experience. Exceptional non-PhDs with demonstrated capabilities and/or significant experience may also be considered. 
Unclear to me, if I were a M.S. analytical chemist with 10+ years of experience, if they'd accept me. Probably not, I think.

Pearl River, NY: Pfizer is looking for an experienced scientist for research on oncological drug delivery with lipid nanoparticles.

Piscataway Township, NJ: The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre is looking for an applications support scientist; Ph.D., 7+ years experience desired.

ACS Philly Career Fair Watch: 64 positions at the moment, with 26 of them from Gilead. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Daily Pump Trap: 8/2/16 edition

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

San Antonio, TX: The Southwest Research Institute is looking for a manager of medicinal and process chemistry R&D. M.S./Ph.D. desired.

Seattle, WA: Gotta love a company named "Modern Electron." They're looking for an experienced M.S./Ph.D. chemist to be a materials engineer. You'd "will be responsible for innovation and production of vacuum electronic devices using the company’s cutting edge technology and processes." 

Silver Spring, MD: FDA looking for a senior pharmaceutics scientist; Ph.D. desired. 77,490.00 - 108,887 offered. 

Wasco, CA: Certis USA is looking for a pilot plant fermentation engineer - didn't know folks were making biological pesticides (although I am reminded that BT has been around for a while.

Westbrook, ME: Sappi North America is looking for someone to work on nanocellulose fibrils; advanced degree in chemistry desired. 

Rolla, MO: A couple more positions from Brewer Science. 

"Southern United States": "Seeking Motivated Polymer Chemist." Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. 

ACS Philadelphia Career Fair Watch: 43 positions, including a small bolus from Gilead today. 

Job posting: professor of chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

From the inbox, the University of Michigan is looking for a professor of chemistry:
The Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan invites applications for a tenure-track position in any area of chemistry or biochemistry (including analytical, chemical biology, education, inorganic, materials, organic and physical) with an anticipated start date of September 1, 2017. The position is expected to be filled at the assistant professor level; but, applicants at all levels of professor rank will be considered.
Review of applications will begin on October 1, 2016.
Full advertisement here; best wishes to those interested. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 8/2/16 edition

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

University Park, PA: Penn State is conducting a search for a professor of organic chemistry at all levels.

Reno, NV: University of Nevada-Reno is looking for an assistant professor of inorganic chemistry, with an orientation towards materials.

Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College is looking for an assistant professor of bioorganic chemistry.

Dayton, OH: The University of Dayton is searching for an assistant professor of bioanalytical or bioinorganic chemistry.

Milledgeville, GA: Georgia College is looking for an assistant professor of analytical or forensic chemistry.

San Diego, CA: The University of San Diego has an opening for an assistant professor; "specializations in chemical biology, bioanalytical chemistry, materials, or computational chemistry" desired.

The 2017 Faculty Jobs List: The list (curated by Andrew Spaeth) has 44 positions on it. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

What kind of jobs are available for chemists at ethylene cracker plants?

ExxonMobil Chemical and Saudi Basic Industries Corp. are planning a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical complex on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The jointly owned project marks SABIC’s first major effort to take advantage of U.S. shale gas feedstock. 
SABIC already operates ethylene crackers and derivative plants alone and with partners in Saudi Arabia, Europe, and Asia. The proposed U.S. facility would include a 1.8 million metric-ton-per-year steam cracker—the world’s largest, the partners say—and downstream ethylene glycol and polyethylene plants. Sites in Louisiana and Texas are being considered...
This brings to mind a recent question from the inbox:
I’ve been looking online for what jobs are available for B.S. Chemists at cracker plants and what they pay and I can’t really find anything. 
I talked with someone who has familiarity with the oil and gas industry, and this was their speculation:
Depending on the company, I'd think they should be paying in the $35K (low) to about $50K(high) range, experience, location and largeness of the company dependent. ExxonMobile will probably pay more than Bob's Distillation Column, Inc. 
They may train [them] in operations or formulation in pilot plant operations... 
So, readers, your thoughts on where a B.S.-level chemist can work at a cracker plant? There's definitely room for them in the lab (they have testing labs, I presume), but there's also probably work for them in the plant (although it will probably be more of an engineering path.)