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The lab coat September 2, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, science.

Today, a friend sent me a link to this PhD comic, asking if it was true:

First, I think the comic is hilarious but honestly have no idea as to its veracity. I guess I’m not doing a very good job of explaining what I do if people are making the assumption that I wear a lab coat, ever.

So maybe I should put it this way: I create computer simulations both for my PhD work in geophysics and as an electrical engineer. When I’m doing this, I wear normal clothes. It’s so boring, I don’t even have a picture to show you of myself. (The simulations are a different story.)

On occasion, I have done work in our anechoic chamber to test antennas. This involves going into a room full of large foam spikes and hooking up a couple wires. No lab coat needed.

I also sometimes work with circuitry. I suppose that sometimes I may end up wearing an ESD smock or grounding straps, but not terribly often. The smock looks like a lab coat, except it’s blue.

Probably the worst environment I had to work in was when we were setting up equipment for testing at the experimental station (i.e. the ranch). Fortunately, the cows were not present on the day I got to make the trip.

(Incidentally, that’s my friend Joel…not me.)

For the record, there has been a general consensus throughout my career that I am not good in experimental situations because of my Pauli effect. The notable exception seems to deal with EMC/EMI issues, in which case a failure is a good thing to study and learn. Either way, keeping me out of places like labs and cleanrooms has prevented me from getting too comfortable with the lab coat.

So no lab coats around here. I used to own one, but that was because I bought it freshman year at Caltech, where we were required to wear them in freshman chem labs. I suspect that the chemists, biologists, and medical researchers of the world will be likely to wear lab coats, but in geology, EE, and physics, I haven’t seen them much. Probably a shame as all three fields are not known for being snappy dressers.



1. Fluxor - September 3, 2010

This fits in well with my post on the portrayal of high tech in movies. If there’s a lab, everyone is dressed in white, the lab furniture is stylish, and the lab is kept in pristine condition (as if no one ever uses it!).

In past jobs, all the labs had some amount of static protection (blue smocks, grounding wrist straps or shoe cover, ion fans, anti-static floor tiles, etc.). There’s also typically a no food and drink policy. In this job, our lab is carpeted, there are zero static protection, and I like to settle my coffee on top of the $100,000 oscilloscope to keep the brew warm. Nothing like soldering with one hand and eating a sandwich with the other.


2. mareserinitatis - September 3, 2010

I was snickering at your post the other day. Unfortunately, I was gapping on stupid movie moments. But yeah, it’s very stereotyped.

I actually find myself annoyed with the state of our lab. I don’t mind the drinks (although our safety officer will chew you out if she catches you), but some people are more organized, and I wish they wouldn’t leave parts laying around…especially since the piles are getting bigger.


3. FrauTech - September 4, 2010

We have lab coats for two purposes; one in the electronics labs for protecting the equipment, and one in the gritty labs for protecting your clothes. In the latter I have to think it’s more about having a “uniform” that your employees all wear. Kind of like school uniforms(or military), makes you all the same, cohesive unit.


4. Fluxor - September 4, 2010

Lab coats should be in a drab grey/brown to hide all the stains.


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