The NESACS Blog
From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development
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07/21/17
Trends in Technical Careers. Electronic Laboratory Notebooks
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Mature professionals, Legal matters, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 2:18 pm
Hi Dan,
How are you doing?  I would like to ask if you have any
experience using electronic labbooks in an R&D lab?
and if there is any in particular you could recommend.  
.
Thank you for any advice you can provide.
.
Best regards”
.
When I regularly attended several large conferences I tried
to look into this emerging field by speaking with vendors about
their market penetration and features for different user 
profiles.
.
Interestingly my deepest learning at this time involved
ensuring legal advice was following in purchasing, training,
and compliance.  Maintenance and regular updates for eLN were
essential as this is a emerging and evolving field.  Years have
past and eLN are essential tools.
.
Glossary of terms:
.
List of Vendors
-  at least 16 countries are represented as vendor developers
-  open source vendors are included in the list
.
eLN features:  Different fields and operations will have different requirements
It is nice to have a big picture for what customers, users, legal and
regulatory applications are provided.
 - basic functionality
 - quality, security and compliance
 - data management
.
eLN decision making
 - The system needs to organize and be able to tag, filter and search entries. 
 - all entries, imported data, and links can be exported to a generic format
(pdf, zip, xlm, etc.) for backup and reporting as well as allowing a bailout
in case the maker of the software stops development, or your funds to pay
for licence fees run dry.
 - 
support of your IT department at an early stage (selection of particular eLN).
 - h
idden costs (hardware like server, backup; on-site support and user training, )
.
What are your customers using?  How frequent are updates?
What are the computer requirements and robustness of the system?
.
These days, eLN are essential to compete
1 comment
07/14/17
Professional Behaviors. Speaking with your Boss
Filed under: Recent Posts, First Year on Job, Leadership, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 12:49 pm

A recent seminar on Overcoming Fears Uncertainty and 
Doubts pointed out things you should learn to do while
in graduate school.  Two leading ones the group pointed
out were:
   knowing how to speak with your boss

   knowing how to have difficult conversations with people.
.
These are no doubt situational things and depend on several
factors.  That is part of the learning that we need to do.  It is
important to develop this understanding while in graduate school.
.
Money Magazine (8-17 issue, 38ff) formed extra reading for 
our conversation about how to speak to a boss
  - for a raise and at review time
  - after making a mistake
  - challenges at home
  - have a major health issue
.
Flipboard shared a creditable piece about having hard  conversations
with people by Garfinkle.
  - begin with a perspective of respect and curiosity
  - avoiding conversations does not make problems go away
  - listen intently, respond with the other’s ideas first, and avoid
partial listening while planning to say what is on our mind
  - recognize cultural differences and determine how to be
direct (clear statements, not circular logic).
comments (0)
07/11/17
Professional Behavior. Ethics, Whistleblowers and Cassandras
Filed under: Recent Posts, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 4:37 pm
What do we do when we face a major risk or possible
catastrophe?  It is not something that normally comes up
in any but exceptional situations and is the “elephant in the
room.”  That is, is not spoken about.
Here are some thoughts to ponder.  A following comment
lists some situations and Casandras from Clarke and Eddy’s
book that is good reading, especially if you are interested in
cyber-security, global warming, CRISPR technology and
nuclear weapons and disarmament.
.
Casandra:  Sentinel intelligence experts who sense something
catastrophic before anyone else does, before disaster happens
.
Whistleblower: popularized by Ralph Nader for informing about 
illegal or unethical actions picking up on a much earlier term used to 
alert the public about a commission of a crime or a breaking of rules.
Whistleblowers are motivated to do their reporting or announcing by
wanting to do the right thing, or to make right a decision that went
against them.
.
Large federal agencies record whistleblower complaints and are
able to substantiate only a small fraction.  Because of the limited
confirmation rate and going against the culture or leadership or actions
of an organization, whistleblowers have a generally poor reputation.  
So despite positive ethical motivations we may have going into a
situation, it does not always work out for the best.
.
.Recently Clarke and Eddy have published a book exploring this
concept of warning where an individual strongly feels certain
decisions should be made or certain situations should be avoided.  
In Warnings:  Finding Cassandras to stop catastrophes they assert
the Greek concept of Cassandra.  Cassandra was graced by the
gods to be able to predict the future however cursed with the
response that no one believed or listened to her predictions.
.

