Wednesday, September 27, 2023

FiercePharma: potential drug cross-contamination in Brexafemme API manufacture

Via FiercePharma, this news: 
Monday, Scynexis said in a filing (PDF) that a recent review of the drug's manufacturing process by GSK has triggered a recall of the product and a pause of all clinical trials testing the medicine.  

As part of GSK's review, Scynexis learned of potential cross-contamination risks during the manufacturing process of ibrexafungerp, which is marketed as Brexafemme.

The company is not aware that any of its medicine has been contaminated. Scynexis said it has not received adverse event reports tied to contamination.

Here's the filing: 

Following a recent review by GSK of the manufacturing process and equipment at the vendor that manufactures the ibrexafungerp drug substance, SCYNEXIS became aware that a non-antibacterial beta-lactam drug substance is manufactured using equipment common to the manufacturing process for ibrexafungerp. 

Current FDA guidance recommends segregating the manufacture of beta-lactam compounds from other compounds since beta-lactam compounds have the potential to act as sensitizing agents that may trigger hypersensitivity or an allergic reaction in some people. In the absence of the recommended segregation, there is a risk of cross contamination. 

It is not known whether any ibrexafungerp has been contaminated with a beta-lactam compound and SCYNEXIS has not received reports of adverse events established to be due to the possible beta-lactam cross contamination. Nonetheless, in light of this risk and out of an abundance of caution (and aligned with GSK’s recommendation), SCYNEXIS is recalling BREXAFEMME® (ibrexafungerp tablets) from the market and placing a temporary hold on clinical studies of ibrexafungerp, including the Phase 3 MARIO study, until a mitigation strategy and a resupply plan are determined. 

I genuinely do not understand how someone screwed this one up, but I am going to guess that some QA folks and some manufacturing folks had a very, very bad day. Good luck to the drug substance manufacturer; that's gonna leave a mark.  

 

Job posting: chemical biologist/chemical ecologist, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA

From the inbox:
We invite applications for a regular faculty position at all academic levels. The scientist will be expected to launch a laboratory that contributes toward one or more of the Monell strategic research aims (https://monell.org/research/). We desire candidates who combine a fundamental understanding of physiology, immunology, metabolism, or behavior with demonstrated expertise in all facets of quantitative analytical chemistry. We encourage experience at the organismal (e.g. chemical ecology) and/or cellular/molecular (e.g. chemical biology) levels of organization that yield insight into the chemical senses and their roles in chemical communication, nutrition, metabolism, or health.

As principal investigator, the chemical biologist/ecologist will seek external funding and will receive additional support for leading the George Preti Research Support Core for Analytical Chemistry. Approximately 15% effort will be required to direct and expand core capabilities in quantitative analysis. 
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 305 research/teaching positions and 20 teaching positions

 The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 305 research/teaching positions and 20 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 September 27, 2022, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 334 research/teaching positions and 20 teaching-focused position.

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

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

“Get a job, Ken!” Part 4: Other Content

This blog posts continues my “Get a Job, Ken!” series. My last post focused on writing research proposals. This post describes the other pieces of my application package. 

There isn’t a standard, one-size-fits-all set of application materials for all faculty job openings, but the majority ask for a cover letter, curriculum vitae (CV) and three letters of recommendation. A few universities also asked for additional items like a teaching statement, a diversity statement, copies of graduate school transcripts, or 4-5 publications.

Cover letter

I personalized the cover letter to each university. Yet, for my own sanity, I reused the same basic cover letter structure: 

Paragraph one: I included a sentence that stated my general area of research. This is important, especially for general call job posts. When search committee chairs or their assistants start organizing applications one of their first goals is to identify the correct person to review it. They—and especially the candidate—want the proposals matched with a reviewer from a similar research domain. Including a sentence that clearly defines your area of research makes the alignment process easier and avoids, for example, having a biochemist assess an inorganic proposal or vice versa.

In the first paragraph I also made sure to note any faculty or consortiums at the institution whose research aligned with mine in ways that could lead to possible collaborations. I included this to demonstrate how I could fit into the departments’ research theme. 

Below is the cover letter I submitted to FSU. 

CV

CVs vary greatly from one person to the next. I don’t know what the ‘right’ CV format is, but in case it’s helpful I am sharing, a copy of my current CV formatting (pdf).

Letters of Recommendation

To help give my references a few months to prepare recommendation letters, I emailed them a few months in advance (July and August). Then, a few weeks before the deadline, I sent a friendly reminder. 

Other Requested Application Materials

Teaching Statement

Half of the openings I applied to asked for a Teaching Statement or, as some describe it, a Statement of Teaching Philosophy. But if we are going to be perfectly honest, teaching statements are much more important when applying to primarily undergraduate institutions. Some of the faculty I met with during interviews said they never saw my teaching statement or new I had submitted one. Regardless, in my teaching statement I mentioned my past experiences and the philosophies that shape my teaching style. While R1 institutions are more interested in research agendas, they are also looking to hire someone to fill any departmental teaching gaps. Acknowledging this, I explicitly listed classes I could teach. That way it is easier for the search committee to see how well I fit their needs. For example, I wrote: 

“Envisioning myself as a future chemistry professor, there are a number of courses that--given the opportunity--I would be very comfortable teaching. These courses include General Chemistry (105a/b, 115a/b), Inorganic Chemistry (453, 515) and Chemical Nanotechnology (455).”

