My experience working with a bunch of (mad) scientists

Feb 29, 2012 No Comments by

Man, this guy was good looking – tall, broad shouldered, soft eyed, tousled hair, cute little dimples, … and then…

“Oh wow – that is amazing!”

I looked in shock from Adonis to the oscilloscope we were using and discovered, that, yes, he was indeed talking about the little oscillating line on the dinky screen.  That’s when it struck me that I would probably never be a scientist.  That passion for the quivering green line just escaped me.  Not only that, but I couldn’t even begin to glimpse the reason behind the passion…

Oh well…20 years later and I’m still working with people in thrall to that little green line. Only this time, they’re geoscientists.  Yep, people who get their rocks off studying rocks.  So are they different from my college Adonis?  Not really.  I’ve discovered that all (good) scientists have a couple of things in common:

  1. They are all PASSIONATE about their work (and do not necessarily realize that their passion doesn’t always transfer to the rest of the population!)  They will spend hours looking in awe at their latest experiment and envisioning where to go from there.  Time will no longer exist.
  2. They do not believe that a deadline actually applies to them. They view it as a suggestion and will do their utmost to bypass it or just squeak in under the line.
  3. They are irritated by organizational details.  You know, those little items like conference registrations, hotel bookings, car hire, plane tickets, …  Ask them to analyze the strontium content in your private lava rock collection and they will bend over backwards to accommodate you, but ask them to go online and set up their next business trip or annual budget and they will look at you with hurt and dismay.
  4. They are a little competitive (think Mohammed Ali vs. Smokin’ Joe Frazier).
  5. They are persistent.  They will not let any hypothesis go until they have explored it to the nth degree.
  6. They are ruthlessly self-critical.   Do not even try to flatter them as they will immediately point out who has done better, who may do better, and how they personally will do better.
  7. They are good people – kind, considerate (albeit a bit absent minded), generous and loyal.

OK.  So Adonis didn’t work out for me, but if you’re looking for a happy, healthy work environment, you can’t do better than the fans of the little green line.

Clare Desplats

 Clare Desplats is a project manager with the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales in Toulouse, France.  At the CNRS, she works primarily on European Commission funded projects involving mineral nucleation and growth.  Clare received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California Berkeley in 1991 and has worked in France for the past 20 years in teaching, translations and project management of earth science networks.

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