This subject has developed wide offshoots in the last two decades that it has become unconventional to generalize biotechnologists, microbiologists, biochemists, geneticists, immunologists and so forth as biologists these days. Yet, I bring all of them under one umbrella here in order to marginalize them from the on-demand professionals – the engineers, the ITs, the marketers…
All the while during my college and university days, I was one among the birds of the same feathers – talked, walked, danced and partied with biologists. Well, at times I had to study too 😉 And now with the acquaintances of folks of other spheres in the last few years, I am familiarised with these common illusions non-bios have over biologists. Come, take a look.
1. Biologists cannot be good at mathematics: More often than not I see we, biologists being stamped as mathematically challenged. May be bios dig their own pits when they say “I chose Biology in class 11 because I hate maths”. The truth is even if maths could have been hated in school, no biologist would be spared when he/she lands on work. True, we don’t get into hard-core integration and differentiation. Nonetheless, math skills are an integral part of our everyday bench work. We do see abso-bloody-lutely numbers, decimals, to the power of, fractions, logarithms and percentages as many as any others. A laboratory experiment does involve a number of volumes and concentrations. There were even nights when I had sincerely solved DNA calculations in my dreams 🙄
2. Biologists have an interesting profession: It’s interesting to imagine being involved in an active research team, experimenting, analyzing, discovering……..! Well, sometimes realities are aliens to imaginations, aren’t they? If it’s monotonous to face their laptops eternally for some software guys, it’s even more frustrating for some biologists to face consistent futile attempts in their experiments. Especially doctorates in this field individually can write books on their displeasures on from indenting their chemicals to getting their thesis approved 😳 Probably it was interesting for scientists of 1900s which was a period of inquisitiveness rather than acquisitiveness. Not to mean that it’s a lackluster profession, but not all bios end up having enough time and good luck to write blog posts during work…….hopefully my boss is unaware of my blogging capabilities 😉
3.All biologists work with conical flasks and glass test tubes: A curious non-bio asked me once what my lab would be like, if it were full of conical flasks and test tubes. Bah! This is what I would call as a tongue-in-cheek! Not all bios necessarily have to work with these. Please refill your visions with rats, mice, drosophilas, zebra fishes, petri plates, centrifuge tubes and microscopes instead. I haven’t seen one conical flask and a glass test tube after my second year in Bachelor’s 😛
4. Biologists should know everything about the human body: The only well-known branch of biological study 20 years before was medicine. And still many assume that all biologists study only about human body. I was once laughed at since, being a biologist I did not know the normal urine glucose level 😯 Excuse me, what Biotechnology has got to do with people’s urine and mucous? Many specialized areas such as studying only about human cells, only about human viruses, human metabolism etc have come up. And it’s really unfair to expect us to know what causes snoring 😕
5.Biologists are computer illiterates: At least these days bios are acknowledged for checking e-mails, FBing, orkuting and twittering. There were days when we were considered ineligible to have e-mail accounts. Just because we don’t know programming and we don’t use screw drivers, it does not mean we are not familiar with computers and technology. My fellow biotechnologist can hack passwords and trace IP numbers. Mind it! Me too capable of formatting my own PC with the pirated copy of the copy of the copy of the copy of the XP CD 😎
6. Biologists are nerds: Less laws, principles and derivations in biology have made others to think bios score grades by doing donkeywork. Trust me, we didn’t swot for exams. It requires an understanding to study about structures and functions of DNAs and cells as well. We did take in lots of books from our library in university, that was all only to prevent our class boys from scoring better than we, girls 😆
7. Biologists see genes and proteins exactly as how they appear: If you’ve heard about the gene structure, you will know that the DNA appears like a spiral staircase (Above Left). And do you think biologists visually see DNA in this form all the time? No! We can only see DNA and proteins hidden in a solution (Above Right). Tests confirm their presence. That’s it. 99% of biologists who extract DNA all their lives see this way. The remaining 1% have to work with electron microscope to be able to see the fine structure.
8. Biologists are mostly atheists: This misconception is because science is considered an antonym to God and biology is considered a synonym to science. Well, I have seen PhD students deeply praying to Hanumanji for their desired DNA band to appear magically before running their DNA gels 😀 (An experiment to confirm the presence of the desired DNA in their extract). If a network engineer has his profession got to do nothing with his going to temples, a cancer biologist too has his profession nothing to do with his fast for Lord Shiva on Mondays. After all, the last promise doctors give is Trust in God.
9. Biologists don’t party: W-h-a-t t-h-e h-e-c-k!
Now do you wonder why I chose only 9 instead of 10? Just to prove that biologists don’t follow the crowd 😉 Well, actually, I could come up with only 9 here. I appreciate points from your own experiences too. Will be added here!
Updated on Nov 23rd 2010
10. Biotech graduates have great career opportunities: (Thanks to Subhashini for the input) The biotech BOOM which keeps being printed in the newspapers and magazines definitely helps for a good sale of their media. It’s good for the writer’s career. If you’ve had a biotech post/graduate in your family, you would know what GLOOM is veiled behind the BOOM 😦 At least in India, with the less number of industries in this arena as compared to the thousand pass-outs every year, many biotechs are forced to work for BPOs, study SAS, SAP, JAVA, ORACLE or apply for a PhD position in a foreign university.
11. Biologists don’t discuss anything other than biology over coffees: (Thanks to Upasana Bhattacharjee) While working as a summer trainee in a biopharma company, soon after my post graduation, I too was under this spell that all scientists invariably discuss only about recent scientific discoveries and the intricacies involved in their own projects – owing to the fact that I had noticed in the cafeterias, most scientists conversing with one another politely with deep thinking involved. Probably the absence of an apparent excitation in their chats made me assume so. Once I happened to take a table close to one such conversion and (over) heard a scientist, in the similar polite and unenthused manner, narrating how his kids enjoy playing with their cats and what annoyed his wife most about him 😛 We may not be good animators, but we do hash out on politics, wives, movies and FOOD!
12. Biologists don’t dress up fashionably (Thanks to Hepshiba) I did believe in this myth too a while ago. During my masters dissertation work in a research institute in Gurgaon, it was a common sight to witness weird combos of chudidhar/sarees + sport shoes + woollen jackets + leather gloves + back bags. It took winter to fade off to discover the real slim and hep hidden figures 🙂 Our dirty jeans are confined to the institute campuses only, we do know what it means to be trendy out of the gate 😆
A Typical Molecular Biology Lab www.sams.ac.uk
DNA (Left) www.fiveprimegenetics.com
DNA (Right) www.makezine.com