Monday, September 2, 2013

Is Being a Scientist Cool?

Sorry, Roger Tsien, you're my boy but you look like a huge nerd.

You walk into most academic institutions and go and meet the Scientists and they look like huge nerds. Now there is nothing wrong with looking like a huge nerd. People should feel like they can be themselves and people should not be judge by what they wear and how they look. Let's be honest here though if you met these people would they inspire you to be a Scientist?

What do people aspire to? Well obviously positions in which they will make lots of money but besides that people aspire to things that look cool and sound cool despite what the actual work consists of. Why do so many people want to work for all the Facespaces and Googles? Sure, there is pay and benefits and such but I am sure a job at Yahoo or Zipcar pays similarly. It is because of status.

In the late 90s and early 2000s I worked at Motorola as an engineer and programmer for the iDEN cell phone network. I wasn't paid an overly large sum of money about $30k but I wouldn't have left there if some company came and offered me $50k to do web development. I didn't want to do anything but work for Motorola. My cool ID badge and RSA secureID card and access to cell phone systems. For a technology nerd I was living the dream. A job with a really famous technology company giving me access to important data and control over cell phone networks. It was awesome.

So why would people rather work for Facespace with their job description revolve around trying to make people click ads rather than work in academic Science and Technology doing something so much "cooler".

Why isn't being a Scientist cool? I mean, being an Astronaut is barely cool these days. A couple thousand applicants for the last Astronaut application cycle? Survivor receives more applications than that!

Iron Man the movie has started to bring some coolness back into Science and Technology. The other day I was at the Grocery store and I heard a kid say that he wanted to be Iron Man. Hopefully because he wanted to invent cool things and not just because he wanted to beat people up but you take what you can get.

I dare you to show me a picture of a Scientist that would make someone in high school or younger think "Wow, that person is cool I really want to be like him or her". Why do we pay footballers and rap stars so much money? Because everyone wants to be them. They look cool, they act cool and they live what seems like a fun life. Their tweets are entertaining and funny, they are enjoyable people.

Is it just the life of the Scientist to be absorbed so much in their work and their head that they don't really care how they are perceived by other people?

I mean everyone loves people like Neil deGrasse Tyson but does anybody really aspire to be him and wear a suit everyday and act pretentious?

Is it our job as Scientists to make Science cool, Accessible, and seem like it is a fun job?

I don't know.

I am in no way endorsing that I am cool and other Scientists are not at least not outright but why do most of us seem so boring? TV shows and movies portray Scientists as ugly and nerdy and boring. Well except Iron Man. Are they portraying Scientists the wrong way or is that the way we all really look and act?