We made it another week. Hope you have a restful weekend, and see you on Monday.
Continuing news in the story of Professor Charles Lieber from the Harvard Crimson (by James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen):
Harvard filed an opposition Thursday in response to Chemistry professor Charles M. Lieber’s lawsuit alleging the University is contractually obligated to pay for his legal defense against federal fraud charges. In its filing, Harvard’s lawyers argued Lieber relinquished his right to indemnification and advancement of defense costs when he knowingly lied to the University and the federal government about his activities in China.
...Harvard’s opposition to the motion, however, alleges Lieber intentionally lied to Harvard and federal authorities, precluding him from receiving indemnification under the policy.
“Employees who privilege their own interests over Harvard’s, whether by acting in bad faith, violating University policies, engaging in various forms of misconduct, or seeking an improper financial benefit, are not entitled to indemnification or, therefore, advancement,” Harvard’s opposition reads. “Lieber engaged in precisely the kind of self-dealing conduct that precludes advancement.”
“It cannot be the law that a professor can (i) mislead Harvard, (ii) allegedly lie to the United States, (iii) cause Harvard to make misstatements to the United States, (iv) get charged criminally, and then (v) insist that Harvard must advance his defense costs—regardless of his conduct—because the stakes in the criminal case are high,” the opposition concludes. “Any such holding would effectively compel Harvard, in violation of its policies and expectations of faculty conduct, to advance defense costs from its charitable assets to employees who engage in bad-faith conduct for the purpose of enriching themselves.”
Apart from the obvious (i.e. we’ve gotten to the point in the relationship between Professor Lieber and Harvard where it’s open conflict), I think it is interesting to note that Harvard is being clear that they feel Professor Lieber misled them. I’m still stumped as to why Professor Lieber did this, but perhaps we will learn this before long.
A few of the postings from C&EN Jobs and elsewhere:
Cleveland, OH: Sherwin Williams is looking for a R&D chemist.
Wilmington, MA: Royal DSM is searching for a BS chemist to be an applications chemist.
Chesterfield, MO: Bayer is searching for an experienced analytical chemist.
West Lafayette, IN: AMRI wishes to hire an experienced MS/PhD chemist for a senior research scientist for particle engineering.
Durham, NC: Verdesian Life Sciences is looking for an experienced BS/MS/PhD chemist for agricultural chemistry work. Salary: "Up to $111,000 per year + benefits, bonus potential"
Universities must act to eradicate discrimination against working-class students, including the mockery of regional accents, equality campaigners have said.
A Guardian investigation has found widespread evidence of students at some of the country’s leading universities being ridiculed over their accents and backgrounds, in some cases prompting them to leave education.
The analysis found discrimination against working-class students was particularly prevalent among Russell Group universities. The group, which is made up of 24 institutions, has a reputation for academic excellence.
In a series of Guardian interviews, students past and present reported bullying and harassment over their accents and working-class backgrounds. Some said their academic ability was questioned because of the way they spoke.
The Social Mobility Commission (SMC), which monitors progress in improving social mobility in the UK, described the situation as unacceptable and said accents had become a “tangible barrier” for some students.
This week the Guardian reported complaints of a “toxic attitude” towards some northern students at Durham University. Last month the university launched an inquiry after wealthy prospective freshers reportedly planned a competition to have sex with the poorest student they could find.
People will find different ways to distinguish the in-group from the out-group, so it shouldn't be a surprise that there is discrimination based on accent. I suspect that happens a lot less in the United States, although I can't imagine someone with an intense Noo Yawk accent having a great time of it at UT-Austin, or a someone with a Southern drawl getting 100% fair treatment at Harvard from fellow students.
I imagine this kind of treatment extends its way into the workplace as well, but, in chemistry, I imagine it's much more about foreign accents than it is about various regional accents in the United States.
WASHINGTON (October 27, 2020) – The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), rose 0.9 percent in October on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis, a marked deceleration from the 1.5 percent gain in September and 2.6 percent gain in August. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer was down 3.3 percent in October.
