All in a Day’s Work


  • you’re feeling blue and depressed at your job

  • you feel like your friends got better jobs (heck, you want THEIR job!)
  • you think that you are absolutely not where you are supposed to be
    …and most of all

  • you think that quitting your job seems like the best idea in the world

…then my friend, you should think of me.

D’oh?!! Where’s my freakin’ hand?

Why? Because I’m an experimentalist. I don’t have much choice – if I don’t do my experiments, then I won’t have any data. If I don’t have any data, then I won’t have any proof of my work. If I don’t have proof of my work…uh, do you really want me to go on? πŸ˜› Anyway, how does it feel to be me? Well, here’s a glimpse into my everyday life at work:
Everyday, I face the following potential hazards in my work place:

  • Excimer laser – this the high-power laser I use for my experiments. It is classified as a Class IV laser, which, in simple terms, means that it is classified as the most hazardous laser one can handle. It emits UV radiation and can potentially damage the cornea of the eye with direct or scattered radiation. And, unlike what they make you believe in the movies, you can’t see the laser rays unless there is a scattering medium like dust or smoke. Protective eyewear must be worn at all times whenever operating the laser. Unless you want your eyeballs to be zapped or something.
  • Fluorine gas (F2) – one of the gas components needed for the excimer laser. I use this to fill up the excimer laser, once, sometimes twice a week. Want to know how dangerous it is?

    “Fluorine gas is corrosive to exposed tissues and to the upper and lower respiratory tracts. Fluorine penetrates deeply into body tissues and will continue to exert toxic effects unless neutralized. Workers should have 2.5% calcium gluconate gel on hand before work with fluorine begins.”
    More information here.
    I want to keep all my tissues intact, thank you very much.

  • X-rays – I’m sure you’re familiar with x-rays! And there’s a good reason why someone should not have their chests x-rayed for more than once a year! Uh, remember what happened to Madam Curie? Anyway, I use this on a regular basis to evaluate the films that I’ve grown. How dangerous are they?

    “Living organisms which are exposed to various doses of ionizing radiation, can be injured by such exposures and death may result from severe exposures. It is imperative that all operators of X-ray instruments be knowledgeable in their use in order to protect themselves from injury.” More about x-ray hazards here

  • Liquid nitrogen – this is liquefied nitrogen. The air we breathe is composed of about 70% nitrogen gas. Liquefy it, and you’ve got an extremely volatile liquid with temperature of about 77 K – this is 196 degrees Celsius BELOW zero! If you don’t have an idea of what this does, then perhaps you have watched Terminator 2? Remember the scene where T-1000 got frozen stiff from a cold blast from Ahnuld Schwarzenegger? What exactly happens when you get in contact with liquid nitrogen?

    Frostbite Hazard
    If a sufficient quantity of liquid nitrogen comes in contact with the body, a “cold burn” results. Small amounts will rapidly evaporate and will only provide a small sensation similar to a pin prick. The danger comes from larger quantities which do not evaporate quickly. Should a larger quantity come in contact with a person, the person should immediately take action to get away.”

    Liquid nitrogen rapidly evaporates giving nitrogen gas. Just one liter of liquid produces around 700 liters of gas at atmospheric pressure, displacing significant quantities of breathable air if the gas is released in a confined space such as a laboratory, cold room, or storage area. The problem is compounded by nitrogen’s tendency to accumulate at low levels where it is less easily dispersed than the ambient atmosphere. Even an apparently small spillage could lead to dangerously low oxygen levels, presenting a serious hazard to personnel working in the area.”
    Read more here.

    Hasta la vista, baby. Luckily for T-1000, he was built to withstand freezing temperatures and can rebuild himself after thawing (lol).

And if those are not enough, then there’s always the danger of getting electrical shock from high-voltage areas of various lab equipment, burns from furnaces operated at 1000 degrees Celsius or more, or acid burns from concentrated solutions of nitric acid.

