Saturday, July 9, 2016

Big Fish, New Ponds?

Have you kept your ear to the ground? Felt something on the breeze? Getting a "gut feeling"?

The most recent edition of Chemistry Bumper Cars - Faculty Moves, for the uninitiated - leans towards bigger deals and dramatic poaches as the Fall term looms over the Summer horizon. Here's the latest I've heard about, with my own opinion about whether the rumor holds water.

Dave MacMillan to leave Princeton, for...?
Odds: Low

I hear what you're saying: MacMillan has already moved twice (Berkeley -> Caltech -> Princeton), and we're talking about a researcher who averages an award every year and a new named professorship every four. However, he's fairly well settled into a tight relationship with Merck, who are local to NJ. He's also helped propel Princeton back up in the rankings over the past decade. I can think of only one university that sounds like any kind of a step up, and they have plenty of organic power at the moment.

Dirk Trauner to NYU
Odds: Medium

Though I've heard this more than once, I'm scratching my head about how it makes sense for Trauner. Part of his motivation in returning to LMU was to continue the Mulzer mystique: the powerhouse European natural products group that makes densely-functionalized products appear as if by magic. Then again, NYU seems to be aggressively searching for a certain kind of chemist; maybe Dirk is slated to be the new Phil Baran of the East Coast?*

Update: As seen in the comments, Dirk himself confirms. My gracious thanks to the Professor.

Tom Rovis to Columbia
Odds: Certain

Signed, sealed, and delivered to Columbia back in the Spring.

Dave Liu to Broad from Harvard
Odds: Low

First he was an undergraduate wunderkind with Corey, now one of the youngest Full Professors and an HHMI scholar, all before age 40. He's already a core faculty member with Broad while managing his Harvard group, and I see no reason for Harvard (or for Liu) to wish to terminate his current position. This may sound like wild speculation or stargazing, but I fully suspect Liu's name goes on a nomination for a Big Prize within ~5 yrs, and I think Harvard would do everything they could to keep him in the fold for that day.

Update: As noted in the comments, does appear Liu will have to be physically present on the Broad's campus.

Karen Goldberg to leave U. Washington
Odds: Low

I very much want to believe, especially since UW lost Jim Mayer a few years back, that they can retain Goldberg, a C-H activation and general OM superstar. She boasts a local Center and a named professorship, as well as a Department with plenty of talented young blood: Boydston, Bush, Cossairt, Fu, Lalic, Schlenker, Theberge, Zalatan, all hired in just the last 6 years, doubtless some drawn there through her influence. I'm sure she'd succeed at a Caltech or an MIT, but I really don't know enough about her motivations to say any more conclusively.

Greg Verdine leaves Harvard to run companies full-time 
Odds: High

It's said you can throw a rock in Cambridge these days and hit a VC. Seeing how much apparent fun and success Verdine has had with his previous ventures into the private sector, I'm betting he continues this line full-time and slowly winds down managing theses and group meetings.

--
*Today's ridiculous statistic: In the past 20 years, Baran and Trauner have authored a combined 372 research papers. That's 2-3 entire careers, and these are guys with 20+ years ahead of them. Damn.

45 comments:

  1. Trauner to NYU is done for March 2017

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    Replies
    1. I haven't been able to find any info on the 'net, nor have received any emails, to confirm. Have a link?

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    2. Trauner posted this news on his FB page recently

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. What was THAT?

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    5. It's official now. See you on Washington Square!

      http://chemistry.fas.nyu.edu/object/chem.news.DirkTrauner.2016

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    6. Just be careful Dirk!
      http://nypost.com/2016/08/04/crackheads-bums-and-hookers-have-taken-over-washington-square-park/

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  2. I have heard from a faculty member close to Macmillan (not at Princeton) that a move to the west coast might be imminent (he/she said this was personally communicated in conversation). Has anyone else heard similar?

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    Replies
    1. I have heard so as well, as it is in the rumor mill at our particular west coast university. I have also heard (this time from people who spoke directly to Merck recruiters) that Merck is interested in opening up a center in the bay area.

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    2. Lowe just posted about Merck cutting back in New Jersey and expanding in the Bay Area and Boston, so there might be something to MacMillan returning to Berkeley. http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2016/07/12/merck-cuts-back-again

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    3. Rumor has it that he interviewed at Cambridge for their endowed chair (UK). That seems like the most reasonable landing spot IMO.

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    4. No way he'll move to Cal: the sketchy stuff he does with his start up and his intellectual sticky fingers are tolerated and covered-up here; a public university with more transparency couldn't afford to take on the liability

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    5. If they have already made the offer then they likely don't find the "sketchy stuff" he does to be prohibitive. Alternatively, they may simply operate in reality and chose to ignore unsubstantiated rumors

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    6. I've heard the culture in the Princeton chem dept has been deteriorating over the last couple of years.

