a few years back Popular Science Classified the worst jobs in Science – what a great list! lol.
10. Orangutan-Pee Collector
Their work is noninvasive—for the apes, that is . . .
“Have I been pissed on? Yes,” says anthropologist Cheryl Knott of Harvard University. Knott is a pioneer of “noninvasive monitoring of steroids through urine sampling.” Translation: Look out below! For the past 11 years, Knott and her colleagues have trekked into Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo, Indonesia, in search of the endangered primates. Once a subject is spotted, they deploy plastic sheets like a firemen’s rescue trampoline and wait for the tree-swinging apes to go see a man about a mule. For more pee-catching precision, they attach bags to poles and follow beneath the animals. “It’s kind of gross when you get hit, but this is the best way to figure out what’s going on in their bodies,” Knott says.
9. NASA Ballerina
Her dance partner is a supersensitive Robot
Give him an “A” for effort. Earlier this year NASA robot scientist Vladimir Lumelsky unveiled a revolutionary “skin” that will allow robots to sense the presence of astronauts and to move out of the way so that nobody gets hurt. Lumelsky’s skin is being developed to assist in NASA’s future space-exploration plans—trips that will rely heavily on robots. The current skin uses 1,000 infrared sensors to detect moving objects and then relays the data to the robot’s “brain,” which instantly signals the robot to skedaddle. Lumelsky envisions future skins with tens of thousands of infrared sensors able to withstand the extreme heat, cold and radiation of space travel. It’s serious science, and Lumelsky, being a serious man, gave nary a thought to the fact that his prototype robot bears a striking resemblance to a giant phallus.
Bugs, bears, and a melting earth—you call this a vacation?
Every year thousands of desk jockeys sign up with the nonprofit Earthwatch Institute and pay as much as $3,000 a week to pitch in on scientific expeditions. While some select romantic projects like studying the giant statues and the ancient inhabitants of Easter Island in the Pacific, others choose to slog through peat bogs near Churchill, Manitoba, ducking polar bears and fending off biblical swarms of blackflies, blood-letting mosquitoes and deerflies known locally as “bulldogs.”
7. Semen Washer
It’s a job that separates the boys from the men
OK, OK, their real job title is usually something like “cryobiologist” or “laboratory technician,” but at sperm banks around the country, they are known as semen washers. “Every time I interview someone I make sure I ask them, ‘Do you know you’ll be working with semen?’ ” says Diana Schillinger, the Los Angeles lab manager at the country’s largest sperm bank, California Cryobank. Let’s start at the beginning. Laboriously prescreened “donors” emerge from a so-called collection room that is stocked with girlie mags and triple-X DVDs. They hand over their deposit, get their $75, and leave. The semen washers take the seminal goo and place a sample under the microscope for a sperm count. Next comes the washing. The techs spin the sample in a centrifuge to separate the “plasma” from the motile cells. Then they add a preservative, and it’s off to the freezer, where it can stay for 20 years. Or not. Thanks to semen washers (and in vitro fertilization), more than 250,000 babies have been delivered in the U.S. since 1995.
When the earth heats up, they head in
Here’s how basic fear-psychology saves lives. A volcano rumbles, spews ash, magma and incandescent rock, and the brain’s amygdala says, “Good god! Flee!” Then there are volcanologists, who—loaded down with monitoring gear and charged with the mission of predicting eruptions before they kill thousands—ignore the amygdala and run toward volcanoes.
They’ve mastered fusion. Next up: Filing
This job hasn’t been any fun since the disastrous espionage trial against Wen Ho Lee in 1999. Now it’s gotten worse. Lee was a naturalized citizen who had worked for 20 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s highly prestigious and supersecret X Division, where some of the world’s biggest eggheads handle the applied physics of our nuke stockpile. The FBI suspected him of selling secrets to the Chinese.
4. Extremophile Excavator
Never has success smelled less sweet
“Take some of the most dramatic shoreline you can imagine: seabirds, gigantic mountains and volcanoes—truly dramatic. Now imagine that you are on this beach tightly surrounded by 100 overweight and extremely flatulent people,” Ron Oremland says of Mono and Searles lakes in California, where his U.S. Geological Survey team has been working for years.
3. Kansas Biology Teacher
On the front lines of science’s devolution
“The evolution debate is consuming almost everything we do,” says Brad Williamson, a 30-year science veteran at suburban Olathe East High School and a past president of the National Association of Biology Teachers. “It’s politicized the classroom. Parents will say their child can’t be in class during any discussion of evolution, and students will say things like ‘My grandfather wasn’t a monkey!’”
2. Manure Inspector
The smell is just the start of the nastiness
Almost 1.5 billion tons of manure are produced annually by animals in this country—90 percent of it from cattle. That’s the same weight as 14,432 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. You get the point: It’s a load of crap. And it’s loaded with nasty contaminants like campylobacter (the number-one cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S.), salmonella (the number-two cause) and E.coli 0157:H7, which can cause kidney failure in children and painful, bloody diarrhea in everybody else.
1. Human Lab Rat
Warning: Pesticides are bad for you
Pharmaceutical companies have long relied on hard-up college students to act as guinea pigs. (Dudes, I was in a double-blind Viagra trial! And I got paid!) But did you know that the pesticide biz is hiring too?
Last year an industry-funded University of California at San Diego study paid students $15 an hour to have the root killer and World War I nerve agent chloropicrin shot into their eyes and noses. Chloropicrin is also a component of tear gas—that trusty suppressor of Big 10 sports riots—and at high doses can lead to nerve damage and death. Duuude. Because of its irritating qualities, small doses of the chemical are often added to other pesticides to act as a “warning agent,” and it’s the safety of those doses that the study looked at.