Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The NYU/Maitland Jones debacle

Undoubtedly, you've heard about this story, but if you haven't, here's a rather depressing story from the New York Times about the NYU administration's firing of Maitland Jones Jr. from teaching one of their large organic chemistry lectures: 

In the field of organic chemistry, Maitland Jones Jr. has a storied reputation. He taught the subject for decades, first at Princeton and then at New York University, and wrote an influential textbook. He received awards for his teaching, as well as recognition as one of N.Y.U.’s coolest professors.

But last spring, as the campus emerged from pandemic restrictions, 82 of his 350 students signed a petition against him.

Students said the high-stakes course — notorious for ending many a dream of medical school — was too hard, blaming Dr. Jones for their poor test scores.

The professor defended his standards. But just before the start of the fall semester, university deans terminated Dr. Jones’s contract.

Derek does a great job of covering the issues from a philosophical side, and so I urge you to read his post. I have two items to add. One of them is a factual question that I would like answered, and the other is yet another philosophical cud-chewer. 

Most of the discussion of this article (God help us) has been on Twitter, and there have been a lot of opinions and not many new facts to add. It's clear that the students had legitimate questions about the style and format of grading; I'm not a chemistry professor, and so I don't have an informed opinion there. But there have been at least two instances of former students claiming that Professor Jones would specifically announce and make fun of the low score (or the low scorer) of the exam. 

If true, this is pretty appalling. If Professor Jones was saying "someone got a 5% and boy are they a dummy!", that seems quite cruel. If Professor Jones was saying "John Smith got a 5%, and boy are they a dummy", that is clearly a FERPA violation and a fireable offense. The claims are unclear as to if it was either the strong or weak version. Either one is bad, in my opinion. I'd really like this question run all the way down to the letter, but that will probably never happen. 

For the philosophical question, it is fascinating to me how large organic chemistry seems to loom as a barrier for pre-meds. First, they seem to view the class as unnecessary gate-keeping and there are a shocking amount of people who claim that organic chemistry has nothing to do with medicine. I will basically not entertain responses on the second point, i.e. I think organic chemistry is extremely relevant, and those who say otherwise are basically entertaining a future with physicians who are scientifically illiterate. But here's my real question: if I accept the premise that organic chemistry is the gate for gate-keeping, where do the anti-organic folks propose to move the gate? Biochemistry? The first year of med school? Physics? 

(As a practical matter, the seemingly unique American practice of having a 4-year undergraduate degree that is lightly or heavily sprinkled with science and then another 4 years of medical school seems a bit indulgent, but I rather like the idea that physicians get a good solid liberal education.) 

So there's my question, readers - what's the best way to educate physicians other than the current way? Is there a scientific field (I dunno, biology? engineering?) that is better suited?

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 370 research/teaching positions and 21 teaching positions

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 370 research/teaching positions and 21 teaching positions. 

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

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

On October 5, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 318 research/teaching positions and 20 teaching faculty positions. On October 6, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 114 research/teaching positions and 10 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

Postdoctoral position: Mackiewicz Lab, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

From the inbox: 
The Mackiewicz Lab (http://sites.science.oregonstate.edu/~mackiewm/) is looking for a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher scholar to join our team in the Chemistry Department at Oregon State University (https://chemistry.oregonstate.edu/). We are developing solutions to overcome challenges in nanomaterials development for use as drug delivery, optical imaging, and cell-labeling in several biomedical applications with collaborative partners at multiple institutions in Oregon. 
We are working on nanomaterials developed to solve solutions in macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cancer. Our research includes synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials, mammalian cell culture, nanoparticle-biological interactions, and nanotoxicology. Candidates who have experience in nanomaterials synthesis, cell culture techniques as well as those who want to pursue areas of research of their interests by writing grant applications or fellowships opportunities are encouraged to apply.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 66 positions

 The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 66 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Liquid nitrogen demonstration goes horribly wrong at the University of Girona

Still from Twitter video
credit: @locarium
This summary via Euro Weekly News: 
A total of two adults and three children were hospitalised suffering from injuries after an explosion that occurred at Girona’s Casa de Cultura yesterday, Friday, September 30. According to a spokesperson from the Josep Trueta Hospital, they are all out of danger and could even be discharged later today, Saturday, October 1.

Eighteen people were injured when a drum of liquid nitrogen exploded during a scientific outreach event, which mixed magic and science, designed to bring science closer to children, as reported by elperiodico.com.

You can watch the various videos of the incident here, here and here on Twitter. It sounds like the demonstrator was a reasonably prominent science communicator in the Catalonia region who was fairly experienced. 

It's pretty clear this demonstration is a version of the classic liquid nitrogen/ping pong ball demo, but it is weird to me that they added a second drum with a drum lid clamp on it. The demo put one of the drums in the air, which is definitely not good. I'll withhold judgment, but it's pretty clear the crowd was much too close. Here's hoping that we get some more conclusions soon. 

Best wishes to those injured. 

C&EN: European resin plant closes due to high natural gas prices

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this article by Craig Bettenhausen:
European gas prices shut down Arakawa resin plant

The specialty resin maker Arakawa Chemical Industries has decided to permanently close a plant in Germany where it makes Arkon, a hydrogenated hydrocarbon resin used in adhesives and as a plastics additive. Arakawa says it expects strong demand for the resin, especially in personal care products, but high prices for natural gas and hydrogen, as well as ongoing supply chain disruptions, made the German plant unsustainable. When the plant shuts down at the end of March 2023, the Japanese firm will supply the resin from its facilities in Japan.

It feels like (and maybe I am wrong) that the European commodity/specialty chemicals is going to take a beating because of the Russian/Ukrainian war, and there is no real end in sight... 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Have a good weekend

An exhaustingly busy week, but I am keeping my head above water. I hope that you had a decent week, and that you have a great weekend. See you on Monday. 

Whoa, German chemical plant utilization is way down

From this week's C&EN, grim news from the chemicals sector (emphasis mine, article by Michael McCoy): 
...A day later, Dow’s chief financial officer, Howard Ungerleider, told a Credit Suisse conference that Dow’s third-quarter earnings before taxes would be about $600 million below what stock analysts were expecting.

Like other executives, Ungerleider pointed to lower demand and higher energy costs in Europe as key reasons for the reduced outlook. Although no major German chemical company has formally cut its outlook yet, a recent report from VCI, Germany’s main chemical industry association, is grim in its predictions. It warns that business consequences of the war in Ukraine—high energy and raw material costs, persistent supply bottlenecks, and possible natural gas rationing—could bring production cutbacks and even a recession.

