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.
Three informative items came across my desk that I wish to
share. These are either benchmarks of progress or inflection
points for the next technology generation.
The first is about using statistics to provide an interpretation
of the uncertainty of a measurement. It may have larger
impact on small statistical samples. This article might have been
useful for me in reporting results of one aspect from my
doctoral thesis (structure-activity relationship).
Most of us who have some familiarity with DNA know it as
a double-stranded helical structure revealing the chemical
basis of biological differences. It is interesting to read the
speculation of Claude Gagna in “Reactions” 6-4-18 about
non-canonical nucleic acid structures and their biological
Finally, I was pleased to see discussion on tandem solar
cells with perovskites which may pave the way for
higher efficiencies that will get me interested in placing
solar panels on my northern city home.
STATISTICS: SIGNIFICANT DIGITS
SOURCE: S. Deming, Amer. Lab. 6-2018, p. 30
Granularity of Data.”
Readers of this blog will recognize my fascination with
Deming’s short reports on statistics. Here he helps us see
our way to understand how some data with small sample
size can be interpreted and some questions you can ask
MOTIFS IN DNA STRUCTURES POSSIBLE MOLECULAR
SOURCE: C Gagna, CEN Reactions CEN6-4-18, p. 3
Original citation Stu Borman
I liked the way this was handled and reemphasized.
An original commentary on a new chemical finding was
remarked in Reactions section not long afterwards.
This line of thinking has broad implications as well.
There should be a practice in journal publication that
does this sort of follow-up to bring strong ideas up
and share them with the chemical community. I emphasize
this for grad students and post-docs to build ideas of this
nature in your research notebooks. It is a solid foundation
for your professional careers.
PEROVSKITE SOLAR CELLS IN FUTURE TANDEM
It has been talked about for decades that tandem cells
absorbing more of the solar spectrum could yield higher
efficiencies. The development of unique structure
solar cells, like perovskites, should push efficiencies
up closer to the 30s and make panels more realistic
if they can have long functional life and limited
efficiency fading over time.
I will be watching this development.
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.
From–CJ’s mailbag from 5-21-18 CEN, p. 27
Question/Answer: Is it better to jump from one company to
another or stick with a company long term?
While the question is an appropriate one, his short
answer was not satisfying. (It was: no one knows!)
Where I come out on this question: There are five features
that will help you answer the question for yourself.
1.CULTURE AND GOALS.
.CJ offers the big company, small organization
argument saying larger firms desire loyalty.
My view suggests that you might assess whether you are
comfortable in the company culture of how things work and
what your title, responsibility and security-opportunity-
influence triad balance is.
2.YOUR BOSS AND MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE AND POLICIES
. Do you like and communicate well with your boss and
your support staff? Is there trust and honesty. Are the policies
flexibly meeting your needs for the present and the future? Look
out for more than the present. Can you ask hard questions and
get honest answers?
3.YOUR FAMILY SITUATION AND NEAR TERM GOALS
We work to satisfy our particular families’ needs, first.
Are hours of work, travel, stress level such that it allows your
personal needs and wants to be met? outside of work life.
4.YOUR LONG TERM HORIZON
We all must stop being an employee
at some point. Do
you want it to be your choice or business conditions or an
arbitrary “committee beauty contest” selection? When you
leave will it be fair and open, on good terms? Can you
have the benefits your family needs and are they protected?
5.YOUR CURRENT POSITION AND ASSIGNMENT AND
WHERE IT LEADS YOU AND ALLOWS YOU TO LEARN
Are you challenged and learning important things every day?
Do you feel positive about what your goals are and look forward
to each day’s challenges?
Telling the truth, for myself, and for those for whom I
have mentored, have a mentor team that will help you
pose questions and look at the big picture for you.
I could not have gotten to where I am now without the
outstanding help of mentors. Two qualities that I felt
they provided were persistence and outside of the box
You should always have radar ‘on,’ to learn about your
field. You should always have an early warning system
telling you the good and bad (remember: management usually
holds back on delivering bad news and too often uses
rose colored glasses and a ‘bow on top.’)
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
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:
Rarely, if ever, do Chemistry graduates ever receive formal
or informal introductions in chemical enterprise business models.
We think it is of critical importance as it shows is how individuals
and corporations learn and how its core values.(business purpose,
core culture, operational processes and policies) are demonstrated.
So many of the BS, MS and PhD / post-grads do not find a
match to what they believe are their skills and interests. They
might initially desire to emulate their advisers, but opportunities
are often limited. So, they look for start-ups and entrepreneurial
business models. Heintz et al
show how business models can be
different in different cultures. This is an important consideration
for it affects decision making from many angles.
has predicted that chemical enterprises will benefit from
digitalization but as a whole are slow to incorporate them. This
is an area to embrace or at least consider when assessing the job
pictures families of business models.
- flow from raw materials to finished products with customer
service to offer value to customers
- exchange driven platform where groups of consumers and
producers aim to maximize value
So two examples to make things concrete for readers. Think
about the way we consume news. Newspapers in the 20th
century were from larger news organizations, printed at
central locations, hand delivered and read cover to cover.
Mass distribution of video and radio complemented printed
media. Now, we consume news mostly online via internet
and cable 24-7 and there is so much that news is continually
updated and corrected. Because of this nature and the various
media formats and sources how businesses make a profit has
moved from coupons and ads to clicks and eye balls.
Photography is a second model that reveals the revolutions
from print format to virtual world which can be re-constituted.
Then there are many other factors like portable power,
miniaturization and software versions and security.
As we use artificial intelligence more and more and depend
on machines for decision making, critical thinking becomes
more important. In particular topics like false positive results
and limits of detection. This was brought up earlier in a
misused when we apply statistics to test results. It indicates
that a given condition exists when in reality it does not.
This conclusion can many times result in unnecessary
testing and costs (both to clinical patients (anguish) and
The previous entry pointed out limits of detection series
by Deming. Two other notable contributions– one on being able
to compare quantities resulting from different methods (
My experience is where a physician recommends a
prescription for a chronic condition based on analyte
readings. The algorithm is designed to predict a per cent
likelihood of an outcome. However, the clinical testing
is much more complicated with false positives entering
the picture. Not all of the people have have a minimmum
value will reach that specific outcome. This is not
revealed in the analyte results.
This leads to needing to ask more questions of the
results and their “true meaning.” Often the physician
will not assess these critical elements leading to over-testing
and over prescribing.
One of the skills not often addressed in our formal education
is audience analysis. It is one of the wise skills that we need
to develop in our career.
Dealing with problem solvers: Black hat thinking
Here are the major problems, brainstorm possible causes and
Eliminate weak points; develop back up plans.
Dealing with data analyzers who seek trends: White hat thinking
This is what we know [charts and statistics], all the hard
numbers and outcomes. What can we learn from them?
What is missing or how can we fill in detail?
What are situational or critical trends?
Dealing with people integraters who seek collective good
feelings. Red hat thinking
Appeal to shared goal and appeal to team spirit and coordinating
efforts. Each one is important. Give everyone attention and
Dealing with innovators and new approach, different angle
people Green hat thinking
This is an opportunity to be open minded and go outside
routine or casual solutions to problem or possibilities. Pursue
creative ideas with little or no criticism/ rejection.
Dealing with optimists Yellow hat thinking
This is a group to whom you present benefits and future
positive outcomes and implications. Don’t give up now,
hard work and persistence will pay off. Realize and
restate your strengths and the pay-offs will soon be realized.
When do you start advising workers, employees, staff
and visitors about safety?
Are you looking out for your own safety and the safety
of others in your environment– present intentionally or
presents an important topic for discussion, as it
should, being a leader in the field. Safety takes on a larger
dimension when robotics and automation is involved.
Going one step further, safety when dealing with infectious
diseases and disease investigations…
Going even further, safety for military and police in challenging
zones of chemical or biological warfare.
Scientists need to be aware and take a leadership role in
personal protection of all kinds. See
Roles Responsibilities - [job opportunities, training]
- monitor trends in injuries associated with robotics technologies;
- evaluate robotics technologies as sources of, and interventions for, workplace injuries and illnesses;
- establish risk profiles of robotic workplaces;
- identify research needs and conduct studies to improve the safety, health, and well-being of humans working with robots and robotic technologies;
- support the development and adoption of consensus safety standards; and
- develop and communicate best practices, guidance and training for safe interactions between human workers and robots/robotics technology
When you are in various career paths your
activities tend to place you in a silo of activities
to meet agreed upon goals. You develop and
use tactical skills to improve things, to identify
things and to make or combine things. You may
also use SPC or DOE to identify problems or
Leaders will do this. However, they also develop
strategic thinking. Jo Miller’s article,
addresses some of the unique features of the
strategist and the tactician, including:
1. Shift from day-to-day thinking to years ahead
then work backwards from goals, like in a
2. Work with groups outside your limited chain
of command. Learn their SWOT (strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats) for longer
term to see where there is commonality to
engage and collaborate. Ask if you can help
3. Look for areas to change for the better–
transformational change. Where tacticians
chip away at goals and do not threaten
the status quo, strategists involve change and
build new skills.
Thus, change your time horizon, broaden your
scope of influence, and seek out transformative
changes. It is an article worth reading.
When you are surprised by someone or an event, you
may not be ready to do the right thing. Right? We
always recommend the importance of preparation.
The same is true of of daily agendas and decision making
and acceptance of new ideas. D. Pink highlighted this
New ideas: Better to speak to higher ups in the morning,
earlier in the week, or after a break…
Brainstorming: Off-peak time, like later in afternoon,
when you are more open-minded.
It is true however that we have different peak times.
Think about when yours might be. The idea then is
to develop strategies to adjust to different circumstances.
Pink talks about some of these.
Good news, bad news: most people accept bad news first.
What is the present and short term future market conditions?
… demand, available customers, price and competition
Assess your stress tolerance and forward seeking
optimism… What is your back-up plan?
Do you have the technical resources to move into place,
or know how to reach out to them?
It is an ever present challenge about finding another position,
either from job loss, limited growth possibilities, or loss
of excitement for the employment situation we find ourselves
We question our choices up till that point. But alas we have
learned that more often the choices we made were valid but
for changes in funding or preferences or timelines.
Mid-career offers different challenges than early career. You
have an established work history, salary history and contributions
to your department involving trusting connections, lucid
communications and committed networks.
Not every personality faces this kind of job search comfortably.
It is certainly important to have established mentors to bounce
ideas off of. They can be a sanity check…
You can always get better… if there is something lacking or needing
It is not too late to learn new things… Especially if you know what
your career gap is. It might be harder if you do not know the gap.
That is when you fall back on your strengths and building out from
You should not hold back from going in another direction,
especially if it is an area of high interest.
Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
Pay forward, pass on valuable information. You never know what
could make a difference for others.
Know your risk tolerance level, and those in your family that depend
If you need help, ask for help; join a professional organization; use
your experience to volunteer to help others.
This blog post reflects the position that the ACS needs
to develop an on-going Subject area regarding the
Economics of our Enterprise, just like Chemistry and
the Law, the Environment, and Education.
describes the need…”The system is rigged. Companies
are forced to eliminate workers not by the market of
real goods and services where supply and demand set the
right price, but by the commands of financial markets,
where hope and greed too often set the price.”
the decline of corporate R&D by measuring the decline
of technical papers–
‘Corporations in the US are spending a diminishing portion of their R&D budgets on research. The share of basic and applied research in corporate R&D has tapered from 28% in 1985 to 20% in 2015.
Corporate representation in the scientific literature is also shrinking. In an analysis of publications authored by publicly traded US companies in the Web of Science database, we observed that the annual average number of papers published per company fell from around 25 in 1980 to less than 10 in 2010. The drop was visible across a wide range of industries and most pronounced among firms with established research programmes, for which the number of publications fell by as much as 65% between 1980 and 2006.’
Detailed information and discussion includes:
1. the decline of retained earnings
2. using algorithms to make decisions
3. intrusion of fake news, fake growth and bots to influence decisions
4. use of polls with uncertain questions and populations and decision criteria
5. professionals reduced to under 29-hours population
This is a critical topic for emerging chemists,
people indifferent stages of their careers and our
professional organization aiming to serve its members.
Previous years’ lists
This year I will attempt to link readers to discussions of some of the
books that follow in this blog.
Maria Konnikova THE CONFIDENCE GAME: WHY WE ALL
FALL FOR IT. EVERY TIME, Penguin Random House NY 2016
Thomas L. Friedman THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE Farrar
Stevens and Giroux NY 2016
Yuval Noah Arari HOMO DEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF
Robert Cialdini INFLUENCE THE PSYCHOLOGY OF
PERSUASION Collins division of HarperCollins NY 1994
William Strauss, Neil Howe THE FOURTH TURNNG: AN
AMERICA PROPHECY Broadway Books, NY 1997
David Livermore, THE CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE DIFFERENCE:
Master the one skill you can’t do without in
today’s global economy,
American Management Association, NY, 2011
Adam Alter, IRRESISTIBLE: The Rise of Addictive Technology
and the Business of Keeping us Hooked,Penguin Press NY 2017
Rudolph W. Giuliani with Ken Kurson, Leadership, Miramax
Books Hyperion NY, 2002
Lisa Randall, KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR: HOW
PHYSICS AND SCIENTIFIC THINKING ILLUMINATE
THE UNIVERSE AND THE MODERN WORLD
Robert Colville, THE GREAT ACCELERATION: HOW THE
WORLD IS GETTING FASTER, FASTER Bloombury London NY 2016
Michael Breus THE POWER OF WHEN: DISCOVER YOUR
CHRONOTYPE AND THE BEST TIME TO
ASK FOR A RAISE, HAVE SEX, WRITE A NOVEL AND MORE,
Little Brown and
Company NY 2016
Alan Alda IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU WOULD I HAVE THIS
LOOK ON MY FACE RandomHouse 2017
Barbara Oakley, MINDSHIFT BREAK THROUGH OBSTACLES
TO LEARNING AND DISCOVER YOUR HIDDEN POTENTIAL
Tarcher Peregre Penguin Random House 2017
Barbara Oakley, part of the team delivering ‘highly attended’
MOOCs, authored a topical book “Mindshift: Breakthrough
Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential”
that can open up your thinking.
It left me with at least seven take home messages shared below.
1. Learning via the Pomodoro Technique
turn off distracting devices and sources
focus on work for 25 minutes
take a few minute break to rest your mind; repeat…
2. Cultures cling to legacies; change is fought off. New ideas
form and flow with two classes: young, unexposed people
and people who change fields.
3. ”Second skilling” permits you to adapt to the changing career
environment. Two tactics: look to increasing and decreasing
hiring trends; overall picture of skill distribution and where
are budgets decreasing and lowering of skills
4. ”Chunk” your learning practicing more on the areas you find
5. Opportunity results from skill and luck. Luck surfaces from
a combination of (1) seeing problems as opportunities, (2)
constantly upgrade and learn new skills, (3) assertively
6. People have different learning styles. Learn yours. One is
focused, another is diffuse. You should use both, but
understand what works best for you.
7. Value of selective ignorance. You have only so much ‘cognitive
energy’. Be selective in what you choose.
This book is highly recommended for undecided people and
professionals in-transition. [The review cited above provides
a thoughtful assessment.]
We recently observed close friends living in CA who lost
their home and most of its contents to wildfires. Another
friend was overtaken by back pain making it difficult to
work. A third friend lost her husband suddenly.
This entry offers some ideas for actions you can do
at separate stages in your career.
- monitor daily your credit card and financial records,
noting unusual events. Have an action plan ready–
phones or cars
. Don’t wait for the unfortunate event to happen–
have paid up insurance, contact numbers organized,
detailed information to provide
- record retention file guidance retention
1 year: payroll stubs, bill statements
6 years: income tax records and related forms
7 years: critical slips, statements and cancelled checks
Permanent: investment records, pension papers, insurance
policies, contracts, personal- birth certificates, military,
marriage, divorce, adoption, naturalization and citizenship
- always enroll in substantial disability insurance
- continue all the early career record-keeping
- formulate a document location spreadsheet, what is in
your safety deposit box
- have a list of people and institutions with their contact
information for banks, brokerages, lawyers, physicians
- formulate a will, powers of attorney, and care for
children: instructions who would raise them in your
- organize important family photos, papers and records
CLOSE TO RETIREMENT
- visit trust attorneys and determine who you would like
to represent you
- interview and work with a financial adviser
- organize a checklist for what to do when a loved one
dies [see comment]
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.
Did not know which title intro fits better: ‘Watch-Outs’ or
‘Technical Trends worth noting’ as I start this entry.
Last evening a local library sponsored a stimulating
discussion on weather changes influenced by arctic sea-ice
Her presentation offers a clear-minded assessment of
observations of Arctic sea-ice and land-ice losses. They
impact winds in at least three ways and ocean
levels in as many ways through combining impacts.
[you never know how these links display!]
where she is the third speaker.
She describes three effects of the loss of the Arctic sea-ice cap
- weaker steering winds
- wavier jet stream
- stagnant formations of wind flow (resulting from jet
On top of sea ice recession, land-ice loss due to thermal
effects due to less reflection of solar radiation (Less ice,
polar cap is darker and more absorbent) raises sea levels
and enhances storm water surges in coastal regions.
Her talk last night ended with forecasts for future
scenarios that point to the need for important changes
in global behaviors, changing populations settling and
migration patterns and serious infrastructure redesigns.
[Several of these are pointed out in the Wilson Center
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.