Working in the lab IS sexy

By   |  August 8, 2008

To preface, I rarely deliberately go to youtube to find random entertainment, which means this clip really is awesome.  Eppendorf, a company that produces a lot of things for laboratory research like tubes, pipettors, etc, has recently put out a “boy band” style music video (click the link!) for its automated pipeting system for dispensing precise amounts of liquids.  Obviously, this advertising approach is a bit unorthodox for the field, but it just goes to show that scientific research is not really that far removed from regular society.

Having lived the wet lab/basic science life for several years both in undergrad and in another institution, the world of biology is not just antisocial, skinny guys with pocket protectors.  The postdocs and PIs (principle investigators) both of the MD and PhD varieties I’ve known have been amazingly committed to and fascinated by their fields while still having fun outside the lab doing non-science things.  As for the skinny part, I don’t think the rate of obesity among scientists reflects that for the general public, but scientists do come in all sizes.  I must admit, though, that several national scientific meetings have 5k fun runs included in their schedules, which is pretty nifty to me :).

The look of science is also changing as more females become scientists.  It’s debatable what differences of treatment of male and female scientists exist, but the Eppendorf music video paints an interesting picture with the protagonist being a female scientist.  I don’t like thinking of the results from pop culture superficially glamourizing medicine (e. g. like, if I become a doctor, I can make out with my hot doctor peers like on Grey’s Anatomy), but with the largely misunderstood perception of being a scientist, that exposure of a female scientist in mainstream pop culture can be a good thing. On the other hand, it is the boy band, not the disheveled female scientist, who exudes the coolness and the knowledge of the “life-saving” technology.  If the gender roles had been reversed with a dorky male scientist and a hot girl group, though, I don’t think there would be any encouraging message at all for girls to pursue science.

In summary, watch the Eppendorf epMotion video.  It’s hilarious especially if you have ever pipetted anything in your life.  Lastly, to my fellow female cohort, math is NOT hard, and science IS cool!

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2 Comments on “Working in the lab IS sexy”  (RSS)

  1. True, true. I do think we are on a somewhat encouraging trend in the life sciences although not all the sciences (e. g. engineering) reflect this trend. As for the conundrum in choosing between career and family, that is something I too think about and is major fodder for a another post…

  2. Ha ha – I LOVE that video, it’s hilarious! ;)

    But I would like to comment on the bigger issue of women in science. In terms of biological sciences bachelor degrees, women are starting to outnumber men: “For science as a whole (excluding engineering), women earned 50 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in 1991. Within the sciences, the field with the highest share of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women was psychology (73 percent) Women also earned more than half the baccalaureates in biological sciences (51 percent).” (taken from http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpdse94/hilites/women.htm) (Engineering is another story altogether.)

    And the same can be said about women earning Ph.D.s in the Life Sciences: http://www.asanet.org/cs/root/leftnav/research_and_stats/profession_trend_data/percentage_of_doctorate_degrees_earrned_by_women Heck, all I need to do is look around my own lab, department, or program and I would come to the same conclusion.

    Clearly, women are drawn to science (in this case, life science), so the issue is not so much recruiting women to science, it’s retaining them. Science is losing women at every step of the way, which explains why there is a curious absence of female professors.

    But why? In one word: inflexibility. Women are forced to choose: career or family. Rare is the job that actually allows for understanding of a woman’s role outside of her employment. I thought this article, even though from the UK POV, summed the issues up nicely: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2523427.stm

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