Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ask CJ: opportunities for an experienced M.S.-level chemist?

From the inbox, a good question (lightly redacted for privacy) from someone we'll call LS: 
I have a [master's] in organic chemistry, and I am currently employed as a R&D chemist doing organic synthesis, and I like what I do.  However, [redacted] lead me to believe that it is time to look for something new.  Considering how much time and effort it took to find this job, I was wondering if anyone else has experience with job searches and employment with a [master's] degree. 
Specifically, how do you deal with the fact that you are a “failed PhD” on a resume and during interviews?  What kinds of companies (size, industry, location) will and will not hire you?  What career options are open to someone with a [master's] degree?  Are there any roadblocks that you hit during your career, and how do you overcome them?  Is it feasible to remain a synthetic chemist throughout your career?  
I don't really have a huge amount of experience with this question, other than a couple of thoughts. First, I don't think that anyone really cares whether or not you're a "failed Ph.D." (which is a premise that I fundamentally reject) after a couple of years in industry. Once you have a year or two of the fabled "industrial experience", I think employers are much more interested in what you have done in industry (and what you could do) rather than the details of how you left school.

I suspect the biggest roadblocks for M.S. chemists are for management on the research side. It is there that you will have the stiffest competition from Ph.D.s.

Readers, there's a lot more questions from LS - any ideas? 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Maybe we can stop doing demonstrations with methanol and fire soon?

Looks like Perth Amboy High School in New Jersey is the latest to fall victim to an accident during an alcohol fire experiment (via WABC): 
A high school student was rushed to the hospital after he was injured in an explosion during a chemistry experiment in New Jersey Wednesday. 
The incident happened during an outdoor lab session at Perth Amboy High School during an eighth period chemistry class. 
Students told Eyewitness News that experiment involved some type of alcohol. They said the teacher tried to light a match under a gallon-size container, but it didn't work because of the wind. One of the students - the one who was hurt -- then took the matches, tried to light the bottom and the experiment exploded, burning the student. 
Several students were nearby when the blast happened, and they said they barely escaped the flame. 
"He lit it, and when he lit it he was crouched down," a student said. "So his face was like right there. As soon as he lit it exploded up. It exploded right in his face." The student who was burned ran from the scene to the nurse's office, and then was flown to the hospital for treatment.
Here's the question I have: what's the educational point of whoosh bottles? Is it just "fire is cool"? (I admit, it's pretty darn cool). 

Please fill out the 2016-2017 Faculty Search Survey

In the interests of understanding the results of this year's academic recruiting, I have created an unscientific survey. I will be sharing results as they come in.

If you were a faculty candidate during the 2016-2017 academic year, please fill out this survey so we can get a better picture of the experience of faculty candidates this past year.

Please leave suggestions for improvements for the survey in the comments. 

This week's C&EN

A few articles from this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day; back tomorrow

Keokuk National Cemetery

Credit: devildogangel
Today is Memorial Day in the United States; it's a national holiday.

Back tomorrow.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Radio show: Saturday, June 3, noon Eastern with Carmen Drahl

Looking forward to talking with Dr. Carmen Drahl (formerly of C&EN, and a current science blogger for Forbes) on Saturday, June 3. We'll be talking about West Virginia and its chemistry industry among other things - looking forward to it! 

5/16" flat wrenches

A list of small, useful things (links):
Have a good long weekend. See you on Tuesday morning. 

What communities are you a part of?

From a pretty interesting profile of Secretary of Defense James Mattis in The New Yorker by Dexter Filkins, a passage that might be worth considering: 
When I asked what worried him most in his new position, I expected him to say ISIS or Russia or the defense budget. Instead, he said, “The lack of political unity in America. The lack of a fundamental friendliness. It seems like an awful lot of people in America and around the world feel spiritually and personally alienated, whether it be from organized religion or from local community school districts or from their governments. 
“I come out of the tight-knit Marine Corps, but I’ve lived on college campuses for three and a half years,” he went on. “Go back to Ben Franklin—his descriptions about how the Iroquois Nations lived and worked together. Compare that to America today. I think that, when you look at veterans coming out of the wars, they’re more and more just slapped in the face by that isolation, and they’re used to something better. They think it’s P.T.S.D.—which it can be—but it’s really about alienation. If you lose any sense of being part of something bigger, then why should you care about your fellow-man?”
I don't know about spiritual alienation, but I think unemployment leads to personal alienation, especially if one is cut off from their professional community. I don't often talk about this stuff, but I wonder if society is more atomized, and people are less likely to be a part of communities outside of their families and their work. If that's the case and work is taken away from folks, it's not surprising that people feel alienated. (I wonder if that's what happens to people who leave graduate school?)

So over this long weekend, I guess I have a question for everyone: what real life communities are you a part of? I'll go first: my family, my extended family, my kids' school, our church, my professional community and other friends as well. You? 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 96 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 96 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (likely never.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise! (soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

"In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique."

Seen in this Achaogen ad for a postdoctoral position, this delightful requirement: 
In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!
Amusingly, "screw you" is just 9 characters.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The oddest short film about chromatography you will see today

Via Twitter and C&EN editor Craig Bettenhausen, a film about chromatography I had never seen. I won't say that it's laugh-out-loud funny, but it has its moments. 

Warning Letter of the Week: "in their heads" edition

Via an irritated note from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to the general manager of Changzhou Jintan Qianyao Pharmaceutical Raw Material Factory, Mr. Zheng Goubin, this terribly amusing comment:
2.    Failure to have adequate written procedures for the receipt, identification, quarantine, storage, sampling, testing, handling, and approval or rejection of raw materials.
For example, when our investigator asked for a list of your critical raw materials and your sampling requirements, you told our investigator that you had no written procedures for testing and sampling incoming materials. Instead, you explained, your warehouse employees accounted for incoming raw material handling, sampling, and testing “in their heads.”

4.    Failure to prepare adequate batch production records and record the activities at the time they are performed.
For example, our investigator found that your operator used process parameter values from previous batches of [redacted] to complete new batch records when she was too tired to immediately record the data and had forgotten the values.    
I keep a lot of stuff in my head, but I try to write it down as soon as I can. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Are you a very recent assistant professor?