The teaching statement is also an opportunity to share a little bit about who you are as a person. The search committee is not just hiring a scientist and teacher, they’re also looking for a colleague and possible friend. 

Diversity Statement

A diversity statement was only requested by University of California schools and served as an opportunity to express my awareness of and intention to help address the disproportionate involvement of female, African American, Hispanic, and Native American students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The diversity statement was the space to describe my current efforts to close this gap and how I plan to continue these efforts if hired. 

While a diversity statement is currently only requested by University of California institutions, I would not be surprised if this request soon expands further. Expanding access and representation in STEM fields is a pressing issue. If these inequities are not addressed there will be a serious impact on the number of people prepared to enter STEM fields, especially as the demographics of the United States change. Recognizing this, the NSF has also increased the rigor necessary in the ‘broader impacts’ component of their proposals. It’s no longer acceptable to simply say “I’m going to go to a high school and give a talk” or “I am going to create a new graduate class.” Plans for expanding STEM representation are now expected to be more thought out and impactful and this is especially the case for career awards. 

Rough Budget Proposal

One job application asked us to submit a rough budget proposal. This was a unique request and I am guessing the department had a limited budget and probably couldn’t support a $500,000 piece of equipment. This request, while unusual, seemed completely reasonable since departments want to optimize their time and only invite interviewees whose research they could support. This early request also proved to be a convenience later since I had a rough budget proposal prepared before going into the interviews.

In my next post I’ll talk about the actual application submission process.


The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 61 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 61 positions. Find an error or have a question? Find an error? Contact @Heatherlec620 or @G_sribala. 

This is the link to the open thread. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

C&EN: Air Products suing to stop sale of the federal helium system...

Also in this week's C&EN, this fascinating article by Craig Bettenhausen: 
The industrial gas supplier Air Products has filed a lawsuit against the US government seeking to block the ongoing sale of the Federal Helium System. The firm is asking a US District Court for an immediate injunction pausing all proceedings and a set of judgments declaring the sale unlawful as currently structured.

The US Federal Helium System is a set of assets for storing, refining, and distributing helium. It includes a large geological dome formation near Amarillo, Texas; nearly 23 million m 3 of raw helium inside the dome; a set of pipelines that distribute helium to refining sites in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas; and supporting equipment and infrastructure. The system, established in the 1920s to fill military dirigibles, currently supplies more than 9% of global helium demand.

The US Congress passed laws in 1996 and 2013 requiring the helium system to be privatized. In response, the government began accepting bids for the system in July of this year. It plans to close bidding on Nov. 15 and sell the system to the winning bidder by mid-March 2024. The legislation requires the government to ensure the stability of helium supplies and markets while disposing of the system.

Air Products cites three main reasons the auction plan sets up any private owner to fail—possibly causing the system to shut down.

One is that the system, especially the pipelines, would struggle to meet state workplace safety, transportation, and environmental standards. The federal government is exempt from state regulations, but a private owner would have to comply. Air Products also says the government lacks complete documentation for several spots where the pipeline runs through private land, “and it takes only one bad right-of-way to shut down the entire pipeline.”

A third complaint is that the sale does not include the crude helium enrichment unit that takes helium out of the dome and prepares it for transfer through the pipelines, nor does it convey to the buyer the operating agreement the government has with the unit’s owner, Cliffside Refiners. Cliffside is a limited partnership consisting of Air Products and the industrial gas firms Praxair, Kinder Morgan, and Messer.
This whole thing is pretty bonkers. I'm genuinely not sure what the right answer is, but it seems to me that having the US government being the guarantor of some portion (9%) of the world's helium supply isn't such a bad thing, especially with the US probably being a reasonably high consumer of helium for both health care and scientific instruments. Here's hoping that someone comes up with a reasonable solution sometime soon...

C&EN: "Lonza’s CEO makes sharp exit"

In this week's C&EN, this surprising news (article by Alex Scott): 

Pierre-Alain Ruffieux, CEO of the contract drug development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza, will leave “by mutual agreement” at the end of the month, the firm says. He took the role in November 2020. Chairman Albert M. Baehny will become acting CEO until a successor is appointed. Lonza’s next CEO will be its third in four years.

Baehny hints in a press release that the company experienced problems under Ruffieux but that positive times lie ahead. “While recent months have undoubtedly been challenging, the company is a global leader in our industry and has many opportunities for further growth across all our businesses,” he says. The Swiss company’s stock price dropped more than 10% following the news of Ruffieux’s departure.

Jan Ramakers, a consultant to the fine chemical industry, says he sees no obvious reason why the CEO should be leaving. “The contract pharma market has slowed a bit, but still I am surprised at Ruffieux’s departure,” Ramakers says.

This is a bit surprising to me? Here is hoping this news isn't a sign of bad news for pharma services in 2024...

Friday, September 22, 2023

Have a good weekend

Well, this is turning out to be an okay week. Here's hoping it finishes out okay for me, and that it was a decent week for you. A busy weekend ahead - see you on Monday! 

