Friday, June 24, 2016

Topic of the day: Brexit

I don't think I have anything intelligent to add to the discussion, not being a subject of the UK, nor a citizen of the EU. Thanks to C&EN's Alex Scott and his article on potential Brexit impacts (written before the referendum), I learned that the European Medicines Agency is in London 
For the U.K. pharmaceutical industry, a Brexit risks causing uncertainty and creating barriers to investment. “It’s vital the U.K. remains engaged in the EU to influence legislative and regulatory policy developments affecting the life sciences ecosystem,” says the BioIndustry Association, a U.K. industry organization. Ninety life sciences firms have stated publicly that the U.K. should stay in the EU. 
Additionally, if the U.K. votes to Brexit, two European pharmaceutical institutions currently based in London—the European Medicines Agency and a part of the EU’s planned unitary patent system—would have to relocate to an EU country.
I believe the EMA is basically the EU's version of the FDA. The German pharma sector calling for them to leave (and relocate to Berlin?) already.

I was also surprised to learn that good ol' Paul Hodges (Captain of the DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM team) was actually voting Remain. Huh.

I presume there are a raft of people who have Marie Curie Fellowships and the like, who may face some trouble? Readers, your thoughts? 

Charest v. Harvard settled

From the inbox, a press release from Dr. Mark Charest, a former graduate student with Professor Andy Myers at Harvard:
"Harvard University and I have settled our ongoing litigation regarding the allocation of royalties related to the license with Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals on mutually agreeable terms.  In light of my claims and goals in bringing this litigation, I am very pleased to accept terms I view as equitable.”
Full link to press release here and here. Background to the story here and here. 

Job posting: C4 Therapeutics, Cambridge, MA

Scientists/Senior Scientists:  Medicinal Chemistry 
C4 Therapeutics is seeking highly motivated and innovative medicinal chemists to contribute to the development of small molecule targeted therapeutics.  Ideal candidates will have in depth knowledge of chemical synthesis and a proven track record of advancing small molecules across stage gates from Hit ID through clinical candidate selection. 
Computational Chemists  
C4 Therapeutics is seeking highly motivated and innovative computational chemists to contribute to the conception and execution of innovative research projects that leverage chemistry, biology, structural biology, and computational science. 
Best wishes to those interested.  

Daily Pump Trap: 6/24/16 edition

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

Devens, MA: Johnson Matthey Fine Chemicals is looking for a manager for continuous processing; interesting (and heartening) that they're willing to look at all educational levels (even as I presume this is really about experience with the relevant technology.)

West Point, PA: Merck, looking for an experienced Ph.D. analytical chemist for a principal scientist to do small molecule formulation development.

Attleboro, MA: Sensata Technologies is looking for an experienced Ph.D. chemist to run their chemistry laboratory.

Charleston, TN: Wacker is looking for a senior quality manager for its polysilicon plant; seems important.

"Washington, D.C. or Chicago, IL": The American Institutes for Research are looking for scientists to write test questions, it appears.

Huh: This program officer position at the National Academies seems really interesting; I could imagine doing some good here.

Rolla, MO: Good ol' Brewer Science (are there any readers who have actually taken a position there?); looking for M.S./Ph.D. polymer chemists, it appears.

Another old friend: Clorox, doing its annual hiring push for research chemists. Pleasanton seems like a nice place. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ivory Filter Flask: 6/23/16 edition

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

San Francisco, CA: UCSF is looking for a tenure-track nuclear chemistry (PET-related) position.

Auburn, AL: Auburn, looking for a research assistant professor in quantum chemistry.

Philadelphia, PA: Temple University is looking for a non-tenure track organic chemistry laboratory coordinator.

Madison, WI: A biomedical engineering group is looking for two physical chemists to be postdoctoral fellows. Looks like it's going to be paying overtime, since the position is offering 43-45k.

Last Minute Lecturer: Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) is looking for a lecturer in chemistry. Start date: August 1, 2016. M.S./ABD acceptable. I hear Spokane is nice; arid climate?

Last Minute Lecturer #2: Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC) is searching for a one-year contract faculty position to teach general chemistry, to begin September 2016.

Never too early for next year: The Claremont Colleges (the "Keck Science Department") is looking for a tenure-track professor of bioanalytical chemistry to begin in June 2017. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A fellow fan of Paula Stephan, I see UPDATED BELOW


From the inbox, this paper ("De novo design of protein homo-oligomers with modular hydrogen-bond network–mediated specificity") has a very interesting set of references (scroll to the end) in its SI (which has been corrected a number of times, I see.)