The unadjusted data show a 0.1 percent gain in October following a 0.8 percent gain in September and a 1.9 percent gain in August. The diffusion index eased from 65 percent to 59 percent in October. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for September was revised downward by 0.26 points and the reading for August was revised downward by 0.30 points. These were volatile months for the data.
“With six consecutive months of gains, the October CAB reading remains 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 October, production-related indicators were mixed. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were largely positive. Resins and chemistry used in light vehicles and other durable goods were positive. Gains in plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were mixed. Performance chemistry and U.S. exports were mixed. Equity prices rebounded, while product and input prices were positive. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were positive.
Hopefully, the upward trend continues.
The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 146 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching assistant professor positions.Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.
The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 35 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 Academic Staff Jobs list has 47 positions.This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Soldiers and police in Mexico seized an industrial-scale meth and fentanyl lab that was so big it startled investigators, federal prosecutors announced Sunday.The lab had chemical preparation vats about two stories tall that could process 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of raw material at a time, said Felipe de Jesus Gallo of the federal Attorney General’s Office.“In the Attorney General’s Office, we have no record of any seizure of equipment of this size before,” Gallo said.The mega-lab was uncovered this past week in a storefront advertising industrial cleaning products on the outskirts of Mexico City.Behind the storefront was a warehouse, with tall stacks of drums and 265-gallon (1,000 liter) tanks holding precursor chemicals, which Gallo said could be used to produce methamphetamines and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Hard to know how large the reactors were, but I'm a little surprised that these reactors (16000 liter reactors?) are the largest the Mexican government has seen so far. I'm surprised the cartels haven't gone in for flow chemistry by now.
In this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News, an article by Hepeng Jia:
Amid a trade war and other disputes between China and the US, the Western chemical makers Dow and Johnson Matthey have won a trade-secret lawsuit in a Chinese court against Shanjun Clean Energy Technology over their jointly owned oxo alcohol technology. The two companies expect to be compensated with an undisclosed but “significant” amount of money.
The technology is a catalyzed low-pressure process for producing oxo alcohols, often used to make plasticizers. The firms have licensed the technology for more than 20 projects in China.
Liu Wei, an associate professor of intellectual property rights (IPR) law at Shanghai Jiaotong University, says the ruling indicates a growing professionalism in Chinese courts. “It is clear evidence that China’s IPR protection has achieved great progress,” he says.
Will be interesting to see if these sorts of wins continue in the future.
Via Bloomberg, this unfortunate news:
U.S. drug-safety inspectors have found continuing quality-control problems problems at a New Jersey plant Eli Lilly & Co. is using to help produce its Covid-19 antibody therapy, posing a potential obstacle to the company meeting its goal of producing 1 million doses by year-end.
In an Oct. 2 memo, Food and Drug Administration compliance officers wrote that findings from an inspection of the facility in July and August “support a major failure of quality assurance.” They noted that Lilly planned to make its antibody therapy at the plant and said the inspection group “feels it is still imperative that FDA take action.”
The assessment was based on a four-week site inspection that ended on Aug. 21, the details of which haven’t previously been reported. The compliance officers recommended that the company receive a warning letter, one of the agency’s strongest enforcement measures, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. Agency inspectors found that in some cases Lilly employees didn’t investigate potential quality problems and routinely overrode testing systems, according to the documents.
...At that time, inspectors found the company’s system for tracking manufacturing quality wasn’t secure and could be accessed and modified by anyone, according to the documents reviewed by Bloomberg...
...In one case described by FDA inspectors, a Lilly employee allegedly used the wrong material in a critical purification step. In another, after routine checks revealed a potential impurity in a drug product, an employee retested it to get a passing result, according to the documents, instead of attempting to figure out why there were signs of an impurity in the sample.Lilly managers downplayed quality missteps in a data-management system FDA has access to during inspections called TrackWise, according to inspection documents. Drugmakers use such workflow tracking systems to record the outcomes of quality checks during the manufacturing process.
A confidential informant told the FDA that Lilly managers documented more details of quality concerns that required personnel action in the company’s human-resources system, according to the Oct. 2 memo. Agency inspectors said in their report that they repeatedly asked to review the human-resources records, but said Lilly refused to grant them access.