Via the inbox from the good folks at Chemical and Engineering News:
We are launching a companion Facebook group for newly-hired and early career chemistry professors. To be eligible for the group, chemistry professors must have had a start date in 2015, 2016, or 2017.
Best wishes to those eligible.  

How many times have you applied for a faculty position before this year?

Please fill out the 2016-2017 Faculty Search Survey

In the interests of understanding the results of this year's academic recruiting, I have created an unscientific survey. I will be sharing results as they come in.

If you were a faculty candidate during the 2016-2017 academic year, please fill out this survey so we can get a better picture of the experience of faculty candidates this past year.

Please leave suggestions for improvements for the survey in the comments. 

Daily Pump Trap: 5/23/17 edition

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

Akron, OH: NETZSCH Instruments is searching for a regional sales manager; looks to be an Ohio resident-preferred position. B.S. desired.

Guilford, CT: 4Catalyzer is hiring a Ph.D. surface chemist and a Ph.D. organic chemist.

Ames, IA: The Ames Laboratory is looking for a postdoc; "Experience in one or more of the following areas: novel synthesis techniques for crystalline matter, quantum materials, and catalysts." I imagine it pays reasonably.

Washington, D.C.: C&EN is hiring a multimedia science reporter.

Ivory Filter Flask: 5/23/17 edition

A few of the academically-related articles posted at C&EN Jobs:

Cincinnati, OH: The University of Cincinnati is looking for "several Visiting Assistant Professors / Teaching Postdoctoral Fellows." This is an interesting claim: 
These positions are well-suited for scientists who wish to prepare for a career of teaching at a primarily undergraduate institution that emphasizes excellence in both teaching and research.
I wonder what the track record of program participants is?

Oswego, NY: SUNY Oswego, looking for a visiting assistant professor.

Newark, DE: The University of Delaware, searching for a laboratory coordinator.

Hazleton, PA: Penn State Hazleton is hiring a M.S./Ph.D. chemist to be an instructor of chemistry.

Bristol, United Kingdom: Computational postdoc being offered at the University of Bristol. Offered £32,004 - £36,001 per annum (41k-46.7k)

Monday, May 22, 2017


At the risk of repeating myself, I commend to you Lisa Jarvis' excellent long feature article in Chemical and Engineering News on the 1st year of assistant professors Julia Kalow, Valerie Schmidt and Song Lin. I especially enjoyed this little section from Sunday's installment: 
Another roadblock for new researchers is self-confidence. The interview process, when you’re asked to stand in front of leaders in your field and give a talk outlining the projects you’d like to tackle in your lab, can leave some feeling a bit bruised. You might have gotten a job, but for some, those biting comments remain in their ear, feeding doubts about the merits of their proposals. 
UCLA’s Nelson felt like he was adrift scientifically during his first year. Still stung by criticism that some of his ideas elicited on the job-talk circuit, Nelson lost some trust in his own instincts in the lab. The feedback even made him abandon one particular project altogether. “Scientist Hosea would have just done what I love. But in the context of this job, your mind runs wild and you start doing other stuff,” he says. 
After not feeling happy about how research went his first year, he decided to go back to that project. Six months in, it was working splendidly. So much so that in March it yielded his group’s first publication—in Science. 
Schmidt also felt a bit battered after the job-search process. “It was tough to have people talk about your science and say, ‘Oh, that’s not going to work,’ ” she says. Her strategy has been to work extra hard to get to the paper that shows the harshest critics that she was right after all.
I gotta say, it's very hard for me not to take criticism personally, even as (over the years), I've developed the ability to have a thick skin, or at least a short-ish memory. I imagine that ability to not have one's self-confidence completely broken (while drawing lessons from criticism) is something that distinguishes the very successful from the less-so.  

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles from the latest issue of Chemical and Engineering News:

Friday, May 19, 2017

View From Your Office: New York edition

Credit: @onesleepynerd
From chemTwitter denizen @onesleepynerd, a pretty decent view!

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

Picking up the phone, adviser-style

I would like to commend to you Lisa Jarvis' story that C&EN is running this week about the life of a new assistant professor at a research university. It focuses on Julia Kalow (Northwestern), Song Lin (Cornell) and Valerie Schmidt (UCSD.) I found this little tidbit rather wonderful from a #chemjobs perspective: 
And a new deadline loomed large. UCSD’s master’s students are generally focused on getting a job in industry, a career aspiration that Schmidt needed to help them achieve sooner rather than later. 
“Usually with a Ph.D. student, you have four or five years to worry about those things—to initiate the type of outreach to get folks employed,” Schmidt says. Now, just a few months into the job, she was already making calls and probing contacts from grad school for leads.
Nice to see Professor Schmidt picking up the phone. I wonder how it went for her students?

Probably one of those questions that new/prospective graduate students should be asking professors of all ranks is not only "where do your graduates go?" but also "how involved are you in the process of aiding me in getting where I want to go next?" 

Do these San Diego biotech average salaries look a little high to you?

From a San Diego Union-Tribune article, a link to a Biocom (the biotech trade association) report and a listing of average salaries in various sectors of San Diego County biotech. (PDF)

Do these numbers look a little high for an average salary within the sector? Am I missing something? Also, why are the comparable numbers so low for the Los Angeles area? (PDF)

Trade association numbers - always suspect. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 94 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 94 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (likely never.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise! (sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Job posting: product development chemist, Living Proof, Cambridge, MA

From the inbox, a position with Living Proof:
This Product Development Chemist is an on-site position at our Cambridge, MA office.
  • Formulate hair care products and conduct appropriate product performance and stability experiments to meet objectives outlined in project profiles.
  • Ensure product physical stability, efficacy, consumer appeal, processing capabilities, package compatibility, and cost effectiveness.
  • Lead tech transfer of new products to manufacturing for scale-up and production start-up, including identifying and generating appropriate processes and product/process specifications....
  • BS in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Pharmacy or related science.
  • Minimum of 3 years of relevant industry experience or equivalent preferred.
Best wishes to those interested. 

Daily Pump Trap: 5/18/17 edition

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

Clark, NJ: L'Oreal coming in strong with 4 positions. (Anyone know anyone who works at L'Oreal? What's it like there?)