UPDATE 22JUN16 4:38 PM: Science deputy editor Jake Yeston tweets it was a careless swapping of references by the production team at Science, not the authors. 

Wanted: scientists who risked their lives

In this week's C&EN, an article from ACS President Donna Nelson asking ACS members about the improving of the public perception of scientists. Here's her request:
...New ideas are needed for improving the public perception of scientists. What new solutions to this problem are possible? Past successes in engaging and influencing the public suggest employing television or movies to spotlight courageous acts of scientists working in their profession. 
A series of profiles of particularly courageous chemists, past or present, could constitute a 2017 ACS national meeting symposium. ACS members can contribute by sending nominations of scientists who risked their lives and careers in the course of their work to me at
I don't know if this is what President Nelson is looking for, but a favorite story of a chemist being clever in the face of danger is what George De Hevesy did in Copenhagen in 1940. From Wikipedia:
When Nazi Germany occupied Denmark from April 1940, during World War II, de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck with aqua regia; it was illegal at the time to send gold out of the country, and had it been discovered that Laue and Franck had done so to prevent them from being stolen, they could have faced prosecution in Germany. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. After the war, he returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The Nobel Society then recast the Nobel Prizes using the original gold. 
Would that I could be as quick with my mind as De Hevesy was - seems to me this little episode would make for a great caper film.

Faster, scientists, do it, do it!

Also in this week's C&EN, an article by Alex Scott on the latest moves from BASF:
“The company needs to adapt its established approaches to changing conditions,” Martin Bruderm├╝ller, BASF’s board member responsible for technology, told journalists at a briefing in Ludwigshafen, Germany. “Our research commitment will not increase at the same rate as before, but our commitment to R&D will not go down.” 
One of the ways BASF intends to generate more without increasing spending is by conducting R&D faster. The firm plans to achieve this by, among other things, working more closely with academia and doing away with some lab experiments by first predicting outcomes with the use of computational chemistry. 
“In the future, we will need more computational chemists than lab technicians,” Bruderm├╝ller said. 
But BASF is also putting systems in place to ensure that creativity is not sacrificed in the drive for efficiency. For example, the firm recently started encouraging scientists within its central R&D organization to spend 20% of their time working on their own ideas, rather than solving problems for BASF’s businesses. 
“We call these ‘just do it’ projects,” said Bernhard von Vacano, senior research manager for material physics. Such projects might run for just a few weeks. But they are taken seriously, said von Vacano, who heads a team of materials scientists in a new R&D building in Ludwigshafen. 
In line with previously announced plans, BASF will maintain R&D personnel at its Ludwigshafen headquarters at the current level of about 4,900. Any increase in BASF’s worldwide R&D staff—which numbers about 10,000—will be in Asia.
If you clear away all the corporate speak, it is appears that BASF is doing the following:
  • Not hiring any more R&D staff anywhere other than Asia. 
  • Working with academia more 
  • Performing more computational chemistry
  • Allowing current R&D scientists time for blue-sky projects
An interesting set of moves - will be interesting to see how this reflects on R&D chemist hiring by BASF in the US. 

This week's C&EN

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The weirdest thing you will see today

1. I'm not dead.
2. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry about this advanced flask scraper from ChemGlass. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weekend mediumreads: the chemistry of recording

Also in this week's C&EN, I have been remiss in not mentioning a really great article by Matt Davenport about the chemistry of recording, starting with Thomas Edison (a boyhood hero of mine) and wax cylinders, going forward to modern vinyl records:
Using these documents, Monroe is tracking how Aylsworth and his colleagues developed waxes and gaining a better understanding of the decisions behind the materials’ chemical design. For instance, in an early experiment, Aylsworth made a soap using sodium hydroxide and industrial stearic acid. At the time, industrial-grade stearic acid was a roughly 1:1 mixture of stearic acid and palmitic acid, two fatty acids that differ by two carbon atoms. 
That early soap was “almost perfection,” Aylsworth remarked in his notebook. But after a few days, the surface showed signs of crystallization and records made with it started sounding scratchy. So Aylsworth added aluminum to the mix and found the right combination of “the good, the bad, and the necessary” features of all the ingredients, Monroe explains. 
The mix of stearic acid and palmitic is soft, but too much of it makes for a weak wax. Adding sodium stearate adds some toughness, but it’s also responsible for the crystallization problem. The aluminum stearate prevents the sodium stearate from crystallizing while also adding some extra toughness. 
It would be interesting to take a look at the notes of early chemical formulators like Aylsworth to see how much chemical intuition/understanding they had, and how much was sheer trial-and-error. 

Burning magnesium = bright white

Tough day at the office for those LA firefighters. 

