Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I want to wait a respectful amount of time before I comment on it, but I do want to express my profound sadness that there have been layoffs at C&EN. Best wishes to those affected. 

Daily Pump Trap: 7/29/15 edition

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

Albany, NY (among others): I see that AMRI is hiring, with 7 positions posted. (AMRI still has a facility in Buffalo? Or was it the Syracuse one that was closed?) 

Tewksbury, MA: Cambridge Isotopes is looking for an experienced Ph.D. synthetic organic chemist. Also, a group leader. 

Boston, MA: Kala Pharmaceuticals is looking for an experienced process chemist for crystallization development. ("API nanocrystals"? That's a new one.)  

Stamford, CT: Cytec Industries posted 3 positions, including an organic chemist position (experience with phosphorus and sulfur chemistry desired.)

Sunrise, FL: Partikula is looking for, well, you: 
You are a highly motivated scientist with a strong organic and/or metallic polymer chemistry background. You will become an integral member of a top-caliber team focused on the discovery and development of novel anti-cancer therapies based on cancer metabolism and apoptosis, branching out to other diseases over time.
Best wishes, you. (All of you.) 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ivory Filter Flask: 7/28/15 edition

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

Looks like the academic season is heating up...

Sherman, TX: Austin College is looking for an experimental physical chemist.

Jupiter, FL: Scripps Florida looking for 2 professors ("all areas of organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, natural products chemistry, or chemical biology.")

Spokane, WA: Whitworth University is looking for an interdisciplinary chemistry professor:
An interdisciplinary chemist is preferred (such as materials, computational, environmental, bioorganic, or biophysical chemistry) but other areas of expertise considered. 

Manhattan, KS: Kansas State is looking for a professor of chemical engineering at all levels.

Portland, OR: Reed College is looking for an assistant professor of inorganic chemistry. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Letter to the editor: who to believe on Alzheimer's?

Also in this week's C&EN, an interesting letter on Alzheimer's: 
“Alzheimer’s Next Chapter” by Lisa Jarvis highlights the lack of consensus regarding the primary mechanism of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (C&EN, June 1, page 11). This is a significant problem because understanding the causal mechanism of a disease process provides a rational platform for drug development. 
Unfortunately, the Alzheimer’s field is dominated by two exclusive ideological factions—tauists and βaptists. In our opinion, this situation has impaired the search for effective pharmacotherapies. The myopic focus on the amyloid-β plaques and neurofibrillary tangles is dangerous and frankly unwarranted, since the presence of protein anomalies does not necessarily indicate pathogenic significance. 
In this regard, it is noteworthy that some evidence suggests that the tangles and plaques are of secondary pathophysiological importance. Regardless, the failure to adequately consider alternative mechanisms can prematurely narrow the field of hypothesis testing. 
Initial studies in the field of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathogenesis identified nerve terminal dysfunction and defective mitochondrial bioenergetics coupled to oxidative stress as early consequences of Alzheimer’s. Whereas some might consider these to be outdated parameters, the resulting changes in central nervous system neurotransmission represent a plausible basis for the cognitive deficits that characterize the disease. 
Based on the probable complexity of Alzheimer’s neuropathogenesis, it is clear that the molecular process of Alzheimer’s disease neurodegeneration is highly complex and, as Genentech’s Carole Ho points out, the most effective approach will likely involve combination therapy. 
Richard M. LoPachin
Bronx, N.Y. 
Terrence Gavin
New Rochelle, N.Y.
I don't understand Alzheimer's biology well enough to have an opinion on this letter, other than to say that I wish that C&EN would offer some sort of third-party explanation to go along with these letters. I guess the problem with my desire is that someone with enough Alzheimer's biology experience to have an informed opinion is going to be either a "tauist or a βaptist."

There's this strange aspect of the letters to the editor at C&EN to act as an outpost of Medical Hypotheses. It's both interesting (always makes for great reading) and question inducing, but still I feel it needs more context from a trusted source.

UPDATE: A respected reader writes in to ask which letters to C&EN I am referring to. Here are a few:
All of these are really interesting, but (as I have said) it'd be great to get some sort of expert opinion to accompany them. Overthinking it, I'm sure. 