      Apparently accusations of idea-poaching and the hiring of a "toxic" new PI a few years back has had a chilling effect. Seems Doyle might move as well(she already spends most of her time out west anyways).

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    7. To Anonymous 7/14 9:19 AM: Does that extend beyond this previous string of posts? http://justlikecooking.blogspot.com/2015/08/giving-up-benzyne.html?showComment=1440619784413#c3286754285440898271

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    8. @anon 7/14 3:59 PM: you do the math

      https://www.princeton.edu/chemistry/macmillan/publications/CO2ExR-ketones.pdf

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201511438/abstract

      that nickel ether formation ("switching on elusive mechanisms") also has a complicated provenance; suffice it to say that the original discoverer and his/her PI didn't make the author list...

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    9. sadness reigns in photoredox land; kings and queens fight for scraps, while the drove rubbernecks at the death of a superfluous fad

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    10. @anon 7/16 12:19 AM

      For the nickel ether formation, was the PI who was cut Knowles or Doyle? Seems to fit with Knowles' research...

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    11. @anon 7/16 12:19 AM: you lost that coin flip, unfortunately. If you had mentioned Thiyl radical C–H abstraction, however, you would have been spot-on.

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    12. Might Makes RightJuly 19, 2016 10:44 AM

      If they didn't want their chemistry to be stolen they shouldn't have been working on such trendy projects.

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    13. Who is this toxic PI?

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  3. Dave Liu to Broad from Harvard
    Odds: Low

    You are 100% wrong - just wait a few weeks

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    Replies
    1. This link suggests Liu keeps his professorship at Harvard:
      http://www.broadinstitute.org/news/8385

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    2. All Broad core faculty have appointments in bona fide departments at Harvard, MIT, etc. So yes, Liu will still be a part of the Harvard chemistry department. Same situation as Schreiber.

      Liu wasn't a core member before. The big change is that - now that he is a core member of the Broad - Liu will have to move his physical lab to the Broad...

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    3. OK, that is a change. And you're right.
      https://www.broadinstitute.org/history-leadership/scientific-leadership/core-members/core-members-0

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  4. I've heard from several people that Goldberg has/had an offer from Penn to be a Vagelos Energy Chair.

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    Replies
    1. Asked around, can't find confirmation. Would love more info by email...

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    2. This is a done deal. She's told her group that she's moving to Penn. I don't think anything has been posted online yet.

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    3. Yep heard the same thing. PENN finally filled the chair.

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    4. Phil Castellano is also moving to UPenn apparently

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    5. The Castellano move is not happening

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  5. Aside from those mentioned above, who do people see as the most "poachable" faculty, either already established or up and coming? Seems like that could make an interesting post!

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    Replies
    1. ChemBark tried something like that, but then let it lay fallow.

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  6. See Ar Oh you are dropping the ball on your predictions (with respect to Trauner and Liu).

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  7. I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Harvard's organic division: with EJ and Big Dave retired, Shair and Schreiber fully transitioned to Bio, and Myers splitting all his time consulting for the gamut of companies (his own and otherwise) the choices for a mainstream organic student are limited (Jacobsen). We'll see if Woo can inject some life into this over-the-hill behemoth, but I think that her program is leaning pretty bio as well...

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    1. I agree that Chem Bio holds forth most prominently at Harvard. If you're mainstream organic, probably best to choose a top-shelf public at this point (or maybe Yale?)

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    2. Deal with the DevilJuly 22, 2016 11:34 PM

      If you're completely committed (i.e. "I will put everything on the line for Organic Chemistry") Scripps is the only real choice. Of course, three-figure overhead won't be sustainable forever but I think that it's in a league of its own atm.

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  8. Where is doyle considering a move?

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  9. have to disagree as well as on the state of affairs for harvard organic and chembio. liu and schreiber are off campus, shair is..., verdine is gone. New blood is interesting, but harvard made the same mistake it has over the last decade, they hire chembio faculty with significant background in total synthesis thinking this makes the ideal blend. the biological insight is shallow among the new hires mentioned above.

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    1. Harvard hired not only two (Woo and Liau), but four (Kim and Delvin @ HMS). They all have similar career path, total synthesis + chemical biology. Maybe that is the future.

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    2. You mean: Harvard undergrad (other than Woo) + total synthesis + chem bio?

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  11. I've heard from several people in the department that Pumera will move from Nanyang to UNIST in 2017.

    ReplyDelete
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