Saturday, July 4, 2015

A little Americana

It's corny, sure, but hey, who doesn't love the Duke? (click on the link for the full effect):
Why I Love Her 
You ask me Why I Love Her? Well, give me time and I'll explain.
Have you see a Kansas sunset or an Arizona rain?
Have you drifted on a bayou down Louisiana way?
Have you watched a cold fog drifting over San Francisco Bay? 
Have you heard a bobwhite calling in the Carolina pines,
Or heard the bellow of a diesel at the Appalachia mines?
Does the call of Niagara thrill you when you hear her waters roar?
Do you look with awe and wonder at her Massachusetts shore,
Where men who braved a hard new world first stepped on Plymounth's rock?
And do you think of them when you stroll along a New York City dock? 
Have you seen a snowflake drifting in the Rockies, way up high?
Have you seen the sun come blazing down from a bright Nevada sky?
Do you hail to the Columbia as she rushes to the sea,
Or bow your head at Gettysburg at our struggle to be free? 
Have you seen the mighty Tetons? Have you watched an eagle soar?
Have you see the Mississippi roll along Missouri's shore?
Have you felt a chill at Michigan when on a winter's day
Her waters rage along the shore in thunderous display?
Does the word "Aloha" make you warm? Do you stare in disbelief
When you see the surf come roaring in at Waimea Reef? 
From Alaska's cold to the Everglades, from the Rio Grande to Maine,
My heart cries out, my pulse runs fast at the might of her domain.
You ask me Why I Love Her? I've a million reasons why:
My Beautiful America, beneath God's wide, wide sky.
Happy birthday, America. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

More soon

It is the Independence Day holiday in the United States, so I am a little slow posting. More soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Daily Pump Trap: 7/2/15 edition

It's the summer, which means that it's the slow season for C&EN Jobs. Since Tuesday, it appears there have been no positions posted there. So instead: 

Boston: The Boston Craiglist has a sci/biotech page; it lists a whole 6 positions for the search term "chemist." (Boston/Cambridge folks, what is your favorite online job hunting resource?)

SFO: Not much more for the San Francisco sci/biotech category, but this M.S. chemist/software position sounds interesting. 

A random survey of pharma companies for the search term "chemist" in North America: 

Gilead: 0 open positions. 
Pfizer: 5 open positions. 
Merck: 10 open positions. 

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) 985, 637, 9537 and 17 positions for the search term "chemist." LinkedIn shows 743 positions for the title "chemist", with 26 for "research chemist", 74 for "analytical chemist", 11 for "organic chemist", 1 for "synthetic chemist" and 3 for "medicinal chemist." 

Resources for pregnancy and chemical safety in the laboratory

I have been remiss in not posting on this; Jyllian Kemsley has a good rundown of resources for women who find themselves pregnant while working in the laboratory, in terms of chemical safety. Be sure to read the comments, too, as there are a lot of resources there as well.

Finally, I agree with DrAmazon (in the comments) that this seems like something where (for ACS insiders) both WCC and DCHAS could pick up the ball and run with it. 

Sacramento Bee: "Below market" compensation for government chemists in California

Via this ItP comment and this Sacramento Bee article, a report (PDF) detailing the compensation of state workers in California, including chemists. Apparently, state employed chemists (who are members of a small union?) make below market salaries:
...the total compensation for half of state-employed chemists is less than $8,985 per month ($5,715 in salary, plus $3,270 in benefit costs). That's 33 percent less than the median total compensation for federal chemists, nearly 13 percent less than the midpoint for local-government chemists and almost 6 percent below the private sector.
I'll bet there are two things at work here:
  • It's well known, for example, that some unions are more powerful than others. I clearly remember from my time as a resident of the Golden State that the correctional officers union was regarded as being very powerful. One presumes that the union for California state-employed chemists (California Association of Professional Scientists) is not nearly so powerful.
  • California is home to the Bay Area, which has plenty of top-notch chemists that are paid pretty well. I wonder if that figures into the "market"? If I were a chemist working for Sacramento, I'd be wondering about working for a Big Pharma... 
I presume that other people have much more knowledge about the situation... 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer reading recommendations? Also, a comment on "The Martian", by Andy Weir

Anybody have summer reading recommendations, now that it's July?

Also, on the recommendation of a friend of mine, I recently finished "The Martian" by Andy Weir. It's a very quick read and a fun story about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars during a NASA mission gone bad. There aren't any monsters or aliens, just one guy, some computers, some astronomy and, surprisingly (or not), lots of chemistry. Here he is, making some hydrogen to make some water by using an iridium catalyst:
...I turned the valve until a trickle of hydrazine came out. I let one drop fall into the iridium bowl.  It undramatically sizzled and disappeared. But hey, that's what I wanted, I just freed up hydrogen and nitrogen. Yay!  
...With my mini-torch in hand, I started a slow hydrazine flow. It sizzled on the iridium and disappeared. Soon I had short bursts of flame sputtering from the chimney.  
The main thing I had to watch was the temperature. Hydrazine breaking down is extremely exothermic. So I did it a bit at a time, constantly watch the readout of a thermocouple I'd attached to the iridium chamber. Point is, the process worked! 
Of course, what process doesn't have a few process upsets? (To find out what happens and so I can avoid spoilers, you'll have to read the book.)

Chemistry plays a pretty big role in "The Martian" and I really enjoyed it. Readers, got any other books to recommend? 

Warning Letter of the Week: beta-lactam cross-contamination edition

It's not something I think about a lot, but apparently the FDA cares a lot about beta-lactam allergies (and good for them!). From a recent warning letter to a Ontario repackaging facility: 
...These practices create an unacceptable risk of beta-lactam cross-contamination in other beta-lactams and in non-beta-lactam APIs.

During the inspection, you stated that you ceased penicillin operations.  However, you manufacture other beta-lactam products beyond penicillin, so ceasing penicillin operations is inadequate to address non-penicillin beta-lactams. You should take similar efforts to mitigate the risks of cross-contamination by non-penicillin beta-lactams, because they pose similar risks to patients.... 
,,,Cleaning cannot substitute for proper segregation.  Cross-contamination with your sensitizing agents can initiate life-threatening allergic reactions or other drug-induced hypersensitivity reactions.  Your current practices demonstrate an unacceptably high risk of beta-lactam cross-contamination into other APIs packaged at your facility.  You should conduct all beta-lactam manufacturing activities in dedicated, segregated facilities with separate air handling systems and production equipment.

No safe level of penicillin contamination has been determined to be a tolerable risk. Severe allergenic response can occur in susceptible patients exposed to extremely low levels of penicillin and other beta-lactams. Such levels are difficult to detect with current analytical methods.
"No safe level" is pretty strong language, even for a FDA warning letter.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What's it like for a Greek chemist these days?

Any anecdotes about life in Greece for an academic or industrial chemist right about now?

Gotta say, the announcement of a bank holiday was rather surprising to me, although it probably should not have been. But I could have sworn I heard news reports over the weekend claiming that there was little likelihood of such a thing.

Any bold predictions as to how this all will play out? I foresee continued muddling through, but I could be wrong. 

I kind of love this comment

I figured H1B out during a post-doc many years ago when I worked for this douchebag [redacted]. I was the only American, which was fine, I really enjoyed the internationals. However, after a few months of 6x12h days, plus an appearance on Sunday, I had enough. My salary was 23k per year. 
The last straw was him berating me for not taking his suggestion of switching the solvent to DMF in making a dianion with NaH and nBuLi. Then he yelled at me for enlisting the help of a graduate student who had nothing to work on. I took the keys to the lab off my keychain and marched into his office and gave him the immortal words of Johnny Paycheck "Take this job and shove it."  
I took a few weeks off and went fishing and worked various manual labor jobs and got back in amazing physical shape. I really enjoyed that summer. This was followed by an adjunct stint. I eventually found my way back to a science career, but in a non-traditional path. The thing that struck me the most was the despondency and lack of options of the post-docs who remained. Apparently I was treated well compared to the internationals, or so the American grad students told me. Of course they had to take it, it was not like they could tell him to F off. 
There really is a shortage of people who are highly intelligent and well educated in a notoriously difficult discipline who are ready to be treated like excrement on a daily basis for the wages of migrant tomato pickers.
 A Real American Hero. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/30/15 edition

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

North Brunswick, NJ: Chromocell Corporation is looking for a Chemical Operations Head; Ph.D. with 10 years experience desired.

Decatur, IL: ADM looking for an experienced Ph.D. chemist to be the manager for their thermochemical catalysis program.

Irvine, CA: Interesting to see what an Allergan biologics process development position looks like; M.S./Ph.D. and a couple years of experience.

Burlington, MA: Flexion Therapeutics looking for a CMC director. B.S./M.S./Ph.D. with experience.

Dexter, MI: Never heard of Berry & Associates before, but it looks like they're looking for a bench chemist?

Little lost lamb: I see we're advertising for dental assistants now. You could tell them all about apatite and fluoroapatite. 

Ivory Filter Flask: 6/30/15 edition

A few of the academically-related postings on C&EN Jobs:

Stevenson, MD: Stevenson University looking for a lecturer in organic chemistry; M.S./Ph.D. desired.

Irvine, CA: UC-Irvine looking for a mass spectrometry facility manager.

Last minute faculty member: Carroll Community College (Westminster, MD) is looking for a full-time chemistry instructor. Check out this full disclosure:
Generally, the College places new faculty at the rank of instructor, where the minimum based salary range is $39,515 - $50,425.  
One-half of reasonable travel expenses are paid by the college for the first visit. The entire cost of travel for the second interview is paid by the College. The College does not pay for relocation expenses, nor does the College have tenure. However, following a one-year probationary period, year-to-year contracts are provided until three years of satisfactory service are completed, after which time 3-year contracts are provided.
 W00t! (Yeesh.) 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey is out

Credit: C&EN, 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey
The 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey is out; it's a look at 2014 graduates, conducted in October and November of last year. Here's Linda Wang and Sophie Rovner's article on the issue and here's a link to the report itself (ACS membership required).

Some comments on the topline data: 
  • Unemployment of 2014 B.S. chemistry graduates was 12.4%, down from 14.9% in 2013. Good news. 
  • Full-time and part-employment of B.S. chemistry graduates was basically flat, with 38% with permanent, full-time positions  (37% in 2013) and 9% with part-time positions (same as 2013). 
  • Median starting salaries were up/flat for B.S. chemistry graduates to $40,000 (up from 2013's 39,600.) Median starting salaries were down for M.S. grads at $52,000 (down from $55,000 in 2013) and for Ph.D. graduates $62,000 (down from 2013's $75,800.) 
    • All salaries fell in measurement from 2005 constant dollars. 
  • Women were 52% of B.S. chemistry graduate respondents.
  • The pay gap between male and female respondents was pretty steep around 17%. 
What is noticeable to me is the relative drop in the number of students going to graduate or professional school, which reached a peak in 2009 and 2010 at 46% of students. It's 35% now, which I figure is within 2-5% of the Natural Rate of Progression to Graduate School.*  

Also, how is academia hiring in all of these B.S./M.S. chemistry graduates? Academia was the largest employer at 34% of B.S. chemists, 47% of M.S. chemists and 51% of Ph.D.s. While this is understandable for Ph.D. chemists, what about the non-Ph.D.s - are they research assistants?

Finally, as always with the Starting Salary Survey, the Eka-silicon caveat: the response rate for the 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey was 16.4%. This is quite low, which brings into question how representative the data is of all 2014 chemistry graduates. 

This survey was performed by Gareth Edwards of the ACS Department of Research & Market Insights; he is to be commended for his continued work on this survey. 

*I'm going to register NRPGS as a trademarked acronym, kinda like Friedman and NAIRU. 

Job posting: synthetic organic chemists, Columbus, Ohio

From the inbox, QuantaBiodesign, a manufacturer of discrete polyethylene glycol (dPEG®) derivatives in Plain City, Ohio (near Columbus):
We are looking for two candidates. One candidate will need a B.S. or M.S. degree in chemistry. The other candidate will need an M.S. or Ph.D. in chemistry. The work will involve lots of organic chemistry at scales ranging from milligrams to multi-kilograms, so the successful candidate needs to have demonstrably strong organic chemistry skills, and it would help to have strong process chemistry experience. Production schedules are usually tight, and priorities shift rather frequently, so the abilities to manage time effectively and to shift focus quickly from one project to another will be assets also.
The posting is here; information about the company can be found here, here and the product catalog for the company is here. Interested? E-mail an application to; please no phone calls. 

What is this letter saying?

Also in C&EN, this letter:
The DuPont-Trian controversy had far more substance than you reported in your editorial (C&EN, May 25, page 5). You should reexamine two premises: first, that R&D performance is measured by R&D spending, and second, that long-term performance is independent from short-term performance. 
Other venerable companies have had great R&D reputations but have been unable to adequately monetize R&D spending. Bell Labs, 3M, Merck & Co., and Pfizer come to mind. I think you recognize that DuPont’s migration to life sciences is a business activity where the DuPont know-how has been acquired rather than developed in-house at DuPont’s labs. DuPont has been on a long-term acquisition spree precisely because its labs haven’t delivered adequate results. 
Poorly performing companies always complain that investors focus on short-term results when the companies in question have performed poorly in the short term. These same companies have been challenged because they have not only per-formed poorly short term but also performed poorly long term. A company performing well long term is invariably performing well also in the short term. You can’t succeed in the long term without also succeeding in the short term. 
I praise Ellen Kullman for substantially improving DuPont’s long-term performance. Whether that success has been adequate remains a fair question. 
Tony Pavone
Half Moon Bay, Calif. 
I've spent nearly 30 minutes puzzling over it, and I still don't know what it means. Is it a critique of corporate internal R&D? 

This week's C&EN

A few articles from this week's C&EN:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A guest poem: "Low lies my natural product", by NeHeNTh

[Hello there, it's CJ, with a guest poem by a respected reader of the blog, NeHeNTh]

AH, broken is the NMR tube!
The miniscule sample contaminated forever!
Spilled on the benchtop! — not even half a milligram
When the grease in the proton is accounted for!
And let the notebook page be smudged —
With the tears of my frustration —
A dirge for the eighteen months of my life
That ever were so wasted!
And, compassionate advisor,
Hast thou no tear?
Weep now or nevermore!
See, on yon Kimwipe
And ethyl acetate-filled Erlenmeyer,
Low lies my natural product.

with apologies, one suspects, to Edgar Allan Poe. 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/26/15 edition

A few of this week's C&EN Jobs posting: 

Chicago, IL: AbbVie is looking for a Ph.D. with 0-5 years or M.S. with 8 years experience for an analytical chemistry position for work on API process development.

Chattanooga, TN: Chattem Chemicals is searching for a M.S. chemist for scale-up work; 0-2 years experience desired, with cGMP experience? Yeah, that's gonna happen. 

Watertown, MA: Enanta Pharmaceuticals is looking for a Ph.D. bioanalytical chemist. 

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: I see Saudi Aramco has posted 3 petroleum industry positions. 

"Silicon Valley, CA": DigiLens is a company searching for a development chemist who has "[d]irect, hands-on experience with organic materials including polymers or liquid crystals."

Ennis, TX: GAF is looking for an experienced chemist to work on PVC research; B.S. w/10 years, M.S. w/5 years or Ph.D. w/2 years experience desired.