The group says that production capacity utilization in the German chemical industry is 81.4% below normal and that output is likely to fall by 8.5% in 2022.

“The immense challenges are a serious danger to the competitiveness of our companies and thus also to the future of Germany as an industrial location,” VCI president Christian Kullmann writes in the report. “Cutting back production is a first step. If certain processes have to be shut down altogether, they may never start up again.”

It will be interesting to see what the long-term ramifications to the European chemical industry will be from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I am not sure I would have predicted this, but here we are.  

Thursday, September 29, 2022

28 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

 Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 28 new positions for September 24. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Are we going to run out of organic solvents?

I'm still chewing on this Bruce Lipshutz opinion piece in Chemical and Engineering News that predicts an eventual move away from petroleum-based solvents: 

...Society has started to force petroleum companies to account for their environmental impact. For example, in 2021, a court in the Netherlands required Royal Dutch Shell to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions created from burning fossil fuels. In 2020, the CEO of BP announced the firm’s plans to begin cutting its oil production by 40% and focus on renewable energy. Is this the beginning of the end for big oil? How many companies must transition away from oil before the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries see shortages in the supply chains that are essential to their industries? And what does the future workforce of scientists—specifically synthetic organic chemists—look like absent the petroleum-based science that may soon become obsolete?

I guess I have a pretty tough time imagining what this future could look like, i.e. a world in which no solvent is derived from drilling for oil? Seems to me a likelier world is one where solvent gets *a lot* more expensive, as oil gets pricier due to climate change-related pricing structures, etc, or solvent is derived from plants/some other Source of the Future.

Nevertheless, a reasonable thing to think about how such a world might look... 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Monday, September 26, 2022

What's more important: intelligence or conscientiousness?

In a podcast interview between Tyler Cowen, an economist and Byron Auguste, an economist, and a CEO of a labor force development non-profit, this interesting exchange: 

COWEN: At the margin, if you’re trying to retrain someone, would you rather they had higher IQ or higher conscientiousness? Which is more scarce?

AUGUSTE: Well, it depends, in part, on what you’re training them for.

COWEN: Sure, but on average. People who are 25 and over —

AUGUSTE: I think IQ is overrated and conscientiousness is underrated for the most part because people can learn new things, but as you know, learning can be uncomfortable. First of all, it requires realizing you don’t really know a thing, paying attention to where, “Oh, I sort of know this,” but looking at the finer points. Yes, I think conscientiousness probably matters more on the whole.

It seems to me that both are important for being a research chemist, but I imagine higher IQ would be helpful for most research-oriented tasks (i.e. making unexpected connections, etc, etc.) That said, I suspect that for most tasks in any organization within the chemical enterprise, you would take a higher-conscientiousness person every time. 

(the whole episode is worth a listen, if only to hear Auguste talk about the various places where credentialism is impacting the labor market) 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Have a good weekend

This was an anxiety-inducing week, but it seemed like it worked out all right in the end. I have a fun Friday activity. I hope you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

Marketwatch: "U.S. Leading Economic Index Fell in August for Sixth Straight Month, Signaling Downturn"

Via Marketwatch: 
An economic index that measures U.S. business cycles fell in August for the sixth straight month, indicating that a contraction in economic activity may be imminent.

The Leading Economic Index compiled by private-research group The Conference Board declined 0.3% to 116.2 in August after a revised 0.5% drop in July, data released Thursday showed.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal expected the index to decrease by 0.2%.

August's data potentially signal a recession, said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at the Conference Board. "Economic activity will continue slowing more broadly throughout the U.S. economy and is likely to contract," he said.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index is a predictive variable that anticipates turning points in the business cycle by around seven months.

Well, that's not great news.  

(Makes you wonder if there is something different about the post-pandemic economy, and if the major indicators are not quite acting as they should. I'm tempted to say "yes, maybe?" but I don't think that the pandemic suspended "the rules" of the economy.)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

22 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 22 new positions for September 19. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Job posting: QC lead manager, Invicro, New Haven, CT

From the inbox, this position: 

Job summary

The Quality control lead will oversee the day-to-day quality control activities at Invicro's New Haven site by managing the QC team, overseeing inventory, ensuring equipment calibration and qualification is performed on time and according to written procedures and perform quality control testing under GMP condition. This role will report to the director of radiochemistry.

Major responsibilities

  • Manage Chemistry Quality Control team members, daily operations of the quality control team and responsible for delegating work to assigned staff and establishing workflow standards/expectations. Perform PET and SPECT radiotracer quality analysis in full compliance with applicable regulations and internal requirements
  • Actively support and perform maintenance of analytical equipment
  • Oversee and ensure the quality control program is proceeding efficiently within the framework of regulatory compliance and operating within with strict adherence to phase-appropriate cGMP standards, environmental health and safety, good working practices and related guidelines...

Qualification

  • Strongly preferred PhD in Chemistry or Master's Degree in engineering or physical sciences.
  • 5-10 years of analytical chemistry experience
  • 3-5 years of people management experience
  • 1-3 years of experience working in a cGMP environment
  • 1-3 years of experience working under aseptic conditions for the preparation of sterile product(s)
  • Demonstrated proficiency in the cGMP operation and extensive experience with conventional analytical instrumentation.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

I don't think you could do this in chemistry?

Via Business Insider, this trendy bit of job news: 
Some job candidates are hiring proxies to sit in job interviews for them — and even paying up to $150 an hour for one.

In a recent Insider investigation into the "bait-and-switch" job interview that's becoming increasingly trendy, one "professional" job interview proxy, who uses a website to book clients and keeps a Google Driver folder of past video interviews, said he charges clients $150 an hour.

The proxy was approached by Aamil Karimi, who works at cybersecurity firm Optiv as a principal intelligence analyst. Karimi, who posed as a job seeker to talk to the proxy, told Insider's Rob Price that the "bait-and-switch" trend has been on the rise because of more work-from-home jobs and overseas hiring.

The "bait-and-switch" interview works like this: a job candidate hires someone else to pretend to be them in a job interview in hopes they will secure the job. When the job starts, the person who hired the proxy is the one to show up for work.

I genuinely don't think you could get away with this in chemistry (but as the article/summary notes, this may be a trend in IT and not elsewhere (?)). I have a decent memory for names and faces, so I'd like to think that my spidey-sense would tingle... Readers, has this ever happened to you?  

