Thursday, December 31, 2020

7 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Common Organic Chemistry is resolving some technical difficulties, but has ported over the list to Google Drive for now. There are 7 new positions for December 21.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

NYT on Chinese COVID vaccines - UPDATE

Via the New York Times, this interesting news: 

Hospitals all over China have almost everything necessary for a mass vaccination drive: Millions of doses. Refrigerators to store them. Health care workers trained to administer them.

Everything, that is, except proof that any of their vaccines work.

Unlike their Western competitors, the Chinese companies have not disclosed data from late-stage clinical trials that would show whether their vaccines are effective, and regulators in China have not officially approved them.

That has not deterred local governments across the country, which have begun an ambitious vaccination campaign. The goal is to inoculate 50 million people — roughly the population of Colombia — by the middle of February, before the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel.

I am very interested to see how well the Chinese vaccines work, and how their regulatory systems perform. You could tell an interesting story of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, being appropriately documented, as being sufficiently effective to be deployed across the developing world. It would, in the right scenario, herald the Chinese pharma industry as being able to produce world-class vaccines, and their regulatory systems as being as rigorous as Western countries. I think it's still too early to tell, but the choice to be relatively mum on the performance of the Sinopharm vaccines doesn't bode well...  

UPDATE: This post was overtaken by events. Via the New York Times this morning: 

A Chinese pharmaceutical company said on Wednesday that an early analysis of clinical trial results showed that one of its coronavirus vaccines was effective, an announcement that sent a positive signal for the global rollout of Chinese vaccines but lacked crucial details.

The company, a state-controlled firm called Sinopharm, said that a vaccine candidate made by its Beijing Institute of Biological Products arm had an efficacy rate of 79 percent based on an interim analysis of Phase 3 trials. Sinopharm said it had filed an application with Chinese regulators to allow the vaccine to be used broadly.

It will be interesting to see how this will all play out. 

Calling all chemistry creatives

Readers, I don't know about you, but I find the first two months of the year tough - the weather is cold, and the nights are long. I'd like to provide some optimism and hope for the new year. 

If you have a piece of art (visual, or poetry) that you'd like to submit for publication on Wednesday mornings, I would very much like to publish it. 

Please e-mail me at chemjobber@gmail.com 

Chemical Activity Barometer up 1.1% in December

From the American Chemistry Council: 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), rose 1.1% in December on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis, unchanged from November and October. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer fell 1.1% percent in December.

The unadjusted data show a 0.7% gain in December following a 1.8% increase in November and a 0.7% gain in October. The diffusion index was stable at 71% in December. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for November was revised upward by 0.24 points and that for October was revised upward by 0.89 points. These were highly volatile months for the data. As always, the December data are provisional and subject to revision.

"With eight consecutive months of gains, the December CAB reading is consistent with recovery in the U.S. economy," said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC.

The CAB has four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.

In December, production-related indicators were positive. Despite strength in housing activity, trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were mixed. Reflecting strength in manufacturing, resins and chemistry used in other durable goods were strong. Gains in plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were positive and suggest further growth in retail sales. Performance chemistry for industry continued to expand. U.S. exports were positive, while equity prices increased, but at a slower pace. Product and input prices were modestly positive. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were positive.

 Good news, let's hope it continues into the new year. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 242 research/teaching positions and 27 teaching faculty positions

 The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 242 research/teaching positions and 27 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On January 7, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 508 research/teaching positions and 49 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the third open thread. Click here for the second thread, which closed on December 22. Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

Postdoctoral position: Inorganic Nanomaterials Chemistry, Rabuffetti Group, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

From the inbox: 

The Rabuffetti group at Wayne State University (http://www.rabuffettigroup.wayne.edu) has an open postdoctoral position in inorganic nanomaterials chemistry. This research project aims to establish principles to guide the discovery and design of luminescent nanothermometers for applications that range from biosensing to sustainable energy conversion. The project involves two major tasks: (1) solution-phase synthesis of thermosensitive, light-emitting nanocrystals; and (2) systematic investigation and understanding of their temperature-dependent luminescence response.  

Required qualifications:

  • Ph.D. in inorganic, physical inorganic, or materials chemistry.
  • experience in solution-phase synthesis of colloidal nanocrystals as documented by peer-reviewed publications.
  • experience with photoluminescence data collection and analysis (time-resolved, variable-temperature) as documented by peer-reviewed publications.
  • excellent command of analytical techniques such as elemental analysis, transmission electron microscopy, and powder X-ray diffraction.
  • willingness to learn and bridge knowledge/experience gaps.
  • strong written communication skills.

Interested candidates should send Prof. Rabuffetti (far@wayne.edu) (1) a one-page cover letter detailing relevant research experience, research interest, goals and expectations for the position, and preferred start date; and (2) a curriculum vitae including a list of publications and contact information for three references.

Best wishes to those interested.  

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 48 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 48 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 88 positions

 The Academic Staff Jobs list has 88 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Coolest article you'll read about fruit flies today

Via the New York Times, a great article about a fruit fly institution: 
The Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center is the only institution of its kind in the United States, and the largest in the world. It currently houses over 77,000 different fruit fly strains, most of which are in high demand. In 2019, the center shipped 204,672 vials of flies to labs in 49 states and 54 countries, said Annette Parks, one of the center’s five principal investigators.

It is “one of the jewels we have in the community,” said Pamela Geyer, a stem cell biologist at the University of Iowa who has been ordering flies from the stock center for 30 years.

