Seven steps for getting your chemistry research project off on the right foot

By | September 17, 2014

“After 12,000 experiments we could only find three significant factors”.

So said one of the Union Carbide experts who did the post-mortem on the project. And none of them gave a path to a commercial process.

And this was my very first industrial assignment!

This project was a top-priority Union Carbide chemistry research program…

to convert CO and H2 to ethylene glycol. It was staffed with top-drawer chemists, a very expensive high-pressure laboratory, and intense management attention.

But… this chemistry research project was plagued by inconsistent results and a “try this, try that” mentality. It almost destroyed my career – and the UC research department as well!

A colleague remembers it as “a jungle spirit, with Machiavellian upper management and weak project leadership”.

Infighting over interpretation of inconclusive results, patent authorship of unimportant advances, and outright scientific fraud drove me in despair to go to the VP managing the project and beg to get out!

This was an extreme case of what I have seen gone wrong in my 40 year career as a chemist and chemical Design of Experiments consultant. The process was not commercially feasible… but the important science in it could have brought credit to the R&D department rather than almost tearing it apart!

In this series of blog postsĀ I’m going to lead you through the seven steps to…

…get your chemistry research project off on the right foot.

They will help you avoid major disasters like the Union Carbide free-for-all, and catch smaller glitches before they grow into massive wastes of time and energy. It took me years to learn these. My passion is to share them with you now, so you won’t have to learn the hard way like I did.

First, I’m going to show you the one most important thing to do before you even think about opening the door to the lab.

And at the end of this series you’ll get a one page summary that pulls everything together into a handy checklist, so you won’t omit any of the steps, each of which is critical to your chemical DOE success.

Among the things you’ll learn is a way of estimating the actual resource needs of the project… which means you can get appropriate management buy-in up front!

You’ll also learn ways to look for synergy…, which is another way of saying invention!

OR if you want to jump right in, contact me at or +1 413 822 5006!

Stay tuned.

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