intense nerditude- science edition

September 2, 2007 at 3:45 pm (Uncategorized)

one of the undergrad assistants we have in my lab mentioned once that he couldn’t believe how big of a nerd our boss and some of the students in the lab are. i pondered this. here is a kid (a term i use loosely, since he’s actually only a year younger than me) working for free in a science lab. and he says our boss is a nerd because the marble she picked out for her bar at home reminded her of an electron micrograph. i honestly love that about my boss. if you can’t apply your passion for work to your life and vice versa then maybe you haven’t found the perfect job for you yet. i’m waiting for the point in my job training that i can apply what i do now to the rest of my life! not to mention the fact that i proudly proclaim to be a nerd, so the kid’s insinuated insult flew over my head for a few seconds.

i found a lovely site that describes the attitude of true science nerds everywhere- the science scouts! officially called the order of the science scouts of exemplary repute and above average physique (by the grace of all that is good about science), this site has a lovely selection of science related merit badges, a spoof of the merit badges awarded to boy and girl scouts. i never got to be a girl scout, because my mom knew that i would’ve had more fun as a boy scout, since i was a major tomboy and didn’t really like hanging out with girls or doing any girly things anyway- incredibly ironic, given my current craft obsession. anyway, the science scouts merit badges make me happy and seem to correctly capture much of the experience of being in science and loving it, so here are the badges that apply to me:

the “talking science” badge: you know you are a science nerd if you talk about science at any given oppurtunity, even if that oppurtunity is only obvious in your head. case in point: on my 21st birthday, my parents took me out for dinner. now, up until this point, and for a couple years afterwards, i was not a drinker. i never really felt the urge to get wasted, plus in college i was always either working, studying, or hanging with the boy. so, honestly, the first time i got drunk was with my parents (another telltale sign of ultimate nerditude, i’m sure). so, i got super drunk and at one point yelled out “my vassopressin! it’s been downregulated! i have to pee!” which to me made a ton of sense, but to the rest of the world was gibberish. also, i love nerding it up randomly in parks, pet stores, etc….

the “i’m pretty confident around an open flame” badge- once, as an undergrad researcher, i set a petri dish of ethanol on fire. i stared at it, as the flames danced in the microbe hood, honestly flabbergasted as to how i’d put it out. finally, i found a grad student, who covered the plate with another plate (duh!). awesome.

the “destroyer of quackery badge”- the meaning behind this badge may not be obvious. you deserve this badge if you constantly stand up for science in the face of bullpoop. i think this applies to religious debates (which, honestly, are never equal debates, they are simply two stubborn people yelling at each other) more often than not. i don’t partake in these types of debates, but i do constantly have to argue with family, friends, strangers, etc about bad science portrayal in the media. case in point: the whole news poop this summer about how if you go to the beach, you’ll fall in a sink hole and die. since i have a couple marine bio degrees, i get questions about this sort of thing ALL THE TIME. this news story was biased and dumb, as are most news stories about science. what the news people probably heard was that you are more likely to fall in a sink hole on the beach than get bit by a shark, meaning that both are ridiculously slim chances. trust me, i actively went hunting for stingrays for two years and never so much got as got a scratch. instead, the media twisted this story to imply that sink holes were going to kill everyone who steps foot on a beach. i had several conversations like this: “megan, you shouldn’t go to the beach! i heard that sink holes…” “no! don’t be dumb! the media is full of crap and so are you for believing it”. or at least that’s how i always wanted those conversations to go…

the “i may look like a scientist but i’m actually also a ninja” badge- pretty self explanatory, really. i think i deserve this badge because i’m 25 and still in love with a ninja turtle (nerditude of a different sort).

