Transcription and Translation

Listen up all you …

Evolution biologists, ecologists, epidemiologists, earth scientists, herpetologists …

I obviously didn’t know what I was getting into when I posted the first of many Geek Taxonomy entries. This led to many disgruntled comments and emails from all the non-bench biologists. People wanted to know why I omitted their particular specialty. Look I can only make fun of those I know. Others complained “I’m a geneticist studying biomechanics of Xenopus eye deformation, with an interest in evo-devo”. (more below the fold)

Very nice, but you used the word “geneticist” – that term implies a certain type of research and implies a batch of techniques, quirks and traits. Yes none of us are pure cell biologists or biochemists, but (for example) I do not consider myself a molecular biologist. My post was just an attempt to explain these specialties to the layman. (Although I’m sure that 80% of the readers of this blog are not laymen … but that’s besides the point).

Soooo … in the interest of the wider and greater Taxonomy of Geek projects, I’m calling on all you disgruntled scientists to please submit your entries for the Taxonomy of Science project. (Who knows, if I collect enough data, I’ll submit it on my next R01!)

All that I ask is that your entries are

1) not too dry (i.e. please don’t take yourself too seriously)
2) attempt to explain any weird behaviors in your field (i.e. ecologists can be recognized by their attire: Bermuda shorts, sandals and black socks)
3) are short enough that i won’t conk out before I finish reading them (<200 words long)

Entries on any SCIENTIFIC field are welcome (and if you're not sure whether this applies to your specialty, don't ask).
You can email me or just drop them off in the comments of this post. I'll try to post the best ones in a little bit.

Here's a list of geek taxonomies (from the last couple of days):

The Disciplines of the Life (Biomedical – aka Bench Biology) Sciences
Taxonomy of Physics (at Uncertain Principles)
Taxonomy of Anthropology (at Afarensis)

PS Geneticists (at least the ones who do bench work and knockout genes) are not math experts. And evo guys, you are definitely not (and would not want to be) Systems Biologists.


  1. #1 TrekJunkie
    March 22, 2006

    Ecology has come a long way since the days of identifying and counting common things like lizards or trees. The introduction of mathematical theory, herald by the great Robert MacArthur in the early 60′s was the turning point of the discipline.
    Ecologist now a day, mostly study a critter commonly known as the computer. Other equally studied organisms include nitrogen, phosphrous, and carbon. In fact, a colleage mentioned at a recent scientific conference where a renowned ecologist gave the plenary address, “that guy wouldn’t recognize a lizard if it bit him in the a$$.”

  2. #2 afarensis
    March 22, 2006

    Yeah, I’ve been getting that too…

  3. #3 Joe Shelby
    March 22, 2006

    geeze, compared to software developers, your collective taxonomies are downright primitive… ;-)

  4. #4 coturnix
    March 22, 2006

    Chronobiologists have a screwed up sense of timing and a totally messed up work-schedules. If you go in a lab at 4am and see a guy with big black bags under his eyes centrifuging yet another batch of blood samples in a semi-dark lab, with a sleeping bag on the floor in the corner, you are in a chronobiology lab. After about 36 hours of straight work, the guy dissappears for the rest of the week and the PI does not care about him missing at all.

  5. #5 Jenn
    March 23, 2006

    This is all very nice, but if you really want to make it useful, you are going to have to make a key :-).

  6. #6 Pip
    March 24, 2006

    Big Biologists: Big Biologists were once little biologists. They saw the physicists with their particle colliders and rocketships. They saw their computer scientists with their huge mainfraims. The little biologist became envious and started to ask “why can’t we do big things?” They then started using Chips to analyze every gene. They crossed every mutant they had. “Think huge” First came genomics, then proteomics, then kinomics, ubiquitomics, phosphomics, p53omics. But in the end most of it was artifactomics.

    I’m not sure what big biologists would kill, probably something really big, like the entire field of Biology.

  7. #7 The Disgruntled Chemist
    March 24, 2006

    Hey, I’m a disgruntled scientist!

    I’m also a grad student in analytical chemistry. You can recognize us by our pump oil stains, pocketful of Allen wrenches, and disdain for research that uses actual chemicals on a daily basis. Also, the alcoholism that comes with trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with an instrument that you built yourself.