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.
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.
Recently a colleague reported his experiences he observed
during his job search. It points out the importance of networking
 , 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.
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…
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.
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.
This is a story about two conversations. The first is
one with a very accomplished senior grad student.
What is my future like? many are asking as we face an
uncertain future. It seems as this was the case decades ago,
but it is more uncertain now.
From Dennis Brown:
It is amazing to realize the rapid changes in career
management factors we face. Psychology, economics and
-inference are longer term factors for our careers.
Tom Friedman on Meet the Press restated the current situation
many job seeking technical degree individuals face.
There is a section of Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s book
Second Machine Age that reviews the term “technological
unemployment.“ It is attributed to the use of human labor
not finding application in the emerging economy and finds
causes from inelastic demand (machines, robots and computers
replacing and not taking breaks in fault-tolerant activities),
people not adapting to skill needs and long term cost
reductions. Two recent articles speak to recent job loss
in the chemical enterprise and the perspective from a
different field, economics.
I cannot think of another situation where there is
big news of finding an unexpected source of a
needed chemical other than rare earth elements
in China.. This time it is helium.
Food science resources that might help us
manage chronic diseases seem to be rare. The
resources we see available are mostly proponents of
use or pharma companies for encouraging various
drug candidate use. Here is one on sweeteners that
should be shared widely.
SOURCES: J. Bessen HBR 2016, “Computers Don’t
Kill Jobs but increase Inequality“
The Economist, 6-25-2016 “Special Report:
Dolan, Detroit Free Press, “Dow to cut
700 Jobs in Central Michigan“
Despite simple explanations that computers are growing
jobs due to new applications and broader usage, the
story is not as clear as Bessen writes. You cannot
predict what you should learn and additionally, academics
are generally a technology generation behind actual
usage. The Economist special section covers briefly
what is known and gives more up to date detail that
many fields are continuously evolving with new AI
methods ie ‘deep learning software available on open
Dow recently announced job losses in the chemical
enterprise that will have ripple effects as they “rationalize
their labor force needs”. Sure there are business priorities
globalization will play a role as information can be shared
instantaneously and worked on anywhere in the world.
so you can see technical experts with advanced expertise
surviving, but there is much uncertainty for those seeking
full time, longer term employment.
The Economist series places one leg on each side of the
fence (pro and con), but you should look for areas of
opportunity (what robots and computers cannot do).
The longer term ripple effect of Dow-DuPont acquisition
and spin-offs are a visible example that the chemical
enterprise is not immune from this despite what popular
literature tries to sell.
HELIUM FIND IN AFRICA
SOURCE: NYTimes feed “Huge Helium Source found in Africa“
I was somewhat aware of the shortage of helium used
in many advanced technologies from Nick Leadbeater.
Working with Helium One, a Norwegian exploration firm
Oxford geologists uncovered a gas field rich in helium.
It is material released from rocks due to volcanic heat
in adjacent rocks. The finding is of large commercial
value and may lead to testing other similar formations
There are important implications for industry.
TEMPTING SWEETS MAY NOT BE ALL THAT GOOD
SOURCE: S Ernst, Amer. Laboratory, “Sweet Tooth”
June/July 2016 p. 6-7.
Ernst’s article on Sweet tooth captured my interest.
and led me to look at Sugarscience.org. There are
a number of metabolic tendencies that may the result
of food formulations that attract customers to purchase
and ingest what may not be best for them. The website
seems to be a terrific repository of reviewed information
not biased by organizations that profit from its content.
How can you bring new ideas to an organization? When
first mentioned, members will say–that’s crazy! We’ve
done it before or it has been tried and look what happened….
Three possible revolutionary (and helpful) ideas are
offered here. One has been mentioned before, free dissemination
of high quality chemical information. Free the science!
There is a large hew and cry about increasing employment
opportunities for people in the chemical enterprise–
technicians, engineers, biochemists, and many sub-disciplines.
Are we asking the blind where to look and how to find trends,
opportunities, and ideas? We should have a whole division
entitled, Chemistry and the Economy which uses Economists
tools of data analysis and superforcasting!
Can we predict the outcome of experiments? Yes when we are
lucky… that is why we do experiments. A group from LANL,
I heard from a member of my network, uses informatics based
adaptive design to define new materials.
