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

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? 

Monday, March 20, 2017

A random salary survey

It's time to break out the pseudonyms! (TM Derek Lowe).

I'd be really interested in knowing what new M.S. and Ph.D.-level salaries are for positions in the Cambridge, Bay Area, San Diego, RTP and New Jersey. Size of company, relocation package would be helpful, too.

Feel free to e-mail me if you'd rather.

Thanks! Really appreciate it. 

The Trump Administration budget

Also in this week's C&EN, an article summarizing the Trump Administration's proposed budget from Jessica Morrison and Britt Erickson:
President Donald J. Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget would slash federal support for biomedical research, defund the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) and the Department of Energy’s advanced energy research, and lop funding for EPA by nearly a third. 
Overall, the White House plan would offset discretionary funding increases for the military, homeland security, and veterans affairs in part with steep cuts to environmental, energy, and health agencies. 
In addition, the budget blueprint unveiled on March 16 would restart funding for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and calls for $120 million to restart licensing of the facility. It also proposes a $1.4 billion increase—an 11% boost—for DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration to “strengthen the Nation’s nuclear capability.” 
In response, the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN, called for federal science funding stability. “Sustained, predictable and robust funding is an essential ingredient in boosting our nation’s future in the form of discoveries, processes and knowledge, all of which lead to new products, services, industries and jobs,” says ACS Executive Director and CEO Thomas Connelly...
Read the whole article for details.

The proposed cuts include EPA (-31%), USDA (-21%), HHS/NIH (-18%), DOE (-6%) and NASA (-1%.) The Chemical Safety Board is eliminated.

Readers, rather than discuss the benefits (or lack thereof) of this budget, what do you predict the ultimate funding cuts or increases to the various government agencies will be? Do you predict the elimination of the Chemical Safety Board by Congress?

My predictions: EPA budget will definitely sustain 10+% cuts. NIH will be kept flat, CSB will not be eliminated, but will be kept flat. Yours? 

A very passionate letter

I'd be remiss if I didn't note this passionate letter from a professor about the "postdoctoral students" vs. "postdoctoral fellow" debate: 
I read with disdain and a shaking head the letter from the editor of the Feb. 27 issue of C&EN. I wish to write in response to your request for feedback. 
Maybe I’m a rare bird, but I viewed every stage within my education as an opportunity, not as an entitlement. In the field of science, as in the trades, one must pay his/her dues and learn as an apprentice before earning journeyman status. For most U.S. postdocs, that means a minimum training period of five years for the Ph.D. and two years as a postdoctoral fellow of an established tenured or tenure-track faculty member. 
As a postdoctoral student, I was happy to earn my < $30,000 salary (mid-2000s), because it represented more than a 50% raise over what I earned as a graduate student at a top-10-ranked chemistry department. Tongue in cheek, I’ll admit that seeing the astronomical salaries U.S. postdocs earn now, I’m a bit jealous. 
Although I could claim to be an expert in one diminutive subfield of chemistry as a Ph.D. graduate, I was still a student, not yet a scholar. This maturation process did not occur the moment my thesis committee shook my hand and said, “Congratulations, Dr. Chamberland.” The work I did as a postdoc, such as mentoring younger students, taking on a leadership role, reviewing manuscripts and grant proposals, and working insane hours were all part of the gig. It was the last training period for the career I had worked toward for 25 years. I understood that. 
Do today’s postdocs expect more? Do they need to be called a scholar too? Who cares. Just put your head down and get to work. If you do something of value, people will recognize you. 
Stephen Chamberland
Orem, Utah

This week's C&EN

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Serrated pocket knife blades

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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 80 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 80 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! (sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

Daily Pump Trap: 3/15/17 edition

A few positions posted at C&EN Jobs:

Brea, CA: Moravek is looking for a peptide chemist; $75,000-$110,000 (depending on experience). 

Boom: Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM) is searching for an experienced energetic materials chemist; M.S./Ph.D., 2 years experience required.

South San Francisco, CA: Genentech is looking for an experienced Ph.D. chemical biologist.

