Friday, April 29, 2022

Have a great weekend!

Well, it's the end of the week, and I mostly survived. I hope you have a relaxed Friday, and a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

GDP fell 0.4% in the first quarter of 2022

Via the New York Times: 

The U.S. economy contracted in the first three months of the year, as supply constraints at home, demand shortfalls abroad and rapid inflation worldwide weighed on an otherwise resilient recovery.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.4 percent in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. It was the first decline since the early days of the pandemic, and a sharp reversal from the rapid 1.7 percent growth in the final three months of 2021.

But the negative number masked evidence of a recovery that economists said remained fundamentally strong. The decline — 1.4 percent on an annualized basis — mostly resulted from the way inventories and trade figure in the calculation, as well as reduced government spending as Covid-19 relief efforts wind down. Measures of underlying demand showed solid growth.

Most important, consumer spending, the engine of the U.S. economy, grew 0.7 percent in the first quarter despite soaring gas prices and the Omicron wave of the coronavirus, which restrained spending on restaurants, travel and similar services in January... 

Most of the economics commentators on Twitter seem to think this is no big deal, and I don't have any data to contradict them. But I certainly think this bears watching...

Moderna building a biomanufacturing facility in Montreal

Moderna is expected to announce Friday that it has chosen the Montreal area for a new biomanufacturing production facility that will include a research center.

The Massachusetts-based company, which has seen explosive growth in the wake of its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, announced last year that it would build a Canadian facility along with other production expansion projects that include plans to build a $500 million plant in Africa.

The exact site of the Canadian mRNA vaccine facility, which is forecast to produce about 30 million doses a year and employ between 200 and 300 people when completed in 2024, hasn’t been determined, but Radio-Canada reported it will be in the greater Montreal region...
Good news for Canadian chemists, as Montreal seems to be a more and more popular destination for biopharma...

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Job posting: Quantum Chemistry Applications Scientist, Schrödinger, Portland, OR

From the inbox: 

Schrödinger, a technology leader specializing in software solutions for life science and materials science research and development, seeks an experienced scientist with a passion for the analysis, optimization and discovery of molecular materials systems using quantum mechanical simulations to join our team as a Materials Science Applications Scientist, Quantum Chemistry.

As a member of our materials science applications science team based in the US, you will gain high proficiency with Schrödinger simulation software and apply it to critical technology areas in the materials science industry including organic electronics, catalysis, energy storage, semiconductors, aerospace, automotive, and specialty chemicals.

What You Should Have

  • A PhD in Physical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry, Quantum Chemistry, Materials Science, Engineering, Physics, or a related scientific discipline
  • Multiyear experience using quantum mechanics to study molecular materials systems and/or chemical reactions
  • A solid understanding of the industrial process of applying and managing atomistic-scale modeling and simulation techniques
  • Experience in Python programming and/or machine learning is a plus

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

That's a pretty big spill!

Via a routine Google search for chemical incidents, this story from the Burlington Hawk Eye from a couple weeks back about a pipe manufacturing plant in West Burlington, IA: 
Just before 9 a.m., the West Burlington Fire Department was sent to the building after receiving an anonymous tip, according to Fire Chief Shaun Ryan. 

A pipe at the factory broke late Tuesday, resulting in a large spill of hydrochloric acid, according to Ryan. 
Ryan said the plant's manager told crews 2000-4000 gallons of the acid is estimated to have leaked. 

Shortly after West Burlington fire crews arrived on the scene, and due to the potential for hydrochloric acid to be explosive, Ryan said he ordered the plant to shut down and send employees home at about 9:15 a.m.

"I basically told the whole plant they had to evacuate," Ryan said. "(Hydrochloric acid) does have the potential to be explosive if the right conditions exist."  

2000 gallons of hydrochloric acid! That sounds bad. (I'm guessing it was dilute.) Further on in the article, some of the workers were reporting inhalation issues and using shopvacs to clean up the spill, which is not exactly ideal... 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The 2022 Faculty Jobs List: 589 research/teaching positions and 108 teaching positions

The 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 589 research/teaching positions and 108 teaching positions. 

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

On April 27, 2021, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 333 research/teaching position and 63 teaching positions. On April 28, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 556 research/teaching positions and 80 teaching positions.

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

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread. Go to the second open thread. Here is the first open thread. The first open thread was closed on November 10, 2021.