DISSEMINATE KNOWLEDGE FREELY
Many are not aware but over a hundred years ago a group of
scientists separated from the ACS and formed their own
society since their needs were not met. At this time the
critical needs of the world are not met by large commercial
interests and privatized, high cost journals. There is a
critical need to radically change how good information is
shared. A model for this has been published and is being
implemented. The incremental, “nibble at the apple” approach
that is not affordable outside large institutions should change.
NEW DIVISION: ECONOMICS AND CHEMISTRY
Chemists are not economists. Economists are not chemists.
Why are we asking chemists to assess the economy and
report on how the chemical enterprise evolves and what
will be viable career fields in the future. You can not look
at the past to predict the future. Things change fast.
We need, as a society, a new division dedicated to asking
economics questions about STEM fields.
The ACS, NESACS and other sections and divisions have
no influence over creating jobs in the private or the
public sector. There is a crying need for the ACS to
define a new and important role, outside of the chemical
realm that asks the questions we are not able to develop
answers or even superforecasts. Please let’s develop a
LANL INNOVATIVE DEVELOPMENT
Many have learned that hunches tested by trial and error
have yielded new materials for practical materials. Think
of for example lithium battery cathode material. The
LANL group has developed a partial factorial designed
experiment approach that is quicker and more efficient.
This brings in innovations in statistical design much
needed in designing materials of the future.
It is the beginning of the 2015 Fourth Quarter and the
stock market has not been universally good this year.
Not going into any of those details, but will point you
to an article about some opportunities that certain
technical professional investors might calculate for
themselves using Turbotax of similar software.
ROTH IRA RECHARACTERIZATION CALCULATION
SOURCE: L. Saunders, WSJ 10-3-15, “Why it’s prime
time for Roth IRA”
Roth IRAs are the “gold standard” of tax sheltered
retirement plans from which withdrawals are presently
tax-free on untaxed gains and after tax contributions.
The issue is in the short term past many investments
lost value. This article suggests Roth investors might
undo Roth conversions last year or this year and
avoid paying the taxon value that has “vanished”.
Deadline is Oct. 15. Comments might be helpful
DIGITAL LIBRARY AND OPEN ACCESS
SOURCE: ECS Open Access
Alternative Article Impact
Got my first email from ECS Weekly Digests from two technical
areas that I signed up for. They inform me of recent publications
that this society reviewed and accepted. Beyond my expectations
was outstanding other services that will allow me to communicate
better, learn new areas and deepen my understanding of the
practical outcomes of scientific investigations.
Sometimes cartoons in “digital libraries” can be outstanding
in effectively communicating results, impacts and directions.
BONUS: SCIENCE OUT OF THE BOX
Nearly 80% of the members of our graduate course in
Professional Development rank security or certainty as
a leading desire. Thus, a high percentage sense a higher
level of un-certainty.
I led a seminar recently on ‘Dealing with Uncertainty’ where
the attendees were asked what were they uncertain about.
Was it how to make good decisions, or
What should be their next career step, or
Should they stop with a MS, or
How to do a good job search, or
How long should they expect to stay at a job, when should
they move, how do you look for a position while working,
What do you do if your boss disagrees with you or
does not like you, or…
You might get the point. Then, I asked them to share
their uncertainty with others before asking them to
discuss what feelings do the uncertainty evoke?
Did they feel confused, or anxious, or frustrated, or
stuck (and not able to change or move), or making false
starts? The top three feelings they expressed were:
anxious, confused and frustrated.
We talked that many of their situations were created by
the circumstances that they were in influenced by outside
forces. They have relatively little control over these.
What they each have control over is how they individually
respond to the feelings that the circumstances evoke.
Those who felt confused might lack VISION. What are
their career objectives?
Have they done a S-W-O-T, strengths-weaknesses,
opportunities and threats analysis?
Do they participate in setting goals, performing a “gap
analysis” and design a personal development plan?
Do they have a Z Plan, a personal desired outcome
when everything comes out “jelly-side up”?
Those who felt anxious might lack the NECESSARY
SKILLS. Have they performed a personal self assessment?
Do they know soft and wise skills that they are expected
to display and will provide advantages? Do they know
how to manage and build personal self esteem?
Ref. Brian Tracy
Those who felt frustrated might not have developed and
used available RESOURCES. Have they mentors that
seem committed to them? Are they aware of legal
counsel of Al Sklover for employment issues? Are
they aware of the WRAP method (Widen options,
Reality check solutions, Attain distance/perspective
and Prepare to be wrong)
Working through these brought some clarity to dealing
with each person’s sense of uncertainty.
