Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Does not play well with others

This is a post so I can gripe about my job. I try not to post about my job because it is really great in a lot of ways, but sometimes it still gets me down. I am a scientist or, more accurately, research tech. I do experiments for people who have gotten some grant money from the government to do research. I love doing experiments in cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics and that is why I chose this field. There are many failed experiments and the low success rate can be frustrating, but I can work through this with occasional venting.

The more challenging part is the people (isn't this true for every job?). I believe that most scientists have an arrogant and antisocial attitude that stems from, well, being a nerd. All the little resentments that were built early in life as a social outcast turn sideways in adulthood and create a weird, defensive jerk. Is the jerk intelligent? Maybe. Does this intelligence compensate for the jerky behavior? Absolutely not, except maybe in the case of Albert Einstein. Do I belong to this club? You betcha, baby. I have very consciously tried to work on this with my personal inventory, but I still struggle with it.

Okay, what this is really about is cells. I grow cells for experiments, as many of my coworkers do. When the cells get contaminated, the finger pointing starts so we can properly lay blame on the incompetent who was the source of our woe. Although it is never said aloud, scientists believe that almost everything that goes wrong in the laboratory (and in life) is due to someone else's incompetence. I contaminated my own cells last week and, while I was frustrated by the loss of cells, I was also freaked out that I was going to contaminate someone else's cell line and get the incompetent finger pointed at me. So, I quickly announced the problem and spent the following days carefully finding the source (my media bottle) and obsessively cleaning all surfaces I could find. I started my cell lines again and they are fine. My coworker got contamination this morning. While she never stated that she thought I was responsible and she actually stated the opposite, I certainly feel like I am staring right at the tip of the incompetent finger.

I want to scream, "I didn't do it!', but maybe I did. Who really knows? Bacteria are tricky little bastards and it's really hard to get rid of all of them. It only takes one before you have a colony. There is no way to escape my psycho, paranoid head until I attend my meeting tonight. I will go and share this and someone else will relate their paranoid freak story and I will be able to laugh at them and myself and feel normal.

Until then, I am going to find a new incubator to house my cells because someone's incompetence has introduced bacteria into the incubator I am using.


lushgurl said...

It sounds like your job would be so much fun, except for the people part, LOL! When we were little and my dad would ask who had done something (usually something wrong), my sister and I would say, in unison "it wasn't ME!" For years after, we had a new family member, the name you ask?- It Wasn't Me!!!

Trudging said...

Growin cells eh, that's cool.

LeAnne said...

I know exactly what you mean - I am a research tech also.