A dozen past and current case studies were discussed in some detail
in a format that provided a view of classifying four features of each
case.  They were:  (1)nature of the threat or risk,
(2)is the person who needs to act known, knowledgeable, able to sort out
conflicting data and biases,
(3)is the predictor, or Cassandra, well-trained, highly creditable, respected
and confident in their findings and conclusions,
(4)what do the critics rely on and assert about the threat’s imminence.

1 comment
07/06/17
Trends in Technical Careers. Influence of ‘Morphing’ of Goals, Values
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:48 am

While preparing for a seminar on Overcoming Challenges and 
Adversity, several items are worth highlighting for our blog.

The chapter, “Generational Career Shift:  Millennials and
the Changing Nature of Careers in Canada,
” by Lyons, Ng
and Schweitzer was found to contain good insights. [in
book by the same authors, 2012]
.
The original idea [for this seminar topic] resulted from 
this year’s class suggestion and a seminar by
N. Halpern, 
on Careers for Mid-level Professionals.
.
Think about it.  100 years ago people lived, on average, to
48 years, whereas now it is beyond 78.  The length and nature
of careers has and continues to change this life span and equally
important our values and goals.
.
People seek much more control over their career paths, seek
personal satisfaction [over organizational], pursue advancement
[over organizational commitment] and realize multiple careers.
.
The seminar will discuss how we need to encourage
 - adapting to adversity and challenges by seeing them as
opportunities to learn useful skills
 - building personal resilience skills [see Sandberg, Grant ]
 - developing critical habits, including listening and
effectively managing technological tools.
comments (0)
06/30/17
Watch-Outs. 103. Scientific Publishing, Limits of Analysis, Gas Cylinders
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Mentoring, Leadership, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:36 am

Publication is a critical focus in the scientific world.  Societies
have publication wings.  There is a large commercial publication
business that earns nearly $20Bn/year with a third being
profits.  The Guardian published a revealing article about the
publication world which this blog has offered comments.

Previous comments have been offered on peer review,
papyrocentric 
model 
and critical thinking when reading.  
This blog is on record for supporting the idea of “open access”
and questioning the viability of “rating” journals based on
citations in the internet age [it is like mindless “likes” in
social media.].
.
Been a following of Deming’s articles on Applied Statistics
for decades.  He is in the middle of an important series on 
limits of detection.  I just received a water analysis report
and have received blood and urine medical reports that refer
to one or another of these.  These articles are important and
significant for all of us.  We should know and use these terms
properly.
.
One of the types of questions I ask in some interviews 
concerns gas cylinder set-up and use.  Articles in LC/GC 
often reveal solid scientific thinking to answer questions
in this area.
.
ROBERT MAXWELL AND PROFITING ON SCIENCE
SOURCE:  S. Baranyi, The Guardian June 27, 2017 
“Is the Staggeringly profitable publishing business bad for
Science”
Although the ACS continues its efforts to 
expand its
profit center, most of the members do not realize what
is going on in the publication business.  This Guardian
article goes into details what the ACS publications 
division might be emulating.  
.
Should we not ask questions to make more science, often
paid for via taxes, available free online?
.
SCIENCE AND THE LIMITS OF DETECTION
SOURCE:  S. N. Deming, Amer. Laboratory June/July 2017
P. 41.  ”Statistics in the Laboratory:  The Limit of Detection
Deming teaches in this article L(D) the limit of detection, which
he points out is different than the smallest amount of 
analyte that can be detected or the limit of quantitation (appearing
in future articles.).
.
He points out:
- false positive risk needs to be appropriate for the application.
[drug testing example]
- in a plot of a calibration curve with a non-zero intercept, L(D)
the limit of detection is the amount of analyte that yields a
signal outside the error of the false negative.
.
These comments are often not brought out in many classes.
.
GAS CYLINDERS
SOURCE:  J. V. Hinshaw, LC/GC North America 11-2016, P. 41
Gas Cylinder Safety, Part II:  Set up and Use
What I like about Hinshaw is that he does a fishbone diagram
to assess a wide variety is issues that could come up in
working with a common analytical tool.
1 comment
06/26/17
Professional Skills. MBA, Six Sigma Technologies and PMI Project Management Certification
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 10:10 am

After our formal technical training, which may be experiential,
[non-academic] but most often involves the academic realm–
BS, MS, PhD and post-doc, many in government, industry and
entrepreneurial career paths find business certification a very
positive growth dimension.
.

