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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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« Publish, Then Perish | Main | Elsewhere »

November 13, 2006

The Race Is On

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Posted by Derek

Friday afternoon was quite strange. There had been another meeting to explain to people what the timetable would be to close down the site, but I left during its question-and-answer period. . .to go and set up an experiment. A half an hour later, colleagues of mine from down the hall were coming back from the main auditorium, talking among themselves about job searching and severance, and staring at me in disbelief as they walked past my lab bench.

You see, if I'm going to get a good publication out of my idea, I'm going to need some more data. For one thing, I need to go back and run some of the things I've already done, but this time at least in triplicate, so I can plot the data with error bars. Before I was running in duplicate, trying to save some of the harder-to-obtain reagents for later experiments, but that's not going to be an issue now. Inside of a couple of weeks, there aren't going to be any more experiments to run, because we're going to be shutting down the labs.

In addition to the repeats, I'm going back to my main sequence and setting up some new experiments which will help support my conclusions in a paper. Friday afternoon's run was a large one in that category, and (needless to say) it had better work. I'm not going to get much time to troubleshoot. I had been working on a different series of compounds, but there's not going to be time to finish that area, so it has to be thrown over the side.

So there I was, using some pipets that were left over when the company laid off a hallway full of biologists two years ago. I have no idea who the equipment I'm using belonged to, but I knew everyone over there. And the vials I set up went into a plastic rack, which is still labeled with the name of a lab associate who was let go about a year ago when another hallway was cleared out. I'm using reagents from projects that have been told to stop, trying to generate data before the analytical lab has to shut down. No wonder people were looking at me as if I'd lost my mind - if I had the time, I'd stop and stare, too.

Comments (13) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Birth of an Idea | Closing Time


1. Nicolai on November 13, 2006 7:47 AM writes...

Go go Gadget Chemist!

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2. LNT on November 13, 2006 10:34 AM writes...

Hopefully your experiments won't rely on the interpritation/assistance of others! I have a feeling you'll have a rough time trying to get your analytical chemists and biologists to test the samples you create... (unless you promise them authorship on whatever paper comes of it!)

Good luck!

Do you really think that this idea will help you get a job somewhere? It seems that hiring managers are going to be much more interested in your experience pushing forward a drug discovery program.... My focus would be to publish and patent whatever medchem you've done as quickly as possible.

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3. Mark on November 13, 2006 10:44 AM writes...

Do the things that give you power--you will need all the emotional and psychic energy you can muster.

As a recruiter and medicinal chemist (in a past life), I can tell you that it is a bit rough out there for even the best discovery folks.

You seem to have a good mind for trends and better practices--inside and outside the lab. So, I dont feel your search will be as painful as it will invariably be for others.

I think the biggest thing in your favor is that you dont have a sense of entitlement b/c of your accomplishments and pedigree. Just like for the upcoming paper you are working on, you know you will need to convincing and provide evidence to the naysayers. You will have good answers to you why should we hire you? and how you can add value?. Unfortunately, they dont teach selling skills in grad school--maybe they start!

I have sent some info to your sbc acct that I sent to all candidates prior to a phone or face to face interview--these are a compilation from countless recruiters and are very useful. Feel free to distibute these Word docs to your colleagues.

I have been through a very painful layoff myself and continue (even as of this morning) to get emails from colleagues who have lost their jobs and dont know how they will fare as the breadwinner. Persistence and a good attitude are 100% required. Suffer fools graciously and be prepared for a 15 round title match--dont defeat youreself with negativity and NEVER assume anything about your job search if you are not getting feedback. Lack of data does not always mean mean negative data.


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4. milkshake on November 13, 2006 2:45 PM writes...

I also did lab work until my last SUGEN day - trying to finsh something while I got access to the intermediates. But I had a new job offer at the time already.

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5. Xmas on November 13, 2006 3:36 PM writes...

In your hurries, please don't blow yourself up. You only get super-powers that way in comic books.

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6. Luke on November 13, 2006 4:17 PM writes...

Publications are always good to have on the CV. Best of luck to you! May your experiments go smoothly, your job search end quickly, and your severance be long and profitable!

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7. carmen on November 13, 2006 5:05 PM writes...

Best of luck in the job search. I hope you can put together some meaningful data before the labs shut down. Thanks for adding me to the blogroll.

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8. Chrispy on November 13, 2006 6:04 PM writes...

I was involved in a similar situation. The problem was that by the time the paper was written and reviewed there was no lab to do anything more in. One reviewer suggested some simple experiments which couldn't then be done -- it was all right because the paper was accepted anyway but you almost have to submit it with a "take it or leave it" clause...

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9. Tim Mayer on November 13, 2006 10:40 PM writes...

Best of luck, Old Chap. I got the boot myself a year ago when the New Concern who had bought the family-owned company I worked for decided one day they needed one less chemist. But I bounced back by forming my own company. It's not all cupcakes and beer, but at least we have a product that can be sold and a stake in the future.
I sometimes think chemists should do what the lawyers do and form "firms".

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10. Mark on November 14, 2006 4:36 AM writes...

Hi Derek,

You are looking for a new job, probably with big pharma, yet you are a blogger.

What will you do if you are offered a position on condidtion that you stop your blog?

Or, do you think that you blogging profile will be an advantage?

Best of luck (I lost my job when they closed my academic dept... the current fashion in the UK).


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11. Derek Lowe on November 14, 2006 9:54 AM writes...

My hope is that the blogging will (at least) be no disadvantage. I assume that any future employer of mine will already know about the site before they decide to interview me, and will have come to terms with it. My track record in keeping it going (with no issues) under my present employer should also help.

So yes, I'd like to keep the blog, if at all possible, no matter where I end up.

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12. Darth_Bubbster on November 14, 2006 10:57 AM writes...

Good for you for going in and getting what you need (or want) to do before the shut down. I recall one of the strangest experiences I ever had was checking out the lab space of a biotech (we were scavenging for equipment) that had shut-down one day (without any preamble). It was the scientific equivalent of a ghost ship. Sounds like certain corridors of WDC are already like that.

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13. anon on November 14, 2006 8:58 PM writes...

Several areas have been at well below capacity for awhile now.

Dave Smith is the HES guy here, and is in charge of making sure that we leave the labs in clean condition. I have no power, but ask to speak with him if you are looking for a handout before the stuff is potentially just tossed. I know that there are certain rules which need to be followed, and that the Germans are coming over in a couple of weeks to pick and choose what equipment they would like to be shipped over.

Thanks to milkshake for the interview comments. This was my first job out of grad school, so I am grateful to people who have taken the time to tell me how things are different (besides being heavily restricted on what I can discuss for legal reasons).

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