Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Am a Scientist! - part 1

I am a scientist.  Here is me pretending that life in lab is just as I had imagined it as a child...lab coat, frizzy hair, flasks of colored solutions, smoke, and all:

Here is what lab is actually like most of the time...hunched over a desk, reading papers, freaking out:

While the realization that lab life is as pictured above was a disappointing one, a scientists' life does offer the chance to learn more about the universe.  To share my wonder at how awesome the universe is and show the exciting possibilities afforded by a life in science, I have occasionally visited elementary school classrooms to give science demonstrations.  The demonstration at the end involving orange, green, and pink flames serves this purpose, but also (fortunately or unfortunately) serves to perpetuate the semi-false stereotype of the life of a scientist that I had as a child.

There are other people out there working to dispel this stereotype, showing kids that scientists are regular people with regular lives, and that they too can become scientists.  My friend Mike forwarded me this website where seventh graders draw pictures of scientists before and after a visit to fermilab (a US national lab studying high-energy physics and the nature of matter, space, and time).

Below is one of my favorites, where the child has learned that scientists wear normal clothes, but are still green:

This one I like because the before-fermi-lab drawing on the left is quite similar to what I imagined scientists looking like when I was a child:

And my favorite, where the before and after scientists are both weird and angular-looking, but scientists actually wear Jnco's instead of blue-jeans:

Check out more drawings here.

How did you/do you think scientists look/act?

Related/Rehashed Post:
I Am a Scientist! - part 2


  1. The angles make them move faster.

  2. I agree that a disappointing amount of science involves reading, or preparing powerpoint slides or whatever, but things can get really crazy and fun/scary sometimes... were you there this summer when we were disposing of ~1 kg sodium metal? we used a cheese grater to divide it up into pieces, and we let the shavings drop into a bucket of ipa, with which it reacted at a slow, manageable rate... then some genius added ice (not me, and I wasn't even around at the point), the whole thing caught on fire, and the bucket melted... SCIENCE!!!

  3. I agree, fire and explosions rule, as long as nobody gets hurt.

  4. Well, if you can handle disappointment, maybe being a scientist is for you.

  5. (I'm still not totally sure that I can, except by being more exhilarated by the exhilarating parts than am I am devastated by the disappointments, although considerable oscillation between these has had weird and indeed unexpected life-consequences. Either way, I'm a scientist in spite of myself: eternally ready to go chase after the next new and exciting thing.)

  6. the life of a sine-wave is not an easy one