Thanks to Hari Narayanan for bringing the uncertainty
matrix to my attention.
In March 2015 this blog shared links to organs on chips
devices Donald Ingbar presented in Washington in
his plenary talk. This entry points to a link to work
on several organs-on-chips, leading to bodies-on-chips
which could model bodies responses to radiological
and biological attacks.
Applications of an amazing isotopic phenomenon
of heavy element clumping has received more attention
and being used to explore scientific questions.
SOURCE: The Economist, 6-13-15, P.75,”Towards a
Chips not containing full organs, but small colonies of
cells that replicate organ functions are being developed,
They may provide a physical test bed containing biochemical
and physical environments. DARPA the article indicates
requests work on as many as ten organ model systems to
pursue nuclear and biological incident studies on small
ISOTOPE CLUMPING AND ISOTOPOLOGUES
SOURCES: “What are clumped isotopes“
“Photosynthesis studies using clumped isotopes.“
“Effects of Brine Chemistry and polymorphism on isotope
Did you know that lower temperatures favor the formation
of heavier isotope combination molecules than based on
random combinations of natural isotope ratios. John Eiler
is credited with rationalizing this insight. This might
have applications in biogeochemistry, Rice researchers
Aerodyne Research reports a tool for clumped ion measurement.
A highly qualified recent PhD found a job description that
“says 5 years of surfactant/colloid research experience is
required. I have 4. Other than that, I am a great fit for the
job. There is a question on the application that specifically
asks if you have 5 years experience.”
My first response is (1) never lie.
Second, let’s (2) look at the specific job description phrases
“Ph.D. required (surfactant /colloid sciences preferred);
minimum 5 years of work/ research experience in … field with publications;
capable of carrying out independent research…;
proven track record in developing instrumentation methods…
experience in using both internal and external resources..”
Then, (3) speak with some recruiters like at a job fair, through Linkedin,
look at informative discussion boards and seek their input about what
this means to them. Some examples were:
-a significant fraction of “…job descriptions are boiler plated copies
from somewhere else….”
-employers want to ‘find the right person to offer the job to.’ “When
I use minimum of 5 years experience … I look to accomplish:
eliminate entry level job seekers [immediately after degree]
people who do not need protracted learning curve
people who know the technology in use
people with real world experience, not just academic…”
- job requirements are seldom absolute….”what I would care about is
the plural of years, specific technologies and the commercial part.”
Finally, (4) contact a mentor to explore how to explore this opportunity
professionally. It might or might not be right for me or for someone
else in my network who is looking.
Comments from a mentor were:
“This may not be what you want to hear. When a firm seeks industrial
experience, they would like applicants who have industrial not academic
experience. A translation if this is a person with a PhD and two years
academic post doc is 1 year experience. [degree, plus half year for
each year of academic postdoc.] PhD and three years in a small,
start up is 3 years experience.
What are they looking for? They seek applicants who can collaborate
with multidisciplinary teams to achieve commercial objectives….”
ACTION ITEMS - Do an information interview
“Consider calling and speaking with either someone in your network
at the company, someone through linkedin, or someone you meet at a
meeting and tell them of your interest in working in the firm. Let
them know you have seen a posting that may fit but wanted to check
on whether your qualifications met what they were seeking. ”
- Follow the direct contact with a proactive thank you note.
A provocative concept introduced by Daniel Burrus
is transformative [rather than incremental] planning .
This concept results from a realization that there
are “wider” and broader forces influencing changes
beyond linearization of recent events. Burrus calls
our attention to industries and organizations who remained
in their ’silos’ of view and perished or were left behind
due to total changes in context and culture. (think:
iphones, ipads, and remote storage in place of cameras
He teaches us anticipatory planning for what does not
even exist now. He advocates a broader network of
information gathering and screening to be prepared
to explore in our information interviews and networking
interviews to be part of the future trend rather than trying
to catch up. [ See blog.]
An example of a company seeking to adapt and adjust
A recent ad in Atlantic elaborates on AOT Analytics
of Things which is being incorporated into our daily
lives via predictive maintenance for safety, health
and efficiency and up-to-the-second awareness.
An amazing discovery of the creation of an element with oxidation
state +9 was reported in October. Iridium +9 was characterized with
photodissociation spectroscopy. There are many possible implications
for this first +9 oxidation state element, which seems rarer than a
new element in the periodic table.