C&EN: "Tesla eyes US lithium processing plant"

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, a bit of news that you would not really expect ten years ago (article by Alex Scott):

Tesla has disclosed that it is considering building a plant in Robstown, Texas, that would convert lithium ore into battery​-grade lithium hydroxide. Tesla says Louisiana is another option for the plant. The final choice will be determined partly by the company’s ability to obtain local property tax relief. Production is expected by the end of 2024. The plant would use a novel technology that requires fewer hazardous reagents than other processes and creates usable by-products, according to Tesla.

Man, talk about vertical integration. You wonder if this trend will continue or if it's a mini-boomlet that will ultimately go away...  

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 294 research/teaching positions and 15 teaching positions

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 294 research/teaching positions and 15 teaching position. 

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

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

On September 21, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 240 research/teaching positions and 13 teaching faculty positions. On September 22, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 89 research/teaching positions and 9 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

Postdoctoral position: theoretical/computational postdoctoral position, University of Missouri - Kansas City (Kansas City, MO)

From the inbox: 
Postdoc Position in Theoretical & Computational Chemistry 

A postdoctoral position in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry is available in the  Momeni Research Group at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. The research will  focus on developing new methodologies and their applications to tackle transport  properties in condensed phases. This will include implementation of these methodologies in our in-house open-source molecular dynamics software package DL_POLY Quantum.  For more information on research projects in the Momeni’s group please  visit https://info.umkc.edu/momenigroup
Preferred Qualifications 
  • PhD in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science, or a related field (or expecting to  graduate soon). 
  • Strong background in both programing and large-scale molecular dynamics  simulations. 
  • Ability to work effectively in a team and good communication skills (oral and written). 
  • Knowledge of path integral formalism and machine learning techniques is a plus. 
Interested applicants are encouraged to send their applications including an up-to-date  CV and one-page summary of their research interests to Dr. Momeni at mmomenitaheri@umkc.edu. 

The position is initially offered for one-year and is renewable to one or two more years  upon mutual agreement.

Best wishes to those who are 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) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Signs of aromatic compounds on Mars?

Via the New York Times, this space science news: 

...Perseverance had earlier found organic molecules — those with carbon and hydrogen atoms bonded together — in rocks on the crater floor of Jezero. But scientists were pretty sure those molecules had formed through non-biological processes.

The organics in the river delta rocks have the potential to tell a different story.

As Perseverance approached the river delta, the signal of organic molecules grew stronger, said Sunanda Sharma, a scientist working with an instrument on the rover that performs chemical analysis of the rock.

At Wildcat Ridge, “These signals were present at nearly every single point in every scan,” Dr. Sharma said. “They are also some of the brightest that we’ve seen thus far on the mission.”

Dr. Sharma said the data indicates the presence of ring-shaped carbon molecules known as aromatics, which the instrument is more sensitive at detecting. More complex organic molecules like proteins or amino acids would provide more compelling evidence of life, but that would have to await analysis after the sample is returned to Earth.

It's interesting to think about what kinds of molecules would be signs of life that would be left over after a very long time...  

C&EN: The third quarter doesn't look good for the chemical industry

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this not great news (article by Alex Tullo): 
Early portents are that the chemical industry is headed for stormy seas. Eastman Chemical has sharply reduced its earnings forecast for the third quarter, while a stock analyst has downgraded Dow.

Chemical executives are growing increasingly worried about a host of problems with the world economy. Energy prices are spiking in Europe and could get worse if Russia continues to withhold natural gas this winter. Chinese economic performance has been dogged by stringent COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Eastman is lowering its third-quarter earnings forecast by 19%, to $2.00 per share. “Demand has slowed more than expected in August and September, particularly in consumer durables and building and construction end markets and the European and Asian regions,” CEO Mark Costa says in a statement.

The company notes that US natural gas prices have reached their highest levels in 14 years. It is also facing snarls on cargo bound from the US to other regions. Eastman says it is raising its own selling prices and controlling costs.

Meanwhile, Jefferies stock analyst Laurence Alexander has lowered his rating on Dow from buy to hold. In a note to clients, he cites industry capacity additions and rising costs that have reduced the US’s competitive edge in Dow’s core olefins business. And he is concerned that rising interest rates in the US will erode consumer confidence.

Alexander also echoes the concerns that have been top of mind for many industry observers. “International earnings remain at risk due to China’s COVID-control measures and the EU energy shock,” he writes.

I imagine this might slow hiring for Eastman or Dow a little? But we will see.  


Friday, September 16, 2022

Have a great weekend

Well, this wasn't such a terrible week for me. I hope that it was a good week for you. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

TIL "brominator"

Via an article in The New Yorker, this interesting tidbit (emphasis mine): 
Shane Divine, a thirty-four-year-old Ohioan, has worked for a medical-tubing manufacturer for the past seven years. On a recent Sunday, I met him outside his factory, near Kent State University, which smelled of warm rubber. He was just off a twelve-hour shift, and his T-shirt was dotted with globs of gunk. Divine operates the brominator, a machine that smooths out latex by running it through a chemical solution. Like many Ohioans, he comes from a family of makers: his dad was a union electrician; his grandparents were rubber workers for Goodyear and Goodrich. Unlike most Ohioans his age, he has a United Steelworkers union card and a fixed-benefit pension.

Can't find much on what a brominator is, but one imagines bromine is involved. 

59 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 59 new positions for September 10. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

C&EN: Community colleges as training grounds for biotech

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this cover story on training industry chemists (article by Alla Katsnelson): 
Tracy Ludwick Naputi was a soon-to-be-divorced mother of five managing a McDonald’s restaurant when she realized something had to change. Ludwick Naputi loved science in high school, but the only science-related career she could envision back then was nursing, which turned out to be a bad fit. As she puts it, “Life happened”—and she found herself struggling to support her family and ready for new options.

Then Ludwick Naputi received a flyer from San Diego Miramar College, one of three schools in the region’s community college network, about programs preparing people for biotechnology-related jobs. She decided to enroll. That was in 2005—and it was the beginning of Ludwick Naputi’s journey toward a career she loves.

Today, Ludwick Naputi is making a comfortable salary as a research associate at BioLegend, a company that makes and sells immunoassay kits to scientists. Her position, which involves troubleshooting kits, has lots of room for growth. And her kids are proud of her: when they were young, they would tell their friends and teachers that their mom was a chemist. “I was that displaced single mother who had all kinds of barriers in my way,” she says. “Doing the program at Miramar College opened so many doors for me.”
Great anecdote, really interesting story. It seems that these programs are really great when you have a large enough cluster of employers to absorb the graduates of these kinds of programs (not a concidence, one imagines, that one of these programs was in Delaware.) All in all, a good thing. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 255 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching positions

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 255 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching position. 