Novo's semaglutide API plant in North Carolina had a 483 in May 2022

Via Reuters, this bit of news: 

LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - U.S. drug regulators issued a report detailing quality control lapses at Novo Nordisk's (NOVOb.CO) main factory in North America as early as May last year, according to the report obtained by Reuters via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was at Novo's facility in Clayton, North Carolina, which the company says produces the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), semaglutide.

The site makes oral semaglutide for Novo's diabetes drug Rybelsus, a spokesperson told Bloomberg on Thursday. A spokesperson declined to comment when asked by Reuters to confirm this.

Semaglutide is also used in Novo's hugely popular weight-loss drug Wegovy and type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic, which are injections.

There is no evidence that compliance failures flagged in the report known as a Form 483 resulted in harm to users of Wegovy and Ozempic. A Form 483 is a type of agency report containing "observations" that FDA inspectors "deem to be objectionable".

The issues were with the factory's control systems to prevent microbial contamination, the same as those raised in the more recent inspection this July, which was first reported by financial news agency MarketWire and pushed Novo's shares down 3%.

Novo declined to comment on the May 2022 report, which was first reported by Reuters, but repeated its statement on Monday in response to the FDA's report from its July inspection that the Clayton site was "running and producing for the market".

As regular readers know, I am very interested in understanding the supply chain of semaglutide. What is really remarkable to me is that there have been almost immediate shortages from launch. Some of this is clearly demand -  I have long suspected that Novo, being Europeans, did not accurately anticipate either 1) off-label use of Wegovy/Ozempic for weight loss 2) the demand for this in the United States or both. 

I also imagine that a lot of this is about available manufacturing capacity, either for sterile injectables or for API. It seems to me pretty clear that part of the supply problem has been about sterile injectable manufacturing capacity available to Novo. That there may have also been a crimp in API supply in May 2022 might add another piece of the puzzle as well. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Job posting: Senior Chemist, Engineered Custom Coatings, Pewaukee, WI

Via C&EN Jobs, this posting: 

Duties

  • Develops new methods to simplify manufacturing methods for specific lines. 
  • Develops methods to update existing formulas and directs technicians on methods. 
  • Assesses and creates formulas and applies them to varies customer substrates and materials. 
  • Accurately formulates color matches via water-based and UV paints for customers, adjusting formulas based on pigments and available products. 
  • Develops formulations to meet customer requirements and consult leadership on viable options. 
  • Effectively communicates with suppliers to understand the makeup of their materials. 
  • Tests formulas and applies materials to measure quality under a variety of environmental conditions against various performance goals. 
  • Perform bonding tests on materials such as cotton, polyester, blend, silks, plastics, PP, PET, PTFE, leather, etc. 
  • Compiles test results and analyze patterns through the data to place the product into the trial phase.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Are there fewer faculty applicants this fall?

Via the open thread from the Faculty Jobs List, this question: 

Has anyone gotten the sense that there are fewer candidates on the market this year? I've heard from a couple schools that they are getting way fewer applications than expected.

I would like to hear from search committee members, either in the comments or via email. I'm happy to provide confidentiality if desired. 

NYT: art conservators discovered the cause of fading yellows in painting

Via the New York Times: 

From Van Gogh’s sunflowers to Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” there’s no shortage of seminal artwork that was made with a striking hue known as cadmium yellow. But that riot of color that artists squeezed from their paint tubes isn’t necessarily what museum goers see today: cadmium yellow’s brilliance often diminishes over time, as the paint fades and turns chalky.

And it’s not only centuries-old artworks that are affected. A team of art conservators and scientists recently analyzed bits of degraded cadmium yellow paint taken from pieces painted by the Spanish artist Joan MirĂ³ in the 1970s. One particular brand of paint was likely most responsible for the degradation observed in the MirĂ³ pieces, the team concluded in a study published in July in the journal Heritage Science.

...Furthermore those six samples — from the degraded paintings, the palettes and the tube of Cadmium Yellow Lemon No.1 by Lucien Lefebvre-Foinet — all exhibited poor crystallinity, the team found. That means that the cadmium and sulfur atoms aren’t perfectly interlocked in their usual hexagonal arrangement, said Daniela Comelli, a materials scientist at the Polytechnic University of Milan and a member of the research team. “There’s some disorder.”

If you click through to the research article, looks like (unsurprisingly) the sulfur is getting oxidized. I'm just imagining a worker making a random change many years ago that resulted in this lessened crystallinity...

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 265 research/teaching positions and 17 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 265 research/teaching positions and 17 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 September 20, 2022, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 294 research/teaching positions and 15 teaching-focused position.

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

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

“Get a job, Ken!” Part 3: Proposal Format

Continuing my “Get a job, Ken!” series, this post builds upon the last post by suggesting how to turn research ideas into written proposals.

Strong proposals contain a competitive research idea (as discussed in my previous post), clearly communicate the idea, and concisely propose a plan to pursue it. The plan being the materials, measurements, expected results, and potential complications you may run into while attempting to turn the never-before-implemented idea into something real. Finally, strong proposals sell the idea by explaining why it’s unique, scientifically significant, and attractive to funding agencies. 

A large majority of job openings do not specify a page limit for the proposal component, but I followed the advice of several friends and Professors to keep it at or under 10 pages. In these ten pages I included a cover page, three proposals (at three pages each), and one page of references. Below I break down each of these sections in greater detail.

