Credit: Isaac Martens
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1. HELPING CHEMISTS FIND JOBS IN A TOUGH MARKET. 2. TOWARDS A QUANTITATIVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE QUALITY OF THE CHEMISTRY JOB MARKET.
Credit: Isaac Martens
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.")
|What is it about high school teachers |
and jackets? Credit: Elliot Richman/C&EN
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.
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 full posting with qualifications and contact information is here. Best wishes to those interested.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
What's the job market like for chemists? Dude -- it's always bad.*
How bad is it? How the heck should I know? Quantifying the chemistry job market is what this blog is about. That, and helping chemists find jobs.
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(*For the literal-minded, this is a joke. Mostly.)