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waltman (335)

waltman
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Journal of waltman (335)

Wednesday June 30, 2004
09:54 PM

Talking to biologists

[ #19611 ]
For the past 8 months or so I've been working at the Wistar Institute, a smallish cancer research center at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm one of the few techies in a building full of biologists, which has taken some getting used to.

One thing is that people naturally tend to assume that I must be one of them, and that I'm at least familiar with basic biological terminology and lab functions. Hah! My last formal biology course was freshman year of high school. I've certainly picked up a lot while I've been at Wistar, but the labs themselves still sort of scare me.

So anyway, today I was walking down the hall when I saw a postdoc from the new lab that's getting started up across the hall. He was holding an orange plastic lid in his hands, and asked "do you know if this is autoclave-safe?"

Now, I didn't even know what an autoclave was 8 months ago. Now I've come to know it as the noisy, sometimes smelly oven-like contraption down the hall that the cute lab tech is always loading and unloading. But I don't have the slightest idea how to use it.

"Beats me," I replied. "Do I look like a biologist?"

"Well, now that you mention it..."

"No, I'm a computer programmer. I help the folks in this lab with their data analysis."

"Oh, cool. What languages do you use?"

"Mostly C++, and a little Perl to hold everything together."

"Perl? Never heard of it. Do you do any Java? I really like Java!"

Sigh.

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