Aug 232017


You’ve seen them. You know, the headlines that claim that scientists are freaking out about some new scientific discovery or that they are clawing at their PPE when they read a new paper about aliens, God or bumholes.

This is what I’m talking about:

scientists freaking out
While these headlines may conjure the images of a room full of lab coat wearing nerds screaming into a fume cupboard or weeping silently behind their face shield I have only seen this once and it had nothing to do with the latest science news – I think it was something to do with their supervisor or whatnot…I can’t remember because I wasn’t really listening.

The real question is what would an actual real-life scientist lose their shit over?

I can tell you that it’s much more trivial than you’d ever feared from fully grown, educationally advanced adults. Here’s my short list of things to induce some awe-inspiring science rage that HR would send you an email about.

1. A dirty balance

This is so inexcusable that the person who does this deserves to have the balance fluctuate wildly while they are using it, forever.
If this is you, I want you to know that everyone bitches about you in the tea room and passive aggressive notes don’t go far enough to express our hatred of you.

2. Improper glove use

Gloves are an important part of the science world. They ensure that your samples stay free from contamination by sticky fingers and nose grease and they keep you safe from all of the nasty chemicals and biohazards in the lab. As always, humans have found a way to fuck up the simple action of using hand condoms.

One of the worst examples of glove use I found was in a vice documentary by US border force. My favourite bit was when they shook his hand, forever incriminating the journalist, and the bit where she wiped her nose – remember kids the best drugs are free drugs.

3. Someone fucking up the good tweezers

Unboxing new tweezers is like receiving oral sex from someone with really nice hair – as exciting as it is a treat for the eyes.

New tweezers represent your hopes and dreams for the future of your scientific research and it takes just one arsehole to drop them to ruin what you had planned for your beautifully engineered piece of hand candy.

4. Being told science requires as much faith as religion

The world outside the lab is just as scary as the piece of high-vacuum equipment from the 1960’s, just without the emergency kill switch.

Scientists spend their lives analysing testing and validating everything – including friends and family. So, when scientists meet a flat earther, anti-vaxxer or crystal healer you’ll have to pardon them because all the tests they’ve done up until that point predict they’re going to be a massive pain in the arse to talk to and a bit of a dickhead about everything.

If the scientists have had less than 2 drinks and managed to stay away from the cocaine tray, they will normally be nice to any non-science type and excuse themselves while rolling their eyes. However, it won’t stop them complaining about opinionated bustards in the car on the way home or dedicating a section of a blog post to them.

5. Donald Trump


Let me know what you would add the the list!

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Aug 092016
Grid of animals representing academic personalities

When young(ish) scientists are lucky enough to score a 1-2 year contract to participate in a research project, they may ask themselves this question: “I wonder if I will enjoy the research?”. Arguably, the more important question they will need to ask themselves is: “How much of an insufferable bastard will my supervisor be?”.

Sure, it’s possible to throw countless hours at a scientific problem to get the results you require to tame the academic beast. But it is not possible to change the nature of a being that has been molded by the academic environment. Just like the variety of species that have evolved on earth, supervisors are the result of natural selection; survival of the fittest, or perhaps more commonly, the most ruthless. Different environmental factors will reward different personality characteristics and only the most well-adapted academics will survive.

During my time in academia I have seen my fair share of supervisors. I have been lucky with the ones I have had and any of my misbehaving supervisors I have been able to quickly tame with a quick, metaphorical tap on the nose. If academics had spirit animals, I am certain that they would consist of these:

The Queen Bee

This type of supervisor is the head of a very, very large research group. They tuck themselves away busily giving birth to new PhD students who they’ll set to work as post-docs in their labs. They are the academic parent of most, if not all, in the lab. Should the queen bee academic move to a new university, the worker bees will travel with them.

The Dog

Just like dogs, this supervisor will try their absolute best to be your friend, forever. That doesn’t mean, of course, that they are not good supervisors, it’s just that the dog academic will often invite themselves to afternoon/evening drinks that they overhear their students/postdoc organising. Don’t feel bad for them, all this supervisor is doing is trying to claim back the youth they lost while they were fighting their way to the top of the pile – They’ll even buy you a fuckload of drinks. Kindhearted and loyal, this supervisor will do anything they can to help you in exchange for a belly rub and scratch behind their ear.

The Black Mamba

Fuck this person. The black mamba is the most aggressive snake on the planet. Also, in agreement with the euphemistic naming convention, this person is also a big dick. This supervisor lives for passive aggressive emails and intimidation. They leave behind them a contrail of destroyed careers. There’s no confusion about how this person made it to the top of the academic ladder – they fucked people over the entire way. Often this person will feel guilty and attempt to make themselves feel better by organising a group lunch. Don’t be fooled, they are listening to your conversation to create a catalogue of psychological pressure points to hit when they haven’t made someone cry that day.

The Arctic Tern

The Arctic Tern travels 44,000 miles (70,811 kilometers) in its migration pattern. This, my friends, is the academic international traveler. Chasing their favorite seasons around the globe in the name of ‘collaboration’. This academic has collaborations all over the world – so many in fact, that it starts to look suspicious. Why do they always collaborate with people in tropical places and near good golf courses? The air miles these supervisors accumulate could pay off the US national debt. If you end up with the Artic Tern as a supervisor get used to completing your project via email at any time of the day or night.

The Prairie Dog

This pesky little shit is always in everyone’s business – we have ladies and gents, the micromanager. Get used to everyday meetings, continuous feedback and for them to have your mobile number on speed dial. You think that is your research project? Nope. You are their extra pair of hands which wipe someone else’s bum hole.

The Whale

At the end of our list is the supervisor we all wish we had. This supervisor doesn’t need to show off. They are successful and gracious winners of the academic arms race. They don’t need to prey on other people’s careers to get ahead. They’ll put in the effort and are happy to drag others along in their success slip stream. This type of supervisor is also quite a bit older than their competition and it appears like they will never die. In fact, they haven’t changed in appearance for 30 years, as evidenced from the departmental photographs hanging in the hallway.

Remember to let me know what your supervisor’s spirit animal is!

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Mar 292016

My nameRita-Colon-Urban-Old Westbury-Biology-Professor is Dr Nettles. I have a PhD in Biomolecular Science and an undergraduate degree in Biology and Literature. My mum said that I needed to do a “real degree” so I choose biology even though my true passions are roller derbies and Cornetto™ ice cream. I chose literature as a double degree since it distracted me enough to avoid impure thoughts about boys. That is a rule that I impose on myself and doesn’t originate from a position of religious indoctrination. As I always tell my students: “one cannot become a professor whilst constantly thinking about thick muscular fingers”.

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