This can happen when we choose to continue formal academic
work with an MBA or 13-week MBA certification.  When we
explore this option we find 2-year and 3-year MBAs where the
longer term allows developing specialization skills.  The 13-week
in-residence programs had prerequisites of solid business experience
and tighter admission and stronger longer term career commitment
from a sponsoring organization.
.
One clear strength of the MBA programs is the networking, both
formal, through the university, and informal, through connections
and associations (alumna, alumni).
.
In the 1980s formal business certification programs were developed
in parallel to MBA programs.  These should be of interest to many
people since they may be more specific to certain aspects and
more broadly respected as providing necessary background and
organization useful in certain fields.  These are the PMP Project
Management Professional and Six Sigma “Belt” programs.  
.
I am surprised that ACS has not incorporated both of these in
career continuous education plans.
.
PMP Program covers a broad range of 
skills and experiential 
training
 to help improve the success rate of projects.
.
Six Sigma asks about understanding customer requirements and
mapping a process to identify and measure defects, losses and waste
using statistical methods, measurement systems and data analysis.
I find people who complete an MBA curriculum or are certified
PMP or Six Sigma are encouraged and are proponents of their
programs
.
  
The training in each seem to differ and it is worth noting PMP
emphasizes the “waterfall model“.   The training methodologies
may emphasize other approaches, as listed here.
An objective comparison of PMP and Six Sigma appears in this chart.
1 comment
06/21/17
After Action Review. Job Search and Interview Process
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:28 am

Recently a colleague reported his experiences he observed
during his job search.  It points out the importance of networking
[2] , doing After Action Reviews, knowing that you can build your
career by taking related positions, where you learn and practice
applicable skills productively.  After all, a career is a process of
growth combined with continuous learning.

.
Networking:  
   applied online and got a personal contact of mine to forward my resume 
to the hiring team…he felt comfortable to refer me.
   it was too late, they had already considered a candidate. 
   This year they contacted me.   So as you have so many times emphasized,
networking is key to getting one’s resume noticed.

Career is a Process:  
A senior level manager:
-  Asked about my industry experience and was probing about my interests,
strengths and ability to work in a team. We really clicked in the interview.
It was a pleasant conversation about various aspects of manufacturing, QA,
 QC , work ethics, and honesty. he was very pleased that I was familiar with
Quality Management System. I felt we were already colleagues in the interview.
Among questions asked:
-  what I do not like, and what I like.
-  given a situation what do I prefer: perfect and late, good and on time, or quick
and early…something like that.  I elaborated on each as it all depends according
to me. For example, I recall saying it depends on how critical it is. In a situation
where you are looking at an API, it is critical to be within the acceptance
criteria/specifications, better be late but safe.  But for a report, as long as all
the important information are there, I won’t delay it for perfection. I recall also
talking about how in a team, different people have their own preferences - in
terms of how to present a table. I personally don’t like to delay output for these 
things (as long as it is not wrong). 
.
Another Interviewer/non-technical manager:
-  were able to relate a little as I had previous experience in the finance
department when i was in accounting.
-  ended up in a conversation about the market, competitive advantage, pains
of month/year/quarter ends.
-  Talked about SAP and Oracle.
-  He actually appreciated that I knew about science and financial side of the
business.
.
After Action Review:
-   if I run into a situation like that again, I should transition my mindset into a
“sales pitch”- meaning, I should do the best I can to use facts from my
experience to support each criteria they are looking for.
 asked to visit the lab and areas of interests. I found it odd they did not propose.
comments (0)
06/16/17
Resumes for Technical Roles.What can be done to improve chances to get interviews.
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 10:42 am

Recently I have received requests to review resumes and cover
letters for people who have completed several post docs and
wonder what can they do to attract interview attention.