Other model organisms can be frozen at particular life stages for long-term storage; lab freezers the world over hold mouse embryos and E. coli cultures. But fruit flies can’t go on ice. Caring for the creatures means regularly “flipping” them: transferring them from an old vial to a clean one that has been provisioned with a dollop of food. Quarantined with other members of their strain, the flies mate and lay eggs, which hatch, pupate and reproduce, continuing the cycle.

Of course, these folks have been working hard through the pandemic. Best wishes to them, and all of us.  

Stimulus check eligibility

Via CNBC, the rules for upcoming stimulus payments: 

The pandemic recovery bill includes direct payments of up to $600 to eligible adults, plus $600 per child dependent.

While the adult benefit is half the size of the first stimulus check, the amount earmarked for qualifying dependents was raised by $100. At the full benefit amount, a family of four could potentially receive $2,400.

Those qualifying for the maximum stimulus payment include individuals earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income, or $112,500 as head of household and $150,000 as a married couple filing jointly. 

Payments are reduced at the same rate as the CARES Act checks. For every $100 earned over these income thresholds, payments are docked $5. However, the AGI caps are lower this time.

Individuals with $87,000 in income and married couples who file jointly earning $174,000 will not receive any payment. Therefore, fewer people will qualify for payments, and for those who do receive a check, some will be getting a lot less than the first round of payments.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas

 

Wishing you and your family a healthy and very Merry Christmas and a happy 2020. Back on Monday.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Chemjobber Christmas tradition

A Chemjobber Christmas tradition, updated for 2020. Send a PDF to your family - try it, it works! 

December 23, 2020

Dear family member:

This holiday season, your relative is in his or her fifth/sixth/seventh/_______ year of graduate school in chemistry. This is an unusual year, due to the pandemic. Many of you are wisely avoiding seeing your graduate student, but you may be discussing things via virtual visits. This is a delicate time in their lives -- please make interactions smooth for all by following these simple suggestions:

  1. Please send lots of fresh fruit and vegetables -- they are in short supply. 

  2. Do not have pizza delivered, it is an all-too-common part of their diets. 

  3. Sleep is a rare commodity in graduate school; please avoid early morning FaceTime sessions if possible.

In attempting to communicate with your graduate student, please avoid asking the following questions: 


  1. When are you going to finish? 

  2. What can you do with your degree? 

  3. Will you be the kind of doctor that helps people? 

  4. Does the vaccine have microchips in it? 

  5. How about a startup? I hear machine learning is hot. 

  6. There's a clinical chemistry department at my hospital -- can you get a job there? 

  7. Why do you need a postdoc? Haven't you gone to enough school? 

  8. MEGABIOGENE has opened a facility nearby -- can you get a job there? 

  9. Is COVID-19 a hoax?  

  10. STEM jobs are really in high demand, aren't they? 

  11. Have you thought about data science? 

  12. I see [insert high school rival here] has finished medical school -- how much will they be
    making? 

  13. Can you make hydroxychloroquine?  

  14. Have you thought about teaching? I heard professors have a stable job. 

  15. When are you going to finish? 


In following these simple suggestions, I trust that you, your graduate student and your family will have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Very sincerely,

Chemjobber

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 238 research/teaching positions and 23 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 238 research/teaching positions and 23 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On December 23, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 504 research/teaching positions and 44 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? This will be the third open thread, which will start at 12 PM Eastern on December 22, 2021. Click here for the second thread, which closed on December 22. Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 47 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 47 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 80 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 80 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 21, 2020

An update on Prestige Ameritech and American mask-making

Remember this guy? Prestige Ameritech is a US mask manufacturer, and he was refusing to sell masks without a 5 year supply agreement earlier this year. How is he doing these days? Via the New York Times, an update:

...Alarmed by the federal government’s lack of response but determined to pitch in, Mr. Bowen invested millions of dollars to build more machines and he hired 200 additional workers, allowing Prestige Ameritech to increase production to six million masks a month, up from 75,000 in March. “I did it all without a penny of government help,” said Mr. Bowen, whose company is one of the country’s largest domestic mask producers.

By next spring, he said, his factory will be producing 10 million masks a month. Still, Mr. Bowen worries he will be saddled with unsold product. “A few months ago my phone was literally ringing all the time and I was getting thousands of emails per day,” he said. “Right now my phone just isn’t ringing that much.”

The problem, Mr. Bowen said, is that the hospitals that were once so eager to purchase his N95 masks have begun buying cheaper products from China, which have become more widely available in the months since Beijing brought its pandemic under control...

Sounds like Mr. Bowen didn't get too many folks locked into a supply agreement. There was a lot of talk of "decoupling", and I imagine it will come before long, but it's not here yet...  

When will chemists get the vaccine?

The latest news from the CDC's advisory committee, via the New York Times
Striking a compromise between two high-risk population groups, a panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Sunday to recommend that people age 75 and older be next in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the United States, along with about 30 million “frontline essential workers,” such as emergency responders, teachers and grocery store employees...

...A working group of the committee suggested that in addition to teachers, firefighters and police, “frontline essential workers” should include school support staff, day care employees, corrections personnel, public transit, grocery store and postal workers, and those in working in food production and manufacturing.

But the group’s formal recommendation is not that specific. The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, emphasized that its recommendations were nonbinding and that every state should fine-tune them to serve the unique needs of its population.