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

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

On September 14, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 199 research/teaching positions and 11 teaching faculty positions. On September 15, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 74 research/teaching positions and 7 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 41 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 41 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Postdoctoral opening: Ultrafast Chemical Dynamics, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Berkeley, CA

From the inbox: 
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s (LBNL) Chemical Sciences Division has an opening for a Postdoctoral Fellow to join the team.

In this exciting role, you will work in the AMOS Chemical Dynamics group. The group’s research focuses on studying ultrafast dynamics in molecules, clusters, and interfacial systems by means of time-resolved X-ray spectroscopy and imaging techniques. 

See http://ultrafast.lbl.gov/chemical-dynamics/publications/ for a list of recent publications. The position focuses on the study of ultrafast coupled electronic-structural dynamics in gas-phase molecules by means of high-order harmonics enabled femtosecond time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Further activities may include experimental campaigns at Ultrafast Electron Diffraction (UED) facilities, X-ray free electron lasers (X-FELs), and synchrotron radiation light sources, using a variety of imaging and spectroscopy techniques. The successful candidate has either recently received or is about to acquire a Ph.D. in Physics or Chemistry. The candidate is expected to independently conduct cutting-edge experiments, analyze results, derive theoretical interpretations, and draft manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals. A high degree of independence must be complemented by the capability to thrive in a collaborative group environment.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Chinese Community Party official assesses, critiques Chinese science

Via Twitter, an interesting comment about Chinese science from a Chinese Communist Party official (full transcription here): 
Zhang doesn't only blame the US. He outlines how Chinese S&T is falling short:
  • Few original breakthroughs;
  • Lack of corporate leadership in innovation;
  • Disconnect between industry and academia;
  • Persistent credentialism and exclusivity culture;
  • Overburdened workers.
It would be really interesting to understand exactly what Zhang meant, but I suspect this is buried in about seven layers of nuance that you need a lifetime in Chinese academia to understand who he was Really Criticizing. 

I wish I knew more about the various histories of scientific innovation within nation-states, and how they grow and thrive. There must be some kind of curve/growth (one wonders what a similar critique of US chemistry academia would sound like in 1925) and what limitations the communist system places on Chinese academia (and also what baseline innovation would look like without Communist intervention in 1948?)*

*I mean, you almost have a perfect natural experiment between the People's Republic and Taiwan in terms of academic productivity....

C&EN: Virginia drug-making effort gets US funds

Via Chemical and Engineering News, this story from Rick Mullin: 

The Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (APM) Cluster, an effort led by the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority, will receive $53 million in federal grants as part of the Joe Biden ­administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The APM Cluster intends to use the funding to develop a pharmaceutical manufacturing corridor in central Virginia. The grant will also support a partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University focused on the drug industry.

It is interesting to me that this is happening - pretty clear that between AMPAC's Petersburg facility and Phlow, there is an attempt to make Virginia a pharmaceutical manufacturing center. Best wishes to them - will be fascinating to see if this bit of economic development comes through.  

Friday, September 9, 2022

Have a great weekend


I've had a fun week, and looking forward to a quiet (and on-time!) trip home. Hope you have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday. 

Olaplex has some interesting chemistry

Via the New York Times, a dive into a hair care product (Olaplex) and the chemistry behind it: 
The bulk of hair is keratin, which is made up of alpha helixes, or twisted ladders of protein held together by disulfide bonds. Those bonds largely determine both the hair’s strength and its curl factor (more bonds equal more curl). Those same bonds are damaged by things like color, perming and heat styling, as well as the mechanical stress of brushing and combing.

Olaplex’s claim is that it repairs the disulfide bonds, thanks to a hero molecule called bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate — clearly not named by a marketing team. Technically, the repair claim may be an overstatement: Olaplex doesn’t fuse broken bonds but instead creates a different kind of bond, said Joseph A. Schwarcz, a chemist and the director of the McGill University Office for Science and Society. (Dr. Schwarcz nonetheless pronounced Olaplex “a clever concept.”)

Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist and a founder of Thebeautybrains.com, a website and podcast on which scientists examine product ingredients and industry promises, was skeptical of Olaplex’s claims. The company’s top-selling product, its No. 3 Hair Perfector, says on the label that it is “NOT a conditioner” (capital letters are Olaplex’s); it’s designed to be used before shampoo and rinsed out.

I guess there's a claim of a Michael addition to a maleate, but I gotta see evidence of that before I really believe it I guess. Plenty of chemistry and chemists in this article. 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

23 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 23 new positions for September 1. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Anyone got a dollar?

Via this week's Chemical and Engineering News (article by Rick Mullin): 
The drug services firm Evotec has acquired Central Glass Germany from the Japanese chemical maker Central Glass for 1 € (99 cents). The deal includes a facility in Halle/Westphalia, Germany, with a staff of 60 and “significant” reactor capacity, Evotec says. The plant will support clinical- and commercial-scale manufacturing of small- molecule drugs for Evotec customers. Evotec intends to make the facility its European center for active pharmaceutical ingredients for rare diseases.

That's a flamin' hot deal, so there must be some kind of problem with the plant? Or there is a plant to be named later?  

C&EN: trial judge says that Charles Lieber cannot get a new trial

Via C&EN's Andrea Widener: 
A US federal court has denied Harvard University chemistry professor Charles Lieber’s request to overturn his conviction on charges of lying about his connections to China.

In a written ruling issued Sept. 1, Judge Rya Zobel knocked down each of Liber’s attorney’s arguments about why his conviction should be overturned. She also refused to grant Lieber a new trial....

...Lieber’s lawyers further said that Zobel, who also oversaw the initial trial, erred by admitting as evidence statements Lieber made to federal investigators and that her instructions to the jury were flawed.

In her ruling, Zobel says that the government’s legal theories were in line with the law and were not a reason to overturn the case. She also ruled that her instructions to the jury were accurate and, if Liber’s legal team had a reason to object, then they should have done it at the time the instructions were given.

Lieber is still free on bail while he waits for a sentencing hearing. That hearing is currently scheduled for January 2023.
I imagine this will be appealed to higher courts. 

