Pushing on
Dec31

Pushing on

Or: Reject no more! That’s right, kids. I managed to snag myself a writing internship at last. I’ll be starting at Reuters Health next week. Don’t have much of an idea how I managed to do it, but I did write the world’s most obnoxious cover letter for that application. That might have gotten the editor’s attention. It was a combination of that plus persistence, I imagine. Regardless, yay me! But this is mixed news. I’ll be pretty busy with this internship (and I’m also still writing my thesis, ag), so I won’t be blogging here any more. That’s the sad part. I want to thank everyone for reading for the past six months. It’s been mostly fun, occasionally hard, and always educational. The blog roundtable from a few weeks ago was definitely the high point, although my interview with Conservation Scientist Greg Dale Smith was a blast, as was meeting Jorge Cham. Smashing a vuvuzela ranks up there, too. I also want to send my gratitude to my fellow roundtable bloggers: Matthew Hartings, Paul Bracher, and super-duper most especially Chemjobber. He started out as a resource, and turned into a friend. I’ll miss chatting about job stuff with you, CJ. And sorry if this is starting to sound like an academy award speech, but I also want to thank everyone at CEN for their advice and support, especially Bethany Halford, Jyllian Kemsley, Carmen Drahl, Amanda Yarnell, and Rachel Pepling. Especially especially Amanda and especially especially especially Rachel. How will I cope in the future, in a post-Rachel world? I really don’t know. So. While all this is sad for me, it might be good for you–a new Electron Pusher is needed. CEN wants to keep this blog going! Send an email to r_pepling AT acs DOT org if you’re interested. We’ll also need a few guest posts too, if you want to test the waters before plunging in, polar bear-like. Or if you just want to write one post. Whatever. Okay, I’ll be moseying along now. You can still find me at my sad neglected blog (maybe), but definitely on twitter. See ya...

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Profile: Congressional Legislative Assistant
Dec27

Profile: Congressional Legislative Assistant

Will O’Neal is, in no particular order, a PhD chemist, a former ACS Congressional fellow, and a Congressional Legislative Assistant for Representative Rush Holt. “Basically,” O’Neal said, “I am a policy advisor for anything that relates to energy policy, science, research and development, nuclear security, and foreign affairs.” As a Legislative Assistant O’Neal’s work is highly varied, but heavy on the research and writing, usually involving current events. And it’s mostly, as you might guess, advising. “I keep the Congressman informed about policy developments or news that affects my legislative portfolio. I write talking points and background materials on upcoming bills and for legislative hearings or floor action in the House. I prepare the Congressman for public events and staff him at meetings. I develop policy proposals and draft legislation. I meet with interest groups and constituents,” O’Neal said. And as you also might imagine, a lot of this work is short deadline and highly depends on the news of the day. So it’s a pretty far cry from doing research in a lab. But even so, that doctoral training comes in pretty handy. “The skills you learn in science – how to think skeptically about the world, do research, and write – are universal,” O’Neal said. “I have to do really fast research on a daily basis, and I have to be able to pick out what is reliable information and what isn’t. Then I have to be able to summarize it quickly in a way that anyone can understand.” O’Neal is happy with his chosen career, although working in Congress can be both rewarding and frustrating, he said. “This job offered the chance to learn new things everyday on an array of different topics and to share that work in a way has a direct impact on our society,” O’Neal said. “But I think overall, the most important thing that is missing in my job is the time to really dig into a topic and gain some depth and expertise. I think if I had more opportunity to delve deeper into certain subjects I could be a better asset to my boss.” O’Neal never was really interested in industry, and although he liked teaching, didn’t think he’d make a good academic. He learned of careers in public policy by seeing a poster in his grad school hallway advertising the AAAS Policy Fellowship program. While still in grad school, O’Neal got involved in the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy. After finishing his PhD, he taught for a year at the Center and managed the Policy Research Shop, “which is a great program that allows undergraduate students to do...

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Chemjobs roundtable roundup
Dec17

Chemjobs roundtable roundup

Chemjobber has put up a recap of the week’s bloggings from our chemjobs roundtable. Thanks to everyone for participating! It was a lovely discussion. And since I just can’t resist data, here’s one more chart I though you might find interesting. The NSF also publishes an ongoing total of number of PhDs awarded by subdiscipline. Here it is from 1960 to 1999. Sorry for the...

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Too many PhDs? That’s anybody’s guess.
Dec14

Too many PhDs? That’s anybody’s guess.

And thank you for kicking things off, Chemjobber! Remember, tomorrow we go to Paul for why tenure is teh suck, and Thursday the Mighty Matt enlightens us on what science policy can do to help us fix the employment mess. So in yesterday’s post, CJ talked about the present and future of industrial jobs in chemistry. “Chemists are facing lower-than-average hiring and an unemployment rate that is the highest in 20 years at 3.9% (according to the 2009/2010 ACS Salary Survey),” CJ said. And it came up in the comments, like it always does: how much of this can be blamed on new PhDs coming into the marketplace? Are we really overproducing chemistry PhDs? Fortunately, the numbers of doctorates produced each year in many fields of study are tracked by the NSF, who puts out a short report in November and a longer one in December. The most recent one says that in 2009, there were 49,562 doctorates awarded in the United States in all science and engineering fields. That’s up 1.6% over 2008, an increase that’s almost totally due to a rise in women getting these degrees. This is pretty much irrelevant to this discussion, but I thought it was interesting. Moving on. The NSF breaks down these numbers into separate fields of study. And look, I took their data and made graphs! As you can see, the number has fluctuated a bit over the last ten years, but the general trend has been up. Last year, there were 2,398 PhDs awarded in chemistry and 859 in biochemistry. The chemistry number is up 6.2% from 2008 (2,247), while the number of new biochemists is down 4.5% from the year before (898). There was a small spike of chemistry PhDs awarded in 2006 (2,362), and biochemists seem to have maxed out (minimally) last year. Overall, the number of fresh new chemists has grown 11.0% since 1999 (2,132) and biochemists are 11.6% more popular than they were ten years ago (759). So, what does this mean? Well, that there are more chemists now than there were 10 years ago, but I think we could have all guessed that. The real question is, how many jobs have there been available in since 1999? There’s a problem with that question. Namely, that there isn’t an answer to it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2008, chemists held 84,300 jobs. But that’s all chemists, BSs, MSs and PhDs together. Besides, that’s people holding jobs. How many chemistry jobs open up each year? We know that CJ tracks the ads in C&E News, but of course not everyone advertises there. And not...

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The future of jobs in chemistry
Dec10

The future of jobs in chemistry

Next week, be prepared to witness the chemistry blog event of the century! Well, maybe not the century, but it should be pretty good. Starting Monday, Chemjobber, ChemBark, ScienceGeist and I are going to hold a blog roundtable about the future of jobs in chemistry. On Monday, Chemjobber will discuss Beryl Lieff Benderly’s “The Real Science Gap” and add his own opinions on the future of the job market in industry. .Tuesday, I’ll will be jawing on the numbers from the NSF‘s recent doctoral report to try to answer the question “Are there too many PhDs being awarded in chemistry?” Wednesday, Paul at ChemBark will talk about tenure and why it’s not a good system. Thursday, Matt at ScienceGeist will delve into government’s role in science employment. And then on Friday, back to Chemjobber who will summarize the week’s discussions and comments. Read! Comment! Be astounded! Tell us we’re stupid! Whatever, just participate. The best discussions have people talking, after all. See you next...

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