Reactions – Chemjobber

Chemjobber works in industry and blogs about the chemistry job market.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

I wanted to be a medical doctor and enjoyed biology, but I found organic chemistry to be such a fascinating world that I could never quite leave it. The first reaction I did as an undergraduate researcher was gorgeous and I think I’ve been trying to reproduce that high ever since.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

Other than being a medical doctor? I think medicine is fascinating and I envy the ability to affect people’s lives for the better immediately. I think I’d enjoy being a warehouse manager for FedEx. There’s something deeply interesting about the logistics of efficiently getting things where they need to be in a timely fashion. I’d also enjoy being a restaurant owner, but (in the immortal words of Anthony Bourdain) it would just be the fantasy of ’swanning about the dining room signing dinner checks like Rick in Casablanca."

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

I work in industry, and my employer probably isn’t very interested in me divulging what I work on. Suffice it to say that I’m a process chemist; I hope to synthesize compounds in sufficient yield and purity on budget and on deadline. I sincerely hope to affect my company’s bottom line in a positive manner by creating or improving processes. (It sounds so corporate, but it’s really true!) It’s a fun challenge and I love the different disciplines that I get to work with as a process chemist.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

I would choose J. Robert Oppenheimer. I was deeply struck with him when I read Richard Rhodes’ book “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” Oppenheimer’s ability to manage both the science and the scientists/engineers of the Manhattan Project was quite remarkable, and I’ve love to try to get some of the inside story of all the egos that must have clashed in Los Alamos.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

Today — I set an azeotropic distillation. I’m proud to work in the lab daily; there’s nothing quite like it.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

Vogel’s Textbook of Practical Organic Chemistry — I’ve still never quite made it through the whole thing.

Frank Sinatra’s “Only The Lonely” — if you’re going to be lonely, why not?

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

I could name a couple, so I will. I’d like to hear from Neal Anderson, who’s a fairly prominent author in pharmaceutical process chemistry. I really like his book and I’d like to hear more from him and his thoughts on where the industry is going. I’d also choose Duane Burnett of Merck, who helped develop the cardiovascular drug ezetimibe (Zetia). It’s a beautiful molecule and a great story of drug discovery.