Here's the CDC presentation. If they use the CISA definitions for manufacturing workers for critical infrastructure, that will cover a fair number of chemists under the "chemical" category. (including (theoretically) myself*, full disclosure.) Best wishes to all of us.  

*I would very much like to get the vaccine, but I'm happy to wait my turn. I'd rather my parents (older, healthy) get it before me. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

It's been a crazy week, but we've made it to Friday. Here's hoping that you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

The best article you will read about Chartreuse today

Via the New York Times, a really interesting article about a French distillery, with some chemical manufacturing to boot: 

Royalties go back to 380-some Carthusian monks and nuns residing in 22 charter houses spread across the globe, including Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and the United States.

Remarkably, among them, only two monks know the full 130-ingredient recipe.

“The secret of Chartreuse has long been the despair of distillers, just as the natural blue of forget-me-nots has been the despair of painters,” reads an 1886 document referred to in a recent history of the company and order. Father Holleran spent five years overseeing the distillation process, ordering ingredients and planning its production schedules. When he departed the site in 1990, he became the only living outsider to know the liqueur’s ancient formula.

“It’s safe with me,” he said. “Oddly enough, they didn’t make me sign anything when I left.”...

...Inside the Grande Chartreuse, skilled monks receive, measure and sort 130 unlabeled plants and herbs into giant unmarked (or, in 2020, QR-coded) sacks. Then, at the distillery, five non-Carthusian employees work alongside two white-robed monks to macerate, distill, blend and age the liqueur. A computerized system also allows them to virtually monitor the distilling from the monastery.

Along its five-week distilling process, and throughout the subsequent years of aging, those two monks are also the ones who taste the product and decide when it is ready to bottle and sell. “They are the quality control,” said Emmanuel Delafon, the current C.E.O. of Chartreuse Diffusion...

Guessing it takes years of OJT to get the palate right to do QC on the stuff! 

C&EN: Newest analysis of US chemical industry from ACC

From an article by Melody Bomgardner: 

The chemical industry is already in recovery mode from an unusually deep—but short—recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the US chemical industry’s main trade association.

The crisis certainly left a bruise. The ACC estimates that US chemical output fell 3.6% in 2020 after a 0.1% dip in 2019. The swing for specialty chemicals was much wider; the segment sank 10.8% this year compared to last year’s 2.5% growth. And there were layoffs: the chemical workforce shrank by 14,000 jobs.

Now, as the year winds down, the economic gears are turning again, and the chemical industry is starting to rebound. The ACC estimates that the US economy will grow 3.7% in 2021 and that chemical production will rise a similar 3.9%. Most industries that buy chemicals will ramp up production in 2021, though not all will make up the ground lost in 2020.

Well, here's hoping the rebound continues....

Thursday, December 17, 2020

11 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Common Organic Chemistry is resolving some technical difficulties, but has ported over the list to Google Drive for now. There are 11 new positions for December 13.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

Job posting: NIST physical scientists

From the inbox: 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is recruiting scientists and engineers to join an interdisciplinary team developing a new spectroscopy for intermolecular interactions. The team anticipates the need for several physical scientists or engineers in the following areas: 1) on-wafer device fabrication; 2) nonlinear electrical measurements; 3) molecular dynamics simulations; 4) density functional theory; 5) NMR spectroscopy.

The positions have an education requirement and are located at the Gaithersburg, MD, and Boulder, CO, campuses of NIST. Prior experience relevant to the technical area is required. More detailed project descriptions are posted here: https://www.nist.gov/programs-projects/electric-acoustic-spectroscopy-intermolecular-interactions-solution.

Interested applicants should send their resume or CV and a cover letter to Dr. Megan Harries (eas-ims-jobs@nist.gov) specifying which of the above opportunities they are interested in. Review of applications will begin on December 21 and continue until all positions are filled. 

The identified candidate may be hired as a Physicist (1310), Chemist (3120), Chemical Engineer (0893), Material Scientist (0806), Electronics Engineer (0855) or similar, at the level of ZP-III (GS-11/12 equivalent) with a salary range of $70,181 - $109,358. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology of the Department of Commerce is an Equal Opportunity Employer. When a position is available, a vacancy announcement will be posted on WWW.USAJOBS.GOV.

Best wishes to those interested.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Bloomberg Businessweek: Eastman subsidiary was selling methylamine for meth manufacture in mid-2010s

Via Bloomberg Businessweek's Cam Simpson, this rather remarkable story: 

One November morning in 2015, a lawyer named Clark Jordan rose sheepishly from his chair to face the judge in a federal courtroom in eastern Pennsylvania. Jordan, then 51, had spent most of his adult life in corporate law, but this day was different. As a vice president of Eastman Chemical Co., he was appearing for Eastman’s board of directors to enter a guilty plea in a drug case. The six-count criminal information charged that an Eastman subsidiary, Taminco U.S. Inc., had knowingly violated federal narcotics laws. Before that morning, Jordan had thought this would be “no big deal,” he later recalled. But in the solemnity of the courtroom, the gravity of the moment sank in.

Taminco, which Eastman had acquired 11 months earlier for $2.8 billion, was one of the world’s top producers of a chemical called monomethylamine, or MMA. Legally used to make pesticides and pharmaceuticals, it’s also an essential ingredient for Mexican cartels cooking the cheapest and most potent methamphetamine ever sold on American streets. Federal drug laws contain a set of crimes for U.S.-based companies that fail to control the sale and distribution of every liter they make. Requirements include verifying the legitimacy of any customer worldwide. Even contractors that pour the chemical into barrels must be licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Taminco was pleading guilty to illegally selling more than 22,000 gallons of MMA to two shadowy Mexican companies without conducting even basic checks of their bona fides. One of the companies may have never existed; the other was controlled by Taminco’s own Mexican sales rep, who was selling to himself before reselling to unknown buyers. In the first six months of 2010 alone, Taminco sold the two Mexican companies enough MMA to make nearly 100,000 kilograms of meth, or more than 11 times the total amount of the drug seized by U.S. law enforcement that year...