.
First it was important to realize that they do not see the
changing role of push-pull marketing using on line profiles.  
Since online profiles can contain much more information than
resumes and can be accessed in a multiplexed mode, quite often
this is a leading recruiting step.  Push marketing is typified by
sending your resume to a recruiter or uploading to a website.  
Pull marketing occurs when recruiters review profiles on line.
.
The online profile needs to be very good and show
communication savvy, while being consistent with your resume.
.
Second.  When I examine the profile/ resume/ cover letter package
I  ask for the job description.  The exact title [cover letter], job code
[cover letter], 
and keywords [cover letter, resume, online
profile-Linkedin] need 
to be listed in the documents.  It is critical
since screening is often done by ATS applicant tracking systems.
.
One colleague was an ORISE Fellow at FDA and did not mention
knowing about FDA regulations, how 
FDA reviews applications
and industry specific qualifications in the highlights section.
.
Third.  While the ATS examines the full document, human reviewers
will want to see information that is easy to read, error-free and
specific 
to the position.  Please:
  - avoid long paragraphs of information in cover letter or resume
  - use gmail, not yahoo, aol or education-based email address
  - insert your experience section before education, after you
reach five or more years beyond your last degree.
.
While it might be very true, statements like the following are
not taken seriously:  
‘I believe I am a
quick learner as demonstrated previously where
I
have
worked in various fields (materials, analytical and clinical)
and published
papers
. I hope my skills and background are a
good
fit
for to satisfy the requirements for the … position. I thank you for
your time and enthusiastically look
forward to hearing from you
soon. ‘ [note too many ‘I’s’– whole letter had >16]
for we know other interpersonal, cultural, and nonverbal 
factors can dominate.  [Technical skills alone are not enough.]
.
While the ACS offers good general suggestions about 
writing documents, specific situations require outside-the-
box thinking.
-  when there is little evidence for scientific accomplishments
via patents and papers, consider creating a List of Projects
addenda that might mention project work on proprietary
material ethically and legally.
-   when seeking positions of some authority and responsibility,
providing information in the affiliations or highlights section
or in the cover letter or in the Linkedin profile where you
point out project and team leadership and responsibility 
revealing emotional intelligence
1 comment
06/09/17
Economics in the Chemical Enterprise. Career Management. Tips for managing the attention economy
Filed under: Recent Posts, Mentoring, First Year on Job, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 6:28 am

Herbert Simon is credited with recognizing that in a
data rich world what is critical is managing audience
attention.  Combined with the attitude that audiences
prefer A I D A, the digital media promoters code…

attention,
     interest,
         desire,
            action
,
we lose our focus, disturb our direction and slow our progress.
.
Leaders of the digital and media organizations realize this
and take advantage of the uninformed.  It is critical that
technical professionals understand this and improve the
way we manage ourselves, our colleagues and teams.
.
The technical world including the chemical enterprises is
dominated by the “attention economy.”  Earlier this blog posted
the influence of robotics and artificial intelligence in career
management in the chemical enterprises.  Financialization
also dominates chemical enterprises.  
.
Recently, Tristan Harris’s work was discussed on HBO where
he described what we can do to contain and manage attention
hijacks which Kevin Kelly referred to in The Inevitable.  Harris
prescribes actions we can take to contain the outside influences
that digital media and devices introduce in his web site: 
time well spent   
.
Tristan’s article
is must read for each of us interested in proactively
managing our attention and careers.
1 comment
05/27/17
Trends in Technical Careers. Resources for Unpredictable Futures
Filed under: Recent Posts, First Year on Job, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:50 am

We have brought up Mlodinow’s book, Subliminal, that offers
that human’s memory faculties are faulty.  One suggestion is to
create a research notebook for yourself– it could be new business
ideas, new research projects, new and improved products…

.
We cannot sit still in this fast evolving world.  We have minimal
memory resources, until computers evolved, and we can easily
store ideas, links and lists.  
.
This entry offers two trends worth noting that you may incorporate,
even if you are not currently engaged in fields.  Things are both
changing and unpredictable and it helps to try to be open-minded
both to new directions and opportunities.
.
DRUG DISTRIBUTION:  MALDI-MSI
Cornett offered an keen review of an approach yielding new 
insights into risk assessment of pharma candidates .  Matrix-
assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectral imaging is
used to visualize where in samples chemicals and metabolites
are distributed in model system sections.
.
Cornett indicates that this tool might be required to
inform decisions on regulatory submissions, as it offers
deeper understanding of pharmacology and toxicology.
.
NOVEL CHEMISTRY:  COMMERCE
Novel chemistry is found in patent literature, chemical journals
and offered by custom chemical firms.  If it were one and 
done, it would not be so special.  
TCI Tokyo Chemical Industries 
Co. Ltd., America
provides a substantial series of categories of ideas and resources.  
Here are several:
-  Glycoscience building blocks
-  Liquid Crystal building blocks
-  Pharmaceutical Ingredients
-  Review articles on various topics
.
The idea is to open up our resource notebook to various inputs
for continuous learning.
1 comment
05/22/17
Job Market for Career Growth. Think beyond the first position
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, First Year on Job, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 12:34 pm

So often articles and blog entries talk about hiring trends
for recent graduates.  When I peruse them, it seems most
are either anecdotal (few specific examples highlighting
certain concepts) or statistical summaries that are often time
a year or more earlier than the date of publication.