Pleasanton, CA: Astex Pharmaceuticals is hiring an Associate Director/Director, Process Chemistry (M.S./Ph.D., 6-9 years.) 

Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC: Novozymes is searching for a B.S./M.S. analytical chemist.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lock your doors when you're having a Skype interview

If you've been hiding under a rock for a week or so, click on the video above for a very funny treat. (Here is a WSJ interview with Professor Kelly and his family.) Also, it is also worth noting that the Skype interview is growing in popularity - make sure your children, pets and other technological issues do not get in the way of making sure you put your best foot forward.

(Also, is the increase in Skype interviews of potential candidates a good thing? I think the answer is "no" - I think it puts much more emphasis on non-verbal cues from the interviewee, activates all sorts of personal prejudices and provides no more information than a phone interview. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe Skype interviews are another way that the balance between employer and potential employee is tipped to favor the employer.) 

Electronic age discrimination?

From the inbox, a fascinating and distressing accusation about job websites and older workers by CNBC's Bob Sullivan (emphasis mine): 
Older Americans struggling to overcome age discrimination while looking for work face a new enemy: their computers. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently opened a probe into allegations that ageism is built right into the online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt... 
Age bias is built right into their software, according to Madigan. Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it's impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don't go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out. For example, one site's menu options for "years attended college" stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form. 
Madigan's office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, "barring anyone who is older than 52." Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. 
"Today's workforce includes many people working in their 70s and 80s," Madigan said. "Barring older people from commonly used job search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy." 
The Illinois' Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan's office has sent inquiry letters to six top jobs sites:, CareerBuilder, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.
I presume that all of these companies will promptly change their interfaces, and then allow employers to filter out older employees via another sub rosa electronic approach. 

Warning Letter of the Week: questionable water source edition

An unhappy epistle from the Food and Drug Administration to the Chief Executive Officer of 
Badrivishal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals: 
1.    Failure to validate and monitor the water purification system to ensure that water is of appropriate quality and suitable for its intended use.
During the inspection, our investigators found that your water purification system was not adequately monitored and controlled. Because you use water as a drug component and for cleaning your facility and equipment, these failures pose significant risk to the safety of your drugs.

Source waterYou failed to test the source water for your [redacted] water system. The source water emanates from a nearby river and passes through farmland, where it is subject to agricultural runoff and animal waste, before reaching your facility. Your firm stores the source water in an [redacted] tank that has a large [redacted]-facing hole that is open to the environment. Your storage method does not protect your water from dirt and other contaminants, or from the ingress and proliferation of pests and objectionable organisms.
 Well, that sure doesn't sound very appetizing. Here's hoping they fix that hole. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 580 positions

The 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated mostly by Andrew Spaeth, with minor help from me) has 580 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

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.

Finally, 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!

Daily Pump Trap: 3/14/17 edition

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

Wickliffe, OH: Lubrizol is looking for a Ph.D. organic chemist.

Research Triangle Park, NC: BioCryst is searching for a director of chemical development.

Beijing, China: The Global Health Drug Discovery Institute is looking for a senior medicinal chemist/project leader. Not every day you see Chinese characters on C&EN Jobs: "我们寻求有突出能力的科学家及实验研究工作人员、有经验的管理、以及专业运营团队加入我们! 中心为积极主动、有创造力和创业精神的员工提供多元化、充满活力的工作环境以及良好的发展机会。我们的员工认同GHDDI的使命,分享共同的愿景,携手致力科学和人类健康事业的发展。如您想了解GHDDI的最新招聘信息,请访问我们的官方网站, 有意应聘者请将简历发至"

Ivory Filter Flask: 3/14/17 edition

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

Washington, DC: Howard University is looking for two assistant professors of chemistry; biochemistry preferred.

Victorville, CA: Victor Valley College is hiring an instructor of chemistry; "Initial salary placement ranges from $51,711 to $80,979, based upon education and experience."

Minneapolis, MN: The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities is looking for a term professor of chemistry. (Further explanation.)

Shreveport, LA: Centenary College of Louisiana is looking for a visiting assistant professor of chemistry.

Tacoma, WA: University of Puget Sound is looking for a visiting instructor in chemistry.