Watsonville, CA: An interesting position from Driscoll's:
The Research Associate (RA) will facilitate analytical chemistry work within Driscoll's Consumer Lab to address fruit quality attributes for plant breeding, molecular genetics, sensory, and postharvest groups. This role will work with a small creative team to develop and perform metabolite phenotyping experiments for all Driscoll's berry crops. The RA will be responsible for an analytical chemistry platform used to profile fruit metabolites associated with quality and flavor. 
M.S. in analytical chemistry and 2 years experience desired.

Berkeley, CA: "Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry Division has an opening for an Organic and Macromolecular Synthesis Facility Staff Scientist."

Alexandria, VA: This is an unusual title for an intellectual property position, I feel: "Chemical Patent Searcher." Advanced degree, 6 years experience required.

Chicago, IL: Sounds like an interesting postdoc for someone at Abbvie...

Raleigh, NC: I can't quite tell what this Bayer CropScience position is, but I think it's an analytical position?

Albuquerque, NM: Well, this sounds fascinating:
The Materials, Devices, and Energy Technologies Department has an immediate postdoctoral research opening primarily in the area of Synthetic Organic Chemistry/Polymer Chemistry at our Albuquerque, New Mexico facility. The postdoc’s primary responsibilities will be in the development and synthesis of new ion and/or electronic conducting oligomers and polymers for applications in electrical energy storage, catalysis and separations.
"Ability to obtain and maintain a U.S. DOE security clearance" needed.

Ivory Filter Flask: 5/18/17 edition

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

Pittsburgh, PA: The University of Pittsburgh Department of Radiology is searching for a radiochemist. (This position is labeled assistant professor, but it's non-tenure track.)

Springfield, OH: Wittenberg University is searching for a visiting assistant professor; classes include "organic chemistry, general chemistry, and a one-semester introductory chemistry course for nursing students."

Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University is looking for a lecturer for general and physical chemistry. Offered salary: $50-55k.

Buffalo, NY: SUNY-Buffalo is looking for a general and organic chemistry lecturer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Methanol flame incident injures 12 preschool children in Houston

Via Twitter and elsewhere, this bad news, covered by KTRK's Miya Shay and Tom Abrahams:
Several children were injured at a school on the west side after a science experiment gone wrong. 
The accident happened at Yellow School - Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church just after noon. 
According to the Memorial City Fire Department, preschool students at the 240 block of Blalock Road were conducting some type of science experiment outside when a flash blast occurred. 
Of the 12 students who were injured, 11 of them suffered burns, one student was trampled and six of them were taken to the hospital. All of the students are 3 years old, a fire official said.
This quote is basically diagnostic of methanol-related flame incidents in schools:
As parents and grandparents picked up children who were not injured, some of the kids told Eyewitness News that they were involved in some type of color-changing fire experiment. 
"Fire was changing colors and the last one wasn't working, so we put it a little bit more, and then it exploded," said Kate Earnest, a 5-year-old who was part of the group that participated in the experiment. "That's how the other kids got burned, and they were crying."
It's the classic formula for a methanol-flame incident around children, with the combination of:
  • fire
  • methanol being added to the (usually dying/invisible) flames
  • from a bulk methanol container with
  • students being too close 
that has caused injuries and teachers getting fired and lawsuits being filed and settlements being paid in this country time and time again. 

Another reminder that the American Chemical Society's Committee on Chemical Safety specifically asks teachers to "Stop Using the Rainbow Demonstration." 

Is chemistry a profession?

In the midst of longtime defense reporter Thomas Ricks' positive review of Omar El Akkad's novel American War (of a second American Civil War) , this interesting observation of both El Akkad's, followed by Ricks' thoughts:
Another line that gave me pause: “the only true profession is blood work — the work of the surgeon, the soldier, and the butcher.” I’ve been reading and writing about military literature for decades and yet have never seen that thought expressed before, to my knowledge. (Not that I endorse it. My own view is that something is a true profession if its practitioner is governed more by the soul more than by the market. Thus law is not always a profession, but other work, say boatbuilding or cooking, sometimes can be.)'
I thought this was a pretty interesting observation about what constitutes a profession. By contrast, let's look at what Merriam-Webster has to say:
4a :  a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation
4b :  a principal calling, vocation, or employment
4c :  the whole body of persons engaged in a calling
Under the Merriam-Webster definition, chemistry is indeed a profession, something I wholeheartedly agree with. My engineer father (whom I love) would probably point to licensing bodies as a sign of "professionalism", something that chemistry mostly does not possess. Happily, I believe chemistry also meets the Ricks' definition of a profession as well; while much of chemistry (including what I do) is governed by the market, so much of what we do as chemists is also 'governed more by the soul.'

Readers, what do you think? Is chemistry a profession? What is your favorite definition? Are you governed more by your soul than the market? 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The best things about applying for a faculty position

From the 2016-17 Chemistry Faculty Candidate Survey, the answers to the following questions:

What was best about the hiring process?
  • Insight on the efficacy of the proposals, and personal growth likely making me a better person despite no offers.
  • On-Site
  • The application process really helped the  fine tuning of my research proposals and realize exactly what environment I'm looking for.
  • Going on an interview is a really nice event, where you get to meet kind and interesting (potential) future colleagues.
  • The amount and type of positions available
  • It was a learning experience on my end, as I am a 5th year student, mostly applying to primarily undergraduate institutions that were HBCUs. I learned that I had to do a lot of writing to craft a research program that could be funded. 
  • Giving the seminars and meeting faculty and students.
  • shared submission websites to save me time
  • Thinking about the chemistry that I thought would be cool to explore.
  • Meeting faculty and students around the country and visiting their departments.
  • Refining ideas
  • The online application process and job description
  • Interviews were generally quite pleasant
  • The second visit, after the offer (because it was the least stressful).
  • Getting positive feedback in the form of phone or on campus interviews. It adds validity to your application package! Speaking with the faculty who are excited to have you on campus is fun. Getting a job!
  • I've essentially solved the two body problem without working at a masters/phd granting institution like my partner
  • The department I received an offer from and also accepted is a wonderful fit and I am delighted to join. The second site visit (after the offer was already made) was probably my favorite part because it was low stress. 
  • Nothing
  • Being able to get my ideas on paper
  • Getting to talk to lots of people excited about chemistry
  • Hmmmmm
  • Interviews were fun
  • It was a very supportive environment from the interview stage and onward
  • Meeting students during the campus interviews

