How far will you go to stay in science? Let C&EN know!
Oct04

How far will you go to stay in science? Let C&EN know!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I went through a job search last year, and had been preparing for the possibility of a career change after 20+ years as a medicinal chemist. I was able to stay surprisingly positive through it all, and managed to land a new position in May of last year as....a medicinal chemist. So much for the career change, right? Well, not so fast. Because much has changed. First, there's the setting. I've gone from an industrial setting in Big Pharma to what is essentially an academic setting at a nonprofit research institute. It's very invigorating here, and I need to wear different hats through a typical day. Translation: Busy. But that's a good thing. Second, and perhaps foremost, is the time spent commuting. At my last position, my round-trip daily commute was about an hour on average. While unemployed, when I began my tenure here as an electron pusher, my commute was zero. Okay, maybe a few seconds walking from one room in my house to another. Now however, I typically spend around three hours a day on the road. The upshot is my days are long, and when I get home, I have at best two good hours before it's time for sleep—and my brain disengages long before that, I'm afraid. And yes, if you’re wondering, there is a discernible difference, thankyouverymuch. And, to make matters worse, there were several articles this past May discussing the results of a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine entitled “Commuting Distance, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Metabolic Risk,” which examined health effects of long-distance commuting. I’m afraid the data doesn't look very good. The data showed statistically significant correlations between commuting distance and increases in blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index (BMI). The researchers summarized by stating, “Daily commuting represents a source of chronic stress that has been correlated positively with physiologic consequences including high blood pressure, self-reported tension, fatigue, and other negative mental or physical health effects in some studies.” Uh-oh. In other words, Long Distance Commute = Bad For Your Health. I'm striving to be an outlier from this data, but I realize all too well that I’m putting myself at risk, both chronically and acutely, with all the miles I now drive. However, this is a minor complaint—I know I’m very fortunate to be employed. The job market appears little better, if any, than it did a year ago. I'm still monitoring the situation, as a few of my former colleagues are looking for a job, either due to the same site closure that affected me, or a subsequent one after they...

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Extra Info For Instant Coffee
Sep25

Extra Info For Instant Coffee

What's That Stuff?s are pretty fun to write—you get to look at an everyday item in your pantry, on the road, or in your hair in a completely different light. I just finished my first What’s That Stuff? article, about the history and production of instant coffee. It is freely available here. It does not, however, include any information about the health benefits of coffee. Although the common idea is that coffee causes dehydration, says Roger Cook, director of the Coffee Science Information Centre, some studies suggest that coffee is an important source of fluid in the diet and that coffee’s caffeine is no more of a diuretic than water is—it increases the frequency of urination, but not the volume of fluid that is expelled over a period of time. Thousands of studies have also been published proposing that coffee provides alertness, delays degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and slows down cognitive decline in the elderly. Many studies use fresh-brewed coffee, but don’t rule out instant coffee in offering such health benefits, Cook says. “The physiological effects of coffee are primarily due to the caffeine content and not to the manufacturing or brewing method,” he adds. In a study looking at sleep-related accidents, researchers compared 30-minute naps, caffeinated coffee, and decaffeinated coffee to see how caffeine affects alertness during nighttime driving (Ann. Internal Med. 2006, 144, 785). The coffee these researchers provided their subjects with was—you guessed it—instant! Nestlé instant coffee packets were used for both the caffeinated (4.25% caffeine) and decaffeinated (0.03% caffeine) coffees. The result? A 30-minute nap at 1 AM or a cup of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine has pretty much the same alertness-boosting effect for nighttime driving, but decaffeinated coffee will leave you swerving in the road. I wondered, however, if the beneficial effects of caffeine cross over to sodas, teas, and other caffeinated wonders. One study looking at Chinese adults suggests this is true for tea (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2008, 88, 224), but, personally, I think that sodas are almost like cigarettes, which can also contain caffeine. Malic acid, one of the thousands of compounds used in cigarettes, can help boost immunity and metabolism. But in combination with the multitude of other ingredients, the total health benefit is probably outweighed by the negatives. That goes for what you put in your coffee, too—these studies don’t include added cream or...

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