Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Seattle Biotech Dustbowl
My zero readers will appreciate the futility of this blog. Here we gather from time to time to sort out what is bothering us about our affiliation with the modern world of science. Sometimes it's the executives who profit at the expense of the investors, including those who invest their educations and careers. Sometimes the Cargo Cult Scientist talks to himself about bad science. We talk about how helpless big time journals are against fraud. We talk and talk because there is nothing else to do. There is no work to be had. The futility of this blog is no match for the futility of my job search.
Here in Seattle there has been failure. Many companies have gone out of business leaving hundreds of laboratory workers to compete for a handful of jobs. This is not very well known. Like Boca Raton and Charlotte NC, we want to be known as a biotech hot spot. We want to be the next Boston or San Diego. The Cargo Cult Scientist wants the same thing because he needs a job. We understand that advertising the plight of the skilled labor here will not serve anyones purpose. But no one reads this blog, so we are free to discuss what is happening.
The laws of supply and demand apply here. The supply of workers is far in excess of the demand. Therefore, when a highly skilled technician applies for a protein purification job, he/she may be disqualified because they used a BioRad FPLC as opposed to an HP. A molecular biologist may not make the cut because they have experience with VectorNTI versus DNAsis software. Those in charge of hiring staff have the luxory of finding someone with the exact qualifications. What we are seeing as a result is a readjustment in the creative origins of the industry. We are now selecting for protein purification specialists who have 5 years experience using AKTA as opposed to someone who understands the principles behind all forms of chromatography. Like the dot.com era before us, we may be on our way to a massive clearance to make way for more conservative business models.
And so I ask my zero readers, what should the Cargo Cult Scientist do? This Saturday the CCS will interview for a job washing windows on highrises. I'm excited about it too. I used to sit at a desk writing nonsense about the sillyness of the experiments I did at the bench. Now I could be working daily 300 feet above the city below. But the pay is not the same. In fact, I am back to square one. I know an 18 year old kid who skipped school from February to graduation making the same wage. But I have not worked in 9 months. I have just failed to get an in person interview because my protein purification experience did not include a particular piece of equipment. I guess it's not something a person can learn. Well there are a lot of things I don't know. Unless my last job suddenly becomes available at a different company, I'm finished.
I'll keep trying. In the meanwhile look for me on the 47th floor of the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle. I'll be the one on the outside of the building.