I seem to recall there was an episode of Breaking Bad where Walter White had to steal a large quantity of the stuff - little did he know he could just order it from Taminco!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 228 research/teaching positions and 22 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 228 research/teaching positions and 22 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On December 17, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 500 research/teaching positions and 39 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search?  Go to the second open thread. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

Postdoctoral opening: Sues Lab, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

From the inbox: 

A postdoctoral position is available in the Department of Chemistry at Kansas State University. The successful candidate must have a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the time of appointment. This position will require the synthesis/characterization of organometallic complexes, as well as the quantitative evaluation of catalytic reactions using spectroscopic and chromatographic methods. Duties would include planning and conducting synthetic procedures, as well as writing and editing manuscripts/articles. 

The position requires the individual to display critical thinking and independent judgment as it relates to ongoing and new research in the field, with guidance from the Primary Investigator. Candidates must have considerable experience synthesizing air-/moisture-sensitive transition metal complexes. Previous experience in organometallic synthesis and kinetic investigations of catalytic systems is preferred. This is an opportunity to join a growing research team and explore exciting new projects in the field of olefin metathesis.

Here is the full ad. Deadline to apply is January 1, 2021. Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 47 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 47 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 71 positions

 The Academic Staff Jobs list has 71 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has begun to be released

Via the New York Times, the vaccine is getting out there: 
FARGO, N.D. — Trucks and cargo planes packed with the first of nearly three million doses of coronavirus vaccine fanned out across the country on Sunday as hospitals rushed to set up injection sites and their anxious workers tracked each shipment hour by hour.

The distribution of the first federally approved vaccine marked the start of the most ambitious vaccination campaign in American history, a critical, complicated feat that one top federal official compared to the Allied landings at Normandy during World War II. Now, the United States is trying to turn the tide of battle against a virus whose out-of-control spread has killed nearly 300,000 people, ravaged the economy and upended millions of lives.

Early on Sunday, the first boxes of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that received emergency approval from federal regulators were packed in dry ice at a Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Mich. Workers applauded as the first truck left the plant, the earliest wave of vaccines bound for distribution sites across all 50 states...

Here's hoping that we can all get vaccinated before long. Best wishes to all of us, and all of our families. 

I lost a bet: Chemical manufacturing employment is up since December 2013

Credit: Bureau of Labor Statistics
In October 2014, I made a bet with Rob Westervelt of Chemical Week where I claimed that chemical
manufacturing would not grow in the 10 years after December 2013. 

We decided on a $100 charity bet. About once a year, I'd check it, and I would see that I was well behind. I am not sure anyone could have seen the pretty large fall-off that happened in 2020 due to the pandemic. Over the weekend, I decided to cut my losses and I donated $100 to Rob's designated charity, which was City Harvest. Rob was incredibly magnanimous, and graciously asked me to designate a charity, which I did (ACS' Project SEED.) 

I am a little more optimistic about what the numbers for American chemical manufacturing employment might be post-pandemic. Here is hoping that things keep moving in the right direction. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Have a good weekend

  

Well, we made it through the week. Hope you're doing all right, and that you and your families are safe. Have a good weekend, and see you on Monday. 

Chemical explosion at a plant in Belle, WV

Via the New York Times, an explosion on Tuesday: 

A large explosion at a West Virginia chemical plant killed one person and injured at least two others late Tuesday night, throwing debris more than a mile away and forcing a nearby highway and some schools to close, officials said.

There were three chemical operators in the building at the time of the explosion, according to Optima Belle, the chemical company that owns the plant. Two operators were evaluated at a hospital and released, but the third operator died, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

Separately, a county official had said that four people had been hospitalized. Officials told residents within a two-mile radius of the blast in the town of Belle, about 15 miles southeast of Charleston, to shelter in place. Classes at more than a dozen schools were canceled on Wednesday as a precaution.

The authorities were investigating the cause of the explosion, which apparently involved dry chlorine and methanol, Kent Carper, the Kanawha County Commission president, said early on Wednesday. Firefighters worked to stabilize the blast, which settled into a controlled flare through the night, he said...

...The explosion occurred at about 10 p.m. in a manufacturing area owned by Optima Chemical, which operates in a complex in Belle owned by the Chemours Company, Optima Belle said in its statement.

“Preliminary information indicates that a 1,200-gallon metal dryer became over pressurized during a chemical product drying operation,” it said. “The material in the dryer was a compound used for sanitization.”

I'd like to understand what happened here. It makes sense that methanol would be flammable, but it doesn't make sense that it would be in a dryer? (maybe it was product wet with methanol?) 

Best wishes to the families and coworkers of those killed and injured. 

Job posting: NIST physical scientists

From the inbox: 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is recruiting scientists and engineers to join an interdisciplinary team developing a new spectroscopy for intermolecular interactions. The team anticipates the need for several physical scientists or engineers in the following areas: 1) on-wafer device fabrication; 2) nonlinear electrical measurements; 3) molecular dynamics simulations; 4) density functional theory; 5) NMR spectroscopy.

