The Chemistry Profession encourages through the
training institutions focusing attention on exclusively
the technical side of the business. So much of what
we face in the industrial and government realms
This blog has offered several glimpses via entries on
this different perspective. I could not help but exclaim
“wow” when CEN covered a story about Bain and
Pfizer forming Cerevel (10-29-18, p. 14). The same
issue reported Deerfield and UNC organizing a
curious partnership (p. 15).
Dow and DuPont dominated CEN 11-19-18) after
their merger and activist investor inspired breakup
of various lower performing divisions. (pp. 11, 22ff)
up into three separate companies.
All these activities remind me of bank buyouts,
ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) and
rapid turnover of company leadership and philosophy
of the 1980s.
So, please study and become aware of the
chemistry leads you into.
Your success, stability and satisfaction will require it.
Al Sklover provided an interesting observation on the ownership of
ideas produced by employees.
As many of us gain employment first as a temporary employee and
if conditions merit full time status is granted. It is important to
learn the legal implications of contributions to work output.
Sklover points out
1. work product made during the period of employment and related
to the job, can be claimed as “owned” by employer.
2. work product, created before the period and used in the period
can also be claimed as “owned” by the employer.
3. work product you created off the job, not in the work period of
documented hours of work, can be “owned” by the employer.
4. work product resulting from sharing of your personal expertise
with other employees, can be “owned” by the employer.
Employers quite often insist that offer letters and contracts be signed
granting all rights of ownership to the employer.
Sklover has suggested in his entry that there are steps we can take to
protect creative efforts from being consider work for hire.
There are assignment and ethical responsibility implications especially
for contract workers. This is a positive resource worth reading.
OKR Systems described in outline and detail in Doerr’s
book Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono and the Gates
Foundation Rock the world with OKRs see also videos.
Goal setting is not bulletproof: When there are conflicting
priorities or unclear, meaningless or arbitrarily shifting goals,
people become frustrated, cynical and demotivated.
Goals may cause systematic problems in organizations due to
narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking,
decreased cooperation, and decreased motivation. Hard goals
drive real progress more than easy goals. If they are specific
results observed are on target more than vague ones.
For those making the transition from academic experiences
to commercial or mission oriented organizations, Doerr is
a powerful mentor.
One of the areas technical professionals can use tutorials is in legal
matters. Al Sklover does this with his outstanding blog and advice
column and ECS Interface has been offering a Patent tutorial by
Maria Inman and Jennings Taylor.
points out three pertinent items in contract law…
- Importance of Section Titles- read carefully the title and section
content and confirm they express the same thing
- Entire Agreement- Sometimes other and previous agreements may
apply. It is important to seek out the precise wording and specific
- Importance of SIGNING AGREEMENTS
- First to file in patent law changes
- Significant detail on “Prior Art” for patents
- Nature of Prior disclosures in collaborations influencing patent claims.
.One of the areas that you should keep updated on iswhat is happening in cyber-security when we get spam.
Another is cyber attacks especially if you are in a governmental
lab or project or other technically sophisticated project.
Industrial spies are not commonly mentioned, but are
sharing some of his insights. There is an arms race in the
cyber world and it uses special techniques like turbosquatters
More and more, IT departments need to take a defensive
strategy against these kinds of pernicious attacks.
Historically, photographing or copying pages of reports
and data was the mode of spying. With systems going
digital and so much being Internet enabled, it is something
you need to understand how to protect.
Steven Brill outlines the changes that have occurred
triggering the financialization of the chemical enterprise
that we have highlighted through the work of Rana Faroohar
Brill points out that business today has taken on a new meritocracy
with a “get rich quick” philosophy that works through cut-throat
tactics and the flooding of political influence money that no
longer prioritizes the common good, but “win at any cost” for
the privileged few.
The resulting model finds successful businesses protected by
“moats” that shield off predators. Moats he describes as good
product lines, great reputations, predominant market share and
sterling management who hire the best of the best teams that
savvy investors will seek out.
