Friday, December 9, 2016

The View From Your Hood: Grenoble, France edition

Grenoble, France
Credit: Isaac Martens
From reader Isaac Martens: "I'm at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, looking over the banks of the river Isère at the foot of the Chartreuse valley in the southwestern Alps. This is the 'bad' view, the other sides of campus have a couple castles and two more mountain ranges."

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in with a caption, and how you'd like to be credited at; will run every other Friday.)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Google brings in $76 billion dollars a year?

Everyone keeps a few numbers in their head. For some folks, it's batting averages, the price of a
Coach bag, the number of touchdowns thrown by a quarterback in a season (ol' #18 sure did) or the price of a house in the right neighborhood.

Over the last decade or so, I've always kept Pfizer's revenue number in my head. In 2015, that number was 49 billion dollars. I've also known the vague range of the NIH budget number ($30 billion is the number that sticks; the NIH reports $32 billion for FY 2016.) 

I don't know why, but I was caught a bit by surprise to learn that Google's annual revenue is $76 billion dollars, according to this Bloomberg Businessweek article: 
Over the 12 months ended in September, Google’s ad business accounted for 89 percent of Alphabet’s revenue, or $76.1 billion. As one ex-executive puts it, “No one wants to face the reality that this is an advertising company with a bunch of hobbies.”
Wow - that's a lot of money from clicks and YouTube ads. (Of course, Apple looks over at Google's incoming revenue and says "ho hum.")

UPDATE: Both commenters astutely point out that gross is not net - oops. (I did know that, I promise!) Changed headline from "makes" to "brings in."

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 47 positions

The experiment is one week old! Doing my best to track down all open research-track medicinal chemistry positions. At the moment, I've found around 47 positions. 

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States (this will likely change), process or computational positions (this will likely change as well), academic positions (will likely be included about a year from now?)

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.

Not your typical high school chemistry teacher

What is it about high school teachers
and jackets? Credit: Elliot Richman/C&EN
In this week's C&EN, a profile of Elliot Richman, a Ph.D. chemist who became a science writer and then a high school chemistry teacher. (article by Ryan Cross)

(It would be interesting to know what percentage of high school chemistry teachers have advanced degrees in chemistry, and what percentage of them started teaching immediately after school. I suspect that it's lower than the median high school teacher.) 

Daily Pump Trap: 12/8/16 edition

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

New York, NY: The Metropolitan Museum of Art seeks a research assistant; B.S. in science, "general chemistry and organic chemistry lab experience preferred."

Kansas City, MO (?): SynTech Research seeks a senior analytical chemist; B.S./M.S./Ph.D. with significant LC and GC experience desired.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) "1000+", 382, 9,401 and 34 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 1,959 positions for the search term "chemist" and 13,012 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Analytical chemist: 172/231. Research chemist: 28/37. Synthetic chemist: 12/362. Medicinal chemist: 10/28. Organic chemist: 28/53. Process chemist: 35/43. Process development chemist: 6/7. Formulation chemist: 41/45. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What do we think of "manuscript in preparation"?

Via Twitter, a fair bit of deprecation of "manuscript in preparation" or "manuscript submitted" for CVs and resumes. Does anyone disagree? It seems to me something that can be useful occasionally, but is probably not very helpful overall.

Hiring managers (academic, industrial or governmental), please chime in. If you could tell us what kind of hiring you're a part of, that would be great. 

Good rantlet

Here's a bit of a rant from my experiences on a search committee this year: 
1) Directed @ interviewees: Take 5 minutes and look up the SPECIFIC NSF/DOD/DOE/NIH program that you think might be interested in funding your research. It's really easy, but I'm surprised by how many people haven't given any thought to programs, solicitations, etc. Also, I've found that candidates who have put the time into creating an extensive, line-item budgets are usually ranked higher than those with nebulous budgets. My school doesn't offer a million dollars in startup, so we have to see if a) you can get a research program going using what you're given and b) have you really considered the details of setting up a lab. If you get the job, that line-item budget then becomes a supply list and you'll be glad that you put the time in up front. 
2) Directed @ my faculty peers: You've got to stop assuming that every candidate should be walking into an interview with a Nobel-worthy set of ideas that are going to change science forever. How many of us are actually working on one of the projects that we proposed during our interviews after 3-5 years? The straw poll that I took in our department was about 10%, meaning that most research doesn't work and eventually evolves into something different (and perhaps more interesting). Give these candidates a break and try to look for a track record of perseverance and initiative. 
3) Directed @ the 95% who didn't get an interview: I know it sucks that we didn't call you, but that's on us. There's a lot more that goes into consideration of an applicant besides CV, research plan, and letters of recommendation. We do take cover letters and personal statements seriously. We've passed on candidates with 50+ publications and interviewed others with 3, based solely on the fit with existing departmental needs. Getting an academic job is the biggest crap shoot out there, so don't take it personally if you don't get a call back. There are no "ringers" in this business anymore. 
My advice to those of you looking primarily to teach at the college level would be to dump your research postdoc and start hitting the lecturer/adjunct/visiting professor circuit. A lot of colleges with a teaching emphasis place a higher premium on your teaching credentials, as opposed to years as a postdoc. There's a reason why faculty at research schools who are denied tenure often move to teaching schools--they have extensive relevant experience and are often a great value.
The amount of debate around the path from "visiting professor" or "teaching postdoc" to "tenure-track assistant professor at a PUI" is fascinating to me.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The 2015 Survey of Earned Doctorates is out

The 2015 Survey of Earned Doctorates is out. Here's the data on graduates in the 2015 academic year and their post-graduation plans. I've taken a screenshot, here's the data in PDF and Excel format. 

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 508 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 508 positions.

Have you had a Skype/phone interview (or an on-site) with a position on the Faculty Jobs List? Please add the date of the interview to the open thread. The open thread is here.

As the 2017 Faculty Jobs Open Thread has gotten longer, the Blogger software that this blog is run on has added a new wrinkle: when you initially load the thread, it loads only the first ~220 comments and then has a "load more" button near the bottom of the page near the comment box. Only after pressing that button does it load the latest comments. (Actually, it takes two clicks now. Sigh.) 

Daily Pump Trap: 12/6/16 edition

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

"Washington, New York, Palo Alto, Chicago": Steptoe & Johnson LLP looking for a patent agent or a technical specialist.

Kalamazoo, MI: Will someone please take this "Director - Process Technology and Engineering" position so they'll stop posting it?

Opelika, AL: Wanna work at a vitamin manufacturing plant? Pharmavite is looking for a "Supervisor, Product Safety & Sanitation."

Postdoctoral fellowship: Postdoctoral Position Studying Soap Formation in Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art/University of Delaware

From the inbox, a very interesting postdoc:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s finest museums, seeks a postdoctoral fellow to work in a collaborative project among researchers in its Department of Scientific Research and at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry of the University of Delaware.  Both groups have been awarded a collaborative grant by the Division of Materials Science at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate heavy-metal soap formation, a deterioration process that affects hundreds of oil paintings in art collections across the world. The proposed approach combines pulsed-field-gradient (PFG) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) diffusion, solid-state deuterium NMR, single-sided NMR, micro and nanotomography, and synchrotron XRF imaging and XANES spectroscopy experiments, the latter in collaboration with scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), to characterize the dynamics of the processes.

The successful candidate will be primarily based at the Department of Scientific Research at the Met, but will carry out work at the University of Delaware (Udel), BNL, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Travel and accommodation costs for work at the Udel, BNL, and PNNL will be covered by grant funds.  He/she will be expected to integrate into both parts of the program.  The position is initially for one year, with the possibility of funding for up to one and a half additional years. Consideration of applications will begin on December 1st, 2016.
The full posting with qualifications and contact information is here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Ivory Filter Flask: 12/6/16 edition

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

Pohang, South Korea: The Pohang University of Science and Technology is looking for tenure-track assistant professors of chemistry; appears that supramolecular chemistry is preferred.

Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University is searchin for an assistant or associate professor of organic chemistry.

Here's your chance!: The University of Canterbury in Canterbury, New Zealand is looking for a postdoctoral fellow to perform carbohydrate chemical biology research.

Huh, this is interesting: "The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at the University of Washington is seeking a Post-doctoral Research Associate with research interests in organic chemistry to support efforts to operate and optimize continuous flow reactor technology for the synthesis of drug molecules." Probably a worthwhile postdoc for someone. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Tips for getting through to the public about chemicals

Also in this week's C&EN, a helpful article by Professor Baruch Fischhoff of Carnegie Mellon University, talking over best practices for communicating science to the public, especially with regards to various scientific issues where there is controversy:
My experience suggests that programs applying our science to communicating technology risks and benefits are often rewarded. For example, my colleagues and I developed a widely distributed brochure about potential negative health effects of 60-Hz electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from both high-voltage power lines and home appliances, just as the issue had begun to boil in the 1980s. 
As required by our science, we first summarized the evidence relevant to lay decisions and then interviewed people about their beliefs and concerns. Finally, we tested draft communications, checking that they were interpreted as intended. Among other things, those communications addressed a common bug in lay mental models: how quickly EMFs fall off with distance. We also candidly described the limits to current evidence regarding possible harm and promised that new research results would not be hidden. It is our impression that we contributed to a measured societal response to the risk. 
The EMF case had conditions necessary for securing a fair hearing for the chemical or any other industry:
  • A good safety record. For example, public support for nuclear power rose over the long period of safe performance preceding the Fukushima accident.
  • Talking to people. The chemical industry’s outreach programs supporting local emergency responders have enhanced trust in many communities.
  • A scientific approach to communication. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is creating disclosures designed to improve trust in banking and insurance products.
Developing scientifically sound communications is not expensive. However, it requires having the relevant expertise and evaluating the work empirically. Such communication often faces three interrelated barriers among some of those responsible for its adoption:
  • Strong intuitions about what to say and how to say it, discounting the need to consult behavioral science and evaluate communications.
  • Distrust of the public, perhaps fed by commentators who describe the public as incapable of understanding (that is, being chemophobic).
  • Disrespect for the social sciences as sources of durable, useful knowledge.
There is a kernel of truth underlying these barriers. People do have some insight into how other people think, the public can be unreasonable, and social scientists do sometimes oversell their results. To help outsiders be savvy consumers of behavioral research, my colleagues and I have tried to make our science more accessible, for example, through a Food & Drug Administration user guide and via Sackler Colloquia in 2012 and in 2013 on the science of science communications, with accompanying special issues of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA.
Professor Fischoff has raised some very interesting points. I wonder if the problem with the chemical industry's communications to the public is that this conversation is usually only happening under the shadow of various chemical industry incidents, i.e. removing the safety record required to sustain a basic level of trust.

Also, I think it's interesting that the EMF project involved trying to communicate the one essential fact (that EMG falls off dramatically with distance). I wonder if there is one essential fact (or two, or three?) that chemists need to always be communicating with non-chemists?

Interesting look into PPG

Also in this week's C&EN, an article by Marc Reisch on PPG. Fascinating to see what how many scientists and engineers at their research campus (emphasis mine):
About 20 minutes from PPG Industries’ headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh is the Allison Park Coatings Innovation Center. Set on 175 rolling wooded acres, the glass-clad research facility employs more than 280 synthetic chemists, analytical chemists, formulation experts, and chemical engineers. 
First opened in 1974, the facility just got a $7.8 million upgrade. The project added robotic paint spray booths that replicate customer manufacturing conditions along with new synthesis labs and equipment to accommodate a growing workforce. 
“We hired 45 Ph.D.s just in the last five years,” says David Bem, PPG’s chief technology officer. More researchers will be coming to the site soon. In the coming years, he says, the firm plans to hire additional chemists, including those with B.S. and M.S. degrees, as it advances work on new types of coatings. 
The Allison Park researchers are at the vanguard of a global technology force of 3,500 intended to give PPG an edge in architectural, marine, automotive, and other coatings. They are also an important piece of PPG’s plan to compete with rival Sherwin-Williams, which is set to complete its acquisition of Valspar in early 2017 and displace PPG as the world’s largest paint maker.
Will be worth keeping an eye on.  

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

50 mL separatory funnels

A list of small, useful things (links):
Again, an open invitation to all interested in writing a blog, a hobby that will bring you millions thousands hundreds tens of dollars joy and happiness. Send me a link to your post, and I'd be happy to put it up.

Merck to build new Bay Area R&D campus

Merck has staked out a new R&D campus for itself in the heart of South San Francisco, the epicenter of the Bay Area’s biotech mega-hub. Alexandria Real Estate Equities, the builder of many biotech facilities around the country, will be breaking ground on the site soon after Merck bought into a new, 294,000-square-foot West Coast research complex at 213 East Grand Avenue. The move-in date is being set for 2019.... 
...A Merck spokesman told me back in July that a central research campus in San Francisco would also open the door to about 100 new hires. 
“We will ultimately consolidate our Oncology, Immuno-oncology, Biologics and CMR discovery work into a combined research site,” she noted at the time. “Our Palo Alto site will continue to focus on Immuno-Oncology and Biologics and Vaccines discovery until the long-term facility is up and running.” 
The western migration follows a move by Merck to reduce staff levels at its operations in Kenilworth and Rahway, NJ. The move also affected its North Wales, PA screening facility. And Merck has already picked out a lab in Cambridge, MA for its expanded work in the East Coast hub. Now it’s well along the way to doing the same on the West Coast. 
All of that fits neatly into a broad industry trend that has dominated R&D over the past 5 years. Big Pharma has been identifying central hubs, often in the mega-centers like Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, UK and San Francisco, to concentrate its forces.
It's pretty amazing to me how pharma R&D is sorting itself into either Bay Area or Cambridge enclaves. With the assumption that this is (in the long run) where most of their medicinal chemists (and process chemists?) will be located, I imagine this will have the effect of increasing wages (while gains when compared to cost-of-living will be more modest.)

Does anyone see this trend reversing? I don't. Longtime readers are probably tired of me saying this: the prominence of Bay Area and Cambridge in pharma are due to decades of billions of federal research investments in world-class universities and medical centers combined with a relatively friendly funding atmosphere for entrepreneurial adventures. What this says for other regions and their pharma/biotech hopes isn't very positive, I'd think. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Introducing the Medicinal Chemist Jobs List

This is a "back of the hood" kind of experiment, but I'm going to try to track all the open research-track medicinal chemist positions in the US. Here's what I have so far (just 14 positions), but I have about 200-300* more to enter (by hand).

If you feel like giving me a hand, here's a Google Form that would make life a lot easier for me, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments" that works, too.

*UPDATE: Boy was that the wrong guess. It was more like 30. Well, more to come, I hope. 

Interview: Ryan Stolley, organometallic chemist, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow and climate change policy advocate

Via random chance, I have been introduced (virtually) to Dr. Ryan Stolley, an organometallic chemist and AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow. This post has been lightly edited for grammar, and checked by Dr. Stolley for accuracy.
Can you tell us a little about your background in chemistry?  
My background in chemistry is mostly in the organic/organometallic space. I did my undergrad at a small (less than 5000 students) liberal arts school with a strong chemistry department and had the opportunity to do both organic synthesis and coordination chemistry research over summers and throughout the year. I then did an NSF REU (research experience for undergraduates) in Thailand doing natural products chemistry. This was an interesting chemistry/cultural/philosophical experience for discussion elsewhere.  
I then did my PhD in organometallic methodology developing Ni- and Pd-catalyzed N-heterocycle forming reactions. I had some pretty good success publishing a number of papers and a book chapter. I have always had a desire for some sort of public service and in undergrad was engaged in the chemistry club and was also chairman for the chemistry student advisory council in graduate school that had votes in retention/promotion/tenure proceedings and was a vehicle for student advocacy and events.  
What did you do after graduate school? What was it like to postdoc at a national lab? 
After graduate school I took a postdoc at Pacific Northwest National Lab. I was working on more nickel catalysis this time in the electrochemical oxidation of H2. Working at a national lab was and can be amazing for a number of reasons. The entire lab is research only and you work with some seriously smart people with excellent resources. However, it's not the utopia that can be often thought of by undergraduate and graduate students. 

Daily Pump Trap: 12/1/16 edition

A few of the positions posted on C&EN Jobs this past week:

Toronto, ON: Encycle Therapeutics is looking for Ph.D. chemists to perform peptide-related synthetic research.

La Jolla, CA: The California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) is looking for synthetic postdocs; interesting that they're requiring fluent Mandarin speakers (these positions will have permanent appointments at Tsinghua University.)

Livermore, CA: Lawrence Livermore is looking for a postdoc in material science; will (ultimately) require a Q clearance.

Palo Alto, CA: Acme Bioscience is looking for a synthetic postdoc. Does anyone know anything about Acme Bioscience? I know they've been around a while... They list some H1bs-status employees on staff in 2014 and 2015... no Glassdoor entries, though. Pay is in the 47-49k range, which isn't much to write home about in the Bay Area.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) "1000+", 371 , 9,393 and 30 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 1,358 positions for the search term "chemist" and 13,782 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Analytical chemist: 183/240. Research chemist: 28/41. Synthetic chemist: 11/380 . Medicinal chemist: 13/33. Organic chemist: 28/52. Process chemist: 15/43. Process development chemist: 5/6. Formulation chemist: 44/48. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 12/1/16 edition

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

New York City, NY: Queens College (CUNY) is looking for an assistant professor of chemistry; preference for an organic or inorganic chemist.

La Jolla, CA: UCSD is hiring an assistant professor of biochemistry or biophysics.

Memphis, TN: The University of Memphis is looking for an assistant professor of chemistry. "Desired candidates will have a proposed research program that strengthens existing activities in the department (including medicinal, nanomaterials, or environmental focus areas; see our website at for additional information about ongoing research)."

Arkadelphia, AR: Ouachita Baptist University is hiring an assistant professor of organic chemistry; "organic synthesis, physical organic, or computational organic chemistry are preferred."

Utica, NY: Utica College is searching for an assistant professor of biochemistry.

Omaha, NE: The University of Nebraska at Omaha is hiring an assistant or associate professor "in interdisciplinary STEM discipline-based education research."