the “i’m a freaking rock star who sings about science” badge- i’m still working on this badge, but the boy and i have talked about having a band called “steric hindrance”, and i would love to have a song called “calm down cortisol”. these references may not make sense to members of the general, non nerdy public…

the “special auxiliary child member of the order of the science scouts” badge- i definitely deserved this badge as a kid. do kids these days still love the crap out of dinosaurs? in jurassic park (the book, people, which i read years before i saw the movie- more nerditude), someone mentions that her kid knows more about dinosaurs than any adult she knows, and the kid can recite long dino names and when they lived, what they ate, etc. yeah, that kid was me.

the “sexing up science” badge- sounds exciting, but really all i do is facilitate reproductive research. it’s one of my lab mates who really deserves this badge, since all of her research revolves around watching rats have sex. but, i do spend time thinking about rat sex (as in, what experiments we should be running), so i think i should have this badge, too.

the “i’ve done science with no concievable practical application” badge- really, almost all molecular biology in non-traditional models can fall under this category, depending on who you ask. all science has a practical application, usually, but the general public doesn’t always see the point of testing reactions to stress in stingrays, for example, which is what my masters was on. i’ve also looked at stress in birds, which, when i presented this work in a poster session, some damn snot nosed premed asked me “and how does this apply to humans?” bastard, just ’cause humans are ruining the world doesn’t mean we’re the only organisms on it. however, i must admit that i really saw no point in my coral molecular evolution projects…hence part of the reason why i left.

the “cloner” badge- oh yes, i have cloned, people. fear me! i had a ta in a p.e. class once ask me what i did (ok, technically he was asking me why i was dropping his class), and when i told him i ran molecular biology experiments in fish, he asked if i was cloning fish in my bathtub- and he was serious. people! that’s not what cloning is about! look it up! (of course, the real reason i was dropping his class was because it was at 8 in the morning…i do not jog for anyone at 8 in the morning).

the “somewhat confused to as to what scientific field i actually belong” badge- i really hate putting myself into specific categories, but when i was in grad school i struggled with the idea of figuring out where in the realm of science i really belonged. was i a marine biologist, or a physiologist? and if i was a physiologist, was a molecular biologist, a neurobiologist, or an endocrinologist, or some combination of all three? when it comes down to it, there is a big category that i and other like me fit into nicely: integrative and comparative biology. that’s basically where you go to talk to other people who work in weird animals like my lovely stingrays. now however i work in rats, so i just call myself a scientist and i’m happy.

the “statistical linear regression” badge- this badge is for anyone who knows what those words mean, which i do. after two freakin’ intro stats classes, i better know what they mean!

the “have violated the posterior of an animal in the name of science” badge- i think they want this badge to go to people who study microbes in the rectum of various animals, but i can do them one better- i recently terrified the boy when i made him come to work with me one weekend so i could do vaginal smears on our rats. don’t freak out, people, they are completely humane and gentle and just tell you what part of the estrous cycle rats are in. nonetheless they are still pretty weird if you think about them.

the “has done science whilst under the influence” badge- i’ve never had blinding moments of scientific clarity while drunk, but i really like talking science after a few margaritas. (also see the “talking science” badge above). also, i can’t remember, but i’ve probably done some science bench work after happy hour…long ago, of course, i would never do that now, what with the best place for margaritas i know being across the street and all…

the “what i do for sciences dictates my having to wash my hands before i use the toilet” badge- this badge is actually what got me thinking that i should write this blog. i realized recently that after almost everything i do in the lab, i need to make especially sure to wash my hands before using the bathroom. i’ve had estrogen, rat dander, and fun chemicals up to my elbows before. it doesn’t matter how many times you wash your hands after doing these kinds of experiments, you still feel the need to wash them again as soon as you get into the bathroom.

and finally, the badge that makes me laugh and sad at the same time: the “i actually grew up AND became a marine biologist” badge- a reference to how many kids swear they will become marine biologists but actually don’t. i was, for a little while…both of my degrees are in marine biology, that counts, right? actually, i’m much happier now, so i’m not that stressed that i can no longer proclaim to be a marine biologist. and maybe some day i’ll work in fish again, who knows?

and thus ends a supremely nerdy but satisfying blog entry…

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