I have been doing this whole science thing for a few years now, and an inevitable consequence of this is that most of the people I know haven’t got a clue what I do. One of the more interesting side effects of being a scientist, cause I am pretty sure all of us have this problem… maybe not biologist…. is explaining what you do to your family and friends. Also answering all the questions about your chosen path, and career goals. Oh, and trying to do it in a way that they understand and don’t assume that what you do in the lab is magic. Lets be honest if i was gonna be doing magic, it would be at Hogwarts…. but that owl never came.
So what are the most common questions? Well thanks to Breaking Bad, the single most common question I get from friends and people I meet is “can you make drugs?” Which is nearly always followed by a request for said drugs. I can’t decide if people think I am stupid enough to do something like this, or if they are simply not smart enough to realize doing so is stupid in an of itself. But there it is, the number one question I get is thanks to that crazy ass show on AMC. You would think that the channel that brought us the wonder of The Walking Dead wouldn’t be ruining my encounters with people. It makes being an extroverted geek so much harder!
This is not chemistry, I promise.
Another fantastic question, that I have yet to figure out how to answer is; “how can you know if that’s the molecule you made?” This is my grandmothers favorite question, only she says atom thing instead of molecule. Now I have tried explain NMR to her, calling it a molecular MRI. But I am still asked why I can’t use a microscope. And when I tell her that it wont show up on a microscope then I am asked how I can know I made the right thing if I can’t see it! This has gone on for like 3 years now. I am terribly temped to just say magic next time.
This is true way more often than its not.
Lastly I am so very, very tired of hearing “You’re smart, why don’t you go to med school and be a real doctor?” This is the single most frustrating thing I have ever heard. Even more frustrating than anything I have heard heard while walking past a TV that is playing either Jersey Shore or 16 and Pregnant or really anything on MTV. Does anyone eve remember when MTV use to play music videos. What was my point, oh yeah, the plethora of pre-meds and med students that think they are a gift to anyone and every one who happens to know them. It is as if wanting to go to med school makes you better than the rest of the world. And just to be clear, getting a PhD makes you a real doctor. Sure you don’t get to be Dr. House, but then again, if you get an MD you still don’t get to be House, because he is a made up character. My real beef is with the idea that getting a MD or a DO somehow makes you better than other people. This isn’t true of everyone of course, but it is true with at least half of the med students and pre-med’s that I know. And apparently some of my friends that think I should have been a “real doctor” too. So yeah, lets just wrap this up by saying that if people like my charming self didn’t go after a PhD in chemistry or physics or biology then doctors would still be treating patients with leeches and drilling holes in their skulls.
To recap; MD are a bit over rated, you can never fully explain science to some people (no matter how hard you try), and I will not make you drugs. I can’t stress the last one enough, and thanks AMC for giving me a fantastic conversation starter for when I meet fans of your show!