Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hug your favorite person in a lab coat

It's Lab Week April 19-23rd. Ordinarily the lab I used to work in would have some contests and a couple of fun things, maybe a potluck, and maybe a management-provided catered lunch, and maybe some swag from our vendors.

The lab I work in now goes all out. There will be contests all week, like dry ice shuffleboard, LabLympics (there are three individual and one group relay event), a salsa/guacamole competition, and all kinds of food all week long (breakfasts, lunches, ice cream social, barbeque in the park). The bottom line is that I won't be able to come home and complain about being worn out at all this week, not without risking an "Oh, pleaaase!" eyeroll from the family. (That's what I get for bragging a little about how this group outdoes my old one.)

One of our contests is for people to submit an account of "How I Became A Scientist" which will be emailed out to all, and we have to guess who it is. I thought I'd post my story here, if only to get a post in. It's been a long time since I've done one, I didn't think anyone would mind too terribly much if I cheated. Just a little.

Here's my story:

I became a scientist because of two people.

My parents.

I remember being about 6, and stumbling across a book inside one of our living room tables called “Biology”. It was big, and green, and I started looking through it. In the middle of the book were transparencies of all kinds of things. Plants, animals, a human body; the transparencies were designed to be looked at separately to look at details of certain systems or structures, or all together to get the full 3-D effect. I was completely fascinated by the frog and would flip through those pages, trying to figure it out. Eventually, Mom would catch me with the book, and while she did not mind me going through it, she worried about the transparencies getting torn, so she’d usually take it away after a little while.

But I’d always find it again.

Mom would take the time to talk to me about her biology class, not squeamish at all about the dissection portion, and how interesting it was. It was from my Mom that I first heard about DNA and how things could be inherited from your family. She was always curious about science and her musings to me would make me think. I wanted to find out the answers so that I could share them with her.

My Dad, on the other hand, was all about airplanes and space. He told me stories about astronauts and fighter jets and all about the math and physics that went into those endeavors. He stressed that math was not something to ever be afraid of and when he talked about the laws of motion, he spoke about them like they were old friends. I could not wait to meet them. On road trips, on our way home at night, he'd talk about astronomy, mythology, and the first man in outer space.

Their combined influence made me want to pursue science as a career. And while I never knew I’d be in the field I’m in when I was a little kid, I always knew that I would be a scientist.

As for my Mom's book...I still used to find it from time to time, and I still turned to the page with the frog splayed out on it. I've not been able to find it for a while...

...because my nephew has it.

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