The worst things about applying for a faculty position

From the 2016-17 Chemistry Faculty Candidate Survey, the answers to the following questions:

What was worst about the hiring process?
  • Inconsistent requirements in different universities, makes things tedious. Also, lack of transparency and knowing what a university is looking for makes it hard to know where to apply sometimes, or where to put more time and effort.
  • Lack of humanity. Sending a rejection takes ~5 seconds (form letter) and is usually done by a secretary. We spend ~30-60 per application AFTER having a template, and for many schools much longer if they require something unique for that application. It's a demoralizing a shitty feeling to toss your application into the circular file when you put so much work into every single submission.
  • All the various complicated systems for submitting materials. I thought interfolio might help that, but strangely the 4 applications I put in through their system were 4 of the 8 applications that I got no phone/Skype follow up. I preferred the option to simply send a pdf directly to the committee, because at least then there's no uncertainty that the materials got through. Also, phone interviews are terrible compared to video interviews. Lots of awkward silences while people take notes, or whatever, and it's so hard to get a feel for how things are being recieved when you can't see any body language.
  • Waiting to hear back from schools
  • recommendation letter
  • Non transparent hiring procedure, high research expectations even from small PUIs
  • The time I committed to the faculty position process with the disappointing realization that I likely will not be able to continue pursuing a faculty position.
  • Late Responses
  • The lack of jobs
  • Everything else, but especially that each University requires a different number and type of documents, with varying page lengths/contents, etc. Of course they are different employers so I will put some effort into each of them, but that makes it stressful and time-consuming.
  • The amount of time it took to hear back after applying, interviewing, etc.
  • Some of the schools had wonky HR websites, that were full of bugs. One school made me mail physical LORs, which was a pain. 
  • The wait between interview and hearing (or not) about an offer.
  • different submission websites that wasted my time
  • Having to ask people for recommendation letters for positions they clearly thought I was overqualified for.
  • Writing proposals and the fear of being judged for your ideas. 
  • Deadlines all over the place
  • No feedback
  • Large amount of time until hearing rejections
  • The uncertainty (of getting interviews, offers, not knowing where I would be)
  • Skype interviews can be very awkward. Coordinating all the support letter submissions, especially for faculty who are doing everything themselves (no administrative assistant). On campus interviews are usually pretty intense, tiring, and require a lot of preparation.
  • Waiting. That's obvious, maybe how each university's application process is ever so slightly different it makes it difficult know how to apply to a specific one. 
  • I could go on and on and on about this. In brief, I think the most frustrating part was that academic merit matters little. What matters most is who you have worked for and how well connected your PhD advisor/Postdoc advisor is to the department you are applying to. I don't have a fancy "academic pedigree".... But I have a very strong publication record and even bring some of my own $... So foolishly I hoped to get more then just 2 interviews. I continue to ponder why I fell short. My field of expertise was not the most popular niche during this hiring cycle it seems, but guessing from the people who ended up getting a lot of interviews, unfortunately, academic pedigree and connections beat publication record and even pre-existing funding any time. 
  • Waiting
  • Not getting a job
  • stupid job application websites; 
  • Mental anguish
  • lack of transparency and poor timing of rejections
  • Juggling timelines for visits and offers

Please fill out the 2016-2017 Faculty Search Survey

In the interests of understanding the results of this year's academic recruiting, I have created an unscientific survey. I will be sharing results as they come in.

If you were a faculty candidate during the 2016-2017 academic year, please fill out this survey so we can get a better picture of the experience of faculty candidates this past year.

Please leave suggestions for improvements for the survey in the comments. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Metal nitrate salts plus wheat equals a half-billion dollars

Also in this week's C&EN,  Jessica Morrison interviews Savannah River National Laboratories chemist David Hobbs, who has been one of the researchers of the 2014 Waste Isolation Pilot Plant runaway reaction problem. I have known a little bit of the story, but it is rather devastating to read it all in one place:
...Hobbs, who doesn’t own a cat, is one of the researchers who studied the nuclear waste mixture that in 2014 led to a drum failure and radiological release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M. The accident shut down the facility for three years... 
...But an April 2014 accident investigation report by the Department of Energy came to a different conclusion. It says the radiological release likely stemmed from a single breached drum. Plus, photographs taken in May 2014 show an open container with heat damage to the surrounding area. This suggests that a thermal event inside the drum caused the container to fail. 
The drum came from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). It contained a reactive mix of radioactive nitrate salt waste, a neutralizing liquid, and organic cat litter, which had been used as a sorbent. 
An October 2014 report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General points to a change in the packaging procedure at LANL that specified organic cat litter, when an inorganic sorbent was likely intended. Investigators traced a series of internal communications in which the specifications for “kitty litter/zeolite clay” were transformed into “kitty litter (clay),” the report says. 
Combined with inadequate technical review, this resulted in LANL workers filling waste containers with a mixture of nitrate salts and sWheat Scoop, a cat litter that is 100% wheat, according to its manufacturer. 
“It would have been much clearer if they had said an inorganic zeolite sorbent,” Hobbs says. “It’s been a very expensive mistake, costing at least half a billion dollars.” (emphasis mine) 
...Inside the drum was “a complex, heterogeneous mixture of materials with the potential for multiple reaction sites and reaction chemistries,” Hobbs and his team said in a March 2015 DOE report. 
The contents of the drum, which included metal nitrate salts, the sWheat Scoop litter, and a neutralization reagent, were incompatible, the report says. The mixture likely underwent a series of exothermic reactions, including hydrolysis, oxidation, and nitration of the organic components, the report says. The reactions produced a thermal runaway condition in which increasing internal heat and pressure caused the waste container to break open and release radioactive material. 
Hobbs says questions remain about why only one drum failed. LANL generated nearly 700 drums with a similar waste mixture that includes the organic cat litter. Drums with similar mixtures were isolated and are monitored, DOE says....
As a chemist who works in manufacturing, who works on larger scales and writes specifications, I can only hope beyond hope that I will never be responsible for such a massive, costly failure. Good heavens. 

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles in this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News

Friday, May 12, 2017

6 mL transfer pipets

A list of 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.

