Monday, March 14, 2011

all scientists matter. mmmkay?

The lack of posting lately has been due to....
Oh who gives a crap, I'm posting now right?

A few days ago, I had to top up my lab's supply of MilliQ water.  Basically our PI gives money to another lab, so we use their set up.  I noticed there was someone new who questioned me last time I was in there, so this time I made a point to talk to the person and introduce myself. 

I got her name and re-introduced myself as a person of so-and-so's lab, and I briefly explained the arrangement.  The usual question that comes up when you meet other people who are obviously looking after the lab is the "so are you one of the post-docs?"  She replied, "No, I'm just a tech." 

Now hold on a minute here. I've seen some varying levels as far as techs go.  I know a few labs "share" a tech who is a dish washer and media maker, but then there are other techs who are specifically hired on permanently to run HPLC and the like.  "Just a tech," doesn't always apply.
This tech was about ready to load some gradient gels, and she looked very involved with the lab and the research going on there (a glance at her laptop always has at least three excel spreadsheets open).  This person probably held a MSc degree or at least did a lot of research as an undergrad; I'm willing to bank on her having an MSc degree. 

I stopped her and said, "I just threw post-doc out there as a guess.  Techs are important too, ya know.  I'm just a lowly grad student." 
She stopped and smiled at me.  "Thanks." 
By the length of her pause and the genuine smile that she showed (crows feet showing, puffed up lower eyelids), I realized that my comment clearly affected her. 

Perhaps it's because I'm contemplating my own step "down" from a PhD degree to an MSc degree, but I've started looking at the hierarchy that exists, and I think sometimes people miss the boat.  A title doesn't guarantee that you're a good scientist.  I'm sure there are crap PhD's just as there are crap techs.  And there have to be awesome techs as well. 

And even the dish washer/ media-maker techs are important.  They keep other members of the lab moving quickly and efficiently, and I get annoyed that graduate students feel they can look down their noses at them.  Not everyone wants to run a lab or spend their life writing grants.  I'm one of them.  Maybe one day I'll be "just a tech" somewhere else.  But I'll be a damn good one.