It's very surprising to me that there was a computer system without an audit trail in a facility that manufactures a biological. I'd really like to understand the context around the mis-charge of material - I would presume there were about 7 deviations to get there, but I dunno...
I'm looking forward to more context from the inevitable warning letter.
A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs:
Coshocton, OH: Wiley Companies is searching for a MS/PhD experienced chemist for process development work.
Your home?: Schrodinger is looking for a BS chemist for a sales account manager position for the Midwest US, Southeast US, and Mid-Atlantic US. Guessing this is a remote position mostly.
Bethesda, MD: NIDDK has a tenure-track opening for the laboratory of chemical physics.
Via the New York Times, a fun article about crystal mining at the Herkemer diamond mines and the people who are beginning to do it for a living:
For example, after having their jobs and schooling upended by the pandemic in the spring, Frank and Kyndall Stallings, 22 and 27, of Charleston, Mo., pivoted to digging for crystals.
“It all started in February, when Frank took me to the diamond mine in Arkansas for Valentine’s Day,” said Ms. Stallings, of the couple’s visit to a $10-a-day public mine called Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro.
While they didn’t bring home a diamond, they did find a tiny piece of quartz. The experience was a thrill of life-changing proportions. By mid-March, Mr. Stallings’s work as a financial adviser had slowed significantly, Mrs. Stallings’s classes for a bachelor’s degree in horticulture had gone remote, and a job she had recently been offered — data entry at a hospital — never started.
With their newfound time, the Stallingses were mining nearly every day.
By mid-April, the couple had sold everything they owned on Facebook, burned everything they couldn’t sell in a bonfire, packed up their truck and hit the road to work as freelance crystal miners.
“Fifty dollars a day to dig, and if you dig really hard you find $2,000, $3,000, $5,000 worth of crystals,” Mr. Stallings said, referring to Ron Coleman Mining, a crystal mine in Arkansas where the couple recently unearthed a “once in a lifetime” 15-pound clear quartz point, which they later sold for $1,500.
While $5,000 days are extremely rare, the Stallingses do earn a living selling specimens of gold, amazonite, pyrite, quartz, fluorite, shark teeth and obsidian out of the back of their Toyota RAV4 and on eBay.
Sounds like a lot of fun and you probably get a really good tricep workout. Probably no 401k plan, though.
The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 136 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching assistant professor positions.Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.
Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) of Inorganic Chemistry
The Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (www.chab.ethz.ch) at ETH Zurich and its Laboratory of Inorganic Chemistry (LAC) (www.lac.ethz.ch) invite applications for the above-mentioned position. The research activities at the LAC encompass synthesis of inorganic compounds on the molecular and nanometre scale, extended solids, and characterisation of complex reaction systems with high resolution methods at the atomic and molecular levels.
The new assistant professor is expected to develop an outstanding research programme in the following areas: main group chemistry, materials chemistry, solid-state chemistry, computational chemistry, physical method developments and combinations thereof. The development of highly interdisciplinary research projects at the interface of inorganic chemistry and physics, materials science, or biological sciences are additional key assets. Collaboration with theoretical and experimental groups at ETH Zurich is encouraged, and teaching in the areas of General and Inorganic Chemistry is expected at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
Assistant professorships have been established to promote the careers of younger scientists. ETH Zurich implements a tenure track system equivalent to other top international universities. At the assistant professor level, commitment to teaching and the ability to lead a research group are expected.
Applications should include a curriculum vitae, a list of publications, a statement of future research and teaching interests, and a description of the three most important achievements*. The letter of application should be addressed to the President of ETH Zurich, Prof. Dr. Joël Mesot. The closing date for applications is 15 December 2020. ETH Zurich is an equal opportunity and family friendly employer, strives to increase the number of women professors, and is responsive to the needs of dual career couples.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested.
The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 34 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 Academic Staff Jobs list has 47 positions.This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
A few articles from this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News:
MUSKEGON, MI — A multinational chemical company will close a Muskegon Township facility within the next two years, citing a consolidation of production. The Germany-based BASF announced Monday that it will close a herbicide production facility, located at 1740 Whitehall Road in Muskegon Township, by 2022.