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

Chemistry Bumper Cars

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To submit information, click here or e-mail

Monday, April 25, 2022

The best article you'll read about polyester today

Maybe you knew about the origins of polyester clothing, but I didn't: 
...For Patagonia, Smith wanted a polyester alternative. To find it, she went to South Carolina, presenting the problem to scientists at Milliken & Co., a textile firm renowned for its research lab. She said she was looking for a version of polyester that would ‘move moisture but absorb nothing’. Researchers spent months attacking the problem, eventually developing a chemical treatment that made moisture move along the fiber’s surface.

With that technology in hand, Patagonia developed a line of base layers that Smith dubbed Capilene to suggest capillary action. In fall 1985, the same season Synchilla hit the market, Capilene completely replaced the company’s polypropylene underwear. ‘Those two innovations – base layer and fleece – completely changed the world’s opinion of polyester, not just the outdoor industry’, says Harward. ‘It became seen as the high-end performance comfort fiber. Over time, polyester’s success as a performance fiber allowed it to reclaim its fashion luster. 

Read the whole thing!

NYT: Janet Yellen advocates for the reshaping of trade relationships

Via the New York Times, this news: 

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Thursday that global supply chains had proved to be unstable amid the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine and called for a reshaping of trade relationships oriented around “trusted partners,” even if it meant higher costs for businesses and consumers.

Ms. Yellen spoke at a news conference during the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, where policymakers around the world have been discussing how to revive economic growth and combat inflation while keeping pressure on Russia. The Treasury secretary said that protectionism, or taxing imports more, was not the answer, but that the economic benefits of the world’s network of supply chains were not worth the risk of a reliance on adversaries.

“Our supply chains are not secure, and they’re not resilient,” Ms. Yellen said at the Treasury Department. “And I think that’s something, in terms of long-term risk to the U.S. and to other countries, that’s a threat that needs to be addressed.”

Ms. Yellen added that trusted trading blocs would need to be big enough to avoid amplifying inflation while ensuring that supply chains were secure.

I think the likelihood of the world's supply chains being significantly rerouted in the near future is unlikely (especially with government action being the cause), but we shall see... 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Have a great weekend

Well, this week didn't go as badly as I might have thought, so there's that. Looking forward to the weekend, and here's hoping you have a great weekend as well. See you on Monday! 

Chemists in the US Army

Not every day you hear about civilian careers in the United States Army - this short article from the Army website offers some perspectives: 
...Kevin P. Wioland also serves as a chemist at CARA. He decided to choose a career with CARA because it was outside of the traditional “chemist” career that most envision.

“I believed my scientific knowledge, overall skillset and prior experiences aligned well with what CARA was looking for within a chemist,” said Wioland, who is from Jackson, New Jersey. “Being with CARA for some time now I look forward to coming into work each day knowing the work I and the other members of the team perform help to make this world a better and safer place.”

In addition to supporting exercises, Wioland has traveled the world in support of U.S. forces.

“I have traveled to many locations across the country as well as outside the U.S. within the Middle East,” said Wioland. “The highlight of my career was when I was given the opportunity to deploy with CARA in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, knowing the critical information I provided had an impact on real world decisions being made.”

“There is a lot that goes into being a part of the CARA team and one must be a well-rounded chemist who is motivated, willing to learn and not be afraid to get their hands a little dirty in the process,” said Wioland, who decided to pursue a career in analytical chemistry and forensic analysis while pursuing his master’s degree.

Probably a great way to collect frequent flier miles, although I suspect the U.S. Air Force does not offer a points back credit card. 

C&EN: Dow first quarter results are in

Via Chemical and Engineering News' Alex Tullo, these initial first quarter results: 
First-quarter financial results are starting to come in from chemical makers, with Dow announcing its earnings and a few major German firms releasing preliminary figures. The companies are posting large increases in sales from a year earlier, but all have been laboring to maintain profitability in the wake of escalating energy and feedstock costs.

Dow posted a 28% sales increase in the quarter versus the quarter a year earlier. Selling prices also increased 28%, while volumes climbed a more modest 3%. Net income, excluding unusual items, rose 70%.

But profits at Dow’s largest business, packaging and specialty plastics, remained flat versus the year-earlier quarter, and the business’s before-tax profit margin fell from 20% to 16% as a consequence of rising energy costs. Profitability expanded in Dow’s intermediates and coating materials segments because of strong demand and higher selling prices.