Job posting: senior/principal scientific researcher (MS 0+/BS 2+), Genentech, South San Francisco, CA

From the inbox: 

Genentech, a leader in bio-pharmaceutical sciences, is seeking a highly-motivated and talented researcher with a proven track record of laboratory achievements to join our growing Department of Small Molecule Process Chemistry. Responsibilities of the position include:
  • Discover and develop process chemistry by conducting experiments to scout synthetic routes and to optimize reactions for yield, selectivity, and product purity.
  • Demonstrate synthetic processes at the laboratory and kilogram scale for timely delivery of early and mid-phase small molecule development candidates in accordance with cGMP, ICH and FDA/EMA regulations.
  • Develop crystallization processes to isolate synthetic intermediates and to control the bulk quality attributes of the API conducive to successful development and formulation requirements.
The ideal candidate will meet the following requirements. The level of the position will depend on the qualifications of the selected candidate:
  • BS with 2+ years of relevant experience or MS in chemistry. Candidates with a MS in organic chemistry are highly preferred. Applicants are required to provide a research summary along with their CV.
  • To be considered for the more senior level, the candidate must have a record of innovation and success in multiple projects over the course of their industrial career.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 220 research/teaching positions and 11 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 220 research/teaching positions and 11 teaching position. 

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

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

On September 7, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 165 research/teaching positions and 6 teaching faculty position. On September 8, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 66 research/teaching positions and 6 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 30 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 30 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Job posting: Academic Coordinator - Undergraduate Instructional Support, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

From the inbox: 

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California Santa Barbara invites applications for a 75% Academic Coordinator 1 position for Undergraduate Instructional support with the anticipated start date of September 18, 2022. The department is looking for a qualified individual with a particular emphasis in the area of working in an academic instructional laboratory.

Responsibilities of the position will be to implement laboratory course material directives and to accurately prepare experiments for all teaching labs. The Academic Coordinator serves in a key role for the successful operations of the instructional teaching laboratories in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

The university is especially interested in applicants who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community through research, teaching and service, as appropriate to the position.

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Monday, September 5, 2022

Happy Labor Day!

To my American and Canadian readers, a very happy Labo(u)r Day to you and your family. To people in the rest of the world, happy Monday! Back tomorrow.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Have a good weekend

Well, this was both a more and less eventful week than I was hoping. Here's hoping that you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Tuesday. 

Nature News: it's hard to find postdoc applicants

Via Nature's news service: 
Peter Coveney, a chemist and computational scientist at University College London, is ready to hire a postdoctoral researcher with experience in high-level computing. The problem: he’s struggling to attract a single qualified applicant. Earlier this year, he had to re-advertise for the position after two previous rounds of recruiting failed to produce any qualified candidates. He’s worried that if he can’t bring in someone soon, projects will be left undone and his long personal history of grants and publications could see a slowdown. “I’m extremely concerned about the long run,” he says. “At the moment I’m not running on empty, but I might be before long.”

Madeline Lancaster, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, UK, can relate to that. In July, she received a total of 36 applications for a postdoctoral position in her laboratory, many fewer than the couple of hundred that she originally expected. “I had been nervous that I wouldn’t be able to go through all of the applications,” she says. Those 36 didn’t lead to a single appointment. “I still have not filled the position,” she says. “There seems to be lots of competition for strong candidates.”

I don't really know what to say about this situation*, other than I am sympathetic towards assistant professors who struggle to find postdocs to get their programs off the ground. That said, I still feel the way I did a while back - this isn't a bad thing for PhD graduates, especially life scientists. If private industry is making the market more competitive for PhD scientists, this will do a lot to increase the lot of all working scientists. 

*Also, good economic times won't last forever. We'll see where we are in 5 years. 

Job posting: chemist, DEA, Arlington, VA

From the inbox: 

These positions are located in the Diversion Control Division (DC), Office of Diversion Control Operations (DO), Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section (DOE), Arlington, VA.

This position's primary purpose is to serve as a chemist responsible for providing leadership on technical matters to the Office of Diversion Control.

Basic Qualification -- Individual Occupational Requirements (IOR)

A. Degree in physical sciences, life sciences, or engineering that included 30 semester hours in chemistry, supplemented by course work in mathematics through differential and integral calculus, and at least 6 semester hours of physics.

OR

B. Combination of education and experience -- course work equivalent to a major as shown in A above, including at least 30 semester hours in chemistry, supplemented by mathematics through differential and integral calculus, and at least 6 semester hours of physics, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

AND

Experience Required

GS-12: Must have one (1) year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the GS-11 level or pay band in the Federal service that includes performing the following duties: 1. Analyzing data and providing recommendations; 2. Developing information for policy decisions and chemical regulations; 3. Preparing and reviewing technical reports; and 4. Assessing scientific literature and drug abuse indicators to monitor new substances which may warrant control.

Full ad here. Two positions available. Best wishes to those interested.  

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Job posting: polymer chemist, Verdox, Woburn, MA

From the inbox: 

Verdox seeks a Polymer Chemist to join our R&D team. 

Key Responsibilities

  • Design and synthesize polymers with specific electrochemical and physico-chemical properties
  • Examine and develop diverse polymer chemistry, employing various types of
  • polymerizations, polymer backbones, and purification techniques
  • Focus on developing and optimizing synthetic protocols for cost-effective polymer
  • synthesis and purification at the multi-kilogram scale and beyond
  • Perform and interpret the physical, chemical, and electrochemical characterization of monomers and polymers
  • Oversee quality control of polymer products
  • Use and maintain elements of the chemistry R&D infrastructure

Skills Knowledge and Expertise

  • PhD in Synthetic/Organic/Polymer Chemistry (or equivalent), with focus on polymer synthesis, purification and physical characterization. Some industry experience is preferred
  • Strong polymer chemistry experience, including the design and preparation of novel polymer structures
Full ad here. Quite a number of openings here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Chemistry professor developing tattoo ingredient database

Via Ars Technica: 
Scientists at Binghamton University (State University of New York) have analyzed nearly 100 different tattoo inks and found that the manufacturers' ingredient labels (when used) are often inaccurate and that many inks contain small particles at the nanoscale that could be harmful to human cells. They presented their findings at this week's meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Chicago.

According to principal investigator John Swierk, a chemist at Binghamton, the project initially started when his group became interested in tattoos as tools for medical diagnostics. This shifted to an interest in tattoo laser removal, specifically how laser light causes tattoos to fade. "We realized we didn't understand a lot about the interaction between light and tattoos," Swierk said during a press briefing at the ACS meeting. "My group studies how light can drive chemical reactions, so it was a natural fit."

...That's why Swierk and his team have created a fledgling website, What's in My Ink? Their research will ultimately constitute the first comprehensive survey of tattoo inks in the US market, per Swierk. There is currently only rudimentary data from prior peer-reviewed studies available at the site, but once his team completes its analysis of commercial tattoo inks and the resulting data has passed through the peer review process, the site will serve as a valuable consumer resource for information about the composition of tattoo inks.
Makes sense. A bit surprising that this hasn't happened already, but I imagine that these inks are too unique/small-batch for them to be categorized easily. 