The township facility, formerly a Bayer CropScience facility, produces glufosinate-ammonium (GA) for use as a non-selective herbicide. It has been in operation since 1975.
...Muskegon Township Supervisor Jennifer Hodges told MLive that she had not been informed about the closure prior to being contacted by media. She said the local plant employs about 70 people, and she has since been told the plant is expected to be closed by July 2021...
Best wishes to those affected.
Nanoscientist Charles M. Lieber, who faces charges that he lied to US federal authorities and did not declare foreign income or a foreign bank account to the Internal Revenue Service, is suing to require his employer Harvard University to cover the costs of his defense in the criminal case. Lieber, the former chair of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and claims that Harvard’s indemnification policy requires the university to cover the cost of his defense. Lieber filed the complaint on Oct. 9 in Massachusetts Superior Court.
An indemnification policy requires an employer to compensate or defend employees who face legal liability for doing their job. Such policies are common. According to his complaint, Lieber requested indemnification from Harvard in March. In May and July, Harvard’s executive vice president Katherine N. Lapp denied the request in letters alleging, among other things, that Lieber did not act in good faith.
Lieber’s complaint states that his defense is complex, with allegations that go back at least 7 years, witnesses in China, and thousands of pages of documents, many of which may require Mandarin-to-English translation. Lieber’s attorney Marc Mukasey declined to say how much the legal defense would cost, but estimates in the complaint suggest it could range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million. “Payment of all of the costs of a robust defense would substantially, if not completely deplete Professor Lieber’s resources,” the complaint states...
I think it's surprising that Professor Lieber has decided to do this, but I imagine it's a last ditch effort to extract cooperation from Harvard. I cannot imagine that Harvard is enthusiastic about its current position.
Over at Common Organic Chemistry, there are 28 new positions for October 13.Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.
Via the New York Times, this interesting article:
Several companies in the race for a coronavirus vaccine have stumbled upon a new and unexpected hurdle: activists protesting the use of a substance that comes from sharks in their products.
The oily compound, called squalene, is churned out by shark livers and has immunity-boosting powers, which has led several companies to use it as an ingredient in vaccines. A group called Shark Allies has mounted a campaign calling on the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies to halt the sourcing of the compound from sharks, warning that mass distribution of a coronavirus vaccine could require harvesting tissue from more than 500,000 sharks....
...Shark livers are considered among the best sources of the compound. Between 63 million and 273 million sharks die at the hands of humans each year, and liver oil is harvested from at least a couple million of them, according to Catherine Macdonald, a shark biologist in Florida.
Two of the companies under the scrutiny of Shark Allies are GlaxoSmithKline and Seqirus, which each manufacture adjuvants that contain about 10 milligrams of squalene per dose. Those ingredients are found in a number of coronavirus vaccines currently being tested in humans, including products from Sanofi, Medicago and Clover Biopharmaceuticals, which have all partnered with GSK.
According to one estimate, between 2,500 and 3,000 sharks are needed per metric ton of squalene. Shark Allies extrapolated from these statistics to arrive at their widely quoted numbers tabulating the potential ecological toll on sharks.
So there's ~400 grams of squalene per shark? Who knew? (Sounds like no one really knows, and it depends on the shark) The sharks have gotta like Amyris:
She pointed to Amyris, a California-based company, which has been pursuing a synthetic alternative.
Will be interesting to see if Amyris succeeds...
The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 125 research/teaching positions and 12 teaching assistant professor positions.Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.
The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 33 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 Academic Staff Jobs list has 45 positions.This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
From last month, this news:
@PennChemistry will be admitting PhD students in the coming year, although our entering class size will be a bit smaller.
Surprisingly, not too many other chemistry departments are doing this. (none?) Will be curious to see what happens.