It'll be interesting to see if these good results continue through the year, especially as the continuing supply chain crises (both Chinese and Ukraine/Russia!) continue.  

Thursday, April 21, 2022

42 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 42 new positions for April 20. 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, April 20, 2022

Isopropyl alcohol can damage white board surfaces

I rarely post Newscripts clips from C&EN, but I feel like this week's piece by Celia Henry Arnaud is pretty useful knowledge: 
Earlier this year, a professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College sent a group email complaining that the dry-erase boards in the classrooms weren’t being erased. Even worse, the boards couldn’t be erased...

...People floated various ideas about what was happening. A popular theory was that the cleaning crew must be doing something to make so many boards go bad at once. But Smith was sure that wasn’t the problem. After all, the dry-erase boards in the chemistry department were fine.

Then someone in the email chain said they’d been using the sanitizing wipes the university had included in their COVID-19 kits to clean the boards. That key clue broke the case of the nonerasable dry-erase boards: Smith and his colleague David Myers knew what the problem was.

When people used the wipes—which contain 2-propanol (also known as isopropyl alcohol)—on the boards, the alcohol was damaging the boards. The professors had inadvertently caused the problem themselves.

People who read cleaning labels might be surprised to learn that 2-propanol damages dry-erase boards. After all, some board cleaners contain the alcohol. But in those cases it’s at low concentrations, and it’s mixed with other components, like emulsifiers and stabilizers, that protect the board’s surface.

The surface of a dry-erase board has an oily film that allows it to be erased. “Once that oily surface is gone, the ink can soak into the board and then you can’t erase it,” Smith says. “The good news is that if you use the cleaners that you’re supposed to use for the boards, they have conditioner in them to resurface the board.”

I've noticed this issue myself, and it makes you wonder if white boards around chemical laboratories are unusually stained because of this issue!  

C&EN: Ineos to build a new acetonitrile plant in Germany

Via Chemical and Engineering News, this good news (article by Alex Tullo): 
Anticipating robust demand for the specialty solvent acetonitrile, Ineos says it will build a world-scale plant at its site in Cologne, Germany.

Acetonitrile is generated as a coproduct in plants that make acrylonitrile, an intermediate for polymers and fibers. A typical acrylonitrile plant yields 2–4% acetonitrile, but only a handful of companies recover it. Ineos is the world’s largest supplier.

Acetonitrile is used in the extraction of butadiene. Chemists are familiar with it as a solvent for high-performance liquid chromatography. Because acetonitrile supply depends on acrylonitrile production, it is sometimes in short supply, such as in 2008, when acrylonitrile output was depressed because of the financial crisis.

Ineos shuttered an acrylonitrile complex and an accompanying acetonitrile unit in Seal Sands, England, in 2020. The firm continues to operate plants in Lima, Ohio, and Green Lake, Texas. In recent years, it has boosted capacity with technology that increases the proportion of acetonitrile produced in acrylonitrile reactors.

The new unit in Germany, where Ineos hasn’t previously extracted acetonitrile, will have 15,000 metric tons per year of capacity when it comes on line in late 2023 or early 2024. The company says it also plans to extract acetonitrile at an acrylonitrile plant it is building in Saudi Arabia.

New acetonitrile supply is never a bad thing!  

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The 2022 Faculty Jobs List: 588 research/teaching positions and 107 teaching positions

The 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 588 research/teaching positions and 107 teaching positions. 

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

On April 20, 2021, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 327 research/teaching position and 63 teaching positions. On April 21, 2020, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 556 research/teaching positions and 80 teaching positions.

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

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread. Go to the second open thread. Here is the first open thread. The first open thread was closed on November 10, 2021.

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

Job posting: Associate Professor/Professor - Artificial Intelligence for Materials and Molecular Discovery, University of Toronto

From the inbox: 
The Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto invites applications for a full-time tenure stream position in the area of artificial intelligence for materials and molecular discovery. The appointment will be at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor, with an expected start date of July 1, 2023. 

The successful candidate may also be nominated for a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence for Materials and Molecular Discovery, valued at $1 million/year for eight years.  The Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) program is intended to support world‑renowned researchers and their teams in establishing ambitious research programs at Canadian universities. Nominees to the CERC opportunity will be internationally leading researchers whose proposed research program aligns with one or more of the Government of Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation priority areas. 