The positions have an education requirement and are located at the Gaithersburg, MD, and Boulder, CO, campuses of NIST. Prior experience relevant to the technical area is required. More detailed project descriptions are posted here: https://www.nist.gov/programs-projects/electric-acoustic-spectroscopy-intermolecular-interactions-solution.

Interested applicants should send their resume or CV and a cover letter to Dr. Megan Harries (eas-ims-jobs@nist.gov) specifying which of the above opportunities they are interested in. Review of applications will begin on December 21 and continue until all positions are filled. 

The identified candidate may be hired as a Physicist (1310), Chemist (3120), Chemical Engineer (0893), Material Scientist (0806), Electronics Engineer (0855) or similar, at the level of ZP-III (GS-11/12 equivalent) with a salary range of $70,181 - $109,358. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology of the Department of Commerce is an Equal Opportunity Employer. When a position is available, a vacancy announcement will be posted on WWW.USAJOBS.GOV.

Best wishes to those interested.  

19 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Common Organic Chemistry is resolving some technical difficulties, but has ported over the list to Google Drive for now. There are 19 new positions for December 8.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Russia pumping out helium

Why is this room full of MRIs? 
Credit: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg, via Getty Images
Via the New York Times, interesting article on Russian helium production in Siberia, and its geopolitical
impact:

...Still, after ramping up to full production in the middle of this decade, Russia expects to produce 25 to 30 percent of all helium used worldwide.

It will do so without breaking a sweat, so vast are its reserves, analysts say. In fact, Gazprom has the ability to reserve extracted helium in Siberia by injecting it back into the natural gas fields — essentially taking its helium off the market — which is one reason for concerns about price manipulation in the future. Gazprom declined to comment for this article.

In other commodity markets where Russia has a finger on the scale of prices, such as natural gas in Europe, a complicated mix of politics and economics influences the Kremlin’s decisions. Its Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project, intended to connect Russian gas fields to Germany, for example, has been fiercely opposed by the White House as a means of stoking dependence on Russia....

I don't quite know what to make of all of this, but more sources of helium are a good thing one presumes. Will be amused to see if there will be a HPEC someday...

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 219 research/teaching positions and 21 teaching faculty positions

 The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 219 research/teaching positions and 21 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On December 10, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 493 research/teaching positions and 36 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search?  Go to the second open thread. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

Job posting: visiting assistant professor, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

From the inbox: 

The Department of Chemistry at the University of North Texas invites applicants for a post-doctoral teaching and research position at the rank of Visiting Assistant Professor. This non-tenure track position will be for one year with the possibility of renewal for up to two additional years, with a planned start date of September 1, 2021. The primary responsibilities of the position include components of both research and teaching. Research responsibilities include conducting chemistry education research to explore the way undergraduate students interpret, understand, and use chemistry representations. The candidate will closely collaborate with the PI of the Chemistry Education Research Group at the University of North Texas, Dr. Molly B. Atkinson, and will be supervised by the Department Chair. Teaching responsibilities include teaching one course section each Fall and Spring semester within the Department of Chemistry at the undergraduate introductory level (either general or organic chemistry, depending upon the candidate’s expertise and departmental needs).

Review of applications will begin on January 15, 2021. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Please direct any questions to Dr. Molly B. Atkinson (Molly.Atkinson@unt.edu).

Required Documents:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Cover Letter*
  • A writing sample (e.g., published journal article)
  • Statement of Teaching Philosophy
  • Unofficial copies of all undergraduate and graduate school transcripts
  • A list of 3 professional references, with their contact information, who are willing to be contacted directly by the PI to request letters of recommendation

*The cover letter should explain the applicant’s interest in this position and why they are a good choice for this position, based on alignment with the required minimum qualifications and any other desirable or preferred qualifications (e.g., past experience relevant to the job responsibilities). The cover letter should also specify when the applicant expects to receive their Ph.D. if they have not yet received it at the time of application.

 Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 47 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 47 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 70 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 70 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019 edition

From the NSF's Survey of Earned Doctorates, the latest data, which is for the class of graduates during the 2019 calendar year. First, the demographic data (tab 58): 

All doctorate recipients (number): 2,941
Sex (%): Male 60.9 / Female 39.1 / Unknown 0.0
Citizenship (%): U.S. citizen or permanent resident 60.6, Temporary visa holder 36.4, Unknown 3
Marital status (%): Never married 48.9, Married 32.2,  Marriage-like relationship 7.5, Separated, divorced, widowed 1.2, Unknown 10.2
Bachelor's in same field as doctorate (%): 73.2
Master's earned (%): 37.2
Age at doctorate (median years): 28.9
Time to doctorate (median years): From bachelor's 6.3, From graduate school start 5.8, From doctoral program start 5.3

Now, their destinations (tab 59): 

Definite postgraduation study: 982 (36% of respondents to this question)
Definite employment: 788 (29% of respondents to this question)
Seeking employment or study: 878 (33% of respondents to this question)
Other: 63 (3% of respondents to this question)

Definite postgraduation study (%): Postdoc fellowship or research associateship 96.9, Other or unknown 3.1
Definite employment (%): Academe 16.2, Government 4.4, Industry or business 75.8, Nonprofit organization 1.0, Other or unknown 2.5
Primary activity (%): R&D 70.4, Teaching 14.0, Management or administration 3.7, Professional services 11.2, Other 0.7

Median starting salaries for those employed (does not count postdoctoral appointments) (tab 49): 

Total: $95,000
Academe: $54,000
Industry or business: $102,158
Government: $80,000
Nonprofit organization: $81,000
Other or unknown: $50,000

Last year's data, in case you're interested. (most dramatic changes were to this year's salaries, which were all up) 

BLS: Unemployment rate for November was 6.7%; payrolls rose 245000 positions

Credit: Calculated Risk
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the national unemployment rate fell to 6.7%, and payrolls rose by 245000 positions in November.

