Oscillator

It’s not just Scott Kern who thinks that science is only about tedious benchwork and that grad students should be boring robots moving small volumes of liquid around 20 hours a day for the greater good. An unscientific analysis of the 169 comments and numerous comment thumbs ups of Hydrocalypse Industries’ most popular video shows that a significant percentage of the commenters who aren’t saying something completely inane, off topic, or conspiracy-theory laden are criticizing us for not working hard enough.

i-9b7ecd5e374aa92c97b4b460af1159a2-comments.pngI hopefully don’t need to go into detail about how many hours we are all actually working at the bench or to reassure you that walking around the lab for half an hour with a camera and having people do silly dance moves while their gels are running in no way hampers the amount or quality of work being done in our lab, but I do want to go into more detail about what people are saying and what it reflects about the public image of scientists.

Of the 8% of commenters who came to our rescue, arguing with the “shouldn’t they be working” crowd, many emphasized the idea that we probably weren’t “official scientists.” Like happydecko, who writes “It’s so obvious that these guys are students, so these are young people who are not responsible for making any serious inventions, because they are still learning lab skills.” Or acerulestheplace who says “HAHAHAHAH what an ispiration!!! LAB ROMANCE??? but i bet the guys are interns not official scientists… :PP” Who is an “official scientist” and why don’t we look like this mythical creature? Does the fact that there are no old white guys in our lab make it seem like we are not responsible for making any serious inventions?

In all of this I’m reminded of the amazing “Drawings of Scientists” website that collects drawings done by seventh graders before and after a visit to Fermilab. Before the visit the students draw mostly old dudes with crazy hair, lab coats and bubbling flasks. After seeing real scientists in action, students draw normal looking people because while some scientists do have crazy hair and bubbling flasks most are surprisingly normal and–gasp!–even fun.

i-489af00f60be5db3ce2c437593e20036-whoisascientist-thumb-350x307-56823.png

Science is done by people, often young and sometimes silly people, who do real research, make real inventions and sometimes even find real treatments for diseases while they are training as graduate students or postdoctoral fellows. Nobody can work all the time, and a little bit of time and creativity can go a long way to make funny and incredibly nerdy videos. It seems like the scientific parody of pop songs video has become a powerful meme (as well as probably the only time many of these students actually wear their lab coats). Here are just a few others I found from students at UC Berkeley that made me LOL:

None of these videos are going to convince anyone other than other nerds that scientists are “cool“, but hopefully it will show those young nerds that scientists aren’t all old, cold and aloof, or pipetting round the clock, and that mixed in between all the hard work it takes to do research you can also find time for some fun.

Comments

  1. #1 Björn
    October 12, 2010

    Interesting if, if I ever see the day of graduation and I had to apply for a postdoc position and had solely these videos (including labromance) as a base for my decision, I would still apply for the hydrocalypse lab. The sexy back cover is not so bad either they have some good moves but no cute girls with big glases and they seem to lack overall lab participation. The “Im in the lab” people dont rap so bad but however they send chills down my spine, dont know what about them exactly gives me the creeps (might be that terrible hipster wannabe D.A.R.E shirt) but they totally coin my idea of nerdy science guys.

  2. #2 Keith
    October 12, 2010

    This kid absolutely had it right about you guys until he visited Fermilab. I think I’ve actually seen Patrick sporting those Levi’s.com jeans.

  3. #3 Christina Agapakis
    October 12, 2010

    OMG I need a scientists.com t-shirt!!!

  4. #4 Richard D
    October 13, 2010

    Heh, it never ceases to amaze me just how many people are the attitude that unless one is working non stop on a cure for cancer (or at the very least some developing some new thing that beeps), science is not worth paying for.

    Sadly, for an archaeologist like me, there isn’t much come back to that.

    By the way, those kids pictures were adorable!

  5. #5 kadiya3
    October 21, 2010

    RT@Bjorn: We (the “i’m in a lab” people) are very happy we gave you the creeps with our video. :) The purpose of the video was to poke fun at our lives as grad students and scientists, not to convince the general public that science is cool (though it is). Science is a very frustrating endeavor at times, and mostly thankless, so if you can’t laugh, you are cooked. So if we come off as the “nerdy science guys”, then our video is just want we wanted it to be! We do appreciate that you would be basing your post doc lab choice solely on the number of cute girls in their lab videos. :D