The successful candidate will be reviewed by the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence for consideration of appointment as a Faculty Member or Faculty Affiliate and will be considered for a non-budgetary cross appointment with the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Arts & Science. 
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Chemistry Bumper Cars

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Monday, April 18, 2022

First COVID breath analyzer is a GC/MS

Via the New York Times, this news: 

Coronavirus infections might soon be flagged with a puff of exhaled breath, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first breath-based Covid-19 test in the United States on Thursday.

The emergency use authorization of the InspectIR Covid-19 Breathalyzer is a meaningful milestone in the yearslong quest to develop more breath-based diagnostics, as well as innovative new tests for Covid, experts said. And it is likely to be the first of many similar breath-based Covid tests, experts said.

....To use the device, patients blow into a cardboard straw attached to a chemical analyzer. “It’s a chemistry lab in a box,” Mr. Redmond said. The machine then analyzes the levels of five volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, that together make up a “breath print” of Covid, Mr. Redmond said. (InspectIR said it could not disclose what the five compounds are.) Results are delivered within three minutes, the company said...

The FDA press release says it's a GC/MS. Sure would be nice to know what the compounds are (here's another paper where one of the compounds that is detected in COVID infections was iodobenzene, of all things...). 

ACC: Chemical prices rose 1.4% in March

Via the American Chemistry Council: 

Chemical prices (as measured by the producer price index) rose 1.4% in March, the 22nd monthly gain. Chemical prices rose in all categories with the exception of plastic resins, which eased by 0.3% (the fifth monthly decline). The largest gains were in bulk petrochemical and organics and agricultural chemicals. Compared to a year ago, chemical prices were up 18.6% Y/Y, the smallest annual increase since May 2021. 

U.S. chemical imports prices rose 0.7% in March, after advancing 0.9% in February. Chemical imports prices have also risen for 22 consecutive months. Prices for U.S. chemical exports rose 1.6% in March following a 0.1% decline the previous month. Year-over-year comparisons have been high for both import and export prices. In March, chemical import prices were up 13.1% Y/Y and export prices were up 9.3% Y/Y. 

I'm surprised import price increases aren't higher, to be honest. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Have a good weekend!

Well, this week started with a thud, but it got both better and worse. You win some and lose some, I suppose. I hope that you had a good week, and that you have a great weekend. See you on Monday. 


Via The New York Times, this facsinating article: 
...On Oct. 4, 1960, a Lockheed L-188 Electra airplane nose-dived into Boston Harbor just seconds after takeoff. Out of 72 crew members and passengers, only 10 survived.

As investigators sorted through the rubble, they kept finding globs of what appeared to be black feathers. Such material eventually came to be known as snarge.

Best investigators could surmise, the Electra’s engines had ingested a flock of birds, but no one could say what sort of bird could bring down an airplane of that size. So the investigators called Roxie Laybourne, an ornithologist at the Smithsonian Institution who was an expert on feathers.

Read the whole thing for a fascinating study of birds and airplanes.  

Thursday, April 14, 2022

15 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, curated by Brian Struss, there are 15 new positions for April 11. 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, April 13, 2022

Economics conditions in chemistry in 1938

Via H.C. Brown's "Boranes in Organic Chemistry", this item from the foreword: 
I received my Ph.D. degree in 1938. The economic situation was still quite poor. An academic position was too much to hope for. (As far as I know, not a single man from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago obtained an academic position during my years there, 1935 to 1938.) Even industrial positions were rare. I heard of an opening at the Sherwin-Williams Paint Company and applied unsuccessfully. I then applied for a position in the patent department of Universal Oil Products, again without success. My every effort to avoid my future in an academic career was foiled.

At this point Professor M. S. Kharasch offered me a postdoctoral appointment in his group at an annual stipend of $1,600, and the die was cast. Originally I was supposed to work with him on the isola tion of an active principle from pituitary glands, a far cry from my doctoral studies. Fortunately for me, he encountered difficulties in his negotiations with one of the packing houses for a gift of $2,000 worth of glands. He suggested that while these difficulties were being resolved I should explore the possibility of using sulfuryl chloride to achieve the chlorosulfonation of paraffinic hydrocarbons. These studies proved so fruitful (Chapter III) that I was not diverted from my studies even after the glands arrived.

