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November 13, 2000
Volume 78, Number 46
CENEAR 78 46 p.39
ISSN 0009-2347
[Previous Story] [Next Story]

Chemical employers are recruiting 'aggressively' in a job market where demand is expected to exceed supply

Mairin B. Brennan
C&EN Washington

Chemists and chemical engineers graduating in 2001 can count themselves lucky. For the fourth consecutive year, following its vigorous 1998 rebound from the dismal hiring years of the early 1990s, the job market looks rosy.

In academia, retirements, relocations, and expansions continue to open up slots. In industry, demand for chemical professionals is being driven by dual needs. One is to "fill in gaps that occurred as a result of downsizing, streamlining, and reconfiguring in recent years," says James D. Burke, manager of research recruiting and university relations at Rohm and Haas. The other is to ensure sufficient technical staff to accelerate growth in new technologies.

Indeed, unless ruffled by an unexpected economic downturn, the job market in 2001 will be intensely active--so active, in fact, that recruiters are predicting that demand for chemical professionals will exceed the supply, especially for the top candidates.

Faintly shadowing the economic horizon is the question of whether high oil prices might dampen demand. "Companies tend to become overly responsive in the face of uncertainty," Burke notes. But most likely, oil prices will level off because "oil-producing countries don't really want to be associated with having caused a recession," he says. "They're looking--not for maximum--but for optimum price. And if that holds true, then I think the economy will continue to move along and companies will continue to pursue their strategic recruiting plans and avoid tactical responses to short-term economic stimuli."

"My sense is that both the industrial and academic job markets are good," asserts Judith P. Klinman, chairman of the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley. "I've spoken with many job recruiters visiting Berkeley, and they say there are often more positions than people they can recruit." The academic market seems to be strong also, she says.

Indeed, the academic market is "highly competitive," affirms John D. Simon, chairman of the chemistry department at Duke University. "There are precious few top people out there, and many schools are trying to hire."

In chemical engineering, the academic job market "is the best I've seen in 10 years," says Timothy A. Barbari, chairman of the department of chemical engineering at the University of Maryland. "Every school seems to be hiring, and many have two or three positions to fill."

On the industrial front, "the job market is great in general and fantastic for graduates," according to James W. Brockington, director of university relations at Air Products & Chemicals. "The 'war for talent' is real--there's a huge demand for talented people. The high demand and number of open positions is making recruiting very challenging."

"Based on my discussions with colleagues in the industry, the market will remain very strong again this year in both large and small pharmaceutical companies," states David M. Floyd, vice president of discovery chemistry at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"I think there's a general need for technically trained talent at all levels--from lab technicians to Ph.D.s--and the market for that talent is very tight," says Robert Parks, director of recruiting at Eli Lilly & Co.

College placement directors are also predicting a banner hiring year. "We have 'engineering' companies on a waiting list" for rooms, says Nancy A. Evans, director of the College of Engineering Career Assistance Center at the University of Texas, Austin. "I have 310 companies coming this fall [compared with 280 last year], but we'll probably end up with more than that." Oil companies, chemical companies, semiconductor companies, and consulting firms are among those recruiting for all types of engineering graduates, she says.

Computational chemistry and modeling researchers analyze the interaction of a drug with a target enzyme. [Courtesy of Vertex Pharmaceuticals]
"According to company representatives, there are numerous positions to be filled," observes Mary Kay Sorenson, chemistry career services coordinator at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "And many recruiters seem optimistic that this trend will continue, at least for the next few years." Madison's chemistry graduates find positions in the pharmaceutical, health care products, and petrochemical industries, she says, as well as in a variety of other areas.

"The traditional chemical companies say they wish they had twice as many candidates," notes Rebecca Pauling, personnel analyst at Berkeley. "And companies that haven't recruited here in almost 10 years are recruiting again."

According to C&EN's traditional measures--the volume of advertising in the magazine for "positions open" and recruiting activity at the American Chemical Society's national meetings--the demand for chemical professionals is gaining momentum. The volume of advertising for both industrial and academic positions has increased, reflecting the apparent abundance of positions. At ACS's national meeting in Washington, D.C., in August, the society's National Employment Clearing House bustled with activity. The number of interviews conducted (3,479) was the highest on record for any of the national meetings in at least a decade, says Jean A. Parr, head of ACS's Department of Career Services. In all, 156 employers interviewed 1,057 candidates for 1,616 potential slots.

All these indicators point to a potential plentitude of positions in 2001, even though some companies have reduced their hiring quota from what it was in 2000. But Burke offers a word of caution: "This may be a year of better-than-average opportunity," he says, "but jobs won't fall into graduates' laps. They will have to work hard to get a good job and to make sure they are getting the 'right' job." That part of the job search equation never changes, he warns.

