Friday, December 15, 2017

Time for a funny video

Looks like the tuition waiver is dead?

Via the New York Times (article by Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan) (emphasis mine): 
The final bill adds back many of the prized tax breaks that were stripped by the House legislation, including allowing taxpayers to continue to deduct high out-of-pocket medical expenses and the interest paid on student loans. It will also continue allowing graduate students who receive tuition waivers to avoid paying taxes on that benefit. 
Good news for graduate students.

(Say, where the H-E-double-hockey-sticks did this provision come from? Who decided this particular clause would be a good idea? Shouldn't some enterprising reporter find the melon farmer distinguished gentleman or gentlelady that inserted this provision into the bill?)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A great comment at In the Pipeline

An excellent comment by Chrispy at In the Pipeline, regarding the Dart Neurosciences shutdown: 
Dear colleagues in this industry: 
You simply have to accept that layoffs and site closures are part of this career. No matter what assurances you get to the contrary, you can rely on unplanned vacations in your future. “Ah,” you may think, “but I have especial talent, our division was picked as a center of excellence, and I have chart-topping reviews for the past few years.” Do not be a fool. That is not the way this business works, and cutting research remains an easy target for making a company more profitable, at least in the short term. 
If you want to keep your sanity, there are a few things you need to do: 
1) Save money. These jobs tend to pay well while they last, but you need to live well below your means and accumulate. This may be the single most important thing. 
2) Publish and network. Some places discourage publication, but it is really critical in this era that scientists get their work out there and get a reputation that extends beyond their employer. Talk at conventions. Keep in touch with old colleagues. 
3) Find a sense of self-worth outside of your job. Perhaps this is family, volunteer work, or even hobbies. Many scientists find themselves with a soul-crushing sense of inadequacy when laid off, having devoted so much of their lives to the pursuit of a particular profession. I have observed many colleagues who suffer symptoms of PTSD even years after getting laid off and years into a new position. 
Finally, for those of you “lucky” enough to avoid the axe when it swings, stay in touch with people who were let go. It is not uncommon for laid off people to feel like pariahs among those still employed. “Blame the victim” is a survival strategy for companies who lay off staff, and the remaining staff can often be found to adopt the same strategy at a personal level. Do not let a company corrupt you in this way.
I think this is a great comment, and one worth acting on, especially Chrispy's last point. 

Grad student stealing has nothing on this

I feel like there are always stories of graduate students stealing stuff from other labs and the like, but this story of a Marine in Iraq really takes the cake (post by Sebastian Bae): 
However, before I could confess to anything, my lieutenant (LT) leaned in and said, “Bae, we need you to fix the coffee machine.” Patting me on the back, he reassured me that I had all the skills and tools necessary for the job, gesturing towards the table where the defunct Mr. Coffee sat accompanied by a switchblade knife, a roll of duct tape, 6 feet of 550 cord, used coffee filters, and other miscellaneous objects best characterized as “junk the LT kept in his desk.” Before leaving, the LT added, “Oh, we also need coffee filters, Bae.” My platoon sergeant, a bear in human form, simply nodded and grumbled, “Get it done.” 
Every Marine has experienced being saddled with an impossible task by a superior. But this task was legitimately the most bizarre of my Marine career. Using random objects gathered up in the COC, I was expected to fix a coffee maker that was most likely issued back in the first Gulf War. And there was no doubt in my mind that both the LT and the platoon sergeant fully expected a hot, steaming cup of coffee in eight hours when their shift started. 
So, like any good Marine, I improvised. Using the switchblade knife, I bribed my way onto a supply convoy to Camp Ramadi. From there, I traded a can of Copenhagen Straight chewing tobacco, a rare commodity in Iraq, with a civilian contractor for a ride over to the Army side of the base. For roughly two hours, I wandered around aimlessly, peering through windows looking for a coffee machine. After a great deal of effort, I finally spotted a pristine Mr. Coffee in the backroom of the Army supply shop. Sneaking through the window, I quickly exchanged our decrepit coffee machine with the Army’s, while shoving as many coffee filters in my cargo pockets as they could handle. And like a bandit, I ran for my life. Now, imagine a young Marine, cargo pockets bursting at the seams, coffee machine cradled in his arms, frantically running off into the distance. 
By the time LT was back on duty, my squad was preparing for our daily patrol into the city. The “fixed” Mr. Coffee was humming away in the COC. All was right in the world, proving true the old Marine Corps adage: Gear adrift is a gift.
I think the thing that is missing from graduate school is the trading of stuff in order to get closer to your target for theft...

The 2017-2018 new prof open thread

From the inbox, a request for an open thread on new PI startups, etc. I hereby announce this open thread. Enjoy.

From 2016, I wanted to note this request on Twitter from Julia Kalow on good literature to read in preparation for running a new laboratory that generated a lot of good responses, including this small list of "new assistant prof lit":
From 2013, a good thread at ChemBark from 2013 talking about new laboratory setup, deals and pitfalls.

C&EN survey by Lisa Jarvis, talking about startup package size. Also, the private C&EN Facebook group about for new chemistry professors. Also, the 2016 open thread here about this subject.

Best wishes to all new assistant professors and Godspeed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2018 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List: 465 positions

The 2018 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List (curated by Andrew Spaeth and myself) has 465 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

On December 11, 2016, the 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 516 positions.

Want to talk anonymously? Have an update on the status of a job search? Try the open thread.

Otherwise, all discussions are on the Chemistry Faculty Jobs List webforum.

What are people doing for research summaries these days?

Been a while since I wrote one. Are people still doing the "JACS communication"-style research summaries, or have those gone the way of flip phones and parachute pants? 

The Academic Staff Jobs List: 32 positions

The Academic Staff Jobs list has 32 positions.

This list is curated by Sarah Cady. It targets:
  • Full-time STAFF positions in a Chem/Biochem/ChemE lab/facility at an academic institution/natl lab
  • Lab Coordinator positions for research groups or undergraduate labs 
  • and for an institution in Canada or the United States
Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions.

Want to chat about staff scientist positions? Try the open thread.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The median starting postdoctoral salary for 2016 chemistry Ph.D.s was $43,000

Adapted from table 48 of the 2016 Survey of Earned Doctorates
Always little gems tucked away in the Survey of Earned Doctorates, and I am ecstatic to discover for the first time that it tracks median starting postdoctoral salaries for chemistry Ph.D.s, which are around $43,000.

It will be interesting to see if this changes up with the advent of the (discarded by the Trump Department of Labor, still kept by many universities) NIH minimum/post-FLSA overtime threshold of $47,476.

But still, now we know - the most common definite outcome of a chemistry Ph.D. (according to the data that we have) is a postdoctoral position, and the median salary for that position is $43,000. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Samsung chargers

A list of small, useful things (links):
Again, an open invitation to all interested in writing a blog, a hobby that will bring you millions thousands hundreds tens of dollars joy and happiness. Send me a link to your post, and I'd be happy to put it up.

Have a good weekend!

The 2016 Survey of Earned Doctorates is out

The 2016 Survey of Earned Doctorates is out. Here's the data on graduates in the 2016 academic year and their post-graduation plans. I've taken a screenshot, here's the data in PDF and Excel format.

A quick look indicates that the percentage of respondents who have definite employment plans has risen 4% from 2015, the percentage of respondents who have no definite plans has decreased by a similar percentage.

Also of interest is the overall median basic salaries of new chemistry Ph.D. graduates who are not postdoctoral fellows:

Academia: 50,000
Industry: 93,000
Government: 80,000
Nonprofit: 100,000
Other: 58,000

(Do note that the number of chemistry Ph.D.s who have gone to non-profit positions is quite low (1.5% of those with definite employment plans).

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs List: 87 positions

The Medicinal Chemist Jobs list has 87 positions.

Want to help out? Here's a Google Form to enter positions, but if you want to do the traditional "leave a link in the comments", that works, too.

Want to chat about medchem positions? Try the open thread.

Positions I'm not including: positions outside the United States, computational positions (this will likely change), academic positions (likely never.)

8 new positions at Organic Chemistry Jobs

Over at Common Organic Chemistry, there's 8 new positions posted for December 5.

The Process Chemistry Jobs List: 61 positions

The Process Chemistry Jobs List has 61 positions.

Want to chat process jobs? Try the open thread. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

John Urschel, NFL football player and graduate student

I missed this rather wonderful Sports Illustrated story by Tim Rohan about John Urschel, the former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman and math graduate student at MIT. Here's something from that story that all of you can likely sympathize with: 
Meanwhile, Urschel was also periodically checking in with [CJ's note: MIT mathematics professor Michel] Goemans about the assignments for his reading credits. But “I’m, like, in season, so I’m busy,” Urschel says. “Michel was like, ‘Send me updates, let me know how it’s going.’ I’m really just skimming things. I’m completely blowing off this other stuff.” And the reading that Urschel was “blowing off” covered topics that would be included on his doctoral qualifying exam, which was coming up in February. If Urschel failed that test and didn’t subsequently pass in a certain period of time, he’d be kicked out of MIT. “Basically I’d be screwed,” he says.
After the Ravens’ finished that 2015 season 5-11, well out of the playoffs, Urschel spent all of January cramming for the qualifying exam. He’d work at the chalkboard in his house for 12 hours a day, reviewing the material, making stacks of notes. Then he’d have Louisa Thomas, his soon-to-be fiancée, quiz him into the night. When the test day finally arrived, Urschel was “nervous like I’ve never been before a football game,” he says. It was an oral exam, so he had to stand in front of three professors who peppered him with questions for three hours.
Also, this hilarious little tidbit, which shows that Mr. Urschel really is a graduate student:
But leaving MIT was still hard. The first time Urschel left for OTAs, he asked an MIT friend to periodically rearrange the things on his desk, to make it look as if he were still there. If anyone asks, just say vaguely that I’m around.
John, don't let grad student secrets out!