All median Ph.D. scientist salaries are trending lower from 2010 to 2013?

Credit: Wall Street Journal
In a Wall Street Journal article about Ph.D. job prospects*, an interesting graphic, courtesy of NSF data and a Boston University professor:
Shulamit Kahn, a labor economist at Boston University, said that among foreigners who earn Ph.D.s at U.S. institutions—about one-third of total recipients—about 60% remain in America. A jump in the number of American women earning doctorates has also been a game-changer, she said. 
“Women were encouraged to become scientists, which is great, but the jobs haven’t kept up,” said Ms. Kahn. 
Ph.D.s still earn a significant premium over others in the labor market and their overall rate of unemployment remains low, though a growing number are taking jobs that don’t use their education. At the same time, their median incomes have been falling. Computer scientists earned $121,300 in 2013, down from $129,839 in 2008; engineers saw a drop to $120,000 from $125,511 and social scientists fell to $85,000 from $90,887.
I presume this is data from the Survey of Doctoral Recipients, but I am not sure. I am surprised that Professor Kahn was able to get breakouts for math/physics data (I guess the chemists got lost?) Still, it doesn't seem to be good news that median salaries for Ph.D. scientists have been trending lower against inflation.

*Can't get past the paywall? Google search "Job-Seeking Ph.D. Holders Look to Life Outside School."

Friday, June 17, 2016

Back tomorrow, I hope

A tough week for posting on the blog, for which I am sad. Better luck tomorrow, or next week. 

Job posting: senior analytical chemist, Denver, CO

From the inbox: 
Senior Scientist: Functional Foods Chemist 
Location: Denver, CO 
We are seeking a hands-on analytical chemist experienced in quantitative and qualitative analysis of botanical extracts, dietary supplement ingredients, and foods. This position will play a key role in the production and analysis of functional foods infused with cannabis and other botanicals and nutraceuticals. 
This scientist shall add value by continually evaluating our manufacturing operations with the goal of implementing new and improved processes and bringing new products to the market. The ideal candidate will have at least three years of applicable cannabis, food, or pharmaceutical experience with a focus on ensuring product quality, safety, and satisfaction. Must possess high attention to detail, strong organization skills, and excellent communication.  Will operate in a safe, detailed, and accurate manner. He/she will need to operate in a startup environment and be flexible to take on new and added responsibilities per the business’ growth needs.
LC/MS experience, B.S. in chemistry desired. Full ad here. Best wishes to those interested.   

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Call me naive...

The news of insider trading always stumps me. From STAT's Ed Silverman:
Last Aug. 17, Jason Chan started his job as a director of biostatistics at a small biotech called Akebia Therapeutics. Just two days later, he began buying Akebia stock based on information he learned about study results for a key drug while attending meetings. 
Within days, his wife and a friend to whom he owed money also began buying shares. 
The US Department of Justice charged Chan on Tuesday with securities fraud. And the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against Chan alleging insider trading and wants him to return $68,000 in illegal profits as part of a scheme that netted his wife $115,000 and the friend another $105,000, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in federal court in Boston.
Maybe I am completely naive and fooled and the SEC can barely catch all the people who are insider trading, but it sure seems like a whole lot of people get caught doing that. What are they thinking?!?! 

Daily Pump Trap: 6/16/2016 edition

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

Riddle me this: Why has Cyalume Technologies (West Springfield, MA) been looking for a research chemist for ~3-4 years now? As I have thought this entire time, the job looks interesting for somebody? 

Wenatchee, WA: AgroFresh (late of Dow, yes?) is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist.

North Charleston, SC: Ingevity (used to be MeadWestvaco, looks like) is looking for an experienced analytical chemist. 

Cary, NC (?): The National Council for Air and Stream Improvement is a forest products trade organization; they're looking for a principal scientist to track "emerging health effects, epidemiology, and exposure assessment studies for substances relevant to the forest products industry, including fine particulate matter, ozone, metals, and other substances regulated in air, water, and soils." Bet you'll be popular.

Tarrytown, NY: ARMGO Pharma is looking for a M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist.

Laurel, MD: FDA is searching for a research chemist; you'll be "experience[d] conducting research in analytical chemistry method development and validation for use in pharmacokinetic/toxicokinetic studies and developing analytical methods utilizing mass spectrometry, high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and gas chromatography." Looks like a 2-year position, with possible extensions? Pay is decent-ish? at 92,145.00 - 119,794.00.

And the waitress is practicing politics: I don't know why I think of "Piano Man" when I see a PharmAgra Labs ad at C&EN Jobs, but I do.