Chemist as cook
Oct29

Chemist as cook

Hi ho there folks. This is the first of a two-part series about cooking and chemistry, a lovely guest post by the illustrious Chemjobber. So without further ado... Leigh's profiles of people are typically folks who use the problem-solving or thinking skills they learned from being chemists and applying them to other equally cerebral tasks. But what about the equally important hand skills that chemists develop? The hands that can pull TLC spotters, poke them through a tiny 18-gauge needle into a reaction and spot them on a TLC plate can surely do something equally complex, no? One of my favorite books of all time is Bill Buford's Heat, where Buford tells about his adventures in being a prep and line cook at Babbo, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Mario Batali. In it, Buford goes from complete newbie (slicing himself while deboning duck leg quarters) to being able to hold his own in the middle of a rushed meal service; to me, that sounds like the process of becoming a chemist in a busy laboratory. Buford mentions a few things common to cooking and chemistry: Repetition: "I was reminded of something Andy (a more senior chef) had told me. ‘You don't learn knife schools in cooking school, because they only give you six onions, and no matter how hard you focus on those six onions there are only six, and you're not going to learn as much as when you cut up a hundred.’ One day I was given a hundred and fifty lamb tongues. I had never held a lamb's tongue, which I found greasy and unnervingly humanlike. But after cooking, trimming, peeling and slicing a hundred and fifty lamb's tongues I was an expert." Complexity in combinations: Buford describes the grill station prep: "There were 33 different ingredients, and most had to be prepared before the service started, including red onions (cooked in beet juice and red wine vinegar), salsify (braised in sambuca), and farotta (cooked in a beet puree). There were six different squirter bottles, two balsamic vinegars, two olive oils, plus vin santo, vin cotto, and saba, not to mention the Brussels sprouts and braised fennel and rabbit pate - and damn! Today, I look at the map and am astonished I had any of it in my head." The joy of creating: "I found, cooking on the line, that I got a quiet buzz every time I made a plate of food that looked exactly and aesthetically correct and then handed it over the pass to Andy. If, on a busy night, I made, say, fifty good-looking plates, I had fifty little buzz moments, and by the end of service...

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Tidbits
Oct19

Tidbits

A few quick and interesting things: Thing the first: Chemjobber has put up an interview with Daniel Levy on becoming a pharma consultant. It's quite interesting, and he's got some useful insights. His last lines especially caught my eye. "In today’s economy, there are plenty of excuses for not getting paid. However, there are no excuses for not working."  Here's part 1, and part 2. Thing the second: Career fairs on the web? Yuppers. ACS's inaugural Virtual Career Fair will be held November 2-3 from 9 am to 6 pm EST. RSC's ChemCareers is also having a virtual career fair, November 15-19. If you haven't checked them out in a while, it's worth a poke around on their website. They're got this new ChemCareer TV thing that will be posting profiles of 20 working chemists, I'm assuming during the career fair. Looks interesting, although I'm a wee bit distracted by the guy's hair in the preview video. You don't need to be a member of the ACS or RSC to sign up for either of those. Also? They're free. Thing the third: I've got some rockin like Dokken guest bloggers lined up for the next few weeks. (But not giving any hints on who they are! You'll just have to show up and see.) I've got space for a few more, so if you're interested in taking part, please send me an email at ljkboerner AT gmail DOT com, or leave a comment...

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Have something to say?
Oct11

Have something to say?

Hey all you blogging or wanna-be blogging chemists--have something to say about alternative careers in chemistry? I have a couple slots open for some guest blogging in the next couple of months. If you're interested in claiming one, email me at ljkboerner AT gmail DOT com and we can discuss it.

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Without a net
Sep30

Without a net

The time has come, the blogger said To talk of several sundries Of posts and time and thesis-es Of things that are not fun-dries And if, perchance, I'll find a job And when I will be done, please* The time comes in every grad student's life when they must stand up, buckle down, and actually (sigh) graduate. This time has finally come for me. Yes, I've been "writing my thesis" for a little while now, but that's been kind of a part-time thing while I ran around and finished up experiments and loose ends and such. But now? No more experiments to do, no more loose ends to weave in, and no more putting it off. I'm finishing this semester (dangit), so it's time to just get the thesis done. So this is what I am doing, with all the all I've got. Everything else will be pushed to the side for the time being. In the past, the general MO for a graduating student has been to line up a job or post-doc, defend, then scamper along on one's merry way to the pre-arranged next source of income. But personally, I've never been much of a traditionalist. I have no job lined up. There is no internship set up for me to go to.** So I don’t really know what’s going to happen with me come January or so. Like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ve decided not to think about that just now. All the panic that's banging around the insides of my skull right now is thesis panic, not ohcraphowamIgoingtofeedmyself panic. Again, push to the side, push to the side. In light of this impending thesismageddon, I'm probably not going to be around much for the next two months or so (I don't have an exact defense date yet, but expect I will be setting one soon). I'll likely bop in here or there with a quick link, or maybe a stray profile or two. In the meantime, I highly recommend you read Chemjobber for employment news, The Haystack and In The Pipeline for pharma-related job news, and Garfield minus Garfield for a sense of the absurd. Words of encouragement, advice, or deep questioning of my intelligence are welcome in the comments. TTFN. . *We know what this comes from, yes? Yes. Sorry for that last near rhyme. There aren't a lot of things that rhyme with 'sundries'. **I have a couple more applications out, but no emails that say, "Please Leigh, come intern for us please please" quite...

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Profile: journal editor
Sep24

Profile: journal editor

Publishing. As scientists, we all have to do it. But did you ever wonder who's on the receiving end of those journal submissions? The individual responsible for a big YES or NO, and shuttling it off to reviewers far and wide, evil or kind? Oh, yeah, that person. The editor. Many chemistry journals have professors who work as editors in their free time and hire some support staff, but some have their own independent editors who read and vet papers full time. Science is one such place, and Jake Yeston is one of 15 senior editors there. His main areas of responsibility are chemistry and applied physics. More specifically, he handles the small molecule chemistry papers, "though I also see a fair number of physics papers dealing with spectroscopic methods, biology papers dealing with enzyme mechanisms, and polymer papers dealing with synthesis (vs macroscopic properties). I probably get an average of 2 or 3 papers a day assigned to me, and then I comment on a few more that have been assigned to the enzyme, physics, and materials science editors," he said. Yeston got his B.A.from Harvard and Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, and also did a couple of post-docs before landing a job at Science. And how he found out about this particular career path was completely random, he said. "After [post-doc work], I wanted to stay in the DC area, and that geographic constraint really limited the options. I basically checked the C&E News job listings every week for opportunities in DC, and one day in mid-2004 the Science ad appeared, and I thought “Oh—I’d be good at that!” But before seeing the ad, this professional option wasn’t even on my radar." Yeston spends his days reading papers. Lots and lots of papers. He then discusses them with other editors, either in-office or on the web with editors in their other places. "We have a great database that facilitates communication about papers online, so I can exchange thoughts with, for example our physics editor in Cambridge England practically in real time. The job is also very amenable to telecommuting—we have several editors who work from home in Toronto and Boston, for example, in addition to our two main offices in Washington, DC and Cambridge," Yeston said. His official job duties include: "Evaluating manuscripts submitted for publication; discussing reviews with reviewers to determine what additional information is needed from author; working closely with author to incorporate reviewers’ suggestions; presenting recommendations to other editors in an effort to reach consensus on acceptance or rejection of manuscript; editing manuscripts for scientific content and style before and after revisions; following...

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