This week's C&EN

A few of the stories from this week's issue:

Friday, July 24, 2015

The best #chemjobs paragraph I read today: Ray Freeman and Gareth Morris on Varian

From the inbox, an incredible piece by Professor Ray Freeman and Professor Gareth Morris on the history of Varian, the company, and Varian NMR technology. This paragraph is tremendous (formatting, emphasis mine):
...It is left to the reader to judge the reasons behind the decision to shut down the Varian NMR operation in this ruthless manner; it is perhaps too soon to reach any meaningful verdict. Future MBA student projects will doubtless examine how it was possible to pay an immense cash sum to acquire another company, and then close it down after just four short years. The wider science community will deplore the massive and irreplaceable loss of personnel and expertise in the key areas of chemistry, structural biology and clinical imaging. Here the most widespread reaction will be incomprehension.  
There remains an acute sense of loss, resentment, and even betrayal, not least at the lay-off of hundreds of former employees, many of whom were popular and respected members of the NMR family. Scientists in general will mourn the disappearance of an enterprise that contributed so much to research, that worked so hard to popularize NMR in chemistry, that greatly extended the scope and performance of spectrometers, that enabled users to devise a rich field of new pulse programs, and that bequeathed a valuable legacy for future instrument development. Colleagues in other branches of science will feel a chill wind: if a management misjudgment can lead to such a sudden and irreparable loss of personnel and expertise in a field so central to progress in so many areas, we are all losers...
 Read the whole thing.

A classic case of IP theft at a bakery

From my midnight wanderings, a story of master batch record theft in March in the New York Times
...“It creates its own frenzy,” said Rebecca Flint Marx, editor of San Francisco Magazine’s food section, who noted that not only are cruffins a cult item — and at $4.50, relatively affordable — but they are also camera-ready, as photos on Instagram attest. Fillings include caramel, strawberry milkshake or Fluffernutter cream (among other flavors), depending on Mr. Stephen’s mood. 
Now, the tempting sweet may have inspired a crime. Overnight last week, a thief stole the recipe for cruffins, and Mr. Stephen’s 230 other recipes, from binders in the bakery’s kitchen. Nothing else in the store was touched: not money, valuable baking equipment, an iPad or other computers. And while Mr. Stephen has copies of the recipes on his office computer, and the store opened almost on time the next morning, he was understandably upset.... 
...The recipe theft was noticed at 3 a.m. on Feb. 27, when Sarah Auger, a pastry maker from Vermont who came here to join the food movement, reported to work and saw that the front door to the store was unlocked. A co-worker opened one of the kitchen’s black binders looking for the recipe for cardamom apple scones, but it was empty. The two searched the four other recipe binders, and all their pages were missing, too. At 3:15 a.m., Ms. Auger texted Mr. Stephen, who was sleeping: “Hey, sorry to bother you, but do you have recipes? None of them are in the binders, and we need the scone recipe.” 
Mr. Stephen woke up, read the text and rushed to the bakery. “I’d locked the door the night before, that’s for sure,” he recalled. Once in his shop, he reached for the binders. “I could feel they were empty,” he said...
What is interesting is that very few people believe that a competitor was the thief - so who was it?

In my time in the chemical manufacturing industry, I've yet to see classic IP theft of this sort, i.e. stolen lab notebooks. There are, of course, cases where the copies of the maps leave the boat in people's heads or their flash drives, but that's a different matter.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

7 solutions to the high cost of physician services

Apropos of comments from oncologists about high cancer drug prices*, here are my seven solutions to the problem of high physician service prices: 
  1. Create an independent federal agency that requires submission of all new medical procedures and proposes a fair price. 
  2. Further cut Medicare prices for physician services. 
  3. Focus the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, created by the PPACA, to evaluate the benefits new medical services provide for the money.
  4. Allow people to import cheaper doctors from Canada or Mexico for personal use. Force them to live on Canadian or Mexican wages while working in the United States. 
  5. Passing new laws to make it easier for nurses, nurse practitioners, general contractors and other allied medical personnel (or just plain interested amateurs) to perform medical procedures. 
  6. Make it more difficult for physicians to find other sources of income, such as supplements, ancillary services or daytime television talk shows. 
  7. Encouraging organizations like the American Chemical Society to protest high physician wages. 
(Note: this is satire. I do not actually support any of the above. I think protests like these are something that pharmaceutical companies will have to live with as long as they decide to price debatably lifesaving treatments at stonkeringly high numbers. I am merely irritated, because I see this as a PR move on the part of physicians. I don't see them advocating for a cut in their wages** to help out patients, but they sure don't mind trying to cut mine.)

*Here's a good and serious Matt Herper piece on it. I want to think about his piece more. 
** The median oncologist made about $290,000.

Just to send it on down the line: is being a chemist meaningful?

From Jordan Weissman at Slate, an interesting survey from PayScale, asking if chemists find "high" meaning in their work. A bare majority, apparently.

I confess that I do find meaning in my work - it allows me to help feed my family and I help make tangible products that do good in the world. I enjoy the day-to-day aspects of it, which helps. Maybe I have a low threshold for "meaningful", but I confess that I attempt to find contentment in my work (and outside my work, for that matter - this blog helps.)

Readers, do you find your work as a chemist meaningful?

