Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Meeting a chemist in retirement

Roche has some really lovely looking awards.
Credit: Caitlin O'Hara for The New York Times
In the middle of last week, a story of Dr. Armin Walser, a former Roche medicinal chemist in the New York Times about how one of his inventions has been made into an execution drug. (Dr. Walser is dismayed at this turn of events.)

He does, however, still like talking chemistry and seems to be enjoying his retirement in Arizona.

Best wishes to him, and here's hoping we'll all make it there.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 581 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 581 positions.

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 chemjobber@gmail.com

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 web forum! Because the open thread has gotten more unwieldy, I have opened up this web forum ("Chemistry Faculty Jobs List"). Feel free to join/post!

Finally, a link to See Arr Oh's Chemistry Bumper Cars 2017 edition. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

I'm sure everyone has already seen this, but...

Derek Lowe is on the employment market, apparently. 

A battery controversy that I have no expertise to comment upon

Via random clicking on Twitter, this article on Quartz by Steve LeVine about the latest from John Goodenough is very interesting:
Researchers have struggled for decades to safely use powerful—but flammable—lithium metal in a battery. Now John Goodenough, the 94-year-old father of the lithium-ion battery, is claiming a novel solution as a blockbuster advance. 
If it proves out, the invention could allow electric cars to compete with conventional vehicles on sticker price. The improbable solution, described in a new paper from Goodenough and three co-authors, has drawn intense interest from leading science and technology publications. He estimates that the solution could store five to ten times as much energy as current standard lithium-ion batteries. That’s enough to have Google’s Eric Schmidt tweeting about it. 
However, other leading battery researchers are skeptical, even mystified, by Goodenough’s claim. For his invention to work as described, they say, it would probably have to abandon the laws of thermodynamics, which say perpetual motion is not possible. The law has been a fundamental of batteries for more than a century and a half. 
...Hence the excitement over the new paper by Goodenough and his team published in Energy and Environmental Science. A Feb. 28 release from the University of Texas reported they had figured out how to incorporate an electrode—an anode—made of pure lithium or sodium metal, which because of their potential energy has been a top goal for decades. A key is the use of glass as the electrolyte, the substance that connects a battery’s two electrodes and facilitates the shuttling of ions to create electricity.... 
But Goodenough’s battery has pure metallic lithium or sodium on both sides. Therefore, the voltage should be zero, with no energy produced, battery researchers told Quartz.
Goodenough reports energy densities multiple times that of current lithium-ion batteries. Where does the energy come from, if not the electrode reactions? That goes unexplained in the paper.
Here's a long Medium post by Princeton's Dan Steingart, outlining his objections - it's worth a perusal. It will be fascinating to see if anyone can reproduce this.

(From a media criticism perspective, the amount of excitement in the popular press is amusing, especially in contrast with the quizzical nature of the responses in the Quartz article. Also, an open letter to give Goodenough the Nobel Prize, which seems pretty reasonable, current controversy aside.) 

Exploding mass spec pumps seems bad

The TV 801 turbo pump, which may fail and eject fragments.
Credit: Sciex/C&EN
Also in this week's C&EN, an unusual story by Marc S. Reisch:
Scientific instrument maker Sciex has told owners of more than 2,000 mass spectrometers to immediately shut down the instruments because a catastrophic failure of turbo pumps manufactured by Agilent Technologies could “result in serious injury or death.” To date, Sciex says, no one has been injured. 
According to a safety notice dated March 13 for owners of API 4000, API 4000 Qtrap, and API 5000 model mass spectrometers, the rotors of the TV 801 turbo pump can suddenly fragment and be ejected at high speeds. The pumps are used to create a high negative pressure in the instrument’s vacuum chamber.
That seems... dangerous.

(There's probably quite the interesting thread about death-by-analytical-instrument. It seems to me that IRs aren't going to kill anyone, but death-by-NMR-asphyxiation seems pretty mundane/reasonable, although I suspect no one has actually died because of a surprise quench (am I wrong?) Death-by-X-ray-spectroscopy seems reasonable, but again, probably that's happened to no one yet. Death-by-mass-spec wouldn't be as ignominious as death by IR, I think. (Don't you think that's a little too morbid for Monday morning? -ed. Well, yeah, but it is Monday.) 

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

View From Your Hood: Genentech edition

Credit: John Tellis
"The incentive only Genentech can offer"

Picture taken from a chemistry lab at Genentech.

