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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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September 18, 2006

Tenderbutton Calls It Quits

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Posted by Derek

So I see that Dylan Stiles is going to close down his blog next month. I'll miss it, but I can't say that I'm completely surprised by his decision. He's in the home stretch of his PhD work in a demanding group, and there will doubless be some stretches in the next few months where he'll be lucky to have time to go to the john, much less update a blog. I wish him luck, and hope that his eventual transition to Dr. Stiles is as quick and painless as possible.

And yes, that's my theory as to why he's calling a halt. I'm sure that questions of future employment and so on have crossed his mind, but his kind of site definitely won't hurt his prospects, should he decide to go into industry. Dylan obviously knows his synthetic chemistry, enjoys doing it, and can pick up new material quickly - those are some of the key things that you look for when you're hiring. I second the suggestion made by one of the commenters on his site that anyone who's offended by the blog is someone you wouldn't want to work for, anyway.

When I first linked to him, I wrote that it was a good thing that the internet didn't exist when I was a grad student. I meant that two ways - first off, I'd have wasted huge amounts of time rooting around on the web, naturally, not that I didn't make do with what was at hand. But the second problem would have been that I would have probably been tempted to start a blog myself, which would have taken up even more time that I couldn't have afforded. As I've written here before, the purpose of graduate school is to prove that you can get out of graduate school. After allowing for a certain amount of down time needed to maintain your sanity, things that distract you from that main purpose are not your friends.

If I'd had a blog, I'd have spent a good amount of time venting. That surely would have gotten me in trouble sooner or later, given the amount of steam that I had available. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have wanted future employers reading what I had to say after I messed up some reaction at 3 AM, what I wanted to do to my summer undergrad student after he blew us all up, or after one of my ever-helpful labmates had stolen a lab jack out from under a distillation of mine while it was still going. No one knowingly hires someone who sounds like a cranky, hyperverbal maniac, which is what I sounded like much of the time back then. (My current co-workers who read this site can, I hope, restrain themselves from further comment).

As for my situation now, well, I blog mostly at night, and I post from home. That's because "night" and "home" are real times and real places now, as opposed to graduate school, when they were crammed over into that little area on the left-hand side of the dial marked "Not in the lab, for some reason". Life's extras fit into place better after you've had the time to get a life to fit them into.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Graduate School


1. Anonymous on September 19, 2006 6:28 AM writes...

Ok Derek,

You have no choice but to fill Dylan's shoes... I don't mean that you should start posting goofy/smart ass/extremely funny entries.

I just mean that it'd be useful if you turned it to "Ask Derek" type of blog once a week or so. To have comments from around the country on a procedure/reaction. That's something really powerful and unimaginable until recently.

All we used to have would be our iritable post-doc. Now we have hundreds/dare I say thousands? of people reading and giving feedback.

What do you say?

Permalink to Comment

2. JSinger on September 19, 2006 11:08 AM writes...

1) That's too bad -- he's a terrific writer and I'll miss stuff like "My mental image of the Bionic Brothers is 5 guys in matching Adidas track suits with a ghetto blaster, breakdancing on a big piece of cardboard. Who are these people?...I have no problem with the synthesis, I just wonder what N. Voss and his Get Fresh Crew are doing with their NMR in Germany."

2) The problem with "anyone who's offended by the blog is someone you wouldn't want to work for, anyway" is that the HR department of someone you might want to work for might well take offense.

3) I'm always envious reading his comments -- I spent my PhD stuck on a little island of researchers, where the only contact with peers at other schools was at huge conferences. The comraderie among his commenters and the ability to blow off steam, exchange tips and gossip with each other is something I'd love to have had.

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3. someone in india on September 19, 2006 12:55 PM writes...

That's a valid point derek. But don't the future employers recognize and appreciate a certain amount of "creativity/out of the box thinking", on the part of their applicants.

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4. Novice Chemist on September 19, 2006 2:03 PM writes...

What is the role of the HR department in decision making, anyway? I'm guessing their influence is mostly as a gatekeeper?

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5. tom bartlett on September 20, 2006 8:06 AM writes...

"What is the role of the HR department in decision making, anyway? I'm guessing their influence is mostly as a gatekeeper?"

I believe the only influence they exert is to recycle every single CV that crosses their desks. You ONLY get jobs by writing to PEOPLE. I have NEVER gotten an interview through the official HR-sanctioned process.

Anyone have a different perspective on that?

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6. Milo on September 20, 2006 10:37 AM writes...


For what it is worth...I have gotten quite a few interviews simply from applying to ads in C&E news. In contrast, my "network" has yielded far fewer leads or opportunities (not completely zero, but very few).

Not to sound cynical, but I often think that the idea of "networking" is a bit idealistic and over used. People make it sound like it is a sure fire way to get a job, and if you can't get a job it is because you are not networking properly.

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7. clazy on September 25, 2006 10:08 PM writes...

If your future boss likes you, it doesn't matter what the HR department thinks--especially in this field, which is culturally so remote from HR.

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