 You really wonder if the folks at Sherwin-Williams ever kicked themselves for not hiring H.C. Brown. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The 2022 Faculty Jobs List: 587 research/teaching positions and 106 teaching positions

The 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 587 research/teaching positions and 106 teaching positions. 

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

On April 13, 2021, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 324 research/teaching position and 61 teaching positions. On April 14, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 554 research/teaching positions and 79 teaching positions.

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

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread. Go to the second open thread. Here is the first open thread. The first open thread was closed on November 10, 2021.

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

Job posting: full-time lecturer, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

From the inbox: 

We invite applications for full-time lecturer positions starting in Fall 2022. Initial appointment is for one year with possible renewal for additional one-year terms. We are seeking candidates that are committed to excellence in undergraduate teaching, mentoring and service.  We are also seeking candidates that are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment. 

Candidates with a PhD in chemistry and experience teaching first-year and sophomore-level undergraduate chemistry courses with demonstrated excellence in teaching are strongly encouraged to apply.

A normal teaching load for lecturers is two introductory courses per semester. The expectation for these positions is to teach general and organic chemistry and laboratory courses with multiple sections.

To apply please submit a letter of application, CV, summary of teaching experience, diversity statement and three confidential letters of reference should be submitted via Interfolio by May 17, 2022. 

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

C&EN: the biotech hiring market is still pretty OK

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News, this article on recent biotech layoffs (by Asher Mullard): 
The biotech sector has had a rocky 12 months, and signs of the strain are showing. Stocks have fallen, venture capital investments and company creation show signs of tapering off, and some companies are announcing layoffs.

But a red-hot biotech job market—fueled by the explosive expansion of the sector over the past 5 years—offsets some of the gloom and doom. “I can’t remember a period that’s been this busy,” says biotech recruiter Chris Clancy, associate vice president at HireMinds in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We’re not seeing signs of slowing on the hiring front.”

...“It’s pretty evident that we’re starting to see some trimdowns,” Clancy, the recruiter, says, and more layoffs are likely coming. But the sector has attracted so much money in recent years that venture capitalists remain hungry for start-ups, and companies are ravenous for talent. “The train just keeps rolling,” he says.

It will be interesting to follow this. I don't think Mr. Clancy is too far off the mark (i.e. seems to me that hiring is continuing apace), but I suspect (as I have said in the past) that fall 2022 will not be as hot as fall 2021.  

NYT: College degree not required?

Via a New York Times article titled "A 4-Year Degree Isn’t Quite the Job Requirement It Used to Be", this anecdote: 

As a middle school student in New York, Shekinah Griffith saw a television news report of President Barack Obama visiting an innovative school in Brooklyn. Its program included high school, an associate degree in a technical subject, an internship and the promise of a good job.

“I thought, ‘This is somewhere I need to be,’” Ms. Griffith recalled. “There are not many opportunities like that for people like me.”

She applied, was accepted and thrived in the courses. After school, an internship and an 18-month apprenticeship, she became a full-time employee at IBM at the end of 2020. Today Ms. Griffith, 21, is a cybersecurity technical specialist and earns more than $100,000 a year.

In the last few years, major American companies in every industry have pledged to change their hiring habits by opening the door to higher-wage jobs with career paths to people without four-year college degrees, like Ms. Griffith. 

I would love to know if chemistry will demonstrate any flexibility like this - it's hard to know how many of these programs there are, and how long-lived they will be. If you see research associate-type positions start being open to accepting associate-level degrees with an internal training program, that would be quite the paradigm shift (...and unlikely to happen.)  

Friday, April 8, 2022

Have a good week

This was a tenser week than I expected, but it just might turn out all right. Hope you make it to the weekend, and that you have a good one. See you on Monday. 


Professor Franklin Tao convicted by Kansas federal jury

Via Chemical and Engineering News (update by Ari Remmel): 
On Thursday, a jury found University of Kansas chemist Feng “Franklin” Tao guilty of 3 counts of wire fraud and 1 count of making false statements. He had been charged with 8 total counts: 6 of wire fraud and two of making false statements. Deliberations began the morning of April 6 at the Robert J Dole United States Courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas.

As the verdict was read Tao was already slumped in his seat, and as he heard the guilty finding he was visibly disappointed. His wife, Hong Peng, appeared anxious before the verdict. She came over and patted Tao on the shoulder after the jury left. Tao’s lawyers quickly led him away.

