Friday, March 13, 2020

Help in the time of COVID-19

Dear readers of the blog:

What do you think is going to happen with the spread of COVID-19 through the United States? I would like to tackle some of the key questions that has driven this blog since December 2008. Here are some questions that I have:
  • Will we see a recession in 2020? If so, when? 
  • How will this affect industrial chemist employment? 
  • How will this affect academic chemist employment for the 2020-21 hiring cycle? 
  • How will COVID-19 affect hiring cycles overall? Will 2019 be the local maxima of hiring in industrial and academic chemistry? 
  • How will the lack of face-to-face contact affect job searchers? 
  • What are the most effective Skype interviewing techniques? 
  • If there is a recession, which aspect of the chemical enterprise (academic, industrial or governmental) will be hit by mass layoffs? When and how? 
Readers, what questions do you have? What web-based tools can we use to help each other? Please comment below. E-mails welcome at

(UPDATE: adjusted language of final bullet)

 (I regret I am much slow at answering them than I was ten years ago, although I suspect I will have lots of time for e-mails in the coming weeks....) 


  1. Dark, but possible: many new positions for faculty in 2020-2021 because the virus did what administrators were unable to do: "retire" older faculty. Not unlike how wages generally went up for workers in 1350 after the plague killed off 1/3 of the population. I hope this does not happen, but it is possible.

    If this is offensive, what is even scarier is how many might like this to happen. Usually thoughts like these come about if the individual resents the current system of chemistry employment, often with good reason.

    1. There is another factor -- money. Some universities are talking about refunds to students sent home at this moment. Universities' investments are not doing well. I am afraid that we might see less positions, if universities have less money this fall.

    2. Less money and less faculty, let's hope education expenses actually go down in cost...

  2. I have friends in sociology already trying to analyze the outcome of the COVID 19. The data is still too early to say. I am more incline to believe there is a net zero effect in the hiring for next year.

  3. There will be a recession in Q2/3 for certain, likely extending to Q4.
    Academe hiring won't be affected.
    DK how lack of f/f interviews will play out, I can't imagine hiring anyone based only on a video call.
    Little btechs with weak balance sheets (like mine!) will feel some pain as not a lot of financings will bet done next few Qs.
    Overall this will be a good time to buy stocks: I assume they ring a bell at the bottom?

  4. If there was an actual effort to lessen our dependence on foreign-made drugs and drug ingredients then we could actually see an increase in chemistry industry jobs over the next few years in the US. I doubt this is going to happen. The current back-and-forth on this topic seems like US-China political bullsh*t which will likely go away after the crisis.

  5. I currently hold a tenure-track position at a university, but am searching for others at universities that i) are more geographically favourable than my current one, and ii) offer more research support than the "anti-research" philosophy my current research seems to have. Before all of this struck, I was on the "long-list" (i.e. the Skype/video) interview stage for two universities, and had applications out to others. I've heard nothing in over two weeks and I have no idea whether it's because of the chaos amidst the shift to online course deliver (i.e. cancellation of face-to-face) or whether the searchers are simply advancing and my candidacy is no longer under consideration.

    Regardless, I'd like to see how universities deal with this semester's teaching evaluations and lack of research productivity. I'm at a PUI, so research productivity was never going to be that intensive -- but with all my undergraduate student-researchers now gone, it's hit rock bottom.

  6. Some remote (online or phone) interviewing techniques I've practiced:
    - Dress up, shoes included.
    - Have a mirror in front of me so I can see how I look and whether I am smiling. Smiles carry through in voices!
    - Sit next to windows (natural light) or have two white light bouncing towards your face.
    - Position the webcam (whether a standalone unit or in the laptop) so that you have to look slightly up to it. Chins are not flattering to most people.
    - Practice the system (zoom/webex/skype/hangout etc.) with a friend or colleague. They can check everything with you - the surrounding, the sound quality, etc.).
    - If you need a little cheat sheet, put sticky notes on the screen! The interviewers can't see those ;) But don't leave a word document full of written answers up.
    - Look into the camera instead of the screen. This one will require some practice.

  7. Will we see a recession in 2020? If so, when?
    - Almost certainly, beginning in the current quarter and becoming official after the next quarter.

    How will the lack of face-to-face contact affect job searchers?
    - I can imagine many companies have switched focus away from hiring right now, and are looking to ride out this storm with what they have.

  8. My wife is a financial planner, she and people in the field are expecting a recession later in the year once the ramifications of the virus hits earnings and the job market. She's been really busy the last two weeks as many folks want to reposition their assets.

    At my company for hiring we're trying virtual interviews including the seminar (for PhD-level), not sure how well its going to work but not many options as we're banning visitors from our site.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20