C&EN Readers Share Shutdown Woes

We asked readers how they are being impacted by the federal government shutdown. Here's what they had to say. Tell us your story.

Parker Crandall

Parker Crandall

Credit: Photo courtesy of Parker Crandall


Title: Research Assistant

Company or Employer Name: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Government shutdown impact:

Over the summer I had an internship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The experience went very well and my mentor asked if I would be interested in an extension until Christmas of this year. I quickly accepted, knowing this would give me valuable experience and more opportunities to publish, but due to logistics I had to wait about a month until I could be put in a new internship program. I was to start Oct 1st. Unfortunately, that is right when the government shutdown occurred and no one was at work to tell me if I still had a job when it was all over. I patiently waited for two weeks, leaving emails and voicemails asking about my status. When the furlough ended, I found out that the education office is swamped with makeup work and could be weeks until my paperwork could be sorted out. As a result, the extension had to be canceled because too much time has been lost. I am now a recent graduate who went from working with rocket scientists to working on a concrete construction crew until I can find a new job.

Peter Hsieh

Peter Hsieh

Credit: Photo courtesy of Peter Hsieh


Title: Postdoctoral Research Associate

Government shutdown impact:

The federal lab where I am working was shuttered by the government shutdown. I am unable to continue my experiments on boundary lubrication and complex fluid analysis because I do not have access to my office or labs. My manuscripts cannot be submitted because my co-authors are federal employees, and they cannot perform any official duties beyond the preservation of life or property without violating the Antideficiency Act during a government shutdown. The government e-mail account that I have been using to collaborate with colleagues has been disabled. Lastly, as a contract researcher, there is no guarantee that I will receive back pay for the duration of the shutdown.

Mike Tarselli

Mike Tarselli

Credit: Photo courtesy of Mike Tarselli


Title: Sr. Principal Scientist

Company or Employer Name: Biomedisyn

Government shutdown impact:

U.S. government resources. We have ongoing collaborative efforts with governmental labs, use NIH-based drug screens, and derive some of our funding from competitive grants. Since the shutdown, it's been difficult to get in touch with contract officers or collaborators, which puts several projects at risk.


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Luke

Title: Research Chemist

Company or Employer Name: Dept Health & Human Services

Government shutdown impact:

Fortunate but frustrated food safety chemist. We develop/evaluate/use chemical analysis techniques/instruments to measure chemicals in food/packaging for food safety. Shutdown dramatically increases govt contract costs, hurts commonsense science-based regulatory work, delays harmonization work, makes past research obsolete, hollows out govt professional staff. Federal budget cycle already crazy, with less than 6 months to make all purchases for the year, and never know (even to within 50%) what the budget will be for any given program. Partners in university/Industry/other agencies & taxpayers don’t know when we will be available and what we will be able to do for them. We already struggle to travel to important meetings (CODEX, ASTM, etc) and meet with partners. How can they trust us when one day we have to hang a sign up that says, “Sorry, we don’t have any money and don’t know when we will. We’ll get back to you once we find the money.” You can’t do science in that kind of setting. The taxpayers did not pay for this kind of hobbled non-performance. The US is supposed to be the place you can just buy food and not have to do a PhD thesis to figure out if its going to kill you. How can we help make sure that is the case if we cant work and make plans? The house leadership needs to decide, sequester/debt ceiling/furlough; or food safety. They can’t have both. I think most people would riot if they knew how much money this shutdown is wasting.

A Donnell

Company or Employer Name: University of Cincinnati/EPA

Government shutdown impact:

I currently have an internship at the EPA and I am funded through ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education)while I work on my PhD at the University of Cincinnati. As a graduate student, I am caught in the middle, my "living allowance" has been frozen for now and I am not allowed to set foot on the EPA campus. I am thankful that I am able to put this extra time towards my dissertation research at my university, but it is rather awkward to come into lab knowing that congress has the ability to change my situation by simply voting. In addition, we are not allowed to seek outside work as it would be a breach of contract in our doctoral program. So I guess I'm stuck, ramen anyone? I have reached out to as many people as I can to let them know how the government shutdown has affected average Americans. Local restaurants are suffering without the gov employee lunch rush, students will have to cut back on food and gas to make rent, researchers will have to figure out ways to save money to support themselves and their families. It's more than the 800,000 federal employees, the shutdown affects much more than that. Commence the penny pinching!

Harry Cartland

Title: Master's Candidate

Company or Employer Name: University of Ottawa

Government shutdown impact:

I have been unaffected by the shutdown, other than by the behavior of the Park and Forest Services whose actions have crossed the line from political to mean and spiteful.

The shutdown, contrary to most Americans' understanding, is not about Obamacare, but about out-of-control spending writ large. We spend a trillion dollars a year we don't have. We borrow 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Mandatory spending is already unsustainable. Sequestration and shutdown are blunt instruments, and far from ideal tools, but they may be the only effective means to curb the madness in our current political climate.


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Stephanie Myers

Title: Professor of Chemistry

Company or Employer Name: Georgia Regents University

Government shutdown impact:

I am teaching Forensic Chemistry this semester. My guest speaker from the FBI cannot come while the shutdown is in progress. I suspect that is also why I have not heard back from the federal prosecutor (another guest speaker).

Lisa

Government shutdown impact:

My husband, a government employee for over 25 years, is now required to work without being paid. His paycheck next week will be zero. He is 61 years old and will be looking for a part-time, weekends or night job. With the job market so tight, who is going to hire a 61-year old? As a female, and a female chemist, I am not paid well enough to afford our mortgage or other bills on my own. We will tap into our meager savings this week to pay bills; but our savings won't cover us beyond next week. We are very worried.

Philip Bulsink

Title: Master's Candidate

Company or Employer Name: University of Ottawa

Government shutdown impact:

Online resources, including NIST and the EMSL basis set exchange are blocked or have gone down within the last week, with no truly viable alternatives to some of the things they offer. Many other government databases for all the sciences are experiencing the same issues. This affects not only American scientists, but scientists around the world, in all fields.


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