From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

January 2016
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Trends in Technical Careers. Ebola membrane binding, thorium nuclear reactors, protein quaternary structures
Filed under: Position Searching, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 4:30 pm

Research leading to beneficial outcomes in chemically
related work is highlighted in this entry.  Each of them
provide opportunities whose long term value for
investors, for society and for technical careers is
not clear.  Nonetheless, it is a signature of this
blog to present such ideas.

Ebola continues to strike humans as a resurfacing
public health risk in Africa.  GENEngNews carries
an article by Gail Dutton that describes epitope
mapping work leading to antibodies for potential
vaccines and therapies.

What I appreciated about GENEngNews article on
proteins was the practical outcomes that 92% of
known studied structures are described by a classification
scheme, 4% of which appear to be misclassified.

Having a model now allows the development of simple rules
of possible assembly types and the mechanisms, pathways
and self-assembly influences.

Implications for bioengineering and for exploring non-
systematic observations are mentioned.  While much of
the above information is given in CEN of 12-18.  It would
be nice to see authoritative commentary on the model. and
the PubMed (free) link.  This is an example of interdisciplinary
work spurred by results of mass spectrometry studies.

There is a new series in Netflix that starts with global
warming leading to the EU to stop the flow of petroleum
and point out the development of Th nuclear energy.
The Economist talked about this recently.  Most
critical discussion I have discovered was in the comments
to the Economist article
that revealed the technological
roadblock, some attempts at remedies and suggesting
possible more successful nuclear energy fuel sources
might be developed.

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Graduate Education and Post Doctoral Training. Major Hurdle– Too Long and Few career opportunities
Filed under: Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Leadership, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 4:09 pm

For a decade, the biomedical field has been struggling with one
problem– oversupply of trained post-doctoral fellows with poor
outlook for full time career positions.
For at least the same amount of time graduate students in certain
fields reveal that their advisers keep them from graduating until
they are in their 30s (personal knowledge of Biological and Physics
related fields).  Then, even after graduation, the PI keeps the
trained professional as a post doctoral fellow of convenience by limiting
meeting attendance and exposure and supplying references.

The Boston Globe and other media have reported on the problem
that post docs are “holding tank positions” with little hope of
landing a full time position.  The biomedical field has an oversupply of
trained scientists and engineers that outstrip demand. 

The blame is given to a surge of federal funding for research during
1980 - 2000 that beckoned for an increase in staffing at all levels. 
Large universities got even larger, small universities moved into
graduate research and new federal bureaucracies sprung up. 

No one foresaw what could happen and could imagine the
unintended consequences of various decisions all taken on
an individual basis without looking at the larger system.

-We invite many foreign students to attend all US universities.
Many do not have an inkling of prospects upon graduation.
-Many mentors continue to amass larger research groups without
considering being able to mentor and facilitate each grad
students and post-docs career growth. 
-Salaries are absurdly low.  Training for future career positions is not targeted.
Very little practical outcome and collaboration with practical
needs organizations is managed well.

Chemistry and related fields are here already.  Yet only a
few islands of practical reform are apparent.  There is little
motivation for doing something that will help the field.

On a case by case basis we can help one individual figure out
the maze of satisfying employment searching.  The situation
will grow worse with another economic slowdown.

1 comment
Exploring a Position at Company. Mentors, Preparation for contact
Filed under: Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Networking, Mentoring, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 10:49 am

A colleague recently contacted me about applying for a
research position in his field of interest of brain imaging.

It is a small company with a limited amount of
of public information.  He asked about who to address
in the cover letter and details about virus-protection
software that blocks link-containing documents.

He also wanted to explore why it was critical to join
and become an active member of a professional society.

My first thoughts directed me to explore the company
in LinkedIn after studying the company website.  It is
important to go beyond the website in looking for details
about any position.  So a google search looking at many
pages beyond the high frequency first page is important
to use.  This is also known as the search distribution
coined by Chris Anderson.

In Linkedin, I found a second degree connection to the
CEO and founder which led me to an information loaded
profile which I then shared with him.
I learned the company was a start-up, had recent funding
and had advertised the position he had interest in.  So,
I forwarded a suggestion to contact the CEO by Inmail
and ask to engage in a short conversation about the
Before doing this he should prepare thoroughly
by having stories to tell about how he uniquely qualifies
for the position, by using information at hand about
salary ranges for the position in that area of the country,
and by having critical questions outlined for him to ask.
This is a common information interview.

Listen carefully to keywords he uses that can be
incorporated into the cover letter and resume.

If salary comes up in the discussion, reveal what your
research has provided.  Then ask, how much is budgeted
for the position, rather than saying how much you wish.
Defer that discussion until you have an offer, know
what the job entails and get a sense that you like the
culture and they like you.

So, contact a person in the company before uploading
documents.  This way it is not a “cold contact” application
without assessing keywords to use and a person to
address and follow up with.

There are three clear objectives that a cover letter provides–
explains gaps, shows a clear match for you in the position
and provides your thinking about your career movement
into the position.

Documents we upload can be blocked if they have
links in the cloud by software.  So, either delink the
documents, in Word, or use .txt format without links.

People in professional fields use societies to continue
to learn important elements in their field through meetings
and publications, to share what we learn with other
professionals and to be part of the professionals
advocating for the growth and importance of the field.

We all should be members of professional technical

Good luck! ended the reply, where
LUCK = preparation + attitude + opportunity
+ action

1 comment
Watch-Outs. 92. DuPont Job Losses, Target Date Funds in Retirement, Questions for joining a Start-up firm
Filed under: Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, Mature professionals, Technicians, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 5:58 pm

We should all be alert to what happens to employees at
DuPont and Dow as the two leading chemical corporations
as they process their merger and carve outs forming new
entities.  We may not be directly involved but it adds to
what technical professionals will face more of in our future

Jacob Bunge wrote that 1700 job cuts will happen in
Delaware to DuPont (see also Morningstar source) which
will flood the market with outstanding talented scientists
and engineers.  It can be traumatic for each person directly
or indirectly affected.  It is a message that there is no “safe
harbor” and job security is the knowledge that you can obtain
another desirable position if your current one is in jeopardy.
It can also mean that you are given some time to evaluate your
options and pursue your personal and career goals.

SOURCE:  A. Tergesen, WSJ1-2-16, “Target date
funds must rethink bonds

There are a number of comments to this article that describes
how bond components of target date mutual funds might be
overweighted.  This impacts retirees, the author emphasizes.
Target date mutual funds one commenter points out is a marketing
tool for those needing investment advice in making investment
choices mostly in tax advantaged funds.

Another pointed out the benefits of target date funds are
risk management and “diversification” with a projection
of lower price.   Because all managers “race” for yields
risk has been sacrificed.  Conditions have shifted so assumptions
about return projections and costs have changed.  There is no
prescription for those who have invested in target date funds,
but it does indicate another risk factor, not in the prospectus that
nearly no one reads.

SOURCE:  A. Sklover, 1-6-16, “16 Questions for joining a

There are several things Al Sklover brings up in this
article about joining a start up company to aid in decisions
about joining and negotiating what things you and other
employees, founders, advisers and consultants should share.

The way it is done is classic-Sklover, tell a story and its
outcome and offer salient principles, actions and resources.

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