Labwear Fashion

The other day, a colleague from another company in our building stopped in looking for a lab coat.  We knew this guy was a biologist and so were a little surprised.  Most biologists don’t wear lab coats.  Actually, most chemists don’t either.  Maybe he was doing that rare thing where something icky, or caustic, might splash on him.  We asked him what he was up to.
“Photo shoot for some funding agency…”
Ahhh.  Of course, the dreaded photo shoot.  The bane of lab workers because the photographers and the Powers That Be often want shots of dedicated scientists working hard in the lab doing important research.  The problem is that to photographers and PTB research isn’t very photogenic.  It’s full of little gray tubes, plastic bottles with label tape, cluttered benches and populated by folks in jeans and t-shirts (my lab wear of choice).  The verdict being that it looks: a) visually boring and b) vaguely unprofessional.
So you get something like this:

Now  what’s wrong with that picture, you ask?  Let’s see…  

1. No.  There are NO graduated cylinders, flasks or bottles of clear, brightly colored liquids.  As much fun as science can be, we are not coloring eggs here.
2. Gloves.  Gloves you wear to be sterile (she’s at a bench, so pffft on that), or to keep something from splashing on your hands.  I'm pretty sure that little piece of plant isn’t going to spill.
3. Safety goggles.  Is she expecting that plant to explode?
4. See number 1 and geez, if you’re going to go the whole “colored solution” angle, can’t you even spring for a different color?
5. Raise your hand if you think a mirrored lab bench is a good idea.
6. Nice 1970s era molecular model.  This doesn’t make you look smart, it makes you look outdated.  Or at least get a DNA double-helix or something because I'm pretty sure that's table salt (NaCl).
7. Good idea having all that extra glassware in your way on your bench.  Because it could never get knocked over and break.  Maybe that’s why she's wearing the goggles.
8. The lab coat.  Of course.  Everyone wears one.  All the time.  Worst lab cliché ever.
9. C’mon!  The girl is at least potentially attractive, but does the dude have to be dumpy and sport those sideburns?
At least there’s not a pocket protector in sight.

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31 thoughts on “Labwear Fashion

  1. Awesome post, Steve. Very funny, and it reminded me that I'm almost out of dental rinse. I disagree about the mirrored table. How else would the model-perfect lab worker check her hair and makeup??

  2. Snerk! Don't forget the obligatory bulletin board full of abstruse formulae [1], the periodic table (in a geology lab), and the completely up-to-date computers. However, a "machine thta goes 'Bing!'" is entirely optional.
    [1] I once managed to sneak in rude words written in Greek letters on one of these.

  3. I recently worked on a photo shoot as technical expert because I worked with the drug using population when I did counseling. I was appalled to see them with things that are used in veterinarian medicine for props. To often it's about spin. These people say that this is what the public expects to see and they think we are the dumb ones. Truly if they only want to appeal to the dumb ones I think that makes them pretty dumb.If you will excuse me but as a gay man, I'd rather seen you in your jeans and t-shirt, it not only would be more realistic but more appealing to me.

  4. LOL!I work in a hospital lab, so we have the ever attractive ankle length/wrist length torn pocket labcoats and gloves. However it's usually too damn hot to wear either one, thanks to the inefficiency of our ventilation system, so we wear our scrubs and take our chances with infectious agents. As for glassware…very rare these days. What a hoot your post is! Lol at these weenies and their plants! Bring on the blood and poop!

  5. what an eye for detail!i've only ever worn a lap coat when it was required for ESD. know we only wear gloves if we're playing with real eyes (which I haven't done yet, in 5 years). we have laser goggles but we never wear them (the lasers are never free-direction beams)

  6. 9) The dumpy mustached dude seems to be about to read the bible to the bunch of lemongrass his colleague lovingly holds up ready to press between its pages. And where are his gloves!?! Doesn't he realize that plant could pee all over him and contaminate his delicate hands?

  7. Stop making fun of her! I am truly, truly interested in the effects of Windex on very small plants.
    Oh, and you forgot to mention that the "scientist" in the back is definitely looking up "Grass" in the "Ga – Gr" volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

  8. Thanks John. When I was doing a lot of structural biology, the requisite pose was for two scientists to be in front of a high-end graphics terminal that would show the computer model for some protein. One of us would point at the terminal (usually with a pen) while the other stared intently. Of course, we'd be wearing lab coats.

  9. HWE — I think you're absolutely correct about people taking these sorts of pictures because that's what's expected — clean labs, lab coats, lots of shiny equipment, etc. Who cares if it's not correct? Oh, and for "real-life" lab photos — you can look here.

  10. *Raising my hand on #5*… c'mon, obviously the Science Girl in lab coat needs to be able to fix her makeup without running to the bathroom (and getting un-sterile) everytime! I really think your retirement job should involve writing a funny column of science for laypeople. :)

  11. The photo you directed me to is much more truthful and beautiful to me. My grandson is the apex of discovery. When my son recently told me that he is going to adopt I couldn't do anything but smile and smile and imagine another child in this world who lives in the moment and teaches me about creation.I hope that my comment about jeans and t-shirts weren't inappropriate or offensive to you. The thing I like about scientist is the desire for facts and the sheer enjoyment of them for facts sake. I do however understand the philosophers search for truth. I just prefer my truth to be based on facts.The fact is I am a proud Grandpop's.

  12. Hapa — the bad part about lab coats are that people DON'T take them off when they leave an area — so if they DID spill something on it, they just took it to the bathroom, the office, or the cafeteria!

  13. HWE — no worries here. :) Fact and Truth (capital T truth) are funny things. I always think of the book (and movie) "Contact" when reverend Joss has a conversation with the scientist, Ellie:Joss: Did you love your father?

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