Being there (on time)

I recently heard a really smart piece of advice, regarding being on time for interviews: "Have a commuting disaster plan." In other words, prevent the worst case scenario of being late to an interview. More recently, I saw this suggestion for an e-mail to send in case you were late to an interview by Richard Moy of the website "The Muse": 
Hi [name of interviewer], 
I’m so looking forward to our interview today, but wanted to let you know that [your reason for being late]. In spite of this, I anticipate arriving at [a time based on your best guess for how many minutes behind you’re running]. 
I apologize for the inconvenience and completely understand if this new time does not work with your schedule today. If that’s the case, would you be open to rescheduling? I’m available [provide two or three times and dates] if that would be more convenient for you. 
Thanks so much,
[Your name]
I strongly suspect that most hiring managers won't really respond well to this e-mail, but who knows? Readers, any instances where you managed to make up for the tremendous faux pas of being late to an interview? What do you think of this e-mail? 

Job posting: associate chemist, Arvinas, New Haven, CT

From the inbox, an associate chemist position:
As an associate chemist at Arvinas you will interact with a cross disciplinary research team aimed at the discovery and development of novel small molecule Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras (PROTACs) targeted towards multiple areas of unmet medical need. Your responsibilities will include planning, designing and executing multi-step synthetic sequences towards key molecules followed by purification, gathering of analytical data, and documenting your work in an electronic notebook. Participation in team meetings, internal presentations, contributing to documentation for external publications / presentations, and creative contributions to all areas of our PROTAC platform are essential. 
Job Requirements and Responsibilities include:
  • BS or MS in Organic or Medicinal Chemistry with 5+ years experience in a laboratory setting
  • Extensive hands on experience with modern synthetic organic chemistry, and purification techniques including automated silica gel chromatography, preparative HPLC and crystallization techniques...
Best wishes to those interested. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 106 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 106 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (likely never.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise! (soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Daily Pump Trap: 5/11/17 edition

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

Washington, DC: Interesting law firm position:
Chemist wanted for a non-laboratory position to work in the Washington, D.C. office of an international law firm.  This individual will work closely with our attorneys and other staff scientists to help clients determine the regulatory status of their products in accordance with applicable food, drug, and medical device regulations.
Ph.D. preferred, not required.

South San Francisco, CA: Genentech, seeking a sample manager.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) "1000+", 374, 9,826 and 15 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 3,429 positions for the search term "chemist" and 20,518 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Polymer Chemist: 15/590. Analytical chemist: 214/272 . Research chemist: 32/45. Synthetic chemist: 15/573. Medicinal chemist: 18/46. Organic chemist: 34/74. Process chemist: 20/51. Process development chemist: 7/8. Formulation chemist: 40/48.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A subset of college students are truly foolish

Quite the story of stealing examinations from Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald Leader
The odds were long, but a couple of University of Kentucky students decided it was worth the risk to climb through the ceiling ducts to a teacher’s office to steal a statistics exam. 
Unfortunately for them, the teacher is a night owl. 
According to UK Police, UK statistics instructor John Cain had been working late in his third floor office in the Multidisciplinary Science Building on Rose Street on Tuesday night. About midnight, he left to get something to eat. When he returned about 1:30 a.m., he tried to unlock the door, but it was blocked by something. 
“He yelled out that he was calling the police and then the door swung open and two young men ran down the hallway,” recounted UK spokesman Jay Blanton. 
Shortly after police arrived, one of the students returned and confessed. Henry Lynch II, a 21-year-old junior majoring in biosystems engineering, gave police an earful, including that he’d climbed through the building’s air ducts to the ceiling above Cain’s office and dropped down into the room, then unlocked the door and let in his friend, sophomore Troy Kiphuth, 21, who was not in Cain’s class. 
Lynch also told them he had already tried to steal the exam earlier that evening around 6 p.m., but couldn’t find it. And, he said, it wasn’t the first time: Earlier in the semester, he’d successfully stolen another exam from Cain’s office, but he assured officers that he had not shared the answers with other students. 
Lynch apparently gained access to Cain’s office all three times by climbing through the building’s ducts, and dropping down through the ceiling. How he got into the core of the building remains under investigation.
I bet no one tracks this stuff, but I wonder if students have gotten more or less creative over the years with their efforts to cheat on tests and the like. Certainly surveillance of professors (and communication of such surveillance) has gotten easier and easier in the last ten years...

(These students would be better off placing their creativity towards something more useful for mankind...)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Harvard, Matt Shair being sued by former postdoc

For soon, but for now, a few sentences from the report from Chemical and Engineering News (article by Marc S. Reisch):
A former Harvard University postdoctoral researcher has sued the university for his share of $20 million that Merck & Co. paid Harvard in 2016 to license preclinical compounds to treat leukemia. At the time, the license fee was called the largest ever for a technology developed at Harvard. 
The researcher, Alexander Arefolov, worked in the lab of Harvard chemist Matthew Shair between 2011 and 2015. He claims that he was intentionally left off a patent covering the compounds, which are derivatives of cortistatin A. 
The patent, which Harvard applied for in 2016, names five scientists, including Shair, as inventors. It details steps to synthesize derivatives of cortistatin A, a complex, difficult-to-isolate natural product from sea sponges...
NB the lawsuit is being filed by the same lawyer that filed suit (and reached a settlement) in the Charest case.

UPDATE 1: According to the Boston Globe:
Arefolov is seeking about $1 million, plus a pro-rated share of future royalties that could be paid by Merck if a drug based on the Harvard technology is approved, according to his attorney, Brian D. O’Reilly.
UPDATE 2: I contacted Dr. Arefolov's lawyer (Brian O'Reilly) and he provided the lawsuit and related documents. (Google Drive link) Things that I found interesting:

Here are the basic facts, as laid out by Dr. Arefolov:
29. Between 2006 and 2011, Dr. Arefolov and Dr. Shair worked together at Makoto Life Sciences, a biotechnology startup. Dr. Arefolov was a research scientist and Dr. Shair was a Scientific Advisory Board member at the company. During that time, Dr. Arefolov and Dr. Shair worked closely together.
30. In July 2011, Professor Shair invited Dr. Arefolov to accept a visiting scientist position at Harvard.
31. Over the next three months, Dr. Arefolov worked on the Cortistatin A Project. During that time, he made an important breakthrough that had beguiled previous lab members.
32. Seeing Dr. Arefolov’s contribution to the Cortistatin A Project, in October 2011, Dr. Shair offered Dr. Arefolov a position as a post-doctorial scientist to continue his work on the project.
33. Dr. Arefolov accepted the position and continued to work on the project until April 2015.
34. The pay for post-doctorial scientist was substantially less than many industry positions. Part of the allure of taking a position as a post-doctorial scientist in Dr. Shair’s laboratory was the hope that he would receive patent royalties from his work.
35. Dr. Shair repeatedly assured Dr. Arefolov that his work on the Cortistatin A Project was valuable and that he would ensure that Harvard would recognize Dr. Arefolov’s contributions if they were successful in securing a patent and any patent royalties.
39. During the four years Dr. Arefolov worked in Dr. Shair’s lab he worked long hours and dedicated his work exclusively to the Cortistatin A Project. Central to the Cortistatin A Project was the effort to investigate, create, and test new Cortistatin A analogs. Dr. Arefolov’s worked extensively on the investigation and creation of Cortistatin analogs.
 And the important bits about money:
62. In multiple conversations with Dr. Shair, Dr. Arefolov inquired about possible patent royalties he could receive from his work on the Cortistatin A Project. Dr. Shair reassured Dr. Arefolov that Harvard would recognize his work. Dr. Shair understood that it was unlikely Dr. Arefolov would agree to a reduced share of the royalties in order to increase Dr. Shair’s share of the royalties.
63. In fact, it was that very reliance on future royalties that Dr. Shair used to convince Dr. Arefolov to stay on as post-doctorial scientist. On multiple occasions, Dr. Shair made statements such as “Alex, the inventors at Harvard University receive 35% of any license fee, if the project is successful – you will receive your fair share.”
I think we should take a moment here and note this story is told from the point of view of the plaintiff, and so Harvard and Professor Shair are going to have a different story.

That said, it's clear to me that Dr. Arefolov was convinced to leave his previous position at a small company in order to work with Professor Shair on the cortistatin project. If you go through the complaint, it sounds like Dr. Arefolov is hanging his hat on that he should have been a co-inventor because he suggested the making of analogs that made it into one of the patent applications. Assuming (a big assumption) that Dr. Arefolov was a co-inventor, it seems very reasonable for him to want relief for being left off the patent and for the 4 years he was convinced to work as a postdoc.

The thing that the documents do not answer is this: why is Dr. Arefolov no longer working for Professor Shair? Who are the other inventors that were put on the relevant patents and patent applications? What share did they get? (UPDATE 3: see below) 

It will be interesting to see what happens next, especially since Dr. Arefolov (and, I presume, Mr. O'Reilly) are also claiming that Professor Shair should have been acting in his role as a fiduciary for Dr. Arefolov. As long time readers of the blog may know, Mark Charest (and Mr. O'Reilly) did not succeed in this claim against Professor Andy Myers of Harvard. 

I look forward to hearing the facts behind this case; until then, students who have made big, commercialize-able discoveries in the laboratory, might want to find out what your university's IP policy is...

UPDATE 3: Professor Shair received an equal share with his co-inventors, after Harvard took their percentage. 

Please fill out the 2016-2017 Faculty Search Survey

In the interests of understanding the results of this year's academic recruiting, I have created an unscientific survey. I will be sharing results as they come in. 

If you were a faculty candidate during the 2016-2017 academic year, please fill out this survey so we can get a better picture of the experience of faculty candidates this past year.  

Please leave suggestions for improvements for the survey in the comments. 

How do pre-tenure professors switch institutions?

I don't know much about this, but I know it happens - how do pre-tenure application assistant professors switch institutions?

I know that such switches do happen. One imagines that most of them take place more or less out in the open, and some probably involve some kind of  backchannel discussions between the applicant and a search committee chair (and, I presume, the chair of the department.) I figure there must be a faculty visit of some sort, probably conducted out in the open? How do professors negotiate the confidentiality/privacy issues, yet still undertake the traditional seminar and question-and-answer sessions?

Anyone got any stories to tell? The e-mail inbox is open ( 

Daily Pump Trap: 5/9/17 edition

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

Seattle, WA: Omeros is looking for Ph.D. medicinal chemists with 3-5 years experience.

New Haven, CT: Achillion Pharmaceuticals is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. process chemist with 4-5 years of experience.

Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory is looking for a very experienced senior polymer chemist.

Ivory Filter Flask: 5/9/17 edition

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

Beijing, China: The University of Chinese Academy of Sciences is hiring a lot of folks. I found this one interesting: 
The Long-Term Thousand Talents Program 
The Long-Term Thousand Talents Program offers full-time positions to overseas Chinese applicants under 55 years old who have received their doctorates from an overseas distinguished university and work as professors or an equivalent position at an accredited academic institution. Hired employees will be required to work full-time in UCAS and will be awarded grants of RMB ¥3,000,000 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In addition, the candidate will receive an allowance (free of tax) of RMB ¥1,000,000 from the Chinese government. They will also receive RMB ¥600,000-800,000 per year and RMB ¥3,000,000-6,000,000 research funding from UCAS.
That's gotta be attractive to someone...

New York, NY: This one's unique - didn't know that Cooper Union had a Unit Operations laboratory; they're looking for a B.S./M.S. technician for it.

Los Altos Hills, CA: Foothill-De Anza Community College District still looking for a community college instructor. "$57,066 - $93,722 annually" offered. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

NIH got a 6% boost in the continuing resolution; NSF remains flat

Also in this week's C&EN, an update on the continuing resolution (article by Andrea Widener) that was signed by President Trump this last Friday: 
...Congress proposed a bipartisan 2017 spending bill on Monday that shows support for science, including many agencies that fund chemistry research and regulation. 
The legislation’s flat funding for many agencies feels like a win for research, in part because the situation for science has sounded dire in the months since President Donald J. Trump took office. The bill (H.R. 244) moving through Congress includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health—a 6.2% boost over 2016 to $34.1 billion in 2017—and none of the other cuts Trump had suggested. 
...Among other agencies that support chemistry, Department of Energy Office of Science funding would go up slightly. ARPA-E would receive a boost to $306 million, up 5.2% from fiscal 2016. 
The National Science Foundation’s funding would remain flat from 2016. And the National Institute of Standards & Technology’s support would go down 1.0%, primarily through a $10 million cut to a fund that supports upgrades to its aging facilities. The Department of Agriculture’s primary competitive research grants program would get $375 million, an increase of $25 million. 
The EPA would see a slight cut of 1.0 % to $8.1 billion. That includes an additional $7.5 million to clean up Superfund sites. CSB’s funding would remain flat at $11 million.
Glad to see we still have CSB to kick around.  