...Then came the shale boom a decade ago and the industry ramped up its hiring. But problems started appearing in 2014 when the boom triggered a collapse in oil prices to US$50/bbl, and the talent narrative shifted to mass layoffs. From July 2014 to June 2016, the industry laid off 200,000 people. Additionally, the short-cycled nature of shales made hiring extremely cyclical. During 2014–2019, the sensitivity of OG&C employment to oil prices was at its highest, especially in upstream and oilfield services (OFS) sectors (see sidebar, “About 70% of jobs lost in 2020 may not come back by the end of 2021 in a business-as-usual scenario”).The employment situation took a turn for the worse due to COVID-led slowdown of the economy and the resulting oil price crash, leading to the fastest layoffs in the industry—about 107,000 workers were laid off between March and August 2020, apart from widespread furloughs and pay cuts. Even the relatively stable sectors, such as refining and chemicals, reported up to 35,000 layoffs combined. Such large-scale layoffs, coupled with the heightening cyclicality in employment, are challenging the industry’s reputation as a reliable employer.
I'm unconvinced of the arguments in this article, but it is worth pondering anyway...
Over at Common Organic Chemistry, there are 10 new positions for October 7 and 24 for October 3.Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.
Via Science magazine's Katie Langin, the impact of COVID-19 on academia:
The scarcity of academic jobs is a perennial problem for U.S. science trainees. But this year, across STEM disciplines, faculty job openings at U.S. institutions are down 70% compared with last year, according to an analysis of job advertisements on the Science Careers job board. (The Science Careers news team operates independently from the job board.) Only 173 U.S.-based jobs were posted between July and September this year, compared with 571 during the same period last year. Non-U.S. job postings dropped by 8%.
“It’s about double-worse than I imagined,” says Andrew Spaeth, an industrial chemist and the co-creator of a popular online faculty job list for chemists. “I thought we’d see a hit—maybe 30%,” he says, but his site currently lists roughly 70% fewer openings compared with last year. An ecology and evolution job list reveals a similar drop, with 65% fewer openings this year.
It's cold comfort to see that it's not just chemistry that's been impacted by COVID-19. Here's hoping that the industrial chemistry job market can attempt to absorb some of the faculty candidates that might ponder a career in industry...
The 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 114 research/teaching positions and 10 teaching assistant professor positions.Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.
The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 31 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 Academic Staff Jobs list has 44 positions.This list is curated by Sarah Cady and @nmr_chemist. It targets:
A Harris County judge has dropped the remaining charges in the criminal trial against French chemical manufacturer Arkema and its executives, leaving county prosecutors with no convictions in a case tied to a chemical fire during Hurricane Harvey.
In what was the second directed verdict in two days, Visiting Judge Belinda Hill ended the case against the company and former Crosby plant manager Leslie Comardelle, finding not enough legal evidence for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion. They had faced felony charges for reckless emission of air pollutants.
I suspect this would have depended on the jury's reading of the term "reckless". I also think that the Harris County prosecutors have set a new standard for the many petrochemical firms in its jurisdiction, and I imagine that the threat of arrest and trial are driving some Houston-area plant managers to listen to their EH&S managers just a little more.
(If you'd like to read a back-and-forth with one of the reporters on this case, click here.)
Via the New York Times, bad news from corporate America:
The American economy is being buffeted by a fresh round of corporate layoffs, signaling new anxiety about the course of the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty about further legislative relief.
Companies including Disney, the insurance giant Allstate and two major airlines announced plans to fire or furlough more than 60,000 workers in recent days, and more cuts are expected without a new federal aid package to stimulate the economy.
...Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the country’s largest book publishers, said Thursday that it was cutting 22 percent of its work force, including 525 employees who were laid off and 166 who chose to retire. The company is a major supplier of educational books and materials, a business hit hard by school closings.
The Walt Disney Company said Tuesday that it would eliminate 28,000 jobs, mostly at theme parks in Florida and California. Many of the workers had been on furlough since the spring, but the company said it was making the cuts permanent because of “the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic.”
Not much from the manufacturing economy (although it's gotta be a bad time to be in the aerospace industry), and not much from pharma or the chemical businesses. Crossing my fingers for chemists...
Over at Common Organic Chemistry, there are 14 new positions for September 27.Don't forget to check out the Common Organic Chemistry company list, a very helpful resource for organic chemists looking for potential employers.
What's the job market like for chemists? Dude -- it's always bad.*
How bad is it? How the heck should I know? Quantifying the chemistry job market is what this blog is about. That, and helping chemists find jobs.
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