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Employment Of Chemists

January 18, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 3

I 'm writing about the article "Shipping Drug R&D Abroad" (C&EN, Oct. 12, 2009, page 16). I'm 22, and I graduated from college in May and went straight on to graduate school. What upsets me is that I chose chemistry specifically with the hopes that one day I could work in drug R&D. I also chose science because I believed it was stable and actually quite beneficial. If I had known it would be like this, I would have just tried to become a pop star!

I'm worried about the future of R&D in the states, even if the professionals quoted in the article aren't. Given the bad economy, recession, layoffs, and now outsourcing, it seems like young adults don't have a chance.

Even if jobs were to become available, I'm quite certain we'd be at the end of everyone's list to interview. It seems painfully obvious to me and everyone I know: No one will hire us if we have no experience, and we can't get experience because no one will hire us.

Science is obviously the way of the future. If you have to go abroad to find R&D talent, doesn't that mean there isn't a talent pool in the U.S.? And if we have a talent pool of experienced R&D scientists, aren't inexperienced scientists going to falter and fall to the side? I fear that we'll fall behind in science because absolutely no opportunities are being offered.

When the outsourcing hype dies down, then what? We try again here? How can we be certain that we will have anyone qualified to do the work? When I graduate in two years, I don't think anything will have turned around. I just don't think anyone should be surprised in two, five, or 10 years when we need R&D in the U.S. and turnout is less than stellar.

Tisha Hutchinson
Piscataway, N.J.

M. Matelich really hit it in his letter, "Boys and Science Education" (C&EN, Sept. 28, 2009, page 7), which also confirmed the article titled "Vanishing Plants" the previous week (C&EN, Sept. 21, 2009, page 21). In it, we read that DuPont (Itypalon), Dow (Solution Vinyls), Celanese (formic acid), and Nova (SMA copolymers) have all closed plants that were domestic producers, leaving a number of chemists to join the unemployment ranks. In addition, supplies of those chemicals now have to be brought in from foreign sources. This goes along with the pharmaceutical industry slowly outsourcing R&D.

In the past 50 years, we've seen a slow erosion of U.S. manufacturing capacity and greater dependence on foreign suppliers. This leads to two questions: Will we really need any chemists in the future, and will the U.S. economy be able to survive to any major degree as an almost 100% service and almost 0% manufacturing economy?

We may well be entering an era when employment of chemists becomes a corporate luxury.

Bob Weiner
Northbrook, Ill.



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