I’m a science scout!

Laura recently described the Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique, and how could I resist checking to see where I measured up? I know other lab rats (and former lab rats) read my site, tell me which badges you’ve earned! Here’s what I have “achieved”:

The “Arts and Crafts” badge – Well, this one’s a no-brainer.

The “I’m pretty confident around an open flame” badge – Bunsen burners and the like. Unlike Laura, I have yet to set myself on fire. 😉

The “I’ve set fire to stuff” badge, level I and II – in a word, nitrocellulose. We would save scraps of it (leftover after cutting filters), put them in a glass petri dish, and set them ablaze. Very fun! (Note: it doesn’t work if it’s nitrocellulose over polyester.) I’ve also accidentally set my benchtop on fire by sheer clumsiness – knocked over an open bottle with 95% ethanol, and in my haste to clean it up before it was somehow set on fire by the nearby Bunsen burner, I knocked over the lit burner and Whoops! Luckily, it didn’t spread far, and nothing burned. Love those slate benchtops.

The “my degree inadvertantly makes me competent in fixing household appliances” badge – I have become cocky about fixing things, truly.

The “will glady kick sexual harasser’s ass” badge – BTDT. (Rutgers folks, do you remember the short bald guy [he will remain nameless] who shouted “Don’t you know how to use birth control?!?” when joyfully told about a coworker’s pregnancy?)

The “has frozen stuff just to see what happens” badge – levels I, II, and III correspond to freezing things in the freezer, freezing in dry ice, and freezing in liquid nitrogen. Let’s see – I: I took care of a stupendously craptacular apple snail for Super G; II: I poured soapy water on top of dry ice to make smoke-filled bubbles (this was a bad idea – it overflowed the sink b/c it kept making more bubbles, more bubbles, more bubbles!); III: Froze a rose and shattered it for the 1994 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt.

The “I work with way too much radioactivity and still have no discernable superpowers” badge – I worked with 32P, 14C, and 3H for 7 years and have nothing to show for it.

The “worship me – I’ve published in Nature or Science” badge – surely this and this must count? Ironically, the DNA scarf is undoubtedly my best-known contribution to the field of molecular biology.

The “I’ve done science with no concievable practical application” badge – I spent 11 years (undergrad through postdoc) working with baker’s yeast. Although yeast and human genetics are fundamentally very similar, no one has taken any of *my* work and turned it into something with practical application. Hahahahaha….

The “I know what a tadpole is” badge – More importantly, I know the difference between a tadpole and a sperm cell.

The “cloner” badge – Yawn. Who isn’t, these days?

The “experienced with electrical shock” badge, level I (shocking other organisms) – I’ve had to fire up the juice to get yeast to take up foreign DNA (electroporation). If you electroporate bugs, be sure you use new cuvettes. Washed and reused ones tend to short out.

I’m going to combine the “totally digs highly exothermic reactions” badge and the “works with acids” badge because it’s the same story. As an undergrad, I was given the responsibility of cleaning glassware. This included an annual dipping of glass pipettes in a highly corrosive bath of acid (chromic acid and sulfuric acid). The first time I did this, the PI thought it might be a little dangerous for a teenager to mix the chemicals together, so he donned a lab coat, neglected to read the directions that came with the cleaner, and essentially generated a BOILING ACID BATH that bubbled so ferociously, acid went up the 25-mL pipette he was using to stir the mix together and spat out the top, it went EVERYWHERE. Luckily, we had chosen to this in the fume hood, so we hastily shut the glass front and backed away.

6 thoughts on “I’m a science scout!

  1. Woo Hoo for Science Nerdiness!

    We had some non-lab types over for dinner the other night and I was shocked to remember that not everyone knows what cloning a gene means–or even what PCR is.

    It’s kind of like talking to someone who doesn’t know what purling is…

  2. Woo-hoo! I’ve got a couple of those, including the “worship me” badge, because I was co-author on a paper in Science. It was the first web-based paper they published.

  3. Oh god, this is SO funny. We did stuff like this in college chem, when things were not politically correct OR safe. I still have my pearl button jean shirt with the HCL holes speckled in it, and consider it a badge of honor.

    Don’t ask what we did with the pure ethanol. I’m sure everyone has done THAT.

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