The broader U6 measurement of unemployment was 12.1%, down from 12.2% in October.

The chemical manufacturing subsector saw a drop in positions from 835700 in October to 833800 in November, a drop of 1900 positions (seasonally adjusted).

The unemployment rate of college graduates was 4.2% for November 2020, while by contrast the unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma was 9.0%. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

Well, we've made it through another week. This week, I learned that some musicians don't enjoy playing this song. Well, to each their own. Have a good weekend, and see you on Monday. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

73 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Common Organic Chemistry is resolving some technical difficulties, but has ported over the list to Google Drive for now. There are 33 new positions for December 2,  and 19 for November 30 and 21 for November 23.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

Job posting: Deputy Division Director, Division of Chemistry, MPS, NSF, Alexandria, VA

  From the inbox, a position at the National Science Foundation: 

The Division of Chemistry (CHE) is responsible for programs with a total annual budget of more than $200 million. These programs support research and education that expand the knowledge base of the science of chemistry through single investigator and collaborative research programs (catalysis; life processes; measurement and imaging; structure, dynamics and mechanism; environmental chemistry; macromolecular, supramolecular and nanochemistry; synthesis; and theory, modeling and computational chemistry), Centers for Chemical Innovation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Research Instrumentation and Facilities, and Special Projects. The mission of the NSF Division of Chemistry (CHE) is to support innovative research in chemical sciences, integrated with education, through strategic investment in developing a globally engaged U.S. chemistry workforce reflecting the diversity of America.

Within the Division, the Deputy Division Director works with the Division Director in providing leadership and management to the Division’s programs and assists the Division Director in carrying out Division-wide responsibilities such as the preparation of budget submissions for Congress, oversight and management of the Division budgets, and the recruitment of scientific staff.  The incumbent also supervises and provides leadership and guidance to administrative and support personnel within the Division.  Externally, the Deputy Division Director represents the Division in a variety of MPS-wide, NSF-wide and interagency activities related to research and education, and in interactions with the community.  The Deputy Division Director assumes the Division Director’s role in the absence of the Division Director.

 Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Job retraining for COVID-19 affected workers

Via the New York Times, an analysis of how workers affected by the pandemic can recover their positions: 

Training has always been a challenge for policymakers, and the pandemic complicates matching new skills with jobs. Austin Urick, 31, went back to school after he lost his job last year selling equipment for the oil and gas industry. He enrolled at San Jacinto College near Houston to learn instrumentation and electrical systems. He expects to graduate this month, certified to calibrate and replace gauges and pumps used by oil and gas companies.

The industry, however, has suffered during the pandemic. While he has some good leads, his job hunt hasn’t yielded any offers. “It is worrisome,” Mr. Urick said. “But my Plan B is not just oil and gas.” The instrumentation degree can be taken in different directions. “I can work in an elevator company or in a hospital, anywhere that has gauges,” he added. “I can go down the street to Budweiser.”

One of the things that I did not fully recognize is how much the pandemic would have impacted the oil and gas industry, i.e. millions of people no longer driving their cars would have a signficant impact on revenue. Best wishes to Mr. Urick, and to us all. 

*There's talk in the article about a "New Deal for skills", but I'm skeptical, i.e. the history of government retraining programs of jobs isn't so great. Still, significant funds for individual job retraining is something I would support, especially if we could figure out a nimble/viable way to make it happen. (A big if). 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 202 research/teaching positions and 19 teaching faculty positions

The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 202 research/teaching positions and 19 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On December 3, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 484 research/teaching positions and 34 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search?  Go to the second open thread. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

Postdoc: mechanistic enzymology, Basu Lab, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN

 From the inbox: 

A postdoctoral position is available in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, IUPUI starting spring 2021. The project involves studying the structure-function relation in periplasmic  nitrate reductase, a mononuclear molybdenum enzyme. These enzymes take part in the global cycling of C, S, N, and As, and impact human health in a myriad of ways. Our approach includes careful kinetic analysis coupled with biophysical experimentation, and with this approach, we  hope to develop an in-depth understanding of these critical enzymes' reactivity. 

This NIH/NSF funded position is for one year with the option to extend beyond the initial year. The  department is well equipped with modern instrumentation such as mass spectrometry facility,  cell culture and protein purification facilities. Experience in enzyme kinetics and molecular  biology is desirable. As a home of major pharmaceutical companies, upcoming biotech  industries, and largest medical school in the country, Indianapolis offers a vibrant scientific  community. The city of Indianapolis is thriving city with a rich cultural environment, plenty of  options for an active outdoor lifestyle. Interested candidate should contact Prof. Partha Basu  (basup@iu.edu).

Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 42 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 42 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 52 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 52 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, November 30, 2020

EPA is assessing ethylene oxide for cancer risk

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this news item from Britt Erickson on draft EPA regulation on ethylene oxide: 

Ethylene oxide, a gas commonly used to sterilize medical equipment and spices*, poses health risks to workers and communities surrounding sterilization facilities, the US Environmental Protection Agency says in a draft risk assessment.