Anyway, now you have a rough idea of my typical workday. Baggy, for his work, only has to sit in front of the PC all day long, write his computer programs in the sweet comfort of his office, take a coffee break every now and then…at times put up his feet on his desk whenever he feels like it…ugh…I should stop! Some people are soo fortunate to be doing jobs which do not require them to deal with any hazardous components or materials. But then again, I’m not as smart as he is; if I were, I’d probably have ended up as a theorist myself. I’m just a lowly brute confined to the benchwork. πŸ˜›

Now it’s YOUR turn to tell me about your type of work. Is it something you can or can’t do without? :)

A not-so-late disclaimer: I may have exaggerated a bit, for dramatic effect of course, in some of the things I’ve written above, it might give you the impression that I’m walking into a minefield everytime I work. It is not so! For the record, I am a very, very careful experimentalist, I take pains in reviewing every detail of my operation, and lastly, we are all required to follow safety guidelines in order to prevent accidents from happening. This is because the potential hazards described are very real and should not be taken lightly.

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33 Responses to All in a Day’s Work

  1. Gina says:

    Boy, am I glad I didn’t become a scientist! Well, my work is not as exciting or “scary” as yours, but try smiling or being really nice when you feel grumpy (& pms-ing) =) and there’s a rude and demanding customer who’s testing your patience.

  2. bw says:

    The stress that I’m going through is a little different I guess but it’s still stress :) It’s always the case of doing too many projects at the same time, too many last minute
    requirements by the businesses we support, problems due to stupid decisions by our users ( they basically are the reason why we exist). The buck stops with me
    and my boss makes sure it doesn’t overflow to him. It is not enough to have responsibility but the crap I have to go through with people who work for me is another thing that stresses me out. I could probably relieve my stress if I could strangle
    one of them :)

    Last Wed I had lunch with my former boss who I worked with about 12 years ago who emailed me that he needs to hire a consultant and if I know someone. He’s pretty senior in the consulting firm and I told him I’d find him one but he should also consider me :) Might be a step backward
    in my career but a major step forward in terms of enhancing the quality of my life :) Tough decision :(

  3. rhodora says:

    Kathy, I hope you’re insured! LOL!

    My work has both downsides and upsides. Downside: Puyat, overtime pag deadlines. Pag minamalas – death threats; Upside: Meeting people – all kinds, from all walks of life – from the top national leaders to the taho vendor. And also, lots of freebies especially when some new products are out in the market and the manufacturers call the press for promotion. Sometimes too – kung sinusuwerte – free travel. (I edit a community newspaper.)

  4. Egay says:

    When C.N. Yang visited Manila, I had the good fortune of being in the same room with him along with 4 other guys. There’s an anecdote that says Oppie used to measure scientists in terms of milli-Yangs, since he believed that most of them never quite measured up to earn a deci- or even a centi- of the great Chen Ning.

    Anyway, CN Yang told us this story he probably heard from his adviser, Fermi. Once when Mme. Curie was already an old geezer visiting the US , she threw a dinner for a small group of friends, which was actually sort of a who’s-who crowd. Suddenly the lights went out due to power outage. While they all scampered to get some candles or whatever, they were surprised to realize that there was some source of faint illumination in the room. When they all turned to look for this source, they saw Marie Curie’s hair glowing in the dark.

    So be careful, Kathy πŸ˜€

    Oh and yeah, I do deal with hazmats on a daily basis. After all, anything, even a pencil, is dangerous in the hands of a klutz.

  5. pining says:

    wow, very exciting (and dangerous at the same time) naman pala ang work mo :-)
    at the moment, I’m a full time mummy and I have to say it’s a very challenging job (if you can call it that) because every day is different from the previous– that’s the way I look at it anyway, sometimes I have to admit, it can be a tedious job, being a mum :-)

  6. kathy says:

    Sounds like a demanding job! I, on the other hand, am very glad I don’t have to deal with people in my type of work. I could be so impatient, indifferent, unresponsive to other people’s needs. I would make a very bad salesperson hehe. :)

  7. kathy says:

    Haha, dear bw, now I know why you blog! πŸ˜‰ Sounds like a very stressing job – but then again, you must be highly paid as well to be dealing with all of that! If that is true, palit tayo job, I want more moolah! :)

    I’ll go for enhancing one’s quality of life, given the choice. After all, there’s only one life to live. I’ve always considered that we should be the ones steering our careers, not the other way around.

