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The Chemist’s Predicament

Yes, we really have conversations like this.  Before I was laid off, I thought I might open a Bobo Tea stand on a beach somewhere.  Just think of what I could do with a liquor license.

The other night, I had dinner with one of my application vendors.  They came to Philly to give courses on their new version and I like to keep fresh.  It helps that they lent me a license so I can practice at home.  Anyway, they told me that they have met with a lot of drug design chemists who are completely disgusted with the lay offs and are getting out. They’re getting out of pharma altogether.  None of them want to do the work anymore.  It’s a thankless job.  It’s very difficult to do the work, difficult to get medicinal chemists to follow up on designs, difficult to navigate the changing political landscape within the companies and difficult to have to keep selling yourself in order to keep your job. What really sucks are the multiple layoffs and the constant downgrading of your livelihood.  Some people have to leave their families behind in one state while they live like black diamond miners in Soweto for most of the week in another state.  And even those jobs are not stable.

At the dinner, I met a currently employed modeler/crystallographer who is living a day to day existence in a big pharma company that underwent a merger a couple of years ago.  He’s having the same experience I did.  The Shadow Man is stalking the corridors and it’s only a matter of time before he catches up with his group.  They’re all on pins and needles while the managers take away their resources one by one, leaving them to do the work of other departments so they can keep up productivity.  It’s just a matter of time.  When it comes, he tells me, he’s getting out of NJ and leaving pharma behind permanently.  It’s just not worth the constant anxiety and stress.  He’s going to downsize, move to a different state and do something that won’t require the brains of a small planet but gets all the respect of a burger flipper.  If that’s the way you’re going to get treated, you might as well flip burgers and enjoy life.

Too bad for all of us who need people like him to solve problems in drug discovery.  And it’s very curious that the Obama Administration has paid zero attention to the devastation of the American scientific infrastructure by finance people who equate scientists with swappable industrial workers on an as needed, just-in-time basis.  I think that’s going to come back to bite him in the ass in November because those of us in NJ who are being tossed out of our jobs in the middle of our careers were making decent middle class salaries.  Now, we’re not.  When was the last time Obama invited laid off scientists to the White House instead of their self-serving MBA class managers?  Has he ever heard what’s really going on in the labs from the people who used to work there and can clear the bullsh^&?  If anyone out there knows of any such meeting, I’d like to hear about it.  Because from where I sit, it looks like he just doesn’t give a f^&*.