The EPA conducted the evaluation as part of the reregistration review process for pesticides. The agency regulates the use of ethylene oxide as a sterilant, which it considers an antimicrobial pesticide.

The draft assessment, released Nov. 19, provides a route for the EPA to tighten regulations on ethylene oxide releases from sterilization facilities. The agency has been evaluating options for reducing ethylene oxide emissions since a 2016 assessment showed that cancer risks are greater than the EPA previously thought. In its August 2018 air toxics screening assessment, the EPA pointed to ethylene oxide emissions from commercial sterilization facilities as a major contributor to the elevated cancer risks.

Ethylene oxide “is used on half of all sterilized medical devices in the United States annually and, in some cases, it is the only sterilization method available,” Alexandra Dunn, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, says in a statement.

As a teenage hospital volunteer, I clearly remember one day when the basement was shut down because of an ethylene oxide leak in the sterilization space. It's not surprising to me that it's an effective sterilizing agent, but it seems to me that something as toxic (and flammable!) as ethylene oxide would attract quite a bit of research to make it obsolete...

*Spices? Yes, spices.

African crested rats cover themselves in cardiotonic glycosides?

Via the New York Times, this unusual news (article by Katherine J. Wu):  

Give them a chance and African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. It’s not for nutrition. Instead, they will chew chunks of the plants and spit them back out into their fur, anointing themselves with a form of chemical armor that most likely protects them from predators like hyenas and wild dogs. The ritual transforms the rats into the world’s only known toxic rodents, and ranks them among the few mammals that borrow poisons from plants....

...People in East Africa have long known about the crested rat’s poisonous punch, which has felled many an overcurious dog. (Those that survive their encounters tend to give the rats a wide berth.) In 2011, a team of researchers described the heart-stopping toxins that the rats milked from Acokanthera schimperi, a tree traditionally harvested by hunters who would use its juices to lace their arrows.

From Wikipedia, this description of the tree:

The bark, wood and roots of Acokanthera schimperi are used as an important ingredient of arrow poison in Africa. All plant parts contain acovenoside A and ouabaïne, which are cardiotonic glycosides. Its fruit is edible, and is eaten as a famine food.

 Guessing that overcurious dogs don't last long in Africa...

Friday, November 27, 2020

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

Every year, I am incredibly thankful for my family, my friends, my community (physical and online) and my job. This year, I am very thankful for the health and safety of our family and friends.

I am also thankful for you, my readers and commenters. Thank you for your reading, your advice, your e-mails and your brilliant, insightful comments. I am truly blessed. I hope that you are safe from the pandemic, and that you and your family are doing well.

[An additional note: if you would ever like to meet for a cup of coffee or a beer, please reach out to my e-mail address. I plan to find myself in unexpected places in 2021, and I love to meet readers of the blog.] 

My family and I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and if you're not in the United States, a happy Thursday and Friday! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Chemical Activity Barometer up 0.8% in November

From the American Chemistry Council: 

WASHINGTON (November 24, 2020) – The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), rose 0.8 percent in November on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 1.0 percent gain in October. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer fell 2.4 percent in November.

The unadjusted data show a 1.3 percent gain in November following a 0.5 percent gain in October and a 0.7 percent gain in September. The diffusion index eased from 76 percent to 71 percent in November. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for October was revised upward by 0.38 points and the reading for September was revised downward by 0.06 points. These were highly volatile months for the data. The November data are provisional and subject to revision.

“With seven straight months of gains, the November CAB reading is consistent with recovery in the U.S. economy,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC.

The CAB has four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.

In November, production-related indicators were positive. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were mixed. Resins and chemistry used in light vehicles and other durable goods were strong. Gains in plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were positive. Performance chemistry for industry rebounded and U.S. exports were mixed. Equity prices rebounded and product and input prices were positive. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were positive.

Well, that's good news. Here's hoping it continues into the new year. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The 2021 Faculty Jobs List: 195 research/teaching positions and 17 teaching faculty positions

 The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 195 research/teaching positions and 17 teaching assistant professor positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

In 2020-2021, we will be adding teaching professor positions, targeting positions that demonstrate an intention to renew permanently, 3 year terms and a promotion ladder and/or are titled "assistant teaching professor" or "associate teaching professor." We are adding community college positions if they explicitly offer tenure.

On November 26, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 482 research/teaching positions and 32 teaching faculty positions.

To see trending, go to Andrew Spaeth's visualization of previous years' list.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search?  Go to the second open thread. Click here for the first open thread, which closed on November 11, 2020.

Postdoc: mechanistic enzymology, Basu Lab, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN

From the inbox: 

A postdoctoral position is available in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, IUPUI starting spring 2021. The project involves studying the structure-function relation in periplasmic  nitrate reductase, a mononuclear molybdenum enzyme. These enzymes take part in the global cycling of C, S, N, and As, and impact human health in a myriad of ways. Our approach includes careful kinetic analysis coupled with biophysical experimentation, and with this approach, we  hope to develop an in-depth understanding of these critical enzymes' reactivity. 

This NIH/NSF funded position is for one year with the option to extend beyond the initial year. The  department is well equipped with modern instrumentation such as mass spectrometry facility,  cell culture and protein purification facilities. Experience in enzyme kinetics and molecular  biology is desirable. As a home of major pharmaceutical companies, upcoming biotech  industries, and largest medical school in the country, Indianapolis offers a vibrant scientific  community. The city of Indianapolis is thriving city with a rich cultural environment, plenty of  options for an active outdoor lifestyle. Interested candidate should contact Prof. Partha Basu  (basup@iu.edu).

Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 42 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 42 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson).

From Dr. Josephson: This year we will try to utilize the list further by circulating among the professors, as well as using the hashtags #facultychemEjobs and #MeettheCandidatesChE2020.

The open thread is found here. 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 52 positions

 The Academic Staff Jobs list has 52 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The government's ability to accelerate innovation, and production

I've been reading the broad blogosphere for a very long time (since 2001 or so), and so I'm familiar with a lot of the old players. While there are very few of the original players who are still solely blogging (like Derek Lowe, for example), I am amused at the trajectories of progressive bloggers Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, both of whom departed Vox recently, Klein for the New York Times and Yglesias for his own website on Substack. I've been reading Yglesias for a very long time, so it's not a surprise to me that he's returned to one of his favorite themes - that government money can effectively spur new R&D:  
The Pfizer people made a big deal out of the fact that their program wasn’t technically part of the Operation Warp Speed effort that the Trump administration put together. But they are very much part of the program where both the US government and the European Union made large advance agreements to purchase vaccine doses. That guarantee makes a big difference to any private sector undertaking.

And to me it’s a proof of concept for the kind of thing we could be doing in the clean energy space. Say an electric car that meets such-and-such specifications would get guaranteed orders to serve as government fleet vehicles. Or pre-commit to buying electric buses for schools and transit agencies. Nuclear micro-reactors for use on military bases or as backup systems for hospitals. The assurance that a market exists is a big stimulus to private investment, and when strong social consensus exists that innovation would be beneficial, we can get it done....

...So while we both could and should mount a vaccine-esque push for clean energy research and deployment, we so far have not. Hopefully, that will change as more people look at the success of the pharmacological aspects of America’s Covid response and see that directed research programs really do work.

Of course, I quibble with his argument. I think the term "directed research programs" need to be defined before we can agree they "really do work." Is Operation Warp Speed such an example? I'm not so sure, but I cannot deny that advanced purchase agreements are a powerful incentive. God willing, we'll all be arguing this in 2022 in person, but it's hard for me to think that if Pfizer didn't have such an agreement with OWS, they could have still made an agreement with the United States government once they knocked on the door with positive clinical results. Of course, that it's Pfizer (with its $52 billion annual revenue) plays a role - not too many other companies could have self-financed such a venture. 

Regarding his clean energy thoughts, I think such agreements are both science- and economics-dependent. If Elon Musk showed up with an electric school bus that cost $2 million per, would that be viable? It wouldn't - and it takes quite a bit of new science and new engineering to get a competitive price, and I'm not sure how much faster a guaranteed market would really drive said development. Also, how politically viable would such a guaranteed market bet? 

On the other hand, this New York Times writeup of OWS' ability to get logistics stuff done is pretty impressive: 

When Moderna discovered this summer that an air handling unit for its factory could not be delivered over a weekend because of Covid-19 limitations on interstate trucking, the major’s team stepped in. Warp Speed officials arranged a law enforcement escort to accompany the massive piece of equipment from the Midwest to its Massachusetts manufacturing plant.

The team again sprang into action when Moderna discovered that a specialized pump, needed to make the first batches of vaccine for the clinical trials, was marooned in a rail car and was not going to be delivered on time. Federal workers tracked down the train and rummaged through it until they found the pump.

“They put it on a plane, and it arrived on time,” Mr. Andres, the company’s operations chief, said.

The interventions, he said, were “absolutely instrumental.”

Getting yourself moved to the front of the line by the power of the state isn't anything to be sneezed at. (Railroads? How did that happen? Those guys are impossible to work with, I've heard...)

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, November 20, 2020

Have a good weekend

 

Well, we made it another week, folks. I hope you have a good weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

This week's C&EN

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

34 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Common Organic Chemistry is resolving some technical difficulties, but has ported over the list to Google Drive for now. There are 22 new positions for November 18,  and 12 for November 16.

Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.

Job posting: Deputy Division Director, Division of Chemistry, MPS, NSF, Alexandria, VA

 From the inbox, a position at the National Science Foundation: 

The Division of Chemistry (CHE) is responsible for programs with a total annual budget of more than $200 million. These programs support research and education that expand the knowledge base of the science of chemistry through single investigator and collaborative research programs (catalysis; life processes; measurement and imaging; structure, dynamics and mechanism; environmental chemistry; macromolecular, supramolecular and nanochemistry; synthesis; and theory, modeling and computational chemistry), Centers for Chemical Innovation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Research Instrumentation and Facilities, and Special Projects. The mission of the NSF Division of Chemistry (CHE) is to support innovative research in chemical sciences, integrated with education, through strategic investment in developing a globally engaged U.S. chemistry workforce reflecting the diversity of America.

Within the Division, the Deputy Division Director works with the Division Director in providing leadership and management to the Division’s programs and assists the Division Director in carrying out Division-wide responsibilities such as the preparation of budget submissions for Congress, oversight and management of the Division budgets, and the recruitment of scientific staff.  The incumbent also supervises and provides leadership and guidance to administrative and support personnel within the Division.  Externally, the Deputy Division Director represents the Division in a variety of MPS-wide, NSF-wide and interagency activities related to research and education, and in interactions with the community.  The Deputy Division Director assumes the Division Director’s role in the absence of the Division Director.

 Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested.