Friday, July 28, 2017

View From Your Hood: sunrise glassware edition

Credit: Sam Drew
"Sunrise at UC Irvine", by Sam Drew

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption and preference for name/anonymity, please) at; will run every other Friday.) 

Where are all the 40-50 year olds in manufacturing?

Via the weekly dose of pain that is my Google Alert for "skills gap", this article is a classic of the genre. It is a writeup of the Critical Skills Gap Awareness Summit that was held in Centralia, IL last week. There is the typical comments about how employers are finding it difficult to find employees (probably true) and then some truly top-notch bemoaning of the available workforce: 
...The Human Resources Manager at Nascote Industries Jeff Dahlquist says they seek out those who want to return home or stay in the area. He's looking at having to replace a quarter of their maintenance staff who are over 55 years of age. 
"We continue to get more and more technical in our jobs. What we're finding out from some of the young folks coming in that technology is just an extension of their arm. They learn that part of it really quick. It's the problem solving skills and the ability to get your hands dirty and willingness to get your hands dirty that is much of the key," said Dahlquist. 
The President of Jarco in Salem Tracy Timmerman says they stayed in Salem because of the company's work force, but are now looking to have replace those in their 50's and 60's who grew up in the business. 
"You don't have the farming kids out there that know how to fix anything coming off the farm and coming into industry anymore. You are starting at a lower level. It's not an insult, it's just the fact. The people coming in know how to use their iPhone and they know how to play their video games, but they don't know what size a 9/16th wrench is. It's a different world that we live in," said Timmerman. 
The lead instructor and employment counselor at the Southern Illinois Carpenters Apprenticeship Program Kenny Rose says their workforce is also getting older and he's not finding a lot of interest among younger people...
I could tee off about the crack about farming kids and their iPhones, but we'll just let that slide. Instead... where the $$%# are the 40 year olds? This is the thing about every organization that complains about having to replace 50 and 60 year old people: where are the 40 and 50 year olds that you should have been training up to replace them? Your problem didn't start last week - it started 10 years ago.

The answer, of course, is probably the result of the Great Recession and overall changes in rural economies. But week after week, I read the same articles written in the same big city and small town papers, and it's companies bemoaning the retirement of senior workers. What the heck, folks? Don't you watch the NFL draft? They draft people every year! There's a reason for that!

Sorry, folks, I got a little crazy there - hope you have a great weekend. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 107 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 107 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (likely never.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise! (soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Don't call it a start yet: 19 positions for the search term "process chemist" at Indeed.

Well-paid tech jobs are concentrating

Via US News, an interesting set of data from Indeed: 
Through the first half of 2017, more than a quarter of America's job openings in tech were located in just eight major metropolitan areas, according to new research that also suggests the bulk of the industry's highest-paying jobs are consolidating around just a handful of cities across the country. 
Jed Kolko, chief economist at employment hub Indeed, on Tuesday unveiled new research digging into tech employment in America. It showed just eight metro areas – those centered around San Jose, California; the District of Columbia; Baltimore; Seattle; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Francisco; Austin, Texas; and Boston – accounted for 27 percent of all tech job postings during the first half of the year. 
Comparatively, that same group accounted for just 13 percent of all job postings across the country. Yet in some sense, Kolko indicated, that tech-heavy concentration is unsurprising, given the same cities accounted for 26.5 percent of tech job openings back in 2013.
The Wall Street Journal's headline was even more to the point: "The Best $100,000+ Tech Jobs Are Increasingly Concentrated in Just 8 Cities."

(How did Baltimore rate? Spillover from D.C.?)

I think what Kolko has to say in his original blog post rings remarkably true:
Higher-salary technology occupations are becoming increasingly concentrated, while lower-salary technology jobs are dispersing slightly to the rest of the country. In this sense, the US technology jobs landscape is becoming more unequal—yet another example of how the country is becoming increasingly differentiated and polarized. 
 I have zero doubt the same trends are true of chemistry. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

15 things never to say to an assistant professor

Thanks to Twitter, a small list:
  1. "So, when are you going up for tenure?"
  2. "Nice Civic." (by Ash)
  3. "So how is teaching?" (by Shane Caldwell) 
  4. "It must be nice getting the entire summer off. What do you do with all that free time?" (by Andre)
  5. "When's your next grant application due?" 
  6. "That whole publish-or-perish thing is just a myth, yeah?"
  7. "You only teach one class each semester? What do you do with rest of your time?" (by Andre)
  8. "Student evaluations don't mean much, do they?"
  9. "But the school pays for your kid to go to college, right?" 
  10. "How's that tenure package coming?" 
  11. "So what happens if you don't get tenure?" (by gingerest)
  12. " tax dollars pay your salary? Makes me your boss I guess hahahahahaha" (by John) 
  13. "Wait, you get paid how much?" (by John) 
  14. "So what do you do during summer break?" 
  15. "So what happens when you don't get tenure?" (by Andre)

What is the historical funding level for organic synthesis?

Also in this week's C&EN, a really great article by Tien Nguyen covering the 2018 National Organic Symposium, held in Davis, CA. There are some really great anecdotes in the article (including Wender's joke about deprotection, which is a classic (I feel)), but I thought this was worth highlighting: 
Prompted by these remarks, Robert Lees, a program manager at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences who oversees synthetic organic chemistry grants, commented that several of the speakers so far felt the need to defend the field of organic chemistry and asked, “Where is this feeling that you’re under attack coming from?” 
Lees wondered if the feeling of threat stems from worries about funding for organic research. From his perspective at NIGMS, he said that synthesis isn’t facing any more stress than other scientific disciplines and that he hopes that chemistry students aren’t going to other areas out of fear of a lack of funding opportunities. 
Kozlowski responded by reiterating her sentiments about the need for organic research and stressed to the student attendees, “I think there’s miles of open space.” 
Although Baran wasn’t present for the exchange, he told C&EN that he disagrees with Lees and emphasized that there aren’t nearly as many institutions funding pure synthesis as there are institutions funding fields like biology.
This is not the only time that Professor Baran has expressed sentiments that chemistry is disproportionately underfunded (my words, not his) compared to other fields. Here, you have a subject matter expert (Robert Lees) who disagrees with him.

I guess that we need a historical comparison of both NIH and NSF funding for basic molecular biology compared to synthetic organic chemistry in order to falsify the Baran hypothesis - I wonder if it is even possible to put this data together?  

This week's C&EN

A few of the articles in this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News:

Friday, July 21, 2017

UNH: "Experience must include 4 years of post-doctoral research experience in the field of Organic Chemistry"

When I am looking at faculty jobs postings, I am usually just entering the facts (department, geography, subfield.) It usually takes a lot to make me notice the fine details, especially when the boilerplate is mostly the same. This ad from UNH-Durham was a little different:
Summary of Position
Within the Department of Chemistry in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of New Hampshire, the candidate will teach undergraduate courses in organic chemistry as well as graduate courses, including organic synthesis, and to develop new courses. The faculty member will be responsible for maintaining a productive program of research and scholarship in the field of organic chemistry, and organic synthesis and its applications to problems in chemical biology (e.g. biological catalysis, structural biology, biomaterials or other related areas). Will also advise and mentor undergraduate and graduate level students. 
Acceptable Minimum Qualifications
Candidates must possess a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry. Experience must include 4 years of post-doctoral research experience in the field of Organic Chemistry (emphasis CJ's) and at least one academic year of post-secondary teaching experience pre or post Ph.D. Demonstrated research experience with publications in peer-reviewed journals is required. 
Documents Needed to Apply 
Required Documents
4 years?!?! Chemists aren't biologists!

Twitter chatter has strongly speculated this is an internal candidate; Andre astutely notes the resume/vita requirement seems a bit thin.

Can I make a suggestion to the broader world, or at least the chemistry community? When you have an internal candidate and you're 98%+ sure that you're hiring that guy, but the HR department still makes you post the ad, I would really suggest that the hiring contact's name be Don T. Bother. That would save a lot of time for everyone involved.  

A hiring manager's lament

From the pages of the New York Times, the owner of a PR firm laments the online application system: 
It’s not that my postings on Indeed, LinkedIn and other career sites weren’t explicit in outlining desired qualifications. I added instructions urging candidates to contact us only if they had backgrounds in journalism, P.R. or law. There was nothing to suggest I was looking for a fiscal benefits analyst, emergency medical technician or brand ambassador, but they showed up anyway. 
...I’m all for people crossing the professional divide. America’s work force is going through tumult, as even the superskilled see their jobs eliminated or made obsolete by technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a steady decline in the average tenure of wage and salaried workers — most recently at 4.2 years, down from 4.6 in 2014.... 
...Perhaps that’s why so many showcased accomplishments that sounded machine-made, as in “liaise with field managers to create metric reports in line with KPIs.” There were also digital marketers lauding their ability to “increase channel awareness and implement impactful distribution modes to engage target audiences.” I was more drawn to the waitress who described her duties with the clarity of E. B. White: “Explain dishes on menu to patrons and make recommendations; take orders and relay them to kitchen; calculate meal costs and add taxes to final bill.” She was elevated to the “maybe” pile.
Lowering the barrier to application has been an interesting side effect of the digital age - I wonder if wrong-headed applications happened during the typewriter-and-envelope days. 

(The writer makes a good point that if you're applying for a position with an unusual background, it is up to you to convince the reader that your differences will be helpful. That's a difficult thing sometimes, but I think that it can be doable...) 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 104 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 104 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), computational positions (this will likely change as well), process positions (coming soon....), academic positions (likely never.)

Coming soon: a process chemistry version - I promise! (sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Don't call it a start yet: 18 positions for the search term "process chemist" at Indeed, including this night-shift (?) position at Alcami in Germantown, WI.

Family-run businesses

I was rather amused by this New York Times story about a Wild West theme park that a family is trying to sell without a lot of success: 
UNION, Ill. — It’s not easy selling a Wild West Town theme park located 60 miles northwest of Chicago, as Larry and Helene Donley have discovered. 
The octogenarian couple have run the place for 43 years and are finally ready to retire. But their sons, Randy and Mike, who are in their early 60s and have helped manage it, are keen for other challenges.... 
There is a hitch, however: The elder Donleys don’t want someone to change the property into, say, a concert space, as a potential buyer once suggested. Ideally, they want things to continue in their current Howdy Doody-esque form, right down to the gold-panning pavilion, the live action Wild West show, and kiddie rides on the 19th-century miniature locomotive. 
...The current asking price is $7 million, but Larry Donley has turned away people who didn’t seem willing or likely to preserve it as is.... 
...Such is the difficulty of selling a family heirloom business that no one else in the family really wants to run. 
Does this frustrate the younger generations? They say no, and insist they are committed to operating the park until they find that elusive buyer. “The park was never our dream,” Randy, the younger son, said of himself and his brother, who auction antique phonographs, jukeboxes and other 20th-century Americana as their principal occupation. As for their father, however, “He really believes that that person is out there.” 
As with many amusement parks, the bulk of the revenue — some of it from the $17-a-person admission — has to come in between May and the end of October. Mike Donley wouldn’t discuss financial details, but he said the park had earned the family enough to sustain three generations over the decades. Mike and Randy Donley both say it is profitable.
I left my other wallet in the other room, so I don't think I have the spare seven million dollars to buy the place, but it is interesting to me how difficult it is for families to pass a business from one generation to the next. It's also interesting how difficult it is, when children want to learn the family business, for them to actually do it in at the same level of success as their parents.)

I don't think there are a lot of family-owned chemical businesses out there that are salable at the moment, but if I had seven million dollars....

Daily Pump Trap: 7/20/17 edition

A few of the positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Rocket Center, WV: Orbital ATK is hiring:
Orbital ATK’s Missile Products Division has exciting opportunity for a Scientist located at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory near Cumberland, MD.  This position will support the development and manufacture of propellant, explosive and adhesive formulations for rocket motor and warhead programs.
B.S. with 0-10 years experience energetics, adhesives or other chemistry field desired; M.S./Ph.D. preferred.

Madison, WI: Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals is looking for a director of analytical development. M.S./Ph.D. desired, 8-15 years experience.

Kenilworth, NJ: Interesting position with the Merck Sterile Formulation Sciences unit, working on "biophysical and biochemical characterization of biotherapeutics, such as complex proteins, monoclonal antibodies, and derived modalities." M.S./Ph.D. desired, 4-8 years experience desired.

Also at Kenilworth, Merck is looking for a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. chromatographer to work on formulation development.

Kalamazoo, MI: Man, I feel like Kalsec has been looking for an "executive director of manufacturing" for a very long time. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 7/20/17 edition

A few of the academic positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Philadelphia, PA: The School of Medicine is searching for an assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics ("including but not limited to cryo-EM, advanced imaging and spectroscopic methods, proteomics/ metabolomics, chemical biology, and other biophysical or computational approaches as applied to biomedical research.")

Davis, CA: University of California - Davis is looking for an assistant or associate professor of NMR spectroscopy.

Bellingham, WA: Western Washington University is hiring an assistant professor of organic chemistry.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard's Origins of Life Initiative is looking for postdocs.

Medford, MA: Tufts is looking for two synthetic postdocs.

Last minute professor: Touro College (New York, NY) is looking for an assistant/associate professor of organic chemistry for fall 2017. Chop-chop! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"I'm a chemist"

I had a very lovely experience recently talking to some new neighbors. After introducing myself and talking about our children, that moment that you all have been a part of arrived:
Neighbor: What do you do?
CJ: I am a chemist.
Neighbor: [acting impressed] oh!
CJ: [looks a little sheepish] so what brings you to Forest City? 
It's not like it was a showstopper - just a funny moment in the conversation where I wish that I had something to draw people in and get them to talk about chemistry.

I try not to make it a very big deal; I am very happy to talk chemistry and Why I Love It. But I wish I knew a way to say "I am a chemist" without it being intimidating? off-putting? Maybe I should say it different? "I work in chemistry"? "I help make the drugs that save your life" (I HATE that tack) "I am a scientist"? 

Readers, what do you do in this situation?