(It is interesting that PayScale's median annual pay for a chemist of 53k is well below the BLS number (73k) and the 2013 ACS numbers (lowest at 74k for B.S.-level ACS members.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Job posting: B.S./M.S. protein chemist, Woburn, MA

From the inbox: 
PNA Innovations is looking for a B.S./M.S. organic chemist with experience in peptide chemistry. Position is in the Boston area and there is no relocation. Qualified candidates please send your resume to Full job description can be found at the link below.
Best wishes to those interested.  

The path for one (potential) government policymaker

Kristen Kulinowski was nominated by President Obama to be one of the five board members of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board recently. She appeared before the Senate recently for a confirmation hearing (transcript at the bottom) and I thought her biographical information in her testimony was an interesting look into what it takes to become a government official:
While my portfolio in my current job has been broad, first and foremost, I am a chemist. I hold a BS in chemistry with Honors from Canisius College and MS and PhD degrees in chemistry from the University of Rochester. After earning my doctorate, I held faculty appointments at Cal Poly and Rice University before coming to Washington, D.C. in September 2001 as a Congressional Science and Technology Policy Fellow. 
As Senator Markey mentioned, on 9/11 my fellowship cohort was in orientation when word came about the attacks on our Country. Later that day, I went to the Pentagon as a volunteer with the American Red Cross to serve emergency workers responding to the attack. 
This experience shaped my decision to accept a fellowship placement in then Congressman Markey’s office where I staffed the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation. My time on Mr. Markey’s staff gave me insight into the impact that a bipartisan policy process can have when people work together to achieve a common goal. 
After my fellowship, I returned to Rice University to join the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, where I served as Executive Director. My research focused on the environmental, health, and safety implications of engineered nanomaterials. This part of my background is particularly relevant to the activities of the Chemical Safety Board because it is where I earned my experience with worker health and safety.
It seems to me that, for a lot of chemists, these policy fellowships are the first step in getting involved in government policy careers.

You also may enjoy a comment during Dr. Kulinowski's confirmation hearing from one of the senators that was present (emphasis mine):
Dr. Kulinowski, thank you for your willingness to serve. At some point, I would love to visit with you about nanotechnology and how the periodic table does not work, those very small extremes, the potential there and the challenges. 
Again, thank you very much for being here.
I get Senator Boozman's point ("the physical properties of nanomaterials are unique or unusual"), but it came out a little funny.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daily Pump Trap: 7/21/15 edition

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

Cleveland, OH: Lubrizol is looking for 2 Ph.D. research chemists; paying $90,000-$100,000. Not bad for Ohio, one suspects.

Ewing, NJ: Tyger Scientific looking for an experienced synthetic organic chemist. Glassdoor review: "The pay is just so-so, and the work isn't easy." Yes!

South San Francisco, CA: Three positions posted by Genentech recently.

Gilead: A raft of positions, mostly process, both in Foster City and Edmonton.

Also: JEOL (the NMR company) posting 3 sales/field service positions.

That's a funny job: This "Tim" sure sounds like Uncle Sam (and not our beloved commenter):
Chemical Operations Specialist, you'll be there and prepared whenever a community is flooded, an earthquake shakes the foundations of a city, a hurricane makes landfall, or an enemy uses biological or chemical warfare. You will know what to do to evacuate the area, control the situation, and solve the problem.
 "You know what to do" sounds vaguely like Starship Troopers, incidentally.

Seattle, WA: Can someone tell me what this MarqMetrix position has to do with chemistry? 

Ivory Filter Flask: 7/21/15 edition

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

Bakersfield, CA: CSU-Bakersfield is looking for a tenure-track assistant professor of organic chemistry for fall 2016.

Storrs, CT: B.S. chemist technician position available at the University of Connecticut.

Orangeburg, SC: Want to be a chair of a chemistry department? Claflin University is looking for one.

Galway, Ireland: NUI Galway is looking for a "lecturer (below the bar)" in inorganic chemistry. Salary appears to be €36,230 ($39635) to €51,104 ($55907). Huh, that's not much (maybe the cost of living is low in Galway?)

Tuscaloosa, AL: Postdoctoral position in organometallic chemistry, towards "transition metal catalysis and in the area of ruthenium anticancer compounds."

Thoughts on getting a (federal) government position?

From the comments, a good request from "Postdoc":
[C]an you or someone else with inside knowledge put together a guide for how to get through government job applications? If anybody has ever found a job through USAJobs, you know how onerous and painful the application process is. You have to register for a new account for like 3 different sites before you even get to the application for some of them! And everything I've read says they're intensely specific, so one mistake and your app gets tossed.
Here's the last time we talked about this issue, over two years ago. I thought this comment, this comment and this one were good.

Readers, your thoughts on USAjobs and applying for state and municipal positions in general?