Hazardous waste worker dies of hydrogen sulfide exposure

Via Ohio TV station WJW: 

CANTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) — A 27-year-old man critically injured in a chemical release earlier this month at a Stark County facility has died, federal safety officials confirmed to FOX 8.

Ray Sullivan, 27, of Waynesburg, was one of five people affected by a release of hydrogen sulfide on Aug. 22 at the US Ecology facility along Central Avenue Southeast in the township.

Sullivan, a West Virginia native, died Friday, Aug. 26, according to his obituary.

Canton Township fire officials earlier this month told FOX 8 that five people were taken to the hospital after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide the morning of Aug. 22 — four of whom were expected to be treated and released.

The US Ecology Canton facility converts hazardous inorganic waste into non-hazardous material, according to its website. The company uses equipment and fleet vehicles to transport, treat and dispose of hazardous and non-hazardous material.

Curious to know what the source of the H2S was. Condolences to his family and friends. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 188 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 188 research/teaching positions and 3 teaching position. 

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

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

On August 31, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 138 research/teaching positions and 3 teaching faculty position. On September 1, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 61 research/teaching positions and 6 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread. 

Postdoctoral positions: Goldsmith group, Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

From the inbox: 
Postdoctoral Positions Available in Nanophotonics, Topological Photonics, Low-Temperature Molecular Spectroscopy, Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) for Photonics, and Single-Molecule Biophysics

There are multiple postdoctoral positions available at the intersection of molecular spectroscopy, quantum information science, and photonics. We have recently helped start a new Department of Energy funded center, the Center for Molecular Quantum Transduction, and will be exploring quantum processes in molecules strongly coupled to cavities at low temperatures. Other activities include development of cavity-enhanced single-molecule electronic and vibrational spectroscopies for observing chemical and biochemical reaction dynamics, interfacing of molecules with topological photonic crystals, single-molecule biophysical studies using nanophotonic devices, and development of CVD technologies for producing 3D photonic crystals. (10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b02796, 10.1021/acsnano.9b04702, 10.1103/PhysRevLett.123.173901, 10.1021/jacs.8b09149, 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b04211, 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b03332, 10.1002/adma.201700037, 10.1038/nphoton.2016.217).

Qualified individuals will have a PhD in Chemistry, Physics, Electrical Engineering, or other related physical science.  Experience in low-temperature spectroscopy, photonics, electron beam lithography, and CVD instrumentation is particularly desirable but not required. 

Interested individuals should send a resume to Professor Randall Goldsmith.  Madison, on an isthmus between two lakes, is consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in the US, and was even listed among the 5 world’s great university towns by BBC travel.

There is also a research scientist position available. Link here, PDF ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 20 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 20 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Anyone got a spare 5 billion bucks?

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this article by Craig Bettenhausen: 
The US General Services Administration is putting the federal helium system up for sale. The listing is on the GSA website’s real estate section at bit.ly/3clOGgL, though the agency is not yet accepting bids. On offer is effectively all of the US government’s assets connected to the Cliffside facility, near Amarillo, Texas. They include helium enrichment, purification, storage, and transportation equipment; 724 km of helium pipelines across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas; 23 natural gas wells; 10 buildings; and the Bush Dome helium storage reservoir. 

Bush Dome, the centerpiece of the facility, is a 4,000-hectare porous rock formation, primarily dolomite, sitting beneath two layers of nonporous calcium anhydrite that act as a cap. The sale is also likely to include 65 million m3 of federally owned crude helium. The sale is the last major step in the privatization of the US helium system, a congressionally mandated move that many users blame for volatility in the helium market over the past decade.

Well, here's hoping this will not disrupt the helium supply chain even more than it already has been!  

ACC: "US Chemical Production Rose Slightly in July"

Via the American Chemistry Council: 
WASHINGTON (August 26, 2022) — The U.S. Chemical Production Regional Index (U.S. CPRI) rose by 0.2% in July following a 0.1% decline in June and a 0.4% gain in May, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Chemical output was mixed across regions. The U.S. CPRI is measured as a three-month moving average (3MMA).

On a 3MMA basis, chemical production within segments was mixed in July. There were gains in the production of industrial gases, synthetic dyes and pigments, other inorganic chemicals, adhesives, coatings and other specialty chemicals, synthetic rubber, and crop protection chemicals. These gains were offset by lower production of plastic resins, organic chemicals, fertilizers and consumer products. 
Broadly an indication that the economy is growing, but moderately? We shall see. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

32 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 32 new positions for August 17. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 143 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 143 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position. 

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

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

On August 24, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 109 research/teaching positions and 3 teaching faculty position. On August 25, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 55 research/teaching positions and 6 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread.  

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 14 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 10 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

Go to the open thread for this year's search.

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, August 22, 2022

NYT: Pharmacist pay not keeping up with inflation

Via the New York Times: 

...Yet pay for pharmacists, who typically spend six or seven years after high school working toward their professional degree, fell nearly 5 percent last year after adjusting for inflation. Dr. Poole said her pay, about $65 per hour, did not increase in more than four years — first at an independent pharmacy, then at CVS.

...But by the 2010s, the market for pharmacists was cooling thanks to some of the same factors that have weighed on other middle-class professions. Large chains such as Walgreens and CVS were buying up competitors and adjacent businesses like health insurers.

This consolidation generated large fees for workers at the top of the income ladder — financiers and corporate lawyers — but slowed the growth of retail outlets where pharmacists could find employment. After striking a deal in 2017 to acquire roughly 2,000 Rite Aid stores, Walgreens shut down more than 500 locations. It closed a few hundred more over the next three years.

Automation has further reduced demand for workers — many pharmacists now spend far less time processing insurance claims because software does it for them....

We've been covering the lack of a great job market for pharmacists for a while. It is surprising to me that there hasn't been a turnaround in the last number of years, but I suppose "continuing on trend" shouldn't be a surprise either. Definitely something for educators who work with pre-pharmacy students to think about... 

ACC: Supply chain difficulties continue for chemical manufacturers

Via the chemical industry trade group the American Chemistry Council: 

WASHINGTON (August 18, 2022) — U.S. chemical manufacturers reported that major supply chain problems continued well into this year and have worsened in some cases. According to the results of a new survey released by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), transportation-related supply chain problems continued through the first half of this year and resulted in prolonged impacts on U.S. manufacturing operations.

For three consecutive quarters, companies reported that supply chain and freight transportation disruptions harmed their U.S. manufacturing operations. Over that same period companies reported having been negatively impacted by ongoing supply chain and freight transportation disruptions.