Large companies

Traditional on-campus recruiting is under way, and it's vibrant. But many recruiters are casting their hiring net farther afield, attending job fairs, posting job openings on the Internet, or mining various websites for résumés.

"DuPont has been posting positions and accepting résumés through its Web page ( http://www.dupont.com/ca reers ), the most visited page of the dupont.com website," notes Albert S. Tam, the company's Ph.D. and science recruiting consultant. The goal is to complement campus recruiting and reach experienced candidates, he explains. DuPont's campus recruiting is in full swing, with hiring expected to be comparable with 2000. The company is looking for graduates in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, agronomy, plant science, and physics (mainly at the Ph.D. level) and for graduates in chemical, mechanical, and other engineering fields (largely at the B.S. and M.S. levels).

Procter & Gamble is recruiting on campus and also panning the company's online recruiting resource ( http://www.pg.com/careers/applynow ) for prospective hires. Recruiting for Ph.D. candidates will be strong, albeit down slightly from last year, when roughly 70 Ph.D. chemists, life scientists, medical scientists, biostatisticians, and engineers were brought on board, says Ron Webb, P&G's senior manager for doctoral recruiting. The most sought-after Ph.D. chemists will be analytical, with life scientists, medical specialists, and engineers rounding out P&G's advanced-degree hiring needs.

At the B.S. and M.S. level, on-campus recruiting will be strong and "very selective," says Shelly M. Helser, P&G's senior manager for research and product development recruiting. Still, hiring will be down from last year, when the company brought in 300 B.S.- and M.S.-level engineers and 200 B.S.- and M.S.-level science graduates, including chemistry graduates. The hiring reduction is a result of P&G restructuring its businesses, she explains. The company's online recruiting site has been tremendously successful in speeding up the recruiting process for B.S. and M.S. chemists, Helser notes. "We have found Internet recruiting to be crucial in a competitive market," she adds.

Dow is recruiting heavily on campus, says John MacKinnon, who manages the company's R&D recruiting program for North America. As part of its "aggressive" hiring program, Dow is also recruiting at chemistry and chemical engineering conferences as well as at science conferences held by minority groups. "We pick up a lot of excellent candidates" at these events, he says.

Dow "has entered into an exciting new phase of its strategic transformation and is focusing on accelerating growth," MacKinnon adds. "And that growth requires an increase in talent, so the company is 'putting its money where its mouth is' in saying, 'We need more people.' " Hiring for both B.S. and Ph.D. chemists is targeted to increase 50% in 2001 over 2000, 150% for B.S. and M.S. chemical engineers, and 90% for Ph.D. chemical engineers, he says. Chemical specialties in demand include materials scientists, materials modelers, polymer engineers and scientists, and scientists with backgrounds in biotechnology and bioinformatics.

Air Products is on campus, recruiting in particular for interns and co-op students who ultimately may join the company's career development program. Also on its hiring list are Ph.D.s in physical and synthetic organic chemistry. The company is "using new approaches, including extensive use of the Internet, for recruiting experienced engineers and scientists," Brockington says.

Air Products "continues to look for diverse candidates--not just diverse in gender or race, but diverse in thought," Brockington says. "It recognizes that different perspectives can make employee teams--and the company--stronger and more successful."

Eastman Chemical plans to fill more than 50 positions, the majority of which are for chemical engineers, notes R. Douglas Bounds, manager of staffing. Overall hiring is down a bit from 2000, as Eastman "processes" acquisitions made in the past year, he says. "But we continue to see an ongoing need for new engineers."

Chemical and pharmaceutical firm Bayer plans to hire a total of roughly 100 new graduates in science and engineering at the M.S. and Ph.D. levels, according to Clayton E. Miller, manager of professional staffing. The company seldom hires B.S. chemists, he says, and when it does, they are hired to supervise lab technicians.

"Demand right now exceeds supply," Miller contends, "and colleagues that I speak to at other corporations are experiencing the same problem." Graduates in the biomedical sciences are easier to find than graduates in chemistry or engineering, he observes, in part because fewer students are going into chemistry and engineering. According to data from the National Science Foundation, the number of graduate students in chemistry declined steadily from 1994 to 1999. And the number of graduate students in engineering fell every year from 1993 to 1998, reversing this downtrend in 1999. "We're finding that students who do major in engineering are going toward the 'biotrack,' and our needs are more on the classical engineering side," Miller says. Computer engineering and software design are also siphoning from the classic engineering pool, he observes. Bayer looks mostly for Ph.D. "generalists" who want to work in research, he says. .

At major pharmaceutical firms, synthetic organic and medical chemists remain a hot commodity. However, computational, analytical, and formulation chemists are also high on the list of specialty chemists in demand.