More and more we see AI and robotics impinge on human
roles. So in addition to seeking cognifying roles
in our careers,
consider what John Meacham has urged
- do practical work in the political sphere employing your highest
- respect and insist on true facts and deploy reason (avoid
dictators who lie frequently assuming that repetition will lead to
- keep history in mind.
Just doing chemistry is not enough for professionals.
Interesting observations in several fields that touch
on scientific realm are offered in this post.
value. Tessa Pocock wrote about the photosynthetic
efficiency of different low intensity wavelengths
on plant growth, the McCree Curve. This is a
possible application for solid state lighting and
specific crop production.
CRISPR Patent Rulings. Two sources talking
about the continuing saga of patent protection
filings from UC Berkeley and Broad Institute
are teachable moments for technology development.
offers that the result could impact
The Courthouse and expedited application process
AI in Science. While the first of two articles
ramifications in all fields.
AI- diagnosis and disease probability
AI- personalized medicine (skin cancer, smoking
AI- drug discovery using unsupervised learning
algorithms of pattern recognition
AI- predictive analytics in clinical trials to reduce time
AI- interpretation of scans using smart algorithms to
AI- seamless communication of health records
more detail about “optical biopsies” in the near
future as part of AI in diagnosis.
Harold Pollack shared a meaningful list that fits on an
Index Card of hints to deal with transitions. Nine items
- Live within your means, restraining impulses that
can get the best of you where your belongings can
- Within one year, spend no more than 14% of
- Set up accounts to deal with requests and bequests
where you limit budget items.
- Control debt lines of credit where you avoid
high interest financial burdens. Determine strategies
to eliminate existing ones. Help others achieve the
- Stick to your core expertise. Consult with a
professional about personal investments. Beware
of IT recommendations without the full picture.
- Manage investment choices using low fee vehicles,
shield investments from taxes and other obligations.
- Interview and choose committed financial adviser,
attorney and insurance provider, so you are proactive,
thoughtful and within the law.
- Bring in experts to financial decisions.
- Give generously to reputable causes that meet your
purposes, knowing that you are responsible to
Many of these suggestions seem fit for approaching
retirement. Yet, it is not too early to have these in
mind much earlier in your career and have them
carry over as good habits.
Three things have come to my attention. One was a recent
graduate’s interest in a consulting firm position. So we
have been in discussion about how she might prepare for
developing her cover letter, resume and other documents.
A second item relates to an important technical area that
Bill Gates has indicated demands more attention– preparing
Finally, an interesting letter to the editor in CEN by
Professor Adam Heller talks about mitigation work
needed to deal with the growing global warming threat
we all face. I note this because Adam has always been
at the forefront of where technology needs are…lithium
batteries, lasers, biomedical devices and more.
The initial volley involved getting information on the company,
seeing the job description and related information from
insiders and Glassdoor.com. As is found from many of
- desire blending information technology and management
- recently graduated from top institution with credentials
- skilled and experience with using software and developing
learning tools in C++, Java, C# and other platforms
- demonstrates outstanding communication skills in all phases
So this provides some hints about important things to include
in application documents. But we do need to go further. Using
Linkedin, and the firm’s website we can learn more about
the kinds of project areas and notable citations. One citation
came up about a highly touted recent book on consulting that
the CEO wrote. Probably would be good to pick up.
Then, consider making use of your network to glean other
useful information and tactics to allow you to stand out, like.
the name of the recruiter to send things to.
PREPARE FOR NEXT PANDEMIC
In a recent ScienceAlert post Bill Gates talked about an
area of high need. Gates told of a simulated disease
spread model of a flu borne pathogen. It would create
devastating consequences that we are not prepared for.
Strategies and organizations need to be formed to
identify the mode and source and rapidly develop
mobile operations to isolate, treat and inoculate larger
populations. This is long range thinking well beyond
the fiscal and election cycles that should be of interest
to technical professionals interested in being part of
something larger than themselves and making a difference.