The Cover Page

The search committee members will be bombarded with hundreds of applications. They simply will not have time to read through a three, let alone ten, page proposals from every applicant. I’ve heard from a few professors that they do not look at CVs or recommendation letters until the candidate list is whittled down based on the first page of the proposal alone. The cover page may be the deciding factor between making it through the first round or being cut. This is why it’s very important to spend a lot of time making a clear and compelling cover page.

The general format I used for my cover page can be seen in the image below. Forgive me for not sharing my actual proposal cover page. I haven’t had the opportunity to pursue the ideas yet.

As shown in the image, my cover page included: 

  • My name and contact information at the top of the page.
  • A Research Overview, explaining my flavor of research and what I’ll be known for in five years if given the chance to pursue my proposals. 
  • A subsection for each proposal that included: 
  1. A title 
  2. Page numbers
  3. A brief summary, which was structured similar to an abstract. It introduced a problem to be solved, how I intend to solve it, and the potential implications.
  4. A pretty image depicting the research idea. 

The images accompanying each proposal might be the most important part of the cover page. They should be descriptive, aesthetically pleasing, and eye catching. The goal is to get the search committee curious enough about the ideas so they will look through the proposals and other application materials. 

The Proposals

Each proposal should be three pages or less. Since the faculty search committee may include a broad range of chemists, you should try to limit the use of jargon and not assume too much prior knowledge about your research area. Compressing this information into three pages or less sounds like a monumental task and, to be perfectly honest, it is. It will take a lot of time and effort to put a short but solid proposal together. In an effort to help, below is a generic form of my proposal format.

As shown in the image, each of my proposals were organized into the following three sections: 

Section one: Background and Significance

  • Introduce a problem that needs to be solved.
  • Describe how others are trying to solve it.
  • Describe how I am going to try to solve it.
  • Discuss how my method is better.

In this section, I included one bold sentence that clearly summarized the nature of my proposal and an italicized sentence outlining a few specific goals. 

Section Two: Plan of Work

  • Explain the logistics of how you’ll pursue your idea (i.e. the materials, measurements, expected results, and potential complications).

Section Three: Impact and Funding

  • Remark on the potential implications of the proposed work. 
  • List a few potential funding agencies. 

When mentioning funding agencies be very explicit. Include the agencies (NSF, NIF, DOE, ARO, etc.) as well as the divisions and sub-divisions within the agencies. An easy way to find possible funding agencies is to look at the acknowledgements section of the papers cited in your proposal. Chances are you will be applying to the same funding opportunities. 

Example: "The importance of solar energy conversion research in our current economic and political climate leads me to believe my research program will appeal to both students and funding agencies like the National Science Foundation (CHE/MSN, DMR/SSMC) and Department of Energy (BES/MSE, CSGB)."

Citations

I made sure to fit all of my citations on one final page to keep the total page count at 10. As far as citation format, I went with ACS standard formatting but others might work just as well.

Other Formatting Notes

Although some people choose a one-column format, I decided to go with two columns because it is more analogous to many journal articles and, for me, feels easier to digest. I also made sure to include at least one pretty picture per page. It breaks up the wall of text. 

Proofreading

I started drafting my proposals early (June or July) so I had time to play around with and re-write the text many times. Maybe more importantly, the time also allowed others to proofread what I’d written. Our aspiring professor support group (described in “Get a job, Ken!” Part 2) was particularly useful for proofreading.  We set up an editing rotation: I shared each of my proposals with three different people for feedback. I also read nine proposals from six different people.

After the aspiring professor support group’s initial screening and revisions, I also asked for comments/suggestions from several professors who had either been on a hiring committee before or just went through the job application process. This included my previous advisors and several Profs. at UNC. They were a big help because they let me know what they found compelling and memorable as well as where I could improve. Finally, I turned outside of the chemistry world to people like my wife to proofread for language and spelling errors. 

In the next blog post I’ll share a similar breakdown for the other application materials.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 55 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 55 positions. Find an error or have a question? Find an error? Contact @Heatherlec620 or @G_sribala. 

This is the link to the open thread. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

C&EN: Downbeat outlook at ChemOutsourcing

Via Rick Mullin at Chemical and Engineering News:

...But at ChemOutsourcing, a smaller meeting of pharmaceutical services firms in New Jersey earlier this month, there was far less focus on AI and a more dour outlook for the business of manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients for drug companies.

Price pressures, a prolonged dip in biotech stock prices, and general hesitancy on the part of venture capital firms to invest in small and mid-sized drug companies foreshadow a slowdown in contract manufacturing next year, many in attendance said.

“I think 2024 is going to be a bit of a transitional year,” predicted Kenneth Drew, vice president of US operations for the Italian services firm Flamma. A downturn would follow a decade of double-digit annual growth for many services companies in a sector that thrived during the pandemic.

With financing tight, biotech firms are now often focused on only their lead drug candidate, a strategy that Drew likened to keeping all eggs in one basket. “If that basket breaks, it can kill a company,” he said, a development that would reverberate at Flamma and other companies that serve such firms.

But Stefan Loren, managing director for healthcare investment banking at Oppenheimer, said in a keynote address at ChemOutsourcing that the disappearance of a few small to mid-sized biotech companies may not be a bad thing for the sector. He noted that the number of publicly traded biotechs has risen from 125 in 2012 to 706 in 2023, diluting the availability of investment capital.

“Biotechs have to fold, go bankrupt, or be swallowed up” through mergers and acquisitions, Loren said, noting that generalist investors are not currently investing in small companies. Such culling could combine with a drop in inflation to fuel a biotech recovery going into next year, Loren said.

James Bruno, president of the consulting firm Chemical and Pharmaceutical Solutions, cautioned that a brighter 2024 may not be within reach for services firms. “The financial markets are opening up, but I don’t think small pharma actually sees that yet,” he said, and that doesn’t bode well for services firms.

It will be interesting to see if this is the case. If there is a slowdown in services firms, you could imagine a slowdown in the hiring at the Curias and Cambrexes of the world... 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Have a good weekend

This has been an interesting week, but not an entirely bad one. I hope that you had a good week, and that you have a great weekend. We'll see you on Monday. 

Science Magazine: Cheeky Scientist Targets Students and Postdocs for High-Interest Loans

An important article by Catherine Offord of Science: 
When Sara saw a LinkedIn ad earlier this year for a company promising to help science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) Ph.D.s transition into lucrative industry careers, she thought she had nothing to lose by finding out more. With her postdoc coming to an end and her efforts to find a job and secure financial stability falling short, she was feeling desperate, she says. So she agreed to an introductory video call with a “transition specialist” at Cheeky Scientist, which bills itself on its website as the “world’s premier career training platform for PhDs” and claims to have helped “thousands of PhDs” move from academia to industry.

Sara describes what transpired as an aggressive sales pitch that played heavily on her anxiety about unemployment. The representative made her an offer: Cheeky Scientist’s Diamond Program, an online mentoring package, for a little over half what he said was the standard retail price of $9998—provided she sign up immediately. He had a solution for financing, too: a high-interest loan he could help her apply for through another company, there and then. Under pressure, Sara says, she signed up, but regretted it as soon as she was off the call. She contacted Cheeky Scientist within hours to request a cancellation. Now, she’s saddled with thousands of dollars of debt and is no closer to reclaiming her money—despite not using the company’s services.

I've long been skeptical of Cheeky Scientist's practices, and this seals it for me. Their practices are untrustworthy, and this organization should be stopped wherever possible. 

If you are a professor who reads this blog, I respectfully ask that you speak with your career services people to ask that your institution not work with Cheeky Scientist. There are plenty of free career resources for early-career researchers in science, and if you cannot find ones that you like, I will help you try to find them. Let's help make the science community a better place, and drive predators like Cheeky Scientist away. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Job posting: special projects chemist, Marathon Petroleum, Catlettsburg, KY

Via C&EN Jobs: 

Marathon Petroleum Company, the largest petroleum refiner in the United States, is seeking an experienced Chemist for its Refining Analytical and Development (RAD) Department in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.  The individual selected for this position will leverage their chemistry knowledge to investigate multiple topics in support of petroleum and sustainable fuels production and for the MPC fuels’ distribution systems including pipelines, terminals, and retail. Areas of support could include but are not limited to feedstock/fuel improvements through additives/process change identification, examining corrosion/deposition for mechanism deduction, test methods development, and new instrument evaluations.  Involvement in industry organizations like API, ASTM, and CRC is likely. 

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Become a technical advisor for the company on chemical processes in the petroleum- and bio-refining areas.
  • Apply refining process operations knowledge in the coordination of testing materials and the interpretation of analytical results to elucidate fouling/corrosion mechanisms.

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE

  • Bachelor's degree in Chemistry or other related discipline is required.
  • Doctorate in Chemistry or other related discipline is preferred.
  • Five years experience in the petroleum industry is preferred.
Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Explosion and fire at Decatur ADM plant on Sunday

Via Reuters, this news: 

CHICAGO, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Several employees were hospitalized after an explosion and fire late on Sunday at a massive Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) facility in Decatur, Illinois, that severely damaged crop processing operations, the company and the local fire department said.

Eight workers were injured at the ADM East processing plant and six were taken to hospital via ambulance, the Decatur Fire Department said in a statement on Monday. Five remained hospitalized on Monday morning, ADM said.

The company said it was evaluating the extent of the damage and investigating the cause of the incident.

Several structures were severely damaged in the blast, including a 10-story building and adjacent buildings, the fire department said.

A plant that crushes soybeans into soybean oil and white flake for soy protein production was down on Monday, ADM said. An adjacent corn processing plant was also "temporarily down until we can safely resume operations," the company said.

Best wishes to their friends and family of the victims. I'm terribly curious as to what happened (i.e. what could have caused the explosion), but I am going to guess that the soybean oil is extraed with some kind of solvent? Maybe it was hydrogenation-related? (ADM does hydrogenation but does it do it in Decatur?) Guess I'll have to keep track of this. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 223 research/teaching positions and 13 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 223 research/teaching positions and 13 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 September 13, 2022, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 255 research/teaching positions and 14 teaching-focused position.

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

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

“Get a job, Ken!” Part 2: Proposal Preparation

In my last post I described the timeline for my faculty job search. In this post, the second in the “Get a job, Ken!” series, I share my strategy for creating and vetting research proposal ideas.

The academic job application consists of a number of items. Most universities ask for a cover letter, CV, letters of recommendation, research proposals, and occasionally other materials (like a teaching statement). A candidate’s appeal to the search committee often depends on his/her previous accomplishments (which I’ll discuss in the posts that follow) and, perhaps more importantly, research proposals.

Very few job posts provide guidelines for proposals. My understanding is that search committees want to see two or three original research ideas that are: 

  1. Different from the work of previous advisors. 
  2. Unique enough to show creativity and the ability to compete with others in the field.
  3. Interesting enough to be potentially fundable.

Many people, me included, encourage those planning to apply for faculty positions to start thinking about original research ideas while in graduate school. Thinking about proposals early allows time to work through ideas as well as build a broad knowledge based about cutting-edge research. Not everyone will come up with a new, creative idea while in graduate school, but it’s helpful to start practicing and developing the strategies to do so early. 

One strategy to fuel the creative process includes learning about research outside of your immediate field. While reading papers or walking though poster sessions, ask yourself: “How could this research contribute to my work?” and “How could my expertise contribute to their work?” Many major research advances bridge the gap between sub-disciplines. Gap-bridging ideas also have greater potential to appeal to more members of the search committee. Most academic hires are decided by entire departments, representing individuals from all ‘flavors’ of chemistry. 

Quick aside: be cautious when getting excited about a new idea. It is very disappointing to come up with a ‘new idea’ and then discover after a literature search that someone else has already published it. Yet, this unfortunate event has a silver lining. It suggests you’re on the right track to coming up with feasible/publishable ideas.

Coming up with new ideas is difficult. There is also a large activation barrier to formalizing new ideas and writing them as a research proposal. There are many strategies to start and maintain the process, such as establishing incentives, deadlines, punishments, etc. In contrast to these self- dependent and willpower-driven strategies, I found joining/creating an Aspiring Professors Support Group especially helpful.


Our Aspiring Professor Support Group was composed of individuals interested in applying for academic jobs (either in 2012 or beyond) in various domains of chemistry, including organic, inorganic, analytical, and physical.  The members of the support group respected and trusted each other – an important factor. We were comfortable sharing our ideas and there were no concerns about anyone stealing and misrepresenting other’s ideas as their own. Once the support group was formed, we set up meetings—with deadlines—for presenting our research ideas.

We began meeting once a week in early July, 2012. At each meeting three people gave either a chalk talk or power point presentation on one proposal idea (6 people x 3 proposals each = 18 proposals over 6 weeks). Scheduling the presentations gave us a tangible deadline and forced us to think through and prepare our proposals before job applications were due. 

These meetings served as the first filter, outside of our own minds, to gauge whether we should commit to writing down a particular proposal. We presented and defended our ideas in front of an audience and if there were fundamental flaws with a proposal—like infeasibility or impossibility—they were abandoned or revamped. The diversity of our Aspiring Professors Support Group also proved an important opportunity to see how chemists from other areas/domains responded to each idea. The group’s questions helped prepare me for the questions I might be asked during an actual interview.  

In addition to formalizing ideas, the group was also helpful in other aspects of the job search. We sent new job openings to each other and shared anecdotes/stories/advice for the application process. 

In the next blog post I’ll describe the next step: putting research proposals on paper.

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 44 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 44 positions. Find an error or have a question? Find an error? Contact @Heatherlec620 or @G_sribala. 

This is the link to the open thread. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

C&EN: Dow planning for nuclear reactors to power chemical plants

In this week's C&EN, this pretty cool story about nuclear power in the chemical industry (article by Craig Bettenhausen): 

Supplying electricity to the power grid is likely the biggest market for new nuclear installations. But industrial companies like Dow, the largest US chemical maker, also see emerging nuclear technology as a perfect fit for their manufacturing plants, both to replace aging fossil-powered heat sources and to power the production of hydrogen and other clean fuels. The size of SMRs, generally 300 MW or smaller, is a good match for the energy needs of heavy industry, and their road through regulation and construction may be smoother than that of their grid-scale counterparts.

Dow plans to repower its massive complex in Seadrift, Texas, with a set of four SMRs from the nuclear technology firm X-Energy. The Seadrift plant makes polyethylene, ethylene oxide, ethylene glycol, ethanolamines, and glycol ethers for many end markets. Each reactor has an output that is adjustable between 80 MW of electricity and 200 MW of heat.

Kreshka Young, Dow’s North America business director for energy and climate, says the SMR quartet will be the sole power source for the Seadrift plant, where it will replace a boiler fueled by natural gas. The boiler system, which Young says emits 440,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, is scheduled for retirement in the early 2030s.

There's quite a debate in the article, with the public policy folks being pretty darn skeptical about nuclear power and engineers being more hopeful. Gotta say, those reactors seem pretty neat.*

*maybe I'm one of the more hopeful types

C&EN: 4-vinylanisole is a locust pheromone

In this week's C&EN (article by  Priyanka Runwal):
Locusts typically lead solitary lives. But unusually heavy rains, for example, can trigger these grasshoppers to multiply and aggregate into gargantuan swarms that decimate pastures and fields.

For decades, scientists have been trying to understand how and why the locusts turn gregarious and gather by the millions. In 2020, Chinese Academy of Sciences researchers identified a pheromone called 4-vinylanisole(4-VA) released by the insects that lures nearby locusts and recruits them into joining the swarm. In a new study, the same team found that 4-VA promotes such gregarious behavior by increasing social interactions among locusts (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2023, DOI:10.1073/pnas.2306659120).
It's pretty remarkable how simple organic molecules are used by insects to communicate...

Friday, September 8, 2023

Have a good weekend

Well, this wasn't a half bad week. I hope that you had a good week, and you got to have a little fun and see some old friends as I did. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. 

Weird question time - is there a synthetic diamond job market?

Via Bloomberg: 

One of the world’s most popular types of rough diamonds has plunged into a pricing free fall, as an increasing number of Americans choose engagement rings made from lab-grown stones instead.

Diamond demand across the board has weakened after the pandemic, as consumers splash out again on travel and experiences, while economic headwinds eat into luxury spending. However, the kinds of stones that go into the cheaper one- or two-carat solitaire bridal rings popular in the US have experienced far sharper price drops than the rest of the market.

The reason, according to industry insiders, is soaring demand for lab-grown stones. The synthetic diamond industry has paid special attention to this category, where consumers are especially price sensitive, and the efforts are now paying off in the world’s biggest diamond buyer.

The shift doesn’t mean engagement rings are about to go on deep discount — the impact is limited to the rough-diamond market, an opaque world of miners, merchants and tradespeople that is several steps removed from the price tags in a jewelry store.

So here's what I want to know - does anyone know someone who makes lab-grown diamonds as a job? I'd like to think I know a fair number of chemists and engineers, but I've yet to hear of anyone (actually, I seem to recall someone claiming there was a facility in my town...) Anyone know anything? I'd love to hear it. 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Job posting: Supervisory Research Biologist / Research Chemist / Research Nutritionist, USDA ARS, College Station, TX

Via C&EN Jobs: 
This position is located with USDA, ARS, Plains Area, Responsive Agricultural Food Systems Research in College Station, TX. This one vacancy is co-located with the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Institute for Advancing Health through Agriculture (IHA). This institute's vision is to forge linkages between food and health through responsive agriculture and precision nutrition, spanning a variety of research disciplines to identify solutions to make individuals healthier and to reduce overall annual healthcare costs. Moreover, the research campus is recognized as a premier research entity in agriculture, natural resources, and the life sciences; and conducts studies that deliver impactful findings throughout Texas and around the world.

Job duties include: 

Perform leading research using precision nutrition to identify solutions to make individuals healthier and reduce overall annual healthcare costs; Plan and conduct studies to analyze and understand complex data for use in supporting responsive agricultural and precision nutrition that enhance human, environmental and economic health outcomes; Seeks and develops collaborations with university, industry, and government scientists; Conducts both independent and multi-disciplinary, team-based research and analyzes experimental data, composes manuscripts for publication of experimental results, and presents information at scientific meetings and at other research institutions; Manage a research program, including personnel, equipment and fiscal resources following agency?s mission and scientific procedures, requirements and protocols; Supervise employees, to include setting performance standards, monitoring performance and guiding subordinates. You must be a US Citizen or US National

Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Retraction Watch: former chemistry professor receives NIH sanction

Via Retraction Watch: 
A former chemistry professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville admitted to reusing data in grant applications to the National Institutes of Health while claiming that it came from different experiments, according to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity.

Surangi (Suranji) Jayawardena, who joined the UAH faculty in 2017 following a postdoc at MIT, “engaged in research misconduct by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly falsifying and/or fabricating data in twelve (12) figure panels” in four grant applications in 2018 and 2019, the ORI said. All of the applications were administratively withdrawn by the agency, one in 2019 and three in 2021.

Jayawardena studied ways to rapidly diagnose tuberculosis, and to deliver drugs to treat various bacteria. She does not appear to have had any papers retracted.

She agreed to have any federally funded work supervised for four years by a “committee of 2-3 senior faculty members at the institution who are familiar with [her] field of research, but not including [her] supervisor or collaborators.”

When she left UAH is unclear. Neither UAH nor Jayawardena immediately responded to a request for comment from Retraction Watch.

It's clearly a good thing that people who fabricate data are caught and sanctioned. It genuinely makes me wonder if this is a rare thing (it feels like it) or that this is simply the tip of the iceberg. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 191 research/teaching positions and 13 teaching positions

The 2024 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 191 research/teaching positions and 13 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 September 6, 2022, the 2023 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 220 research/teaching positions and 11 teaching-focused position.

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

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

"Get A Job, Ken" - Part 1: The Timeline

The application process for chemistry faculty positions can last several (grueling) months. The timeline below outlines my 2012 job search and serves as the first installment of my “Get a Job, Ken!” blog post series. 

Job postings: The postings for inorganic/energy/materials assistant professor positions at top 100, R1 institutions began appearing in July 2012 and continued until about November. Postings for professor positions at undergraduate-focused institutions continued well into Spring 2013.

Application deadlines: The distribution of deadlines for the 38 positions I applied to are shown in the bar graph below. The first deadline was on September 10th. The last was on December 1st. The most popular due date by far was October 15th.
 
Interviews: I’ve heard of people receiving phone calls offering interviews as early as two weeks after the application deadline. Other people recounted receiving calls as late as February/March after search committees failed to find a viable candidate during their first round of interviews.

