Friday, December 26, 2008

Career plans

Not surprisingly, most of Curly Arrows readers are early career chemists, predominantly PhD students and Post Docs. So although subjects such as publications, H index, impact factors etc. have been beaten to death elsewhere I thought I'd do a brief post on the topic here because it is very important for your career prospects that you start thinking of these things early on. When in the past I have been presented with a pile of job applications the first things I (and others) look at are:
a) Name of applicant and of recent supervisors (to see if I know any of them)
b) Publication list
So since 95% of the time I don't know the people the applications fate is determined in the course of 1 minute based on your publication list.
It sounds unreasonable but this is how you quickly eliminate 75% of the applicants. If you make it through the first screen then people actually sit down and read your application in detail, request references etc.
So if you want to get the dream job work hard and publish lots of papers. It doesn't have to be Nature papers the main thing is that your look productive (journals with impact factor >2 are fine for a synthetic organic chemist).
Unfortunately, too many supervisors will give you dead end piece of shite projects that are destined for the bin. Check your prospective boss out. How much does he publish, in what journals, talk to former and current students in the group etc. Also worth considering is whether the group publish papers with alphabetical author lists or not. The alphabetical approach can really screw your career in a fair few countries. When you apply for grants in Denmark they generally look for first and last authorship to determine your project input but also at which journals you published in to estimate the quality/impact of the work.
Having a decent track record and publication list is going to get you through the first screening round. However, to make it to the interview good references and relevant skills will obviously be very important. So think about it and start planning your career early on. D!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NMR Tube Cleaner Part 2

Some time ago I had a post about the amazing NMR tube cleaner. I love this piece of equipment and use it regularly. However, as some readers pointed out some people are remarkably good at breaking these things (repeatedly!). Where I work now we have a workshop and the guys there create the most amazing gear for us including an almost unbreakable NMR tube cleaner. It's made from hard plastic and metal and isn't affected by organic solvents. So if you are fortunate enough to also have access to a workshop you may consider ordering one of these beauties. D!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What is a liquid?

I recently had dinner with some chemists and after a bit of red wine the question "What is a liquid?" popped up. The reason the question popped up is the gas sulfur hexaflouride. I had never heard of this stuff before but allegedly you can float solid objects on top of it. Intuitively, I would say that if a ship can sail in it it's a liquid but things clearly aren't that simple. There's quite a few videos with this stuff on the web. In this particular video they float an object on some SF6 in a fish tank (I'm assuming the video is not a hoax). So what is the definition of a gas/liquid? Obviously it' a density thing. Did anyone out there pay attention when they had physical chemistry and would they care to explain it to a simple preparative chemist? Also what is the least dense liquid out there? Besides pentane (0.626 g/cm3) I can't come up with much that has a density below 0.7. D!