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

Chart of the week: Cambridge and San Francisco uber alles

Credit: Bruce Booth
By LifeSciVC's Bruce Booth, quite the long article about why Massachusetts and San Francisco are pulling ahead in biopharma:
As a macro point, these data reflect the intuitive sense we have of recruiting talent from other regions into Boston: with regards to R&D teams, prior Pharma hubs are shrinking rapidly while Boston is growing. We’ve even recruited a few sun-loving San Diego biopharma vets to move to the Boston market recently.
Readers are probably quite tired of me pounding on this point (and I should limit myself to one of these posts about every month or so.) What does this mean? I'll take a couple of stabs:
  • If you are a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow who intends to work in biopharma, picking an institution that has a healthy pipeline into universities or companies in the Bay Area or Boston would be key. 
  • Although I suspect job security would be no greater than anywhere else, the likelihood of moving would be lower for scientists who live in these areas. 
  • Economic development organizations should consider other new, exciting fields to attempt to start local clusters long before they consider trying to start a biopharma cluster. What is your town going to do that Seattle hasn't done
Overall, you should go read this piece - it's very well done and it's definitely food for thought. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 89 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 89 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! (soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Job posting: chemical biology research associate, Merck, Cambridge, MA

Via a random clicking around, a BS/MS chemical biology position (MS, 5 years experience preferred):
The Merck Research Laboratories (MRL) Exploratory Science Center (ESC) Cambridge, a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck and Co., is focused on driving early discovery research. Co-located with Merck’s Cambridge Innovation Hub, the ESC’s disease-area-agnostic research agenda fosters hands-on collaboration between our scientists and external academic and biotech researchers to access and explore the most promising emerging science.  
We are seeking an innovative and experienced chemical biologist to join the Merck Exploratory Science Center (ESC) in Cambridge, MA. 
The successful candidate will become part of a creative and fast-paced team that will discover novel therapeutics targeting one of two (2) initial areas:
  • Interaction of the microbiome and host with the ultimate goal of delivering novel therapeutics to address significant unmet medical need in multiple therapeutic areas
  • Novel prophylactic or therapeutic interventions to address significant unmet medical need in infectious disease.
  • This is an excellent opportunity for someone seeking scientific and career growth in a multidisciplinary area of drug discovery.
Education / Work Experience Requirements:
  • B.S. with (4) years experience in Chemical Biology, Microbiology, Immunology, Cell and Molecular, Biomedical Sciences or related discipline
  • M.S. with (2) years experience in Chemical Biology, Microbiology, Immunology, Cell and Molecular, Biomedical Sciences or related discipline
Full listing here. Best wishes to those interested. 

Interestingly, I think it's fascinating that I feel like I'm seeing more routine chemical biology positions. I would estimate very broadly that I saw 10-20 Big Pharma positions in the last 12 months, and perhaps more. Will be interesting to see if this grows more significantly over time; I would guess there would be another 10-20 industrial positions this year, but I'm not positive. Previous speculation on this blog here and here. 

Daily Pump Trap: 3/23/17 edition

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

Rockford, IL: ThermoFisher is looking for a process validation scientist; B.S./M.S., 2 years experience minimum. Also, a B.S. chemist production position (looks like fun (and potential back problems.)

San Diego, CA: Celgene is looking for a Ph.D. computational chemist.

Cincinnati, OH: Biopace is looking for a director of bioanalytical chemistry. M.S./Ph.D., management experience preferred.

"San Francisco Bay Area": Tosoh is hiring a business development manager for its process chromatography media line.

Culver City, CA: Trace-Ability is looking for M.S./Ph.D. chemists for a project on the "development and validation of novel HPLC systems and methods."

"Metropolican [sic] NYC": AIP Publishing is looking for an assistant journal manager.

Ivory Filter Flask: 3/23/17 edition

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

Slowing down: The number of tenure-track positions is slowing to a trickle...

Claremont, CA: "The Chemistry Program of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges seeks to hire visiting professors in organic chemistry and in general chemistry to begin August 2017." Also, an organic chemistry laboratory coordinator position. 

Bloomsburg, PA: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is looking for a one-year visiting lecturer.

Roanoke, VA: "Biomedical Sciences at Jefferson College of Health Sciences is seeking two Assistant Professors, beginning Fall semester, 2017, to teach chemistry courses for the Program in Biomedical Sciences."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A little absurdist humor



I confess this got very weird, very fast, but it started off really good. (Listen with headphones, don't give your coworkers any ideas about you.)