In addition to lost manufacturing and customer orders, companies reported that higher shipping rates were compounded by costly workarounds, including increased inventories, investing in additional rail cars, and committing additional resources to managing shipments.  

Can't say that my experience has been any different - here is hoping that things turn around dramatically this winter, but with continued labor shortages (?) plus additional disruptions from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I'm skeptical we're going to see changes. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Post title: Long term covid smell problems?

A request from C&EN's Laura Howes: 

For a story, she's looking for people whose sense of smell has been messed up longer term post-COVID, especially if previously nice things smell disgusting. 

Interested? Contact Laura at lhowes@acs-i.org

Friday, August 19, 2022

Have a great weekend

Hope that you had a good week. I'm making through all right. Looking forward to a weekend in Chicago. Hope that you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

Northwestern team finds simple way to degrade PFAS

Via the New York Times: 

A team of scientists has found a cheap, effective way to destroy so-called forever chemicals, a group of compounds that pose a global threat to human health.

The chemicals — known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are found in a spectrum of products and contaminate water and soil around the world. Left on their own, they are remarkably durable, remaining dangerous for generations.

Scientists have been searching for ways to destroy them for years. In a study, published Thursday in the journal Science, a team of researchers rendered PFAS molecules harmless by mixing them with two inexpensive compounds at a low boil. In a matter of hours, the PFAS molecules fell apart.

Unfortunately, Dr. Trang discovered how well DMSO worked in March 2020 and was promptly shut out of the lab by the pandemic. She spent the next two and a half months dreaming of other ingredients which she could add to the DMSO soup to hasten the destruction of PFAS chemicals.

On Dr. Trang’s return, she started testing a number of chemicals until she found one that worked. It was sodium hydroxide, the chemical in lye.

When she heated the mixture to temperatures between about 175 degrees to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, most of the PFAS molecules broke down in a matter of hours. Within days, the remaining fluorine-bearing byproducts broke down into harmless molecules as well.

Congratulations to Will Dichtel and Brittany Trang. Here's hoping this is a first step to a practical means of destroying PFAS in the environment. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Co-op opportunity: Adhesives Analytical and Engineering, DuPont, Auburn Hills, MI

From the inbox: 
The Adhesives Analytical and Engineering groups carry out testing, write reports, conduct instrument and laboratory maintenance in support of new product development and manufacturing quality assurance of existing products; the role requires working in closely with chemists, manufacturing, engineers, technicians, management and suppliers. All work must be carried out using well defined work processes. 

This lab technician will assist other Adhesive groups as needed by performing physical property, adhesion, analytical, and/or mechanical testing and have responsibilities for the creation, distribution, and retention of reports. Equipment calibration and verification are also a part of this position. This position has been successfully filled with rotational college co-ops over the past several years. This co-op student will ‘rotate’ with the current student employee so that there is always one co-op student to fill the position.

ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS:
  • Currently enrolled and pursuing at least a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering related field (Chemistry/Materials Science/Chemical Engineering OR Mechanical Engineering/Physics preferred)
  • Students must have an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 or higher on a 4.00 scale at current university
Position starts in October ideally. Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Sulfur-containing lubricant odor triggers lawsuit

Via Philadelphia's NBC station, this smelly news: 

As the rotten egg smell caused by a chemical release continues to waft in parts of South Jersey, a lawsuit has been filed against the trucking company and maker of the chemical causing the stench and a town hall is planned to address residents' concerns.

A woman filed the suit against TransChem USA and the Lubrizol Corporation Monday in U.S. District Court in Texas. Gina Slavin-Borgesi's suit on behalf of herself and a minor. The suit seeks $1 million in damages.

The chemical leak that caused a rotten smell to stink up parts of South Jersey and downwind from a truck stop off Interstate 295 was eventually contained last Thursday. But the smell has lingered for days.

On Tuesday morning, the smell was still present intermittently in South Jersey, particularly around the truck stop off Interstate 295 where the leak occurred last week.

..."The chemical, Lubrizol-1389 (Zinc alkyldithiophosphate), expels a nuisance odor that may linger for some time," officials in nearby Camden County said in a news release Thursday. "However, Haz-Mat Technicians have monitored and tested the air quality of the immediate incident scene as well as all surrounding areas that have experienced the odor. The results of the testing have confirmed that there is no risk to the public."

I can't imagine this stuff (especially 7000 pounds of it) smells good? I wonder if the smell is normal, or if someone forgot to tighten all the valves on the truck...

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 130 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 130 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position. 

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

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

On August 17, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 83 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching faculty position. On August 18, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 43 research/teaching positions and 6 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread.  

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 10 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 10 positions. It is curated by Lilian Josephson (@lljosephson) and Andrew S. Rosen (@Andrew_S_Rosen).

 This post will serve as the open thread for this year's search.

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, August 15, 2022

McMurry organic textbook to become free

Via Inside Higher Ed: 

John McMurry's textbook Organic Chemistry has helped millions of students across the globe pass the infamous gauntlet of its namesake class -- also known among stressed-out pre-med students as "orgo" -- since the book was first printed in 1984.

For his bestseller's 10th edition, McMurry has decided to part ways with his longtime publisher, the industry giant Cengage, which has published the book since the beginning. He recently sold the rights to OpenStax, a nonprofit based at Rice University that is dedicated to developing open education resources (OER), learning and research materials created and licensed to be free for the user.

That means for the first time, the digital version of Organic Chemistry and its accompanying solutions manual -- usually priced at almost $100 -- will be available for students to download free.

"My textbook is the best selling organic textbook in the world and has been for some time, but it's expensive. All textbooks are expensive," McMurry said. "I liked the notion of making my work free for anyone."

OpenStax will pay McMurry a licensing fee for the rights, as opposed to the traditional royalty model used by publishers like Cengage, but McMurry won't be accepting it. He plans to donate it directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit research center seeking a cure to the life-threatening genetic disorder, in memory of his son Peter, who passed away in 2019 after a decades-long battle with the disease.

Gotta say, this seems pretty cool.  

C&EN: Dow looking at small nuclear reactors for plants

In this week's C&EN, this interesting news from Matt Blois: 

In its quest to cut carbon emissions, the chemical giant Dow wants to try something new: using small, modular nuclear reactors to power one of its plants on the US Gulf Coast.

Dow, which in the past has hinted at its interest in nuclear power, says it is partnering on the project with X-energy, a company developing gas-cooled nuclear reactors. Dow hopes that the reactors will be providing process heat and power to one of its facilities by about 2030.