The verdict was read to a relatively empty courtroom, compared to the crowd that had been there for closing arguments. —Ariana Remmel

I have a sense this will be the last China Initiative prosecution of professors for a while, but we shall see... 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Fierce Biotech launches layoff tracker

Via media site Fierce Biotech: 

The pace of biotech layoffs is coming so fast that even we at Fierce Biotech could not write our feature on the issue fast enough to encapsulate them all. As we hit publish on our story, more companies announced they were letting staff go.

Every single day, we’re seeing new companies announce that, regrettably, they will have to cut back on head count. C-suites have not been immune, either, with a few companies relieving key leaders of their duties as they restructure to face a tumultuous market and make or break regulatory or research moments.

So today, we’re launching our Fierce Biotech Layoff Tracker. We’re starting from Jan. 1 of this year, and we’ll see where it goes.

If you have information about a layoff happening at a biotech, please let Senior Editor Annalee Armstrong know and we’ll check it out.

\I don't really see this either hitting bench chemistry in a serious way anytime soon, but it does bear watching... 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

That sounds awfully bad

Also in this week's New York Times, this little detail of manufacturing impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine (emphasis mine):  

...At Vetropack, a Swiss maker of glass storage containers with plants throughout Europe, the chief executive, Johann Reiter, is bracing for the possibility that Russia’s aggression may go beyond Ukraine.

Nearly 600 workers at the company’s plant near Kyiv were forced to suddenly stop production when Russian tanks invaded the country. Around 300 tons of molten glass was left to solidify inside the site’s furnace, rendering it useless.

The Ukrainian plant made 700 million beer bottles, jam jars and other containers last year, and without it, Vetropack’s revenue is expected to slump 10 percent. The company can’t make up for the lost production because its other factories are working at capacity, so managers are studying whether to change its mix of products.

Is that something the furnace can come back from? Maybe heating it back up? Or do you send in the man with the hammer?  

Freight truck drivers face contracts, lower wages for on-the-job CDL training

Via the New York Times, this story: 

Each year, thousands of aspiring truck drivers sign up for training with some of the nation’s biggest freight haulers. But the training programs often fail to deliver the compensation and working conditions they promise. And drivers who quit early can be pursued by debt collectors and blacklisted by other companies in the industry, making it difficult for them to find a new job.

At least 18 companies, employing tens of thousands of drivers, run programs aimed at qualifying trainees for a commercial driver’s license, or C.D.L. Typically, to get free training, the new hires must drive for the company for six months to about two years, usually starting at a reduced wage.

Also, a comment on truck driver salaries: 

In job advertisements and in their pitches to recruits, companies promise earnings of up to $70,000 in the first year and even higher salaries in the future. But the median annual wage for all truck drivers, regardless of experience, was $47,000 in May 2020, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only the top 10 percent of earners were making above $69,500.

I'm saddened but not surprised to learn that truck driver training isn't very good - to learn that they're charged for this training is awfully disappointing, though. (I don't think that chemists face this sort of thing, although there is the classic "are postdocs about training or not" debate...)

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The 2022 Faculty Jobs List: 584 research/teaching positions and 106 teaching positions

 The 2022 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 584 research/teaching positions and 106 teaching positions. 

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

On April 6, 2021, the 2021 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 322 research/teaching position and 60 teaching positions. On April 7, 2019, the 2020 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 554 research/teaching positions and 79 teaching positions.

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

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Go to the fourth open thread. Here's the third open thread. Go to the second open thread. Here is the first open thread. The first open thread was closed on November 10, 2021.

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

Monday, April 4, 2022

Charles Lieber back in federal court Friday in attempt to reverse conviction

Via the Harvard Crimson's Brandon Kingdollar: 
BOSTON — Attorneys for Harvard professor Charles M. Lieber argued in court on Thursday that the renowned chemist’s December conviction should be overturned, alleging that the government failed to sufficiently prove its case.

Lieber was found guilty in December of making false statements to federal investigators about his involvement with a China-sponsored talent recruitment program and for failing to disclose income he received from the initiative on his tax returns. Lieber’s attorneys filed a motion in February for him to be acquitted or granted a new trial.

Marc L. Mukasey, Lieber’s lead defense attorney, argued in his opening remarks before Judge Rya W. Zobel ’53 that the Department of Justice’s move to shutter its controversial China Initiative — under which Lieber’s charges were first brought — should be taken into account when reviewing the guilty verdict.