Rejection letters/emails: Some universities send rejection emails/letters after selecting candidates to interview (as early as November) while others send emails after making an offer to their top candidate. Some universities don’t send anything at all (10-20% of the schools I applied to). 

Decisions, second visits and negotiations: Job offers are usually proffered between December and March. Second visits—a department’s chance to entice their top candidate to accept the offer—are scheduled soon after. Negotiations about start-up funds, lab space, teaching assignments and so on occur during the month following the offer and will continue until the final contract is signed (or rejected).

Graduate student recruiting weekend: If newly hired professors receive and accept an offer in time, they can potentially attend their new institution’s graduate student recruiting weekend. This event provides a chance for new professors to meet and start recruiting students to help establish their research group. 
 
Start date: The most common start dates I saw listed on the job postings were July 1st or August 1st, but the actual start date is negotiable (to some degree). 

As a real-life example, here is the start-to-finish timeline for the search process that ultimately ended in my assistant professor position at FSU:
  • Application deadline: December 1st
  • Request for phone interview: January 9th
  • Phone interview: January 16th
  • Request for in-person interview: January 23rd
  • In-person interview: February 10-13th
  • Offer: February 20th
  • Second visit: March 8-11th
  • Negotiation: February 20th to March 22nd
  • Formal Acceptance: March 27th
  • Graduate student recruiting weekend: March 29th
  • Official start date: August 8th 


"Get A Job, Ken!" - introductory post

As a public service, I am reposting the "Get a job, Ken!" series from Professor Ken Hanson of Florida State. It originally ran on Chemistry Blog, which is currently having hosting issues. Below is the first post, and we'll be following up with the Part 1 today as well. - CJ

It has been several months since my last post, but I have (what I think is) a reasonable excuse: I’ve been trying to get a job. The demanding mantra endlessly looping in my brain for the last six months was, "Get a job, Ken!" Applying for chemistry faculty positions at R1 institutions has been a trial both scientifically and emotionally, especially since the likelihood of landing such a job is increasingly the exception rather than the norm. I’ve very glad my search is over and I humbly and yet happily share dthat I will be starting as an assistant professor at Florida State University in the fall (August 2013). 

Reflecting on the job search afterwards, I found that there were very few resources that helped me understand what to expect beforehand. This is probably especially true for someone like me who did not come from institutions more traditionally known for producing professors, like Cal Tech, MIT, Berkeley etc., I did not spend my undergraduate and graduate years observing and learning from older coworkers/friends going through the faculty job search process before me. To my surprise, I also found little online about the chemistry faculty job search and what makes it different from other job searches. 

Instead, I spent a lot of time gleaning hints and tips from coworkers, advisors, professors and anyone that would answer my questions. Hoping to help those entering the search after me, while also building on previous blog posts where I share advice for new graduate students and post-doc position seekers, my next series of blog posts will outline my faculty job search experience.

Most of the advice I’ll share is based on my own anecdotal experiences or the stories I’ve heard from others. These experiences vary widely and, when preparing for your own job search, I encourage job seekers to consult with as many people as possible and load-up on advice. I also hope others will share more in the comment section.

Another thing to note is that my experience was specifically with faculty positions relating to materials, inorganic, and any energy related research. Yet, even with this emphasis, it’s possible that many of the suggestions are still applicable to primarily undergrad or even an industry job-seeker.

Since I find myself with so much to share (as well as hesitant to ask readers to read a mega-post all at once) I am going to partition the “Get a Job, Ken!” experience into the following posts covering eight different aspects of the job application process:

I hope you find them useful.
  1. The Timeline 
  2. Proposal Preparation
  3. Proposal Format
  4. Other Content
  5. Submission and Waiting
  6. Phone Interview and/or On-site Interview
  7. Research/Proposal Talks and Meeting with the Chair
  8. The Offer, Second Visit, and Negotiation

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List: 35 positions

The Chemical Engineering Faculty Jobs List has 35 positions. Find an error or have a question? Find an error? Contact @Heatherlec620 or @G_sribala. 

This is the link to the open thread. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

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 1, 2023

Have a good weekend


Well, it's a long weekend, which is great, because this was a long week. I hope that you had a great week, and that you have a good long weekend. We'll see you on Tuesday. 

A brief set of musings, mostly for my benefit

I'm particularly rocked by the shooting at the University of North Carolins this week. In case you missed it, here's a brief summary from the Associated Press: 
Tailei Qi, 34, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and having a gun on educational property in Monday’s killing of Zijie Yan inside a science building at the state’s flagship public university.
Professor Yan was a professor in UNC's Department of Applied Physical Sciences. 

I've read enough tweets and comments from professors that they are now pretty concerned about gun violence in their departments, particularly from disgruntled students.* I think it would be worth hearing from professors about this - if you feel like emailing me a short comment, I would be willing to post them. I will grant anonymity, if desired. Email (as always) is chemjobber@gmail.com

I have more thoughts about Mr. Qi's act, but I'm not sure those thoughts are fully formed yet. I think I need to be better informed about why people do these acts before I write about it, and I'm not sure I really want to do the work to get there. 

*I don't think there is a clear motive for Mr. Qi's outburst of violence, but it's certainly clear that he perceived some kind of issue with his adviser.