"The market for Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. chemists in synthetic and medicinal chemistry is high, with starting salaries continuing their steady increase over previous years," Bristol-Myers' Floyd notes. "There is also a robust need for analytical chemists with training or experience in high-throughput automated systems." Chemists with experience in applying parallel synthesis methods to medicinal chemistry will have many opportunities, he says. And the expertise of computational chemists is needed in helping develop computational tools that "more accurately predict the physical and pharmacological properties of molecules" to quickly identify those with the potential to become candidates for drug development.

Pfizer, which acquired Warner-Lambert in June, currently is integrating the research arms of both companies into Pfizer Global Research & Development (PGRD), notes Peter A. McCarthy, senior executive director for discovery research. "This is an exciting time," McCarthy says. "We feel the new Pfizer has much to offer chemists at all levels."

PGRD, which will be headquartered in New London, Conn., has research facilities at Groton, Conn.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; La Jolla, Calif; in the U.K.; France; and Japan. The company is recruiting for Ph.D. chemists at campuses across the U.S. as well as in Europe and Japan to identify candidates interested in U.S. positions and vice versa.

"The need for additional chemistry staff remains strong within the new Pfizer," McCarthy says, "but our precise hiring targets are currently being defined. Nonetheless, we do plan on hiring Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. chemists at all three of our U.S. sites during the coming year." Much of the recruiting for B.S. and M.S. chemists is done on a regional basis, he notes.

Lilly plans to hire synthetic organic, medicinal, and formulation chemists, Parks indicates. "From our company's perspective, we don't need as many analytical chemists."

Parks was one of several recruiters from both chemical and pharmaceutical companies who indicated to C&EN that a shortage of H-1B visas--which permit qualified foreign nationals to work in the U.S.--sometimes prevents U.S. firms from accessing "the best technical minds in the world." A law passed last month ( C&EN, Oct. 9, page 42 ) increased the number of H-1B visas to 195,000 for each of the next three years. Without the law, the number would have been 107,500 for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and 65,000 in subsequent years. Despite the increase, recruiters expect the visas to be exhausted by February or March, leaving companies unable to hire foreign nationals for several months until the next round is issued.

H-1B visas are issued for up to three years and may be extended to six. At the end of the six years, foreign nationals who have not obtained permanent residence status must leave the U.S. for one year before another H-1B visa can be approved (http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/howdoi/h1b.htm). "We remain hopeful that the federal government will expand the annual quota for permanent residency approvals to keep pace with the quota increases for H-1B visas," says James J. Grates, vice president of human resources at Albany Molecular Research, Albany, N.Y. Failure to do so "will result in a loss of considerable talent that could otherwise contribute to the U.S. economy," he contends.

Midsize firms

Midsize pharmaceutical companies also are on the hiring bandwagon. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Mass., for example, "is hiring aggressively" both in the U.S. and the U.K., where it has research facilities near Oxford, says Michael S. Walsh, vice president of human resources. The company is recruiting for "talented chemists, X-ray crystallographers, protein biochemists, enzymologists, and biologists" for its "chemogenics" drug discovery approach, he says. That approach is based on harnessing genomic information to develop drugs. Vertex also recruits through its website ( http://www.vertexcareers.com ) and accepts online applications.

"There is fierce competition to hire organic chemists in the pharmaceutical industry in general and in the biotech area especially," says an R&D scientist at another midsize pharmaceutical company who asked not to be identified. "The distinction is largely one of 'big pharma' and everyone else. All companies--large and small--are using stock options, sign-on bonuses, and relocation packages to sweeten deals," he says.

[Courtesy of Pharmacopeia]
"For many small companies, experience is a commodity they cannot take time to grow," he continues. "So the approach is to steal it away from big pharma. As a result, there is a continuing exodus of capable people from big pharma R&D units. The packages for these folks can be quite impressive. But one of the problems small companies have is that their staff can't pay the rent with options. Since the life of the company is on the line if they don't get staff, they often pay [princely] salaries to get people to come." Small companies offer informal atmospheres, the opportunity to build something from nothing, and the potential for high rewards, he notes. But they also are high-risk and demand lengthy workdays.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of chemists employed in the drug industry will be up 12.9% in 2008 compared with a decade earlier (15,440 in 2008 versus 13,676 in 1998). But the number employed in chemical and allied industries overall in 2008 (30,752) will fall slightly short of the number for 1998 (30,804).

In fact, chemical employment in most of these industries is projected to decrease substantially over the decade, offset by the growth in employment in the drug industry component. At the same time, the number of chemists employed in service industries will soar 50.8%, from 28,341 in 1998 to 42,738 in 2008; the number employed in research and testing facilities (contract, outsourcing, and analytical testing labs, among others) will escalate a whopping 73.7%--from 14,647 in 1998 to 25, 443 in 2008.

"We need to be able to cope with this overall growth" in service facilities, MacKinnon states. "Dow's contract manufacturing services business has seen double-digit growth in the past couple of years," he notes. "So there's a significant increase in hiring within that business."

"The accelerated rate of drug discovery has created a greater demand for contract chemistry services," maintains Albany Molecular's Grates. "The continued growth and success of the biotech industry, technologies such as combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening techniques, and the Human Genome Project continue to result in numerous drug leads being developed. In general, we find that [many] companies are 'idea rich and resource poor,' " relying on service facilities to fill an assortment of needs.

Albany Molecular provides custom synthesis, R&D, and analytical services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries in addition to conducting proprietary research. Hiring will be about on par with 2000, when roughly 60 new scientists at all degree levels joined the company. The job market is "extremely competitive" for synthetic organic chemists, Grates says. Nevertheless, he believes the company will be able to "meet or exceed" its targeted needs.

Analytical testing firm Lancaster Labs, Lancaster, Pa., is "growing in both its environmental and pharmaceutical services and anticipates needing more chemists than in past years," says Beth DiPaolo, recruiting and training group leader. As the largest analytical lab in a single location in the U.S., "we employ several analytical chemists," she adds. The company currently has 50 positions open for technical hires, including chemists, microbiologists, technicians, and other candidates with science-related backgrounds.

Life Technologies, Frederick, Md., which Human Resources Manager Jeffrey A. Boyd calls the "Home Depot" of biotechnology firms, plans to make about 100 technical hires in 2001. The company, a division of Invitrogen Corp., San Diego, has biomanufacturing facilities in the U.S., Scotland, and New Zealand and research facilities in Rockville, Md., and San Diego. It supplies cell culture media, various custom products, and technical expertise and support to biotech and pharmaceutical firms. In addition to recruiting through its website ( http://www.lifetech.com ) and various Internet job sites, Life Technologies finds candidates "in today's job market--anywhere we can," Boyd says.

Another company serving the needs of pharmaceutical and biotech industries is Molecular Simulations Inc., San Diego, Calif., which develops modeling and informatics software and other drug discovery tools for these industries. MSI, a division of Pharmacopeia, has "quite an aggressive hiring plan," according to Vice President of Human Resources Judith M. Ohrn. Computational chemists are the company's typical target, she says, but competent people are at a premium in many specialized areas, including, for example, accounting. "In some respects, it's just as hard to find a good administrator as it is to find good computational chemists."

[Courtesy of Vertex Pharmaceuticals]
Also in the market for new technical staff in 2001 are oil companies. "Our overall hiring is on par with last year," says David Blakemore, manager of employment and college relations at Phillips Petroleum. "We expect keen competition on campus for those chemical engineers, petroleum engineers, and geoscientists that we typically recruit," he notes. "Time will tell how successful we will be in filling our hiring needs for next year. It's a very competitive year again. I think the students will benefit from the competition for their talents." Blakemore notes that Phillips Petroleum and Chevron combined their chemical operations in 2000 ( C&EN, Feb. 14, page 18 ), forming Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. The idea was "to create an extremely competitive, large, and diverse chemical operation which will compete with anyone in the world," he explains. Chevron Phillips will be hiring its own complement of chemistry and engineering graduates, Blakemore says.

ExxonMobil's targeted hiring quota is the highest in a decade for the combined companies, according to Sharyl M. Hackett, campus relations and diversity manager. Among other graduates, the company plans to hire more than 180 chemical engineers "across all business units," she says.

Temporary employment

Both new and experienced graduates continue to find employment through temporary agencies. Demand is greatest for chemists with a combination of laboratory, computer, business, and "relationship-building" skills, notes Rolf E. Kleiner, senior vice president and general manager of Kelly Scientific Resources (KSR), Troy, Mich. ( http://www.kellyscientific.com ). This is "particularly true for analytical chemists in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries," he says. However, he notes, they don't have to be "masters" of all these skills. But they need to be "competent" so companies can rapidly deploy resources and talent "to areas needing support or focus to drive the overall business objective," he says. That may mean working in a customer service team, for example, or in product development in a multidisciplinary team, he explains. Looking forward, he sees bioinformatics, proteomics, combinatorial chemistry, and clinical trials as the "areas of greatest interest from [KSR's] perspective."

Finding work through a temporary agency can speed up a job search, according to Carrie S. Nebens, executive vice president of North America Operations for On Assignment, Calabasas, Calif. Nebens, an ACS member and a "chemist in my first life," says the traditional job search takes time. "We are able to shorten the timeline," she asserts, in many cases placing temporary workers with the companies they want to work for.

On Assignment's Lab Support Division (http://www.labsupport.com) places chemists, biochemists, and a mix of other science graduates (mostly with B.S. degrees) in temporary positions in various pharmaceutical, biotech, food and beverage, petrochemical, and specialty lab and manufacturing companies. Since 1999, Lab Support has opened roughly a dozen offices in Europe--in the U.K., the Netherlands, and Belgium. The company has four offices in Canada. "Temporary help is best served on a local market," Nebens observes.

KSR has established an international presence also, with 14 offices distributed among Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, Switzerland, and Australia. The company also has an office in Puerto Rico. And by year-end, it plans to open up shop "in another European country," Kleiner says.

Academic hiring

In the mid-1990s, when few professors were retiring and academic positions were scarce, the chairman of a chemistry department at a California university told C&EN that faculty members were not going to continue working until they were in their eighties. "People in their fifties [currently] constitute a very large fraction" of the academic population, he said. "There will be a lot of academic jobs in the next 10 to 20 years. It's preprogrammed by biology."

By most accounts, biology has kicked in early, and retirements are well under way. "My sense is that academic institutions are now beginning to feel the brunt of these predicted retirements," Rohm and Haas's Burke says. "Many faculty members who thought they would want to stay forever no longer feel that way."

Stephen J. Lippard, chairman of the department of chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, echoes that opinion. "Many positions have been created by the retirements of faculty members hired in the 1960s," Lippard affirms.

But Burke suggests that a second scenario might also be at work: "Investment programs have been a godsend for thousands of faculty members," he says. "They have financially liberated numerous faculty who invested prudently throughout their career and don't need to work as long as they once believed."

A C&EN survey of a sample of research universities and four-year colleges across the U.S. suggests that many openings for academic positions exist. Not all are created by retirements, though--faculty expansions, relocations, and the failure to fill openings the previous year (for want of the "right" candidate) collectively contribute their own share of slots. Ironically, though, as academic positions are steadily increasing, the number of candidates is shrinking.

Researchers at work in bioinformatics DNA lab. [Photo by Billy Howard/Baylor University]
"The pool of interested and viable candidates for academic positions, especially at the starting level, is much smaller than the number of openings," declares Carl R. Johnson, chairman of the department of chemistry at Wayne State University, Detroit. "This situation is likely to become more critical" in the future, he suggests. "Large numbers" of chemistry faculty members are reaching retirement age, he says, so slots will continue to open up.

But factors that may dissuade candidates from pursuing an academic career are coming into play, he contends. One is "the perception that establishing a successful academic career is difficult," achievable only by sacrificing one's quality of life. Another is the salary situation. Starting salaries in industry, especially when sign-on bonuses are included, are considerably higher than most starting salaries in academia, he observes. There's always been a difference, Johnson acknowledges, but now it's more pronounced.

Wayne State has three positions open for tenured or tenure-track faculty members in organic, inorganic, or materials chemistry. Two are carryovers from last year, Johnson notes. If these slots had been filled, "we would still have two or three openings," he says. An impending retirement has opened up a slot for a chairman.

Utah State University, Logan, has a tenure-track opening for an analytical chemist. "This position became available when a faculty member left for another university," notes Steve Scheiner, head of the chemistry and biochemistry department. "The academic job market is as strong as it ever has been for new, young faculty," Scheiner maintains. "That is, the ratio of positions to applicants is very high." This shrinking pool of applicants means some are receiving multiple interviews, invited by as many as 10 universities in a given year, he explains. "From the perspective of the research university, it makes hiring the top candidates very difficult, as each will have multiple job offers," he observes. "These candidates can then command very high salaries and start-up [packages], placing them out of the reach of some universities."

Indeed, chemistry department chairmen confirm that cost is a hurdle, affirms Paul B. Hopkins, chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Washington (UW). "We have, of course, brought this on ourselves through the competition for top candidates. It's a rare candidate who can really justify $300,000 to $500,000 in start-up [costs]. The exception is the individual who needs one or more pieces of extremely expensive equipment," he says.

For the seventh consecutive year, UW is conducting a job search for new faculty members. In the past, "we hired at least one in every round," Hopkins says. But "every year for the past six years, the number of applicants has declined somewhat, and this year seems to be the same." UW is not alone.

This summer, Hopkins conducted a nationwide survey of Ph.D.-granting schools for the Council on Chemical Research, to which some 60 schools responded. Responses to a survey question on the number of tenure-track openings show that "it is very common for schools to have one, two, or even three openings," he points out.

Washington University, St. Louis, has "decided not to search again this year, partly because of space constraints and partly because of the enormous start-up costs associated with the three hires we made last year," says John R. Bleeke, vice chairman of the department of chemistry. Last year, the department hired three assistant professors for work in interdisciplinary areas--bioinorganic and enzymology, materials science and inorganic, and physical studies of inorganic nanomaterials. "While we were fortunate in our search last year, we have found that it can be difficult to find candidates who are doing research in cutting-edge interdisciplinary areas and yet have the background to teach the traditional core curriculum of the department," Bleeke says.

"I think there is great interest in hiring synthetic chemists as well as people trained at the interface of disciplines," UC Berkeley's Klinman contends. "Certainly, nanostructures is a big area, as is new materials. Both of these areas interface with physical and inorganic chemistry." And she believes most chemistry departments are trying to strengthen the interface between chemistry and biology. Berkeley "is actively recruiting" to fill positions in structural and chemical biology, she notes.

Failure to fill all of its openings last year "due to unavailability of the 'right' candidates" has left Northwestern University with three positions to fill in 2001, indicates Robert N. Scott, executive director of the department of chemistry. The university is about to begin construction of a new nanotechnology center, he says, and the chemistry department is emphasizing nanotechnology. "We have not found it difficult to find candidates in this area," he notes.

"Our department is aggressively expanding in the areas of proteomics, bioinformatics, functional genomics, nanotechnology, and pharmaceutical sciences, as well as in the core areas of inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry and biochemistry," says Edward A. Dennis, chairman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. The department currently is searching for four new faculty members, three of whom will fill "brand new" positions. Under recruitment are a senior organic chemist and junior inorganic, environmental, and organic/materials chemists. "We anticipate more new positions in the future due to increased student enrollment," Dennis says.

Iowa State University of Science & Technology, Ames, has four tenure-track positions open, two of which are new, according to chemistry department chairman Patricia A. Thiel. Two positions went unfilled last year, one because of a complicated "two-body" problem, she says.

At the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, "we had one position open last year, and we were not able to fill it because the 'right' candidate elected to stay put" for personal reasons, says Harmon B. Abrahamson, chairman of the department of chemistry. "We will be searching to fill that position again this year, but in a broader area in an attempt to generate a larger candidate pool. We are also searching to fill a second position that opened when one of our tenure-track people elected to move to a larger institution in a major metro area. Start-up expenses are a particular problem for us and limit the number of candidates we can consider for a given position."

Departures over the past few years created openings at Duke University, chemistry department chairman Simon indicates. An offer made last year was turned down, he says, "and at that point it was too late to make another offer [because] our other choice had accepted a job." The chemistry department, which has 19 faculty members, "would like to rebuild to 22," he says. It has tenure-track openings for assistant professors in biological chemistry and theoretical chemistry and for a professor at any rank in materials science and nanoscience.

Among other research universities in the market for chemistry faculty members are Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, with one slot; the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, also with one slot; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, with two slots.

"We hired seven new tenure-track faculty over the past 18 months, and we are recruiting two more this year," says Jimmy W. Viers, director of graduate studies in the department of chemistry at Virginia Tech. "We had a large buildup of faculty in the mid-'60s to early '70s, and these people are now beginning to retire. We anticipate our faculty recruiting will continue strong for the next few years, although start-up costs will be more and more of a factor in how many permanent tenure-track faculty we may be able to accommodate. So far, start-up expenses have not prevented us from hiring needed replacements."

Chemical engineering departments, where interdisciplinary science is also making its mark, have open faculty positions, too. At the University of Texas, Austin, "we have three openings, created by retirements, not expansion," department chairman John G. Ekerdt says. Moreover, "we anticipate hiring three additional faculty members over the next three years because of retirements," he adds.

"It would not be fair to say we are focusing on individuals with interdisciplinary training," Ekerdt continues. "We are looking for the best qualified applicants who can and are willing to teach core chemical engineering classes" and whose research interests add or complement focus areas within the department, he says. But "we will continue to seek individuals who do have interdisciplinary training, and many of our recent hires fit this description. As chemical engineering evolves, we will need individuals who work at the interface with physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and materials science" as well as mainstream chemical engineering, he explains.

At Maryland, "we're looking to hire in new interdisciplinary areas, such as nanotechnology and bioMEMS (bio-microelectromechanical systems)" in the chemical engineering department, Barbari notes. He believes many schools are in the market to fill slots in these areas. "The challenge, with so many openings, will be finding highly qualified people. I suspect that many openings will go unfilled because many schools will be pursuing the same candidates and the top schools will not want to sacrifice quality just to fill the slot."

Tenure-track positions also are available at four-year colleges. "It appears the job market is pretty good in four-year institutions," says Serge H. Schreiner, chairman of the chemistry department at Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Va. The department has two tenure-track positions open "for candidates with a strong commitment to teaching in a liberal arts college and establishing a vigorous undergraduate research program."

An expansion in the chemistry department at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va., has opened a slot for a tenure-track assistant professor experienced in working with students doing undergraduate research, department head Donna S. Amenta says. The school puts a "strong emphasis on undergraduate research," she notes.