“Right after our trial, the Department of Justice shut down the China Initiative,” Mukasey said. “No one seems to care that Lieber remains a victim of this twisted, misguided program.”

My gut feeling (noting that I am not an expert about the federal courts) is that this is a formality, and these kinds of appeals don't go anywhere.  

C&EN: Russian gas payment policy change will hammer German chemical industry

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News (article by Alex Scott, emphasis mine): 
Germany’s main chemical industry association, VCI, is warning that chemical plants in the country will likely close, possibly for months, if Russia requires payment for natural gas in rubles. The effect on downstream industries would be severe, VCI says.

VCI’s comments are in response to a Russian law, set to take effect April 1, that requires payment for gas deliveries to be made in rubles. Sanctions imposed on Russia prevent German companies from conducting business in rubles.

It is unclear exactly how much Russian gas this regulation will affect. According to a press release issued by the German government, Russia has also said that “contractual partners” can continue to pay for gas in euros as usual to Gazprombank, which is not affected by sanctions. Gazprom is a Russian state-owned oil and gas company.

Gas supplies are currently considered to be adequate. Still, Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, released a statement on March 30 saying that if supply restrictions are required the German government will prioritize households and hospitals over industry.

BASF, which operates one of the world’s largest chemical plants in Ludwigshafen, Germany, says a drop in natural gas supply to below half the level it requires would result in a “complete cessation” of production at its facilities.

Also on March 30, the European Commission’s antitrust regulator raided the German offices of Gazprom. The regulator is investigating whether Gazprom is withholding natural gas to influence prices. The Russian government has repeatedly denied holding back gas supplies.

I imagine that Ludwigshafen shutting all the way down would be very very very bad for both the global chemical industry, and also bad for the global economy. I imagine this is all a bit of a game of chicken, but still pretty alarming... 

NYT: Rising wages may point to rate increases

Via the New York Times: 
Wages climbed at a rapid pace in the year through March and the unemployment rate dropped notably last month, signs of a hot labor market that could keep pressure on the Federal Reserve as it contemplates how much and how quickly to cool down the economy.

The central bank is trying to slow demand to a more sustainable pace at a moment when inflation is running at its fastest pace in 40 years. Fed officials began raising interest rates in March and have suggested that they may increase rates by half a percentage point in May — twice as much as usual. Making money more expensive to borrow and spend can slow consumption and eventually hiring, tempering wage and price growth.

Friday’s employment report could bolster the case for at least one half-point increase.

Wages have picked up by 5.6 percent over the past year, the report showed, a far quicker pace than the 2 to 3 percent annual pay gains that were typical during the 2010s. At the same time, the jobless rate fell, to 3.6 percent in March from 3.8 percent in February. Unemployment is now just slightly above the half-century lows it had reached before the pandemic...

My bias/previous prediction is that the broad labor market will be less hot in fall of 2022 than it was in the fall of 2021, and stories like these do not change my mind. If wages continue to increase (especially in chemistry!), then this would be an indication that my prediction was incorrect. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Have a good weekend

It's always a little tough to come back from work travel, but I am getting there. Hope you had a good weekend, and that you have a relaxing weekend. See you on Monday! 

Ransomware of Pfizer contractor results in overpayment and disgruntled employees

Via WWMT, this unfortunate circumstance for Pfizer hourly employees: 

PORTAGE, Mich. — Pfizer employees say they're frustrated and angry over a payroll mistake that could force them to give back money some have already spent.

"I think everybody is just really disheartened with how all of this was handled. To ask for this money back, is just I think morally wrong,” said one employee who requested anonymity, over fear of retribution from Pfizer.

One employee provided News Channel 3 with a letter and documents received last week that showed Pfizer telling the employee they owed more than $800 in overpayment. Another employee said the issue is affecting hourly workers all across the company.

Pfizer said the overpayments happened following a ransomware attack on Ultimate Kronos Group in December 2021. Pfizer uses Kronos to track the hours employees work and pay them.

“We all feel that this is Pfizer’s payroll mistake. We never asked for this money, we were never consulted on whether we wanted extra money,” the anonymous Pfizer worker told News Channel 3.

Seems to me that the party at fault here is both Kronos (causing the error) and Pfizer (not catching it via their payroll). It's surprising to me that Pfizer is demanding hundred denarii from its employees, and not just stomaching this loss, although it's not clear as to how large the ultimate overpayment was.