The project would be a first for a manufacturing company, Dow says. The company is also taking an equity stake in X-energy, which expects to commission its first reactors in Washington State by 2027 as part of a US Department of Energy demonstration program.

The initiative is part of a push by Dow and other major companies to reduce carbon emissions in the chemical and plastics sectors. Dow is already planning to use carbon capture to create the world’s first carbon-neutral ethylene cracker, at a site in Alberta. Meanwhile, Clariant and Linde are trying to develop an entirely new method of ethylene production that uses catalysts in an oxidative ethane dehydrogenation process that promises lower carbon emissions.

As someone who considered Fukushima to be the modern death knell for civilian nuclear power, this is pretty interesting to see. Here's hoping nuclear power catches on. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Have a great (belated) weekend

I'm on vacation, so I've had a pretty great week. Seen some pretty amazing sights, spent time with family. Hope that you have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

24 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 24 new positions for August 10. The jobs can be viewed on the website or spreadsheet.

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

DOJ: Retired doctor selling DNP as a weight-loss drug

From a Department of Justice press release: 
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that William Merlino, 85, of Mays Landing, NJ, was convicted at trial of selling misbranded drugs online, arising from his scheme to sell a toxic industrial chemical as a weight-loss drug which he manufactured in a lab in his home.

In December 2019, the defendant was charged with one count of introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce in connection with operating a business through which he packaged and sold Dinitriophenol (DNP) for human consumption from at least November 2017 until March 2019. In the 1930s, before the law required drugs to be proven safe before they were marketed, DNP was used as a weight-loss drug despite significant negative side effects, including dehydration, cataracts, liver damage, and death. The chemical has never been approved for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but has a variety of industrial/commercial uses, such as herbicides, dyes, and wood preservatives. Using Twitter to advertise, eBay to sell, and email to communicate with clients, Merlino earned approximately $54,000 from clients in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. through the sale of this drug. During trial, a witness from the shipping service the defendant used to ship the drug to customers testified that they referred to Merlino among their colleagues as ‘the yellow man,’ due to the fact that every time he would bring in a package to ship, he would have yellow dust from the chemical on his skin, nails and clothes.

After a year-long investigation by the FDA, investigators served a search warrant at the defendant’s residence, where they found bulk DNP, packaging and encapsulating materials, and a pill press. Subsequently, while awaiting trial on this charge, Merlino faked a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in order to attempt to avoid trial; the jury heard evidence that the defendant altered a doctor’s letter and his medical records. As a result, the defendant is now separately facing obstruction of justice charges related to these fraudulent submissions to the court.

DNP! I remember using it as a derivativization reagent in sophomore organic chemistry, and being told about the weight-loss potential. Who knew that people were still using it!?!?  

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 102 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position

The 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 102 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching position. 

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

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

On August 10, 2021, the 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 73 research/teaching positions and 1 teaching faculty positions. On August 11, 2020, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 34 research/teaching positions and 5 teaching faculty positions. 

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the first open thread. 

Don't forget to click on "load more" below the comment box for the full thread.  

Chemistry Bumper Cars

Check out the latest moves here! 

To submit information, click here or e-mail chembumpercars@gmail.com

Monday, August 8, 2022

Well, *that's* an interesting letter

Tucked in the letters to the editor in C&EN, an unusual comment about the death by exposure to dimethylmercury of Dartmouth chemistry professor Karen Wetterhahn: 

I read the article on Karen Wetterhahn with a profound sense of loss and sorrow that has not fully abated after 25 years. I was one of Karen’s graduate students, and I have come to recognize that she trained her other students and me very well.

I’d like to share an anecdote about Karen’s teaching style. Karen cultivated an air of omniscience, which certainly drove her students to prepare well for discussions with her about their research. One of her favorite questions was, “Don’t you know?,” implying that the student had not done their homework. Karen had wide-ranging knowledge, but she also had human limitations. Once, I called Karen’s bluff and confessed that I didn’t know the answer to a question, so I asked her what the answer was. We both chuckled when she admitted that she didn’t know either. Nevertheless, all her students learned the importance of asking insightful questions.

This brings me to a deeply troubling point raised in the article. I don’t agree with the conclusion about how Karen was poisoned. Karen taught me that if you disagree, you better have data on your side, so here goes. The New England Journal of Medicine article estimated that Karen likely absorbed about 1,344 mg of mercury, meaning she likely absorbed 0.44 mL of dimethylmercury. To do so meant she had to have been splashed with more than that—probably closer to 1 mL since some of the compound would be lost to evaporation or remain in the glove. This is a lot more than a drop or two.

When I was in Karen’s lab, I did some experiments using coaxial nuclear magnetic resonance tubes, which allowed a small volume of an external standard between the tubes. I don’t know what Karen was using for an NMR tube, but in currently available technology, where the reference goes into the center of a larger sample tube, typical volumes for the inner reference standard for a 5 mm tube are 60 ┬ÁL, while the outer sample volume is 10×. If Karen was using less than 0.1 mL of dimethylmercury, how could she have absorbed 10× what she was transferring? (Her lab notebooks might provide insight.) My supposition is that either she was splashed with more dimethylmercury than what was released from the pipette through her glove, or there was another method of ingestion, conceivably involving the deliberate actions of another individual.

Samuel Brauer
Shelton, Connecticut

Editor’s note: An investigation into Karen Wetterhahn’s death concluded, “The rapid, monophasic, first-order increase in the mercury content of hair is consistent with either one or several episodes of exposure to dimethylmercury beginning on or about August 14, 1996, and is consistent with the evidence (reports from coworkers and information from labeled vials and laboratory notebooks) that a single accidental exposure to dimethylmercury occurred on August 14. . . . Our patient’s accidental exposure may have resulted from both transdermal absorption of the liquid (given the lack of protection provided by disposable latex gloves) and inhalation of vapors (even though the work was conducted under a fume hood)” (N. Engl. J. Med. 1998, DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199806043382305). Wetterhahn did not record in her lab notebook the quantities she used or planned to use, according to John Winn, a Dartmouth professor emeritus of chemistry, who was chair of the department when Wetterhahn died.

I'm not an analytical chemist, so I can't pretend to have an educated opinion about who is right or who is wrong, but it seems that there are more possible explanations other than deliberate poisoning...

(Read all the letters for lots of articles about dimethylmercury in the good old days...)


Friday, August 5, 2022

Have a great weekend!


Well, my work week will extend a bit, but it's been a relatively successful one. Here's hoping that you had a good week, and that you have a great weekend. See you on Monday!