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I smell a (lab) rat June 25, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, work.
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There are times in one’s life when we have to reinvent ourselves.  This has been one of those times for me.

I’m turning into a lab rat.

I’m much more comfortable in front of a computer, designing simulations.  I vastly prefer debugging programs to troubleshooting hardware.

ESD jackets look fugly on me.  (Okay…I know they aren’t flattering on anyone, but it’s yet one more annoyance with the whole ‘working in the lab’ thing.)

I hate taking data.

However, whether I like it or not, I’ve been stuck in the lab for the better part of a month.  My student left a month ago, and that leaves me to do a lot of the testing and troubleshooting on the latest project.  I had hoped she’d be here through the end of the month, but she decided a post-graduation job was more important.  (I can’t say I blame her.)

I really miss running simulations.

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I only wear goggles when swimming May 21, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, physics, research, science, societal commentary, Uncategorized.
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I was recently chatting with an acquaintance when they mentioned they had seen me in the local paper a while back.

You were wearing goggles, right?

No.

Well, you did have a lab coat…

No, I was actually wearing a sweater.

I have had articles on my work run in the paper a couple times in the past few months. However, only one had a picture, and I cringe every time I think about it. I learned the hard way that it is important to wear solid colors on such occasions.

The picture involved me standing in front of several racks of computers wearing a rather ugly ombré sweater. I find it interesting that this acquaintance knows I’m a scientist and equates that with the goggles and lab coat schtick so heavily that they remember me wearing one even when I was not.

I remember reading about a project where kids drew pictures of scientists, visited some at Fermilab, and then drew pictures after their visit. The contrast was striking.

Having talked with this person on and off during the years, never once while wearing a lab coat (probably because I haven’t worn a lab coat since freshman chem and certainly wouldn’t out in public), I’m very surprised that they still imagine me that way. I guess it goes to show how powerful those stereotypes are.

I think I need to have a “Visit Cherish At Work” day where people can watch me sit at my computer, lab coat free.

The lab coat September 2, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, science.
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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.

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