In a Letter to the Editor of C&EN on April 30,
A. Heller wrote of the high need to report in their
pages the critical need for scientific research to
develop and test strategies to global warming
catastrophes the earth faces.
Where C&EN fills its pages with alternate energy
and conservation, these are “tip of the iceberg”
solutions. Trends point to global wealth and the resulting
use of resources without sustainable management as
the dominating input for continued earth warming
in addition to a series of unintended consequences of
loss of ice caps, changing climate patterns and severe
natural events in tropical areas.
Work on Geochemical approaches is needed and
has to be reported in C&EN and to the wider
Did you sign a non-compete agreement with your current employer?
Did you keep your employment offer letter that promised certain
What are your retirement benefits from your first employer–
did you maintain your employee handbook? [if the company
still exists and functions…]
These are valuable insights that Al Sklover poses in formulating
a defensive “go” file in case you need details of your
take his prudent advice.
While surfing to learn about a former employer and
possible future changes in its pension arrangement,
I came upon a practical wbesite that I wish to share
with you on financial matters.
BFG. Interesting discussions are provided on:
Please note: Sklover’s Working Wisdom remains a leading
resource for us that I highly recommend. Recent notes of
importance are highlighted in this entry.
PROMISES: KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK
In a clearly written post, A. Sklover indicates two specific
questions you should ask when offered a bonus, promotion
or something of value–(1) ‘when’ and (2) ‘what conditions
need to be met’.
Specific date or time frame is the only acceptable response.
Conditions that must be met should be under your control
If this promise is part of a job offer, it needs to be inserted into
the offer letter. If the promise occurs at another time, like
a transfer or termination, for example, clear email statement
with a return email confirmation of the negotiation request
is important to document.
LEGAL TERMS IN CONTRACTS
One item I have a basic understanding for, but have the
experience that when I asked too many questions, it raised
a red flag with the organization. Do not waver, reach an
This formally includes more than one agreement between
parties which may limit or remove protections for you. It
is a flag to review each agreement and note the wording,
asking for clarity for your circumstance.
A second contract term is a new phrase.
“– [yellow light : caution]
Review every provision and understand this phrase mitigates
any reward or limits outcomes for you. Al Sklover points
out this can increase risks to you.
While Pier Forni leads the way, I believe, in helping us
see civil behavior in organizations and different
situations, the updated Emily Post book adds some
useful suggestions for what your digital profile includes
and pointing out problem areas.
Post indicates what each professional should consider
as components of their digital profile. Update each
regularly and keep them consistent..
* complete and update Linkedin profile, with
* have a well maintained blog and website
* have links to published content in your name
* list membership on boards, charitable/ educational
groups and organizations
* include awards and achievements
* cite positive press
Just having a solid digital profile is not enough. Be
aware of potential trouble areas, like:
* privacy protections on Facebook
* uncensored, overly personal
or controversial history
* less than flattering photos tagged to your name
* old media that does not reflect who you are now
* unflattering press
Search your name and some name alternatives
Social Networking Tips
1. Online privacy is an illusion. Just about everything has
a digital fingerprint.
2. Think twice about offering negative criticism online.
Can be easily misinterpreted, especially in the absence
of facial expression, tone of voice
or nonverbal cues…
3. Opinions will be formed on everything you post and
much can be taken out of context.
4. You bear responsibility for online image
One of the leading skills that we take away from our
experience, education and learning from others is
“articulating thoughts” in letters. Notice the specificity
at the end of the sentence. [Many sources point out
that articulating relates to speech, lucid is more to
tuned to writing.]
Articulating thoughts in writing means that there is a
specific goal for your letter, whether
you wish to submit to a journal editor
, or filing an interest or complaint with an authority
encapsulates barriers to lucid
writing identifying four hurdles:
- cultural differences
: while it is easier to describe
international professionals working in American
enterprises, I have found manufacturing organizations
have “time critical” focus that is not present in R&D,
Observe and pay attention to words used and timeliness,
intent and action.