Also expanding its chemistry and biochemistry department is Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, with an opening for a tenure-track assistant professor in biological chemistry. Recruiting was initiated in January, but "the top candidates took positions while we were interviewing," Rebecca D. Crawford, department chairman, says.

Two of the three faculty positions open last year at Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, went unfilled, chemistry department head Henry D. Schreiber indicates. "Our top--and only--choices to fill the positions did not accept the offers. In both cases, even though we offered a competitive financial package, the candidates cited insufficient compensation." One of the candidates was from industry and would have had to take "a severe salary cut," Schreiber explains. And the other was deterred by the cost of housing and real estate in the area. The search reopened this year, looking for candidates who are the "right fit," Schreiber says. Applicants must be committed to developing a quality undergraduate research program and "have the ability to teach, not only in their specialty, but also in general chemistry courses," he adds.

Salaries continue to go up, UT Austin's Evans notes. "I think academia is certainly having to step up to the plate because they're losing people to industry." UT Austin's engineering department is "crying, because we lost a couple of good computer engineering folks" to industry, she says.

At MIT, "the whole school of science made a decision more than five years ago to raise the starting salaries for assistant professors to be competitive," Lippard says. "And if you add the summer salary, it's more than competitive."

In the past few years, the tempo of the academic market has switched from largo to allegro, as positions have steadily opened up. Still, "just because there are a lot of positions available doesn't mean, necessarily, that a lot of offers will be made," Lippard contends. "It depends on the talent pool. It's hard to tell whether it's going to be a buyer's or a seller's market."


Table: Number of graduate science students studying chemistry down six years straight


2000 was a banner year for ACS's National Employment Clearing House

Total candidates   Employers Potential openings Interviews scheduled
 Anaheim 1,098 101 na 1,073
 Chicago 1,588 127 na 1,904
 New Orleans 1,217 133 480 1,527
 Orlando 856 127 494 1,469
 San Francisco 1,374 196 729 2,395
 Las Vegas 1,021 154 549 1,996
 Dallas 1,039 164 967 2,405
 Boston 1,637 228 1,168 3,141
 Anaheim 1,018 118 1,628 2,178
 New Orleans 964 134 829 3,049
 San Francisco 1,052 169 1,069 3,367
 Washington, D.C. 1,057 156 1,616 3,479

na = not available. Source: American Chemical Society Department of Career Services


Degrees in informatics take hold

Pharmaceutical industries are contending with an explosion in data generated by combinatorial chemistry and the avalanche of information spilling from the Human Genome Project. Making sense of it all is a formidable task--one that's crying out for more scientists well versed in bio- and cheminformatics.

"Perhaps the area where there is the most profound shortage of skilled staff is in bioinformatics and related data and information management services," asserts David M. Floyd, vice president for discovery chemistry at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"The best definition I have come across for bioinformatics is 'computational biology,' " contends Edward T. Maggio, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Structural Bioinformatics Inc., San Diego, Calif. As such, "it encompasses storage, retrieval, and analysis of gene sequence, biological, pharmacological, and structural data; prediction of protein structure, function, and posttranslational modification; prediction of protein-protein interactions; and the design of new computational tools to extract new correlations from large data sets--to name just a few areas."

At Structural Bioinformatics, biophysicists, physicists, computer modelers, mathematicians, protein modelers, and computational scientists in the bioinformatics area interact daily with medicinal chemists, molecular biologists, protein chemists, and molecular pharmacologists. "This trend represents a true revolution in the way science will be conducted" from now on, he says.

Universities are stepping up to the challenge. Some schools already are offering courses in bioinformatics as part of a master's program in biotechnology, for example. But others are implementing, or have implemented, formal degrees in bioinformatics, some even at the undergraduate level.

At Baylor University, Waco, Texas, for instance, a B.S. degree program in bioinformatics--one of the first in the world--started up three years ago. A collaborative effort between computer scientists and molecular biologists, the program attracted 15 students the first year, 50 the second, and 100 the third, says Benjamin S. Kelley, dean of the School of Engineering & Computer Science.

The degree is somewhat akin to having a major in both computer science and molecular biology, he explains, and it requires an internship. At first "we thought, 'What in the world are we going to do about internships? Where are we going to find them?' " Kelley says. But then "we've had places say, 'We'll take all your students.' " Biotech companies and medical research and teaching facilities--including Baylor School of Medicine, which houses one of the major sites for the Human Genome Project--were among facilities offering internships, he says.

Baylor currently is designing a B.S. in cheminformatics that will be aimed at producing graduates who can help optimize the organization of chemical information. The program essentially will couple and bridge B.S. degrees in both chemistry and computer science, Kelley notes.

