Tuesday, November 16, 2004

10 Thankless Jobs For Scientists

You know how parents like to encourage their kids to excel in math and science? Well I have discovered there is a downside to this (aside from spending a lot of time crunching numbers): Some of the jobs are NOT GLAMOROUS. I suppose you imagined most scientists had bright and shining lives, constantly regaling people at cocktail parties with stories of how they came up with the Gum Disease Vaccine, or had to stop in (Oslo? Stockholm? Guam?) to pick up their Nobel Prize for inventing a car powered solely by fast food wrappers. But no, the truth is far grimmer. If your kid is a scientist, he or she could get stuck in one of the following jobs, some of which are less appetizing than working in a cow slaughterhouse or applying lipstick to chickens. Note: if you are anticipating a major meal in the near future, best to skip this article until you're in more of an Acid Reflux type of mood. Top Ten Thankless Jobs for Scientists based on an UNscientific poll of people who imagined doing these things: 1) Anal Wart Researcher. Personally I think it is the juxtaposition of two things -- the anal part by itself is not a total deal-breaker, and the wart thing is probably common. Taken together though the two create an unappetizing picture of people not only working with butts, but STUDYING THEM CLOSELY. I think, though, if I were getting paid really well to do this, that I could somehow imagine that I was scanning a moonscape and studying the topography thereof. And that idea turns out to be a totally unintended pun also! Maybe I missed my calling. 2) Worm Parasitologist. The kinds of worms that squirm through the dirt or lie around on the soundwalk after a rain are the "nice worms." Then we've got the outlaw worms, the kind that invade your body and conjure images of what it must like to be dead only you're still alive and have this serious Parasite Problem that you don't feel comfortable discussing at your book club meeting. And who could blame you? The next thing you know whole cities and towns are avoiding you due to your medical issue. Anyway, some brave souls actually don't mind studying this type of disorder which probably causes nightmares in people with Normal Imaginations. 3) Lab Animal Veterinarian. This is the vet who exists solely to make animals sick by testing stuff on them in the lab. In other words, PETA is gonna get you. 4) Tampon Squeezer. I really didn't want to mention this. Can't we just take the Charmin guy's advice on this one? It has something to do with yeast infections, and that's all I'm gonna say. 5) Landfill Monitor. Compared to the first four, this occupation sounds almost dignified! I guess the stench is worst in the southwestern part of the country where 100-degree temps cook the landfill contents into a crude carbon-based casserole. If Love Canal had had a few more of these, it might have saved a whole lot of lawsuits. Unfortunately this is not the highest-paying job. 6) Nuclear Demolition Worker. This has a high degree of involvement with uranium. Thus rendering the map reading light in your car unnecessary. 7) Ecologist in St. John's Harbor, Newfoundland. Well who knew this was a Dirty Bay? According to reports, an amount of sewage equal to the size of five Olympic-sized swimming pools is dumped into the bay EACH DAY. Sorta makes you just want to grab a pole and go fishing, doesn't it? Hopefully the ecologists who work here are very fussy about the distinction between "work clothes" and "home clothes." 8) Iraqi achaelogist. Hard to say whether this job was worse in the Saddam era, or worse under the threat of insurgent kidnappings. But when heads roll in this job, it is a literal thing. Here's your hat. 9) Tick dragger. (Not to be confused with Snipe Hunter) Okay, this job entails dragging a large swatch of corduroy the size of a bedsheet through a forest infested with diseased ticks. When you're done dragging, then you have to unsheath your tweezers and collect all the angry ticks in a jar. Without losing them or contracting Lyme disease. 10) Nurses! I didn't expect to see such a respcted occupation on this list, but the reason it's thankless is nurses often don't get paid commensurate with their training and ability, and futhermore the hospitals load them down with paperwork after they've understaffed their floors. How's that for gratitude? I do find it puzzling to read occasional newspaper stories about how we need to "attract more people into the profession" by doing glitzy ad campaigns or talking it up in the schools. How about PAYING MORE MONEY? Forget the ad campaign.

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