- verbs, active/passive voice and word order:
interpretations and meaning can vary from person to
- finding the right term: so often loss of specificity
can lead to undesired outcomes
- anxiety can lead to including unrelated information
due to uncertainty. Joining organizations like
Toastmaster International may prove to be a growing
In most cases good letter writing open doors to many
opportunities as well as the goal for your writing.
Keywords, knowing how letters are received and
recorded (sometimes documents are screened by
software before humans scan them), and who and
how letters are addressed (formal is more often
appropriate) are take-aways for good letter writing.
One of the crucial measures of developing research programs
is keeping in touch with new ideas and combinations with
new equipment and theories.
Several career paths place credibility of achievement on
publications [publications in peer reviewed publications].
How this is measured with Internet publications is not patently
obvious or at least consistent from one organization to another.
Nonetheless several sources of online publications are appearing.
provides global access and outlet to classified topic
ChemRxiv is a Figshare
product offers rapidly transmitted
of one-page preprints with a promise of tools to detect plagiarism.
[open API or via OAI-PMH].
to evolve from the commercial and professional society
journal paradigm. It will be important that strong professional
ethics are articulated in this evolving medium and there is
a viable enforcement mechanism for violations and dealing
with grey-area issues.
I received a request from PP after he received a long
sought after job offer. He accepted the offer which he
pointed out included a $2000 relocation reimbursement.
“…Since this is my first industry based job, best
professional practices to follow as a new employee.
One item is the company has not followed up on its $2K
relocation allowance, which they offered during phone and
Other things not mentioned in the hard offer was processing
my O-1 work visa.
I am expected to relocate in early November. Please let me
know what you think about my relocation allowance?”
1. HOW TO ACCEPT AN OFFER
It is critical to understand your critical first step in accepting
a job offer. Besides signing the appropriate document, you
should devise an acceptance letter that re-affirms key elements
of the offer letter agreement and items that were discussed in
all the interviews and information exchanges. This should be
sent either at the same time as the acceptance documents or
Included in the letter is a request to know a direct contact person
to whom you can consult with issues, questions and concerns.
You should be able to contact them at any time and feel
You should ask for a company annual report and employee
Clearly, this acceptance letter would specifically address
relocation and working visa processing.
2. RELOCATION INFORMATION
should be confirmed orally and confirmed in writing:
- househunting, including transportation, hotel and meals
- costs of selling and purchasing, including closing costs,
commissions, legal and recordkeeping expenses
- Position searching help for spouse
- travel expenses and temporary housing for the move
- Temporary housing in cases where the home is not
- moving company expenses and logistics for packing
loading, unloading and unpacking, as well as insurances
Please realize that the details of the relocation policy
need to be confirmed and in writing. Also it is critical to
confirm the specifics of what forms, receipts and
timing of submission / reimbursement in advance.
I recommended that PP should not be hindered from
asking for information and suggestions at any time.
A more comprehensive relocation benefit discussion
Not to be lost in this discussion is the tax breaks you are
entitled to for job change as long as it involves a move
of employer greater than 600 miles. Please note that if
the job search occurs over a significant period of time
with various expenses they can all be claimed, but you
are responsible for keeping receipts (credit card
documents may be enough, if accompanied by expense
3. VISA DISCUSSIONS
You should not shy away from pursuing a firm understanding
of responsible people, timelines and your role in employment
papers. This has been a topic in this blog. We know the
visa situation has changed and will change again so it is
critical to be well informed and have a back up plan.
Visiting an experienced technical professional, I asked
how he would help people who are thinking of a consulting
career.. He gave me a text by William Cohen, “How to
Make it big as a Consultant.” Then we discussed some things.
The Cohen book was more than 30 years old and did not
include any Internet related nor association-network approaches.
In Cohen are listed direct methods for contacting customers–
1- direct mail
2- cold calls
3- direct response ads
4- directories and yellow pages
5- former employees and directors.
So he does not get into push pull marketing so much in the
Internet age. It all seems to be “push” marketing. It is
confirmed by the “indirect methods”…
a- speaking to groups
c- professional associations
d- articles and books
e- letters to editors
f- teach a course and lead a seminar
g- public releases and broadcast releases.
These are all still applicable, but likely not relevant!
Clearly having a proactive web page, linkedin page and
pull marketing strategy is not known in 1985 when the
It is not an easy task and one that evolves rapidly.
Now there is something in addition to learn from this
exercise….check the publication date of the book, and,
see if there is a more recent edition. There is in this
This note points out that when you end your academic career,
your continuous learning process really ‘begins.’ And guess
what, there are no texts for this learning and no absolute, correct
What we learn is that mentors can help you ask the best questions
and it seems each individual’s situation and priorities are different.
My colleague AJ asked:
“I also wanted to seek your opinion on employee stock options.
As a part of the offer, the company extended an option to
purchase 2500 shares of stock…the company is not public.
….attached is a document here for reference.
Before signing, I just thought of having a word with you.”
Each situation is different, but the specific wording and specific
details of the offer are very important.
My experience is that I trusted the public relations of a firm
I worked for and purchased many shares of stock with the
promise of growth and profits. In the end, I lost a great deal
of investment dollars that I could have avoided if I studied
the investor literature and consulted wise counselors.
AJ advised me that he is contributing 8% of his salary in the
company 401K and has some short term expenses. He will
check into the latest date when he must decide. My advice to
“I totally understand your quandary. I would have a similar problem
with this question, so I refer to Al Sklover Link is where I would start.
[He describes critical questions AJ should ask before signing any
Then, the next article is quite significant: in that it describes “traps” we
can find ourselves in when working at a start up.
This could be a sizable dollar commitment for you, AJ. Al is
very professional and knowledgeable. $100 spent on solid legal
advice can result in much more savings in a speculative situation.
Who can afford to purchase their own copy of their
favorite journal(s) these days? Prices are prohibitive,
even for libraries. So, societies and for-profit publishers
have taken advantage of electronic publishing.
Both non-profit and for-profit institutions generally
take advantage of a wide audience, leading authors
and mini-monopoly power.
part of our membership, but there are hundreds of
We can access ~42 articles/month from ACS journals for
$500, but who can afford this without research grants?
Then, there are so many more journals we want to read
and learn from.
This is what I support since so much research is
government or grant supported.
monetary rewards are offered in China for scientific
papers based on “importance” characteristics. He
touched on the understanding that most of us know
many articles are not considered ‘pioneering’ when
initially published. Years and sometimes, decades later
papers can become very useful.
The article on ‘pay for useful publication’ misses the
real world arrangement that many companies write
into their employment contracts awarding patent
bonuses for employees… Patents are available on-line
from the patent office.
Have you looked at the proposed FY2018 budget for science,
technology, health and engineering? Mostly flat or cutback.
except for defense related expenditures (and the “wall”– which
will be paid for by someone else..)
Have you looked at the proposals for taxes? Across the board
reductions in rates, which results in peanuts for the poor,
a cup of Starbucks for the middle class and a new yacht for
Have you noticed the major overhaul of the rules and enforcement
progressive taxation (richest contribute a fairer share) and
regulations and legislation are what has turned American
enterprise into an equitable thriving system in the 20th century.
We need to do something about the gutting of these.
Through the ACS
we are provided some tools to be proactive
individually. In a recent town hall we learned from our senator
that groups and organizations are much more effective in
influencing and sending cogent messages to senators and
Let’s all urge the EPA to meet its mandated assignment, if not,
let’s increase our efforts at the state level with the DEP.
Let’s ask our ACS President to address research funding
shortfalls that impacts our enterprise long term.
Let’s bring back regulations that reign in wild speculative behaviors
that benefit a clever few who have escape clauses to absolve