Also, people who end meetings with "Good meeting!" are odd. There's no such thing as a good meeting.*

*I don't actually believe that, but the number of good meetings are really outnumbered by the number of bad ones. 

ChemDraw Innovation Challenge

From friend of the blog Philip Skinner, an invitation to help change ChemDraw for the better:
We are running the ChemDraw Innovation Challenge. This is a process whereby people can suggest ideas for what they think we should build in ChemDraw next - new features and functionality they they think would help them do their science more effectively. People can comment on and discuss the ideas, vote on them and the top ideas go forward through a few steps until we end up with the best ones which hopefully we will will incorporate into the product. 
Sign ups open today, and everyone can start posting ideas as of Monday. 
The link to the sign up page is here.
 Sounds interesting. 

Warning Letter of the Week: renaming samples edition

A dispatch from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to the general manager of Jinan Jinda Pharmaceutical Chemistry Co., Ltd.:
1.    Failure of your quality unit to exercise its responsibility to ensure the API manufactured at your facility are in compliance with CGMP, and meet established specifications for quality and purity.
Your quality control laboratory disregarded multiple out-of-specification (OOS) impurity results without justification. For example, on September 22, 2015, you encountered an OOS unknown impurity peak during high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) testing of [redacted] 36-month stability batch [redacted]. You terminated the analysis. Testing of a new sample also showed the OOS impurity peak. The chromatogram was then manually rescaled, which hid the presence of this peak. Your laboratory set the integration parameters to omit this peak from integration. Because the peak was omitted, the quality unit was not provided with full information to evaluate whether the stability batch, and potentially other marketed batches, continued to meet quality standards.

In addition, your audit trail showed that from July 1 to 2, 2015, you performed seven sample injections of [redacted] 60-month stability batch [redacted] to test for impurities using HPLC. You permanently deleted the first five sample injections. You then renamed the last two injections and reported that they met specifications. [emphasis CJ's] Your quality unit failed to identify and address these serious data manipulations.
Seems legit.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 581 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 581 positions.

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 chemjobber@gmail.com

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 web forum! Because the open thread has gotten more unwieldy, I have opened up this web forum ("Chemistry Faculty Jobs List"). Feel free to join/post!

Finally, a link to See Arr Oh's Chemistry Bumper Cars 2017 edition. 

Ask CJ: how to handle medical leave in a CV or cover letter?

From the inbox, a really interesting question from someone we'll call DF (e-mail has been heavily redacted for privacy): 
I was in grad school for a rather long time, beyond the traditional 2-3 years of masters/4-6 years for PhD.  I was enrolled in the PhD program in grad school, all was going great until I got [cancer].  
I did not wish to let my advisor or coworkers know about it, but my constant absence is a bit obvious in a rather small group and eventually I had to tell my advisor [that I was sick, and in treatment].  While [they were] supportive, [they] simply suggested that I leave with a masters as I was quite late in the program... 
I would like to know if firstly, is it appropriate to address that one was enrolled and completed PhD coursework on a resume?  A relatively new coworker had that listed on his resume but never earned his degree either and seemed kind of awkward to me. 
Additionally, on a cover letter, should I explain this situation?  I do not want any sort of pity or mercy from a potential employer, but I also do not want to get passed over because I was sick and the potential for it to return is probably higher than a healthy, never-had-cancer potential employee.... 
Lastly, if I am choosing to omit all of these things in my resume and cover letter and I field a question in a phone interview asking "why were you in grad school so long for a masters?", is it appropriate to bring up here?  I have always lied in this spot and sort of danced around the question with varying degrees of success.  I don't like to lie, but I also don't want any of the aforementioned to occur.  
DF, I am going to assume that you're in industry now. I certainly know that people do wonder when they see stints in graduate school that are longer than usual; in addition, I know that people begin to wonder what those extended times in graduate school are about.

That said, I think most hiring managers can put these questions aside and ask much more simpler questions, i.e. "is this person a good fit for the position?" or "did this person learn chemistry skills sufficiently in graduate school?" I doubt that the amount of time you're in graduate school will be a major driver of decision making, but I could be wrong.

In regards to being directly asked about it, I don't really think there's any shame in telling the truth, i.e. "I was sick and I needed to get better before I could finish my program."

Readers, I have no experience with this - what is your opinion?