The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia has just launched a master's degree in bioinformatics that links chemistry, computer science, and biolo gy, indicates Edward R. Birnbaum, chairman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry. An undergraduate degree in bioinformatics is slated to start up next fall.

[Courtesy of Structural Bioinformatics Inc.]
Graduates in various science disciplines are candidates for the master's program. "So I anticipate most will have to take some additional undergraduate courses in order to complete the degree," Birnbaum says. For example, chemistry graduates may have to take computer science courses, and biology graduates may have to take chemistry and computer science courses, "unless there's a surge in undergraduate programs developed around the country," he says.

At Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, N.Y., a master's degree in informatics in chemistry and biology is awaiting state approval, notes Kalle M. J. Levon, chairman of the department of chemical engineering, chemistry, and materials science. "It is logical that a department with a strong program in polymer science would initiate such a degree to bridge with our computer science program," he says. "We have organized courses this fall in molecular modeling and simulations and in combinatorial chemistry and have classes full of students. We are looking forward to success in the field, and we're also looking for new hires in the field."

Both bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical informatics are set to be offered by the School of Informatics at Indiana University next fall. Developed jointly by IU's Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses, the master's degree has a prerequisite of "essentially" a bachelor's degree in chemistry, says Gary D. Wiggins, director of programs in bioinformatics and chemical informatics. "We hope to see people with advanced degrees in chemistry apply for this program as well." Graduate courses in chemical informatics will be offered by the chemistry department. A master's degree in bioinformatics will be offered at both campuses.

Other schools also have started up master's degrees in bioinformatics or other such computational sciences (C&EN, May 29, page 65). Some chemical educators and chemical employers are concerned that these programs may draw talented students away from traditional chemistry programs, but others believe they will increase the number of students with expertise in chemistry by bringing biologists and computer scientists into the pool.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, the approach to drug design is changing, new avenues are being pursued, and success will depend in part on increasing the pool of informatics-savvy scientists.


E-Recruiting: The new way to get a job

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The Internet is changing the way recruiting is being done, announced Ron Webb, senior manager for doctoral recruiting at Procter & Gamble, at the "Careers 2000" conference held last month in Baltimore. Sponsored by the American Chemical Society's Department of Career Services, the conference hosted the department's career consultants and ACS local sections' career program coordinators.

Webb described how e-recruiting is being used by P&G, which instituted a "paperless" online application system last year ( http://www.pg.com/careers/applynow ). "The goal is to find applicants in a timely manner," Webb said. "Electronic applications can be handled within 24 hours. That's very efficient. I see those files on a daily basis."

In its first year, the paperless system generated about 6,000 applications from candidates with degrees higher than a master's, Webb said. Approximately one-fifth of the candidates were considered for employment and interviewed--on campus, at ACS's National Employment Clearing House (NECH), and/or by phone. Of these, roughly 200 were invited for an on-site interview, close to 90 were offered positions, and about 70 accepted.

To "make some sense of the numbers," Webb indicated that P&G hires between 60 and 70 doctoral candidates a year. Only 12 (18%) of the roughly 70 brought on board in 1999 were hired via a traditional campus interview; 21% were hired through Internet advertisements; 46% through unsolicited applications and employee and other referrals; and the remainder (15%) through NECH interviews, print ads, and agencies. "For the past two years, the percentage of doctoral hires that came from campus contacts was well below the average for 1991-97," he said. "We're simply seeing strong candidates that come to us unsolicited." As e-recruiting gains ground, it will likely bring more.

Webb [Photo by Mairin Brennan]
P&G posts B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. positions on its career site in real time. The company employs a "sweeping" service that electronically scans the career site and automatically posts the positions on a number of other sites. "That's a real way to reach out to people," Webb said. P&G manually posts new openings on Monster.com and Medzilla.com to attract chemists and biologists, respectively, he said.

"I spend about 30 to 45 seconds scanning a résumé," Webb said. "And I look at every one." The impending explosion in online applications is prompting some to consider the need for a winnowing tool, an online test that will "score" applications and put those that don't measure up "in a bin where nobody ever looks at them," he suggested. "It's an option. But I'm not there yet." These kinds of tests are generally written by industrial psychologists, he explained. They're intended to gauge, for example, whether a candidate is a team player and is willing to take risks--cultural "factors that may help an organization succeed," he said.

Other e-recruiting tools are on the horizon. "Video classifieds," being launched by CorporateCity.com, Boston (http://www.corporatecity.com), will post corporate advertisements, employee testimonials, and online interviews and will offer guided tours of a firm's facilities, Webb said. And home pages that give candidates the opportunity for "personalized" interaction with a campus interviewer also are in the works, he added.

"We can't stay [solely] with the old recruiting tools," Webb concluded. "We have to try to make them better and, at the same time, look for new ways, like the Internet, to attract applicants."

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