.
This entry looks at your second and subsequent positions.  So,
in another perspective, we can take a longer, career view.  
A career is a process, not an outcome, with many transactions
involving
     -learning new skills,
     -defining your strengths and building on them, and
     -articulating your values so that others will understand
and appreciate you and your contributions.
.
As scientists, commenters bring up the discussion of being
involved in a “profession.”  A nice description of a profession is
that of an occupation formed by setting up formal qualifications
offered by education, internship/apprenticeship and examination,
a regulatory organization which admits and restricts and has a
code of behavior.
.
Honestly, however, scientific disciplines, like chemistry, may not
be bound by discipline tracks
 when thinking about job markets.  
This may be less important when we look at markets for
our careers. 
Jan Osburn wrote a remarkable article on career mistakes
that hinder personal growth and happiness that we obtain from
careers.  I contend these apply to advance degreed scientists.  
.
Let me highlight five frames of mind that restrict the “real job market:”
1.  hold off pursuing positions of interest due to <100% match to
musts and wants [lack of confidence, weak in resilience, fear of
failure;  be willing to learn on the job and seek help]
.
2.  lack of self assessment knowing your strengths and what makes
you thrive and be constantly challenged and engaged. [engage
psychological and economic instruments outside of your employment
chain of command]
.
3.  fall behind in your learning curve of new skills and experiences
to those who extend themselves [could be in work environment and
professional/ volunteer organizations]
.
4.  fail to take an outsider’s perspective of your industry, organization
and department.  This can be a situation where you ‘coast’ for a while.
It is important to continue connecting and keeping up with your
network.
.
5.  miss opportunities to learn about branding your skills and abilities
and be visible in more than one organization.   In the information era,
this can seem to be trying things that are not immediately rewarded
in one organization, but opens up opportunities in another.
[no funding to attend a professional meeting;  become a volunteer, 
offer to assume organizational responsibilities, show that you can be
counted on] 

comments (0)
05/16/17
Remembering Names 2. F-A-C-E & C-H-A-R-M
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, First Year on Job, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 8:29 am

Some people are in roles that it is an asset to remember and
use people’s names.  Sales, interviewing, teaching, politics and
guess what, leadership roles.

.
[They offer F-A-C-E:  Face the person, Ask how they like to be
called, Cross reference to links, Employ the name in conversation.]
.
In a recent podcast I learned another acronym that might be useful
to recall names that gives useful advice:  C-H-A-R-M. from Jim
Kwik
 - Care.  Showing that you care enough to remember a person’s 
name reveals a connection.
 - Hearing.  Often we are thinking of something else when another
person offers their name.  our attention is not focused on listening
closely, Distraction leads to not hearing.
 - Ask.  How do you spell it?  Where does it come from?  What is 
the meaning or who were you named after?  How would you like to
be called?
 -  Repeat  Say the name and impress yourself with the name, situation,
origin/factoid.
 - Marker.  imagine the names spelled on their face, or link their face to
another face with the same name and jot it down in another medium.
.
Previous blog entry offered consistent ideas.
comments (0)
05/10/17
Negotiations 7. Strategies and Inquiries
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Networking, Mature professionals, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 11:23 am

FL and I have been working together for several years,
first during a post-doc, then, a second post-doc and a series
of interesting temporary positions.  While the post docs
were related to her graduate training in advanced biomaterials
and coating technology, the temporary positions were in
a wide variety of disciplines from project management and
accounting, to analytical services, to quality control.