    Good luck to you bw!

  8. kathy says:

    I am, thankfully, hehe.

    You got my attention with the “death threats”! Yikes. I’ll take my chances with the x-rays, lol. Seriously, it must be stressful work. When I was in elementary I thought I’d end up as a press person myself. Impluwensiya nong ako yung naging chief ed ng school organ. But in high school I finally realized that I wasn’t meant for journalism. :)

    Mmm, freebies and travel – now I realize what I’m missing, eh?

  9. kathy says:

    Interesting anecdote, Egay! (And I’m still trying to recover from the fact that you saw CN Yang personally – lucky guy!) Some people are simply caught up in the throes of their scientific ecstasies, that they tend to neglect personal safety and health. As for x-rays, we used to use chest film badges to detect the amount of radiation dose we get accidentally exposed to. About a few months ago, though, they took out our badges because they realized that the interlock systems of the x-ray machines are actually foolproof. :)

    “After all, even a pencil, is dangerous in the hands of a klutz.” – LOL! That’s so witty! You have learned well from my longnose pliers tutorials, Egay. *wink*

    Drop by or do blog more often, would really, really love to read more of those witty entries. :)

  10. kathy says:

    Pining, sometimes I ask myself whatever did I ever do to deserve this? πŸ˜› I meant it in a negative way, of course…hehe.

    A full-time mum IS a very tedious job, I completely agree! When I was caring for Aya during my maternity leave, I realized for myself how difficult the “job” is. Imagine, you’re responsible for another person’s life and survival…it’s one heck of a job, I’d say! :)

  11. dimaks says:

    wow, thats tough! the kind of aya’s experiments like the one you posted here would be enough for me I think.

  12. Abaniko says:

    Count yourself lucky. At least you’re dealing with sophisticated-sounding hazardous stuff and not office assholes. :)

  13. snglguy says:

    Everyday I deal with different people with different temperaments. And most of the time we never agree on how things should be done. Now if that doesn’t get you blood boiling, I don’t know what else will… :-)

  14. herb says:

    eh, di ba yung flourine sa ngipin?
    as for myself, i love my “work” though i think it’s more of a calling. i wish it’d just pay more… *sigh*

  15. kathy says:

    If only Aya’s type of experiments would pay enough to live on. +sigh+

  16. kathy says:

    Maybe I’m lucky! But on the downside, because I don’t really that have that much contact with people, I think I am getting socially dysfunctional. :(

  17. kathy says:

    Sounds like you are getting the same job-related stress like bw. πŸ˜›
    But I agree, a job dealing with people poses its own set of very challenging problems – dealing with mechanical/inanimate stuff would seem like a walk in the park.

  18. kathy says:

    Hey Herb, we missed you kanina! Hope you’re enjoying your trek. Will check out your blog for some juicy details. :)

    How many people could call their job their “calling”? :) That’s a very noble way of considering your job! But I guess, the satisfaction you derive from your work is infinitely worth much more than any moolah.

  19. Mon says:

    Even a scientist pala meron din angal sa trabaho. I feel a little better now :)

    Anyways atleast you have a chance to change the world as we know it. Who knows maybe one day you’ll come up with a technological find that will advance the human race forever.

    as for work, I design middleware applications for financial institutions. It would have sounded better if I can say that I am … sapatero by day nimja by night :)

  20. Belle says:

    Kathy, at least you don’t have to deal with strange and rude people. anyway, please be careful always.

    my job also has a downside being on the street most of the time. there is absolutely no tolerance for even a little mistake.

  21. Leah says:

    So Kathy, are your hands still intact?

    I work in front of the computer on a 12 hour shift for 3 or 4 days. Same old sha-bang for the last 4 or was it 5 years. Twas exciting and stressul in the beginning but has somehow lost its charm now. Might be switching jobs soon.

    btw, congrats on your nomination.

  22. Gina says:

    Kathy, pa-try lang to leave comment dito ha. I tried to leave comment sa blogs of my other blogfriends, they wouldn’t take. so testing,testing here…
    Have a nice weekend ahead..

  23. Sonnie says:

    So the caring mama and sweet wife is an experimentalist? I can’t find the connection of your work with your passion on blogging… he he he.

    Well don’t ask for my work because am into a lot of stress as for managing the human capital. What is our typical stress?

    For starters, I receive anonymous text threatening my safety.

    We have to contend with employee attitudes, balancing their right for security of tenure against the prerogative of management to be productive and get rid of dead woods and pasaways.

    We have to keep the morale of the employee high inspite and despite of the economic facters affecting them, even though it is the govt’s own doing.

    Sometimes, I can’t help to bring office issues at home and discuss things with my wife…

  24. kathy says:

    Talagang ninja at heart ka ha! San nanggaling yung sapatero? Di ko pa ata nababasa yun sa blog mo ah? πŸ˜›

    Seriously, thanks for the encouraging words. I guess, what I am trying to convey here is that when one thinks of a scientist, one usually regards the position as something prestigious, intellectually demanding, maybe even out of this world because it deals with many stuffs that are not commonly experienced by people. The flip side of the coin is that there are many risks involved, and these are the elements we have to contend with on a daily basis. One wrong move and disaster happens. So yes, it could be very, very stressful and nerve-wracking at times.

  25. kathy says:

    Hi Belle, I guess for every kind of job there is an upside and a downside. Thanks, I will always be careful! :)

    Sounds like your job could be quite stressful! I won’t even dare ask for the consequences of any mistake.

  26. kathy says:

    My hands have not mutated yet, the last time I checked. πŸ˜‰

    My husband almost has the same work as you – he faces the computer all day long! Hey, here’s wishing you luck on your plan to switch jobs!

    Yes, nominated nga, hehe. Thanks. :) But I’m not really sure that I deserve it.

  27. kathy says:

    Hey Gina! I was about to ask, to what do I owe the honor of your second comment? :) Nyeh! Akala ko kung ano na hehe.

    Anyway, successful naman dito! I hope your comments have gotten through other blogs by now.

  28. kathy says:

    You’re absolutely right! I can’t find the connection myself. :) But it is really a nice diversion from work-related matters. It helps me unwind, really!

    At least, even though I deal with potential hazards, I know full well what I am up against. I am aghast to learn about the anonymous texts you get. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how stressful that could be. I think my sis has the same job as you do, she’s also full of complaints about the people she has to deal with. Her complaints spill over to me through our internet chats, haha, in much the same way that you take your office issues home to your wife. :)

    Anyway, do be careful, Sonnie! Godspeed!

  29. hazel says:

    hmmm…hirap ng work mo ah…buti na lang di ako scientist!

    i am a client service executive in an advertising agency. It has its ups and downs but overall its fun! We do communication plan (isip, research, sulat, present, revise, revise and revise then approve!), coordinate and attend shoots, do budgets, meet celebritites and travel for free – thats the fun side. well sa kabilang banda, there’s the tight deadlines (sometimes so tight we have to learn to make miracles!), gabundok na workloads, long hours of work,madaming meeting and the list goes on…

    but life is not perfect so i just have to deal with it and the most of the fun side!

  30. Mon says:

    Yup – more reason for you to keep a clear head each time you go to work. As I have said sa post mo sa kabila, Aya and Baggy are your primary reasons to make it through the day.

    Kung ako yan, matagal ng sumabog ang mga kasama ko sa work. hehehehe siempre ako bida kaya sila lang sasabog and I will always make it out unharm. You want to barrow my agimat?

  31. mitsuru says:

    your work must really be exciting and challenging, huh?

    I used to work in the lab dissecting human and animal parts atbp. he-he.

    x-rays or those being used in the medical field nowadays are not that powerful radiation wise compared before. it is far safer now than nung panahon ng mga lolo natin or ni marie curie. