Friday, April 28, 2017

Yellow Post-it notes

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.

Ask CJ: What should a new employee do about layoffs?

From the inbox, a question about what new graduates should do about layoffs, especially when they fall within a year or two of your hire date?

First, there's not much you can do about it - you can prepare your resume, you can work on your resume and your research summary. You can try to find people to act as your references, and start networking and brushing up your LinkedIn profile.

Other than that, I can't think of anything that you can do. The ax is gonna fall (or not), and there's not a lot that you can do to control that. Readers, any advice? I'd like to hear from people who have been through layoffs, especially those for whom the layoffs came early in their time at the relevant company. 

An interesting prediction from Bruce Booth

I thought this prediction was interesting in this Bruce Booth post on CADD and how we're not quite there yet:
...Laboratory science may have gone increasingly virtual – as in distributed remotely – but it’s not yet fully automated for robots and AI just yet. Maybe work at firms like Transcriptic and Emerald Cloud Labs will change that over time, but it’s not likely broadly applicable in the near term. 
I’m guessing my kids (13, 12, and 9 years old) will still be able to find a career with a lab coat if they wanted, but maybe my grandkids won’t. You can be sure the future scientists of my kids’ age will need to appreciate how to apply the best CADD approaches if they are to be discovering the drugs of the future.
I'll make a similar prediction: when the children of today can have a job in the lab (i.e. ~10-15 years from now), the median chemist will be making not much more than they are today, i.e. the median chemist's income will not have climbed significantly against inflation.

Here's hoping I'm wrong, but I don't think so. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 94 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 94 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! (soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Interesting table of H1b use for chemists

Credit: C&EN
Also in this week's C&EN, an interesting idea by Andrea Widener to use myvisajobs to look for H1b visa holders for "chemist" positions. I think there is a little bit of a problem here, in that some positions don't use the title "chemist", i.e. Pfizer calls entry-level Ph.D. positions "senior scientists."

I suspect that an enterprising person could put together a pretty strong database of all the positions in the country that use H1b visa holders for chemists this way.

UPDATE: Also, I thought it was interesting that Amneal, Novel, and Ascent seem to be generics firms. (That Ascent salary! (fans self))

Daily Pump Trap: 4/27/17 edition

A few of the recent posts at C&EN Jobs:

St. Louis, MO: This Monsanto program for new Ph.D. chemists looks interesting (reminds me of the Esprit program for GSK.)

Branford, CT: Never heard of FreeThink Technologies before, but they are looking for a Ph.D. chemist.

Birmingham, AL: BioCryst is looking for a B.S. chemist with extensive experience for a position as "Manager of Analytical Development and Quality Control."

Rise of the Machines?: Interesting to see that LLNL is hiring a postdoc to work on "machine learning modeling of corrosion on actinide metal and metal-oxide surfaces."

Las Vegas, NV: I feel like we've seen this ad for a laboratory director for a cannabis lab before...

Parsippany, NJ: TetraTech is searching for an environmental chemist oriented towards DoD hazardous waste - bet that's an interesting one.

Hattiesburg, MS: Superior Polymers, searching for a B.S./M.S. process engineer.

Washington, DC: A little magazine is searching for a biotech reporter.

Ivory Filter Flask: 4/27/17 edition

A few of the recent academic postings at C&EN Jobs:

Alma, MI: Alma College, looking for a visiting assistant professor of general/organic chemistry.

Ames, IA: Iowa State, searching for a general/organic lecturer.

Birmingham, AL: University of Alabama-Birmingham, hiring an organic teaching postdoc.

Boston, MA:  Boston University, searching for a lecturer with a background in organic/bio-organic chemistry.

Bowling Green, OH: ...and BGSU, looking for a lecturer.

Manchester, NH:  ...and Saint Anselm, hiring "1-year faculty position OR adjunct(s)." 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The cruel rituals of layoffs

In Science magazine, a sad essay about the perfunctory ways that layoffs are announced by Regina L. Ruben: 
...My introduction to this new type of tissue culture came after 19 years in a job I loved at a small pharmaceutical company (although in this first case no one actually offered me any tissues). Having been at the company for such a long time, I felt I had some job security. But I found out how wrong I was when the company was sold. Part of me understood that losing my job this way was “just business,” but I still felt a deep professional and personal loss. Nevertheless, I determinedly set out to find a new job, where I hoped I would have an equally long and satisfying tenure.  
I landed a job that I was excited about, a director position at a large pharmaceutical company. I genuinely enjoyed it and was looking forward to my future at the company. But, late one afternoon, about 2 years after I had started, the medical director and human resources (HR) representative escorted me to the HR office. The walk, in silence, felt funereal. When we arrived, the HR rep pushed a box of tissues across the desk in my direction. I knew this was going to be bad. She explained that my position was being eliminated in a reorganization....
There is a funny aspect to grief, emotion and the American workplace. The HR people don't really want you to use the tissues - they don't want you to start crying there, nor do they want you to scream aloud. Rather, the tissues (just like the whole [redacted] ritual) are saying "We are pretending to care about your feelings, even as we are cutting you off from your living and our community of fellow workers."

(NB I don't know what the right way to do layoffs is - I've heard lots of different stories and they have all seemed rather humiliating, some more than others.) 

Warning Letter of the Week: integration inhibition edition

A friendly missive from the Center for Drug Research and Evaluation to the Director and President of Operations of Divi’s Laboratories Ltd. (Unit II): 
1.      Failure to ensure that test procedures are scientifically sound and appropriate to ensure that your API conform to established standards of quality and/or purity.
Our investigators observed that the software you use to conduct high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analyses of API for unknown impurities is configured to permit extensive use of the “inhibit integration” function without scientific justification.  For example, our investigator reviewed the integration parameters you used for HPLC identification of impurities in release testing for [redacted]. These parameters demonstrated that your software was set to inhibit peak integration at four different time periods throughout the analysis. Similarly, in the impurities release testing you performed for [redacted], your HPLC parameters were set to inhibit integration at four different time periods throughout the analysis.

Inhibiting integration at various points during release testing for commercial batches is not scientifically justified. It can mask identification and quantitation of impurities in your API, which may result in releasing API that do not conform to specifications.
I didn't know you could do that - the things you learn.... 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 590 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 590 positions.

Seeing as how we have seemed to hit an overall plateau, I will be ending the regular updates for the 2017 list, with the final one being published on the morning of May 2, 2017.

I plan the new list to begin on or around July 1, 2017, with all future discussions happening on the Chemistry Faculty Jobs List webforum.

The usual stuff: 

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.

Do you see anything that needs correcting? Please leave a comment in the open thread, or e-mail me at

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 about 7 times does it load the latest comments.

A link to See Arr Oh's Chemistry Bumper Cars 2017 edition.

Faculty position: chemical engineering, Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, ON

From the inbox, a somewhat unusual position: 
The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada is currently seeking candidates for two Faculty Engineering positions.
...Suitable candidates should have a minimum ability to function in both French and English and should submit the required documentation by close of business on May 12th. 
I regret that I did not know much about the Royal Military College of Canada, but now I know a little more!

Full position here. Best wishes to those interested.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

What happened to all the sparteine?, 2017 edition

Also in this week's C&EN, a really fun and informative article by Stephen K. Ritter on the aftermath of the Great Sparteine Shortage of 2010. It sounds like TCI America has taken this problem on: 
A few clues in the case of the missing (–)-sparteine did turn up during C&EN’s investigation. The compound has been found in two places: U.S.-based chemical suppliers Sigma-Aldrich and TCI America report having small quantities available. Sigma-Aldrich sales representatives say they have no idea what is happening with the (–)-sparteine supply chain and can’t disclose its source. The company lists (–)-sparteine from $50 per 0.5 g and up, depending on the grade and amount. 
At TCI, R&D Manager Sriramurthy Vardhineedi has a bit more to share. In 2011, when TCI recognized the shortage, the company developed a proprietary procedure to produce kilogram quantities of high-purity (–)-sparteine as needed, Vardhineedi says. TCI is possibly the world’s only current commercial producer, he notes. (–)-Sparteine remains in high demand, Vardhineedi adds, but he points out it is expensive. TCI offers the compound at $98 per gram and up, depending on the amount. 
As to what happened to the supply after 2010? “We are guessing that some company decided to stop making this valuable chiral alkaloid without realizing they were the sole supplier,” Vardhineedi says.
I would really like to know what caused the shortage - and here's hoping that we don't have to wait another 7 years to find the answer! 

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

View From Your Hood: Lac Leman edition

From chemTwitter denizen Suzanne Jansze:

"I have been working at the EPFL in Switzerland for the past two years and have a nice view on the Alps and Lac Leman (better known as lake Geneva)."

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

This "Drug Discovery Game" looks fun

From the inbox, an interesting idea: 
The Drug Discovery Game is an engaging, fun, interactive demonstration that serves as a springboard to a discussion of the methods used in medicinal chemistry.  Students (playing the role of medicinal chemists) are given seed capital money and challenged to invent a small molecule pharmaceutical starting with a central molecular scaffold and molecular fragments.  The demonstrator/teacher (playing the role of a biologist running an assay) provides logical feedback after each student’s attempt that guides the student toward the solution.  The game simulates portions of the workflow of medicinal chemistry research and launches discussions of such topics as the methods of modern drug invention, the cost of pharmaceuticals, molecular structure and design, and structure-activity relationships. 
This website contains all that is required to play the game including a “how-to-play” video, instructions for set-up, rules, freely downloadable pieces for various puzzles, and some ideas for education discussion points.  The game has been employed as an educational outreach activity for upper elementary, middle, and high school students during “Take Your Child to Work Day” at a biotechnology company and utilized during introductory lessons in organic and medicinal chemistry on an undergraduate level...
Sounds like a great idea and a wonderful way to talk about drug discovery in an interactive way with kids (probably older ones?)

(On a side note, Take Your Child to Work Day is next Wednesday, April 27. My company doesn't do this sort of thing - what are folks' experiences with this on at your organizations? What works well, what doesn't?) 

Derek Lowe on the geography of medicinal chemistry jobs

Via his Reddit AMA, a relevant question answered by Derek Lowe:
u/organiker: Any tips on landing a med chem job these days for someone with a PhD + postdoc experience? 
Also, what's the typical career progression for someone ending up in a chief science officer/division head/head of chemistry type role? 
Derek Lowe: It's not easy out there, but it can be done. Your odds are probably better with smaller companies, and there are two ways to play that. One is to head to where the smaller companies (and many of the bigger ones) are, that is, Boston/Cambridge or the SF Bay area. That's not a bad idea, but another strategy might be to try outfits that aren't in such a rich labor environment and would be happier to get you. The downside of that is, when the small company wipes out, as many do, you're left without as many options. That factor alone is a big reason for the popularity of the big clusters. 
I don't know if there's a typical progression, as to the second question. A lot of larger companies have two tracks (managerial and scientific), so if you want one of those jobs, you'll want to be on the first one. I never inclined that way, so I may not be a good person to ask!
It will be really interesting to see when (if ever) Peak SSF or Peak Kendall Square will come, if ever. I suspect it will take some sort of bizarre event to change this trend, but maybe I'm wrong. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 94 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 94 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! (sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Daily Pump Trap: 4/20/17 edition

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

Richmond, VA: Evonik, looking for a Ph.D. pesticide chemist.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia:  Saudi Aramco, hiring a process safety engineer.

Looking for editors: Nature Electronics, looking for an associate or senior editor. Also, Nature Catalysis. (That 62k salary isn't right, right?)

A broader look:  A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and show (respectively) "1000+", 426, 9,644 and 15 positions for the search term "chemist."

LinkedIn shows 3,429 positions for the search term "chemist" and 20,518 for the search term "chemistry." Job titles from LinkedIn - first with quotes, and the second without: Polymer Chemist: 11/714. Analytical chemist: 234/302. Research chemist: 46/58. Synthetic chemist: 18/690. Medicinal chemist: 19/50. Organic chemist: 37/77. Process chemist: 32/72. Process development chemist: 10/12. Formulation chemist: 54/64.