Well, this is interesting...

Scientists will be restricted in the number of grants they can receive from the National Institutes of Health under a new policy the agency released this week. 
The move is an attempt to spread the wealth to more scientists in the current hypercompetitive research environment, where grant award rates hover around their lowest level in history. The agency estimates the move will free up 1,600 grants to help early- and mid-career scientists, who have been finding it harder to get grants in recent years. 
The new Grant Support Index will assign a number value to each grant an investigator has on the basis of the type of research, type of award, and responsibilities, explains Lawrence Tabak, NIH’s principal deputy director. He says the index is an attempt to estimate how much bandwidth each investigator has to continue doing high-quality research. 
Although the agency is still working out the details, it estimates the index will limit each investigator to three NIH grants and impact 6% of the agency’s grantholders. The policy would go into effect in this fall for grant applications that would be reviewed in the fall of 2018. Now, 10% of investigators with NIH grants receive 40% of the agency’s funding....
I can't imagine this will have a big effect, but it will be until 2019 that we find out... 

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles in this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News

Friday, May 5, 2017

View From Your Hood: Security edition

Credit: @notHF
From chemTwitter denizen @notHF:

"View from the intersection of NM 502 and NM 4 between White Rock & Santa Fe, NM. This is as close to my hood as I can take a photo without getting chased by security."

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

Biological experiments probably have many more variables than chemistry experiments

On biology Twitter, this Nature essay by Lilly senior vice president Levi Garraway has received some attention, especially this passage (emphasis mine):
...In medicine, the quest to distinguish between distinct conditions with similar symptoms is called 'differential diagnosis'. By analogy, three questions can guide a diagnosis of apparent irreproducibility: (1) Was the replication attempt backed by the requisite expertise? (2) Does a systematic comparison reveal a basis for discordant results? (3) Could the original result be wrong? 
To illustrate the first question, consider the following example: extensive evidence exists that, in his prime, Tiger Woods could consistently hit a golf ball more than 260 metres straight down the fairway using his driver (the largest club in the bag). I too play golf; I have achieved credible results with my own driver (well, some of the time) and I am roughly the same height and weight as Tiger. I would very much like to be able to reproduce his results with my own hands. 
Over the years, the golf industry has made untold sums of money from many golfers (myself included), who aspire to reproduce Tiger Woods' results. However, only a small percentage of us can pull this off (and I am not one of them). Does this mean that Tiger Woods' results were 'wrong', or that the remarkable physics he seemingly exemplified does not truly stand up to independent scrutiny? Of course not; it means that reproducing such results consistently requires a level of mastery that the typical golfer does not possess. 
I do not believe that experimental skill is as elusive as that necessary to win the green jacket. I just want to underscore that we cannot assume that any given scientist — even a very good one — is properly equipped to reproduce an experiment if it involves new reagents, systems or biological context. Before even attempting to reproduce an 'index' experiment, a lab that lacks the needed experience often sends a trainee to another lab to work with a scientist who regularly performs the experiment. This is so, even if both labs are recognized experts.
If the question of reproducibility persists once the requisite expertise is established, the answers often reside in subtle differences in methods, cell-line properties or reagents that become apparent only after scrutiny. Two acclaimed cancer researchers required more than a year to harmonize techniques to get similar measures for experiments; success depended on cross-country visits and on reconciling minor differences in how cells were prepared. 
If these steps do not work, we must consider whether the original result was really correct. And we must be prepared to accept the brutal facts, make the required corrections and move on. Great scientists are always willing to embrace the truth with humility and grace — even when it hurts.... 
I find this passage odd, mostly because I'm an organic chemist, and the ten or twenty variables that we can control for are measurable with the myriad tools that we have to characterize physical and/or chemical properties. Biologists have many more variables, so that's probably where the difference lies. (I wonder if this means there is room to understand and communicate biological experimental technique better in biomedical science?)

An incomplete thought, but one that I ponder a lot, especially as the Reproducibility Wars rage on...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 101 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 101 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (likely never.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise! (sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Interesting set of reasons for "mismatch"

Credit: Stenard and Sauermann
Via a tweet from @biochembelle, an interesting measurement by Stenard and Sauermann (PDF) of why scientists and engineers end up in positions where their work is different than their highest degree using NSF SESTAT data*:
Our measure of educational mismatch is based on the following survey question: “To what extent was your work on your principal job related to your highest degree?” Respondents answered using a 3-point scale ranging from “closely related” to “somewhat related” and “not related.” 11% of the sample report that their job is not related to their highest degree (henceforth called a “mismatch”), while 31% report that the job is somewhat related, and 58% of respondents indicate that their job is closely related to their education. 
Respondents who reported a mismatch were asked about the primary reason: “What was the most important reason for working in an area outside the field of your highest degree?”. Response options included “pay, promotion opportunities,” “working conditions (e.g., hours, equipment, working environment),” “job location,” “change in career or professional interests,” “family-related reasons (e.g., children, spouse’s job moved),” “job in highest degree field not available,” and “some other reason.” 
As you can see from the graph, "pay and promotion" and "change in career interests" were the highest, but I found it interesting and informative that "job in highest degree field not available" was as high as it was. Would be fascinating to get breakdown of fields of study and the like. These folks were measured sometime between 2003 and 2008; bet you the "job in highest degree field not available" are higher now.

*From the paper, the strictures of the graph above:
SESTAT is based on regular surveys conducted by NSF and is constructed to represent the general population of scientists and engineers in the U.S who have at least a Bachelor’s degree. 
First, we exclude individuals who were not in the labor force during the observation period as well as those who were unemployed. We exclude individuals under the age of 22 and over the age of 65 to account for potentially different dynamics among those still in training or close to retirement. We limit our sample to full-time employees (defined as working at least 30 hours per week and 30 weeks per year) working in the U.S. and in a for-profit organization; we exclude individuals who are employed in academia, government, or non-profit organizations, as these sectors are likely characterized by different labor market dynamics. 
Since we focus on educational mismatches among scientists and engineers, we also exclude individuals whose highest degrees are outside of science and engineering, as well as individuals who have a professional degree (e.g., JD, MBA, or MD). Finally, since we are concerned with transitions to entrepreneurship between periods, we exclude individuals who were observed only once. Our final sample includes 25,530 unique individuals, 15,801 of which were observed in all three time periods and 9,729 of which were observed in 2 time periods, for a total of 66,861 person-year observations.

Daily Pump Trap: 5/4/17 edition

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

Birmingham, AL: BioCryst Pharmaceuticals looking for a research chemist. Is this a medicinal chemistry position? I dunno: 
"This Research Chemist role provides a career track for chemist that performs synthesis of a new drug molecule using acquired knowledge... Designing of most appropriate, economical and feasible synthetic routes for given target molecules." 
Kinda sounds process-ish? I'm confused. 

Boerne, TX: Mission Pharmacal is searching for a formulator; B.S. in chemistry, 3 years of experience desired. 

Richmond, VA: Altria is hiring an analytical chemist; B.S. in chemistry, 1 year of experience. 

"Slough, United Kingdom or Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium": UCB is looking for a senior medicinal chemist.

And away from the bench...: Wyatt Technology is searching for a regional sales manager. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 5/4/17 edition

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

Muncie, IN: Ball State, searching for an instructor of chemistry.

New Haven, CT: Yale, looking for a couple of general and organic chemistry preceptors.

Ellensburg, WA:  Central Washington University, looking for a lecturer. Looks like a one-year gig?

Throggs Neck, NY: SUNY Maritime College is hiring an adjunct lecturer:
Expenses for Interview and relocation are not reimbursed.
Hiring is dependent upon position availability
Part-time positions are available starting Fall 2017
Well, I see you're looking hard, then. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Warning Letter of the Week: frozen croissants edition

A short note from the FDA to the owner of C & B Croissants Corporation: 
During an inspection of your firm located at 1339 W. Gaylord St., Long Beach, CA on October 25 through November 4, 2016, an investigator from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that your firm manufactures a variety of frozen croissants.... 
1. Your firm failed to take measures to exclude pests from the processing areas and to protect against the contamination of food on the premises by pests, as required by 21 CFR 110.35(c). Specifically, our investigator discovered evidence of insect and rodent activity near foods stored in your food processing facility. For example, the following items were discovered in the production areas of the bakery during the inspection:
  1. In the weighing/ ingredient storage room off the main processing room there were about 8 apparent rodent excreta pellets on an unused slicer adjacent to a gnawed package (containing a video); and approximately 13 apparent rodent like excreta on the floor beneath the unused slicer. The table holding the slicer was about 12 feet away from uncovered buckets holding dry ingredients used to make plain croissant dough for the current day’s production.
  2. In an enclosed room directly adjacent to the processing room, approximately 5 live cockroaches (less than 1” long each) were observed. In addition, apparent rodent excreta pellets were observed in the northwest corner (30 approximately), northeast corner (17approximately), and center of the room (12 approximately). No food or food packaging material was stored in this room; only small pieces of dried dough like residue.
  3. Front and back roll-up doors remained open during the first day of the inspection, with no barriers to prevent pests and vermin from entering the warehouse areas in both the front and the rear of the building.
  4. About 3 birds flew through the front warehouse door into the warehouse and then flew out (this is a repeat observation from the FDA inspection in 2010).
  5. One fly near the 3 compartment sink in the processing room and 3 flies on a table near the employee break room...
Just in case you thought the CDER folks got to have all the fun...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (final number): 590 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 590 positions.

Seeing as how we have seemed to hit an overall plateau, this is the last update and the list will end with 590 positions. It will be interesting to see if 2017-18 brings up a higher or a lower number.

This post (unlike the others) allows comments and I would welcome suggestions for improvement for the next academic cycle.

I plan the new list to begin on or around July 1, 2017, with all future discussions happening on the Chemistry Faculty Jobs List webforum.

The usual stuff: 

Have you had a Skype/phone interview or an on-site with a position on the Faculty Jobs List? Please add the date of the interview to the open thread. The open thread is here.

Do you see anything that needs correcting? Please leave a comment in the open thread, or e-mail me at

As the 2017 Faculty Jobs Open Thread has gotten longer, the Blogger software that this blog is run on has added a new wrinkle: when you initially load the thread, it loads only the first ~220 comments and then has a "load more" button near the bottom of the page near the comment box. Only after pressing that button about 7 times does it load the latest comments.

A link to See Arr Oh's Chemistry Bumper Cars 2017 edition.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nothing quite like generalizing about generations

Throwing back cappuccino and biscotti in a tiny café in London, Braungart is in an ebullient mood as he talks with C&EN. He has just come from advising a global cosmetics firm on sustainable raw material selection. Opportunities for making personal care products sustainable are legion, he says. 
These days Braungart is also lifted by society’s growing sense of awareness that chemistry is part of the tool box for a better, more sustainable world. It wasn’t always so.
“Because of chemistry’s reputation after Bhopal, Seveso, and other disasters, we wiped out a generation of the best young chemistry students—they all became bankers,” Braungart says. But in his role as a professor at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, he has seen a shift. 
“The banking sector has been behaving so badly that it is now considered a worse profession to go into than the chemical industry,” Braungart says. “More of the brightest students are coming back to chemistry,” he says. 
“For the younger generation, self-esteem is more important than money. Just look at today’s selfie culture: Kids are equally proud of what they are doing as making money. So, I am optimistic. The likelihood is that their adoption of C2C will be so much faster,” Braungart enthuses. 
Worsening strain on the environment presents the perfect opportunity for young chemists to provide more sustainable approaches, he says. “And the good news is that chemistry in the past has been so pointless that what young chemists are doing will already be 10 times better for the environment because we were never considering the environment before. There are lots of opportunities for young scientists,” Braungart says.
"Chemistry in the past has been pointless" - gotcha.  (Personally, I think there are plenty young people who want a lot of money. Shrug.)