Ever-tightening budgets, combined with increasing costs, longer
tenures of graduate and post-graduate studies and a trend of
1,000 to 2,000 per year increase grant proposals (NSF) is creating
a challenge for proposers, reviewers and grant administrators.
The process of proposal reviews which all constituencies should be
well informed is undergoing both stresses and new evaluation.
While lithium batteries and lithium ion electrochemical systems
are common in many devices, avenues of research into
their components has focused on anodes, cathodes and
side reactions. New work was recently reported on the solvation
structure of liquid electrolytes.
There is quite some speculation of what this might lead to
in catalysis, structure, composition and dynamics.
PEER REVIEW: CHALLENGE OF TECHNICAL AND SCIENTIFIC
MERIT BY ECONOMIC AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES
SOURCES: A. Widener, C&EN 11-24-14, p. 21,
ACS Peer Review Statement
The author describes the details of the grant proposal selection
process and infers that it is more “administratively” managed.
Pilot tests of virtual, applicant review, scaled back proposals,
and wording bias elimination schemes are brought out.
There are biases and preferences in all decision-making
processes. Challenges to pure technical review by fiduciary
and financial impacts makes every stakeholder drawn to the
Every review process is very hard and demanding and
when faced with a broader spectrum of factors, most
people are not always well equipped to providing input.
The ACS has a policy statement about peer review to keep it
technical -merit-based. This area needs every person in the
scientific community to weigh seriously.
LITHIUM SOLUTION COORDINATION 4.5
SOURCE: L. Yaris, …Better electrolyte for lithium batteries
Lithium BF4 was studied in the Berkeley light source and
Li + found to exist in solution with a higher, fractional coordination
number than previously believed.
This may lead to studies and discoveries for commercial
Did you observe the oxymoron headline on scientist employment
in C&EN 12-22-14, p.11 Temporary Turmoil? It got me to
looking deeper to find out more– differences between fields,
differences between locations, where is the data and what does
it really mean…See Critical thinking questions we should
apply when reading reports.
Are you currently in a position and wonder how to move
to another position? An interesting link is shared giving
the trend in “prized ponies,” in job market terminology,
those who are passive candidates, already working but
“shackled” into their current position.
Many scientific and engineering societies are finding
that subscription-based publication of findings and applications
are not meeting their core mission. Open access has the
potential of distributing more evenly (without bias) and widely
advances that are the output of scientific and engineering
One of the leading objections in the publication world
dominated by large societies and publishing houses is the
curious use of “impact factor” for whole journals for
career advancement purposes.
SOURCES J. Wright, Forbes 5-28-2013
“Influence of international graduates on STEM worker
shortage” ,and following articles
J. Weismann, Slate 7-10-14 “The stagnating job market for
young scientists“; Simply hired trends
Since the graphic made little sense in the above mentioned
magazine, it seemed like a good starting point to ask some
questions. Wright indicates 40% of 25,000 PhDs are
granted to international graduates. 30% obtain positions
in the US on temporary work visas.
Some areas and fields have gained openings, Wright cites.
Weismann examines trends in separate STEM fields in
a helpful manner. His conclusions, stated by quoting
other writers, may be debated.
ONLINE MARKETING FOR NEXT POSITION
SOURCE: Rachel Silverman, WSJ 1-2-15, p. B1
“New Year, New Job? Read this first“
The Economist, 1-3-15 p. 17
“There’s an App for that“
Silverman’s article hints at how companies are competing
for talented professionals. Cost-cutting seems to be
edging out retention and engagement and, rather than
giving pay increases, bonuses are offered. She puts forward
findings that new online services like online dating models
now exist– Poacht, Switch, Poachable are seen for
hard to fill and engineering positions.
A related piece by Lindsey Gellman “Show me your
Stuff” reveals that corporations are hiring using simulations
and assessment tools to reveal decision making ability and
The final lines in the piece: leave three positives
with the hiring entity.
Finally striking a similar cord to what has been brought
to your attention is the breaking up of tasks into different
skill level parts and having temporary staff handle less
impactful portions and outsourcing. The Economist
article highlights this that seems to be a continuation
PITCH: OPEN ACCESS
SOURCE ECS Interface Winter 2014. p. 31
Trends: erosion of subscription revenue and subscribers
competition from commercial publishers that game
the impact factor system and impose deals to library
collections, reduced library budgets, consolidation
in the publishing industry, and increasing number of
The article hits a number of important long term
issues that our society could do better opening a