.
FL contacted me from outside the US about negotiating
a higher salary at a 10 year old company where a network
member currently works.  FL was offered a position for six
months, after which there would be a review to determine fitness
for longer term.  The contract specified starting date, supervisor,
and broad assignment responsibilities along with a starting
salary.
.
The initial request involved discussing what can be expressed
to bring up salary and that the salary being offered was 
lower than current pay as a temp.  The position is located in
Toronto, so it is a stretch to correlate ACS salary survey data
results, based on limited data and currency differences (although
I did approximate using estimated analogies.  
.
SALARY INCREMENT IDEAS
First, however, thank the company for the pleasant news that
was received for the generous offer.  It was highly sought and
enthusiastically received.  FL is flexible in scope of the position
and hours of work, however, is there any room for compensation
discussions….wait, don’t fill silence with excuses, let the hiring
manager think and respond.  State what your needs and desires
are before offering up give ups (you never know if your spouse 
might not have separate benefit coverage.).
.
Ask for the firm’s annual report, employee handbook, and a
formal job description
.  After you receive and review them you
will be better able to discuss the offer details.
.
FL sought a $10K improvement.  So we reviewed areas of
possible approaches– spousal health insurance, no relocation
expense, day care needs, hours of work, self improvement plan,
other deferrable benefits.  Since FL’s spouse has family health
care coverage and there are no relocation needs, these could be
offered as “give ups” to measurably increase salary.  FL is flexible
for hours of work and has no immediate day care needs.
.
If salary is not negotiable, ask if a sign-on bonus can be brought
up to compensate for the difference from your current position
and the unique bonus you might forfeit leaving your current 
employer.
.
Have a list of other negotiating wish items– personal computer,
loaded with professional responsibility software, professional
society memberships, special training programs, special 
commuter passes not listed in the employee handbook. 
.
We also shared details of negotiating workshops brought up
in earlier blog entries.
.
INQUIRIES
It is worth asking for details of the firm’s current and recent
past finances that would be listed in the annual report.  That
not being shared, along with number of employees and
ownership of properties where company activities are
conducted.
.
Through Fidelity Investments, we were able to share
financial data on this start up.  It is relevant to see if the
same data is offered.  Going to work for a company is just
like investing in the company and it is important to perform
due diligence in its financial and commercial viability.  Who
owns the company, what is the market value and trend
and are there legal issues of concern.
.
FINALIZING
After critical elements of the position negotiation are resolved
satisfactorily, request that an updated offer letter be sent for
approval.  Since its location is relatively close, it might be
a nice gesture to personally go to the location, sign it in
person and meet other employees with whom you will be 
working.
.
Send thank you notes to all members you meet.  It will
leave a positive impression.
.
ADDED VALUE:  Fidelity Investments has a Canadian affiliate
to support business research 
comments (0)
05/04/17
Listening. Mlodinow’s “Subliminal”
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Mentoring, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors
Posted by: site admin @ 12:30 pm

Mlodinow, in Subliminal, delivers a clearly written book that helps
us understand Listening and Remembering.  He explains that it all
comes from William Carpenter’s book “Principles of Mental
 Physiology” in which he told that human brains carry out three
things simultaneously–  autonomous functioning (without formal
thinking), conscious mental actions, and unconscious processing.

.
When we listen we hone in on specific utterances and fill in the
gaps with our unconscious.  It is similar to the way computers
capture images and store them as thumbnails.  Taking in certain 
‘pixelated’ data, allowing us to reconstruct by filling in the details.
.
Our memory on the other hand is known to be “faulty”.  We are
almost always never right with our recollections unless we take
special precautions to capture details.  People try to maintain a
story’s general form, drop and change others to make us be able
to tell stories “confabulating” choices we make in the dropped
details.
.
Thus, false memories  and misinformation is a common human
frailty.  With time we drop more and more information.
Mlodinow offers several examples one of the most striking is 
James Dean, President Nixon’s personal attorney, in his responses
in the Watergate hearings.  Mlodinow writes that Dean misstated 
and mixed up nearly every detail of the affairs in which he was
involved based on a comparison of actual tape recordings from
the Oval Office and the Watergate hearings.  At the time, we
were informed that Dean had a nearly perfect memory.
.
This goes to point out the importance of having and maintaining
a calendar, a professional daily diary, an ‘idea notebook’ and records
of key goals, accomplishments, master resume, and personal
records.
comments (0)
05/01/17
Business and Economics. Follow up to Sparteine articles
Filed under: Recent Posts, Mature professionals, Legal matters, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:50 am

The C&EN article on (+) and (-) sparteine,  which had an
origin in “In the Pipeline,” talks about shortages of specific
chemicals.  Interestingly, this unresolved shortage is a
business of chemistry concern and something, as the C&EN
article portrays, that can be of interest to many scientists for
different reasons.  

.
It is an inventory and supply chain concern and thus there is 
an overlap with Economics that is the focus here.  Economics
characterizes how a business is run, whereas proverbial
‘business’ characterizes how to run a business.  In a discussion
in Yahoo, Economics uses algorithms to maximize profits,
determining the quantity of a commodity that should be made
and its cost to consumers.

.
While the end users focus on delivery and quality, there is
more to the economics side in terms of storage lifetime,
competing product lines for the same equipment, regulatory
and legal (patent) requirements and LCA. [lifecycle analysis]

 

1 comment
04/25/17
Publication Thoughts and Questions
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, First Year on Job, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 10:09 am

Meeting with many Ph.D. candidates who fret about
not having accomplished a series of publications in
peer reviewed journals is confounding these days.  
Why so?

.
What is the criterion for being granted a degree?
.
Can you publish just anywhere, not just in high impact
factor journals?
.
Is peer review of a journal article a justifiable measure?
.
What do we do in controversial topic areas when bias
can enter into decisions?
.
What do we do in the digital era which has replaced 
the papyrocentric model pre-1990?
.
RESEARCH AND HALF LIFE OF FACTS
Further enlightenment about the pursuit of “truth” is
that, as Uri Alon so elegantly described, research invites
us to go down a variety of ‘blind allies‘ before finding
a fruitful path.  The write up glosses over the learning
by failure and describes the “obvious” positive direction,
showing how novel and precise the idea is.
.
Samuel Arbesman looks back on the search for “truth”
and finds most being only half-correct as time moves 
forward.
.
So why is getting published in a journal so crucial?
.
I get it that graduate degrees are conferred by judging
work being of such quality meriting publication.  
Martin Paul Eve nicely describes the fuzziness of this
criterion since it could be published just anywhere after
rejections.  As we know, rejection does not mean lack
of value either. 
.
The peer review process is not exempt from bias either.
.
As we are into the third decade of the Internet era of
publication providing OA Open Access there are many
ways to both read and access articles and publish our 
work. 
.
This raises questions about what is a valid way of
demonstrating the level of expertise for a degree, even
for granting tenure and promotion. 
comments (0)
04/18/17
Watch-Outs. 102. Statistics and Radioactive Elements
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:48 am

You know, I am a strong proponent that scientific professionals
have a strong understanding of working with statistics and
perceive the hazards in our environment, that have good and not
so good effects on humans.  

.
So in our final class we talked about three features we should
look for in evaluating statistical data.  [I am always amazed that
their relevance is not emphasized in classes.]  variation, shape
and central tendency.
.
In our daily lives we are faced with statistics for nearly everything
and given “selective” interpretations to sell or convince us of various
positions.
- insure the data provides its sample size and range and variability
[small sample size, limited range, no measure of variation should
not be basis of a general position.]
- If the data is presented with many significant figures, it should
raise “red flags” in your mind.  [10,234,511.39 ?]
- The shape of the distribution of measure reveals critical insight.
[power law, normal, bimodal, skewness…]
- What is the appropriate central tendency representation?  Mean
if it is normal distribution…Other than that, questions are needed.
.
This leads to a link to be part of your toolkit for how to get “facts.”  
Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO, has researched USA
government statistics
and presents them in various forms.
.
There are two radioactive species in our environment that we
should be aware of some things.  One I encountered when I was asked
by a middle school student about a science project on radioassays.
That is when I learned about technetium.  Technetium-99 is most
useful as a radioassay measure for imaging internal organs.
CEN published a short factoid recently about this lightest, artificially
produced element.  ”Technetium cows” were developed by BNL
researchers and have been in use for more than 50 years in 
medical diagnostics and research.  In addition, technetium is a
by-product of U-235 decay and thus can be a valuable monitor
for nuclear reactor spent fuel rod decay and storage.
.
A second radioactive element is the gas, radon.  Radon is naturally
occurring in the environment and is attributed to be an effector of 
lung cancer in humans 
.  Radon decays naturally producing alpha 
particles.  Maps of the prevalence of radon in the US point to where
it is.  This should be a point of reference for us where we live
and work.
1 comment
04/13/17
Professional Behavior. Suggestions for Salary Increases
Filed under: Recent Posts, Mentoring, First Year on Job, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 5:51 am

Many articles we find about requesting for salary
increments overlook the need to do three things– 

*  perform consistently well in meeting and exceeding your’s
and your team’s goals [time in grade is often insufficient],
*  gather critical information about pay, time in grade and value
to the organization, and
*  have a proposal for your continued growth plan and how it
contributes to the organization [it is helpful to have mentors
who are knowledgeable about the organization, policies and
culture].
.
One article offered:
 - separate salary conversations from performance review meetings, so
that you demonstrate you are not focusing as being money-driven.
 - know that a timely one-on-one can be helpful in supporting the
value you provide to the organization with a successful project 
completion 
 - ‘plant the seed’ for an increase before the organization’s budget
planning (article indicates 3-4 months, is that too early?) 
 - practice what you are going to say, plan for interruptions, and
have a back-up plan
comments (0)
04/08/17
Professional Behaviors. Teamwork with uncooperative team members and recalling emails
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:33 am

Our Professional Development class is interesting because
we can use feedback from class members for future discussion
items and exercises in class.

.
One feedback card read:  Could we engage in networking
conversations and elevator speeches from each person in class?
It is better than describing them.
       
>In subsequent classes we asked people to deliver elevator speeches
to their team mates [which should be done in all team situations].
Then when we brought in guest speakers, we asked each class 
member to deliver an elevator pitch to the guests.
.
A couple of other situations that are intriguing.  One class member
met privately and said she did not know what to do as her team
was unresponsive to requests to work together and complete tasks
on time.  We talked about it and in class performed an exercise. 
What can you do to work better as a team?  There are many excuses:
too busy, lazy, procrastinate, think the assignment is dumb….
>
  • plan ahead; discuss the work assignment
  • know yourself; study your teammates behaviors, values, likes
  • keep in touch; communicate, even over-communicate
  • offer help if others have trouble understanding/solving the assignment
  • Team formation usually follows easily recognizable stages, known as
    “forming, storming, norming, and performing.”
    YOU ARE EXPECTED TO GET TO NORMING QUICKLY
  • learn about your team-mates: their values, behavior, goals, time lines,
    honesty, promptness, caring; strength and weakness
  • When do you report to higher Ups?
  • Influence: consistency, scarcity, authority, trust worthiness,
    social proof
  • Work together, share ideas and don’t just divide up the work.
  • Use people’s strengths and interests to produce something that
    exceeds expectations.
  • Become familiar with due dates, put buffer between team
    deadline and final deadline alert people in advance
  • Givers succeed most, reciprocators are a close second
  • Adam Grant’s book “Givers and Takers”
.
A second class exercise was inspired by an incident where a class 
member forgot an attachment when sending an email.  It happens to
all of us.
.
The class came up with several and discussion ensued about how
some recipients might feel it revealed lack of attention to detail or
how you perform under pressure.  There are technological solutions
that we should know and use.
    Outlook
    Gmail, Virtu
    Attachments in Gmail
comments (0)
03/31/17
Where can grad students go for skills not taught in Universities
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Networking, Mentoring, Leadership, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors
Posted by: site admin @ 11:28 am

This is a story about two conversations.  The first is
one with a very accomplished senior grad student.

The second conversation is one of a series with
a department of chemistry chairperson.
.
Ph.D. LACKING NEEDED SOFT SKILLS
Almost Dr. Smith (not his or her real name) wanted
to talk about a situation in which she finds herself.  She
has received several promising offers, only to be rejected
after providing references.  She has learned from a reliable
source that the reference supplied the information that her
writing skills were not up to acceptable standards, whereupon
the offer was pulled.
.
She asked what can she do now?  Learn by various means–
reading for style and formatting, specialized training to write
for specific audiences, and practice, of course are several 
possibilities.  Shouldn’t the grad school provide that for her?
.
The answer is generally, not in today’s climate.
Second conversation, now.
.
PROPOSAL TO CHAIRMAN TO OFFER PRACTICAL
SKILLS TRAINING 
[Bring a solution, when you ask about a big concern you
have.]
When the new chair was installed I went to her with the
concern that many graduates do not have essential writing
skills and other “Soft skills” that we need to be successful.
What are some courses, programs of study, and tutoring
assignments (shadowing, draft writing, editing, reading)
that are offered or can be offered?  We will bring it up to the
dean, was one response.  
.
Another time, post-docs are people without support,
representation or a voice.  What can be done to help their
case?  That is up to the individual PI was the response.  I reflected
on several national labs, medical schools and NIH programs
and received the feedback.  That is not something I can do.
.
I pursued:  Why not?  some of the ideas are nice, but I would
be stepping on people’s [departments] toes and it is imprudent
to do here.
Another reason is that I can not impinge on the time they are
working in the lab.  They have so many distractions and
commitments as it is.  To add another requirement would take 
time from the research work that needs to get done.
.
So, it goes.  Outside speakers emphasize it is important to “get 
out of the lab” and learn extra-curricular skills through different
activities, internships and volunteer roles.  Most students immediately
reflect that their boss would not like them doing that.  Most say
they feel pressure to be in the lab 7×12 getting results.
.
While I receive consistent support for Professional Development
 activities in summer and both semesters, I am only one and
so much more could be done to make a difference.  What we
do is as much or more than is offered in other R1 institutions.
Please send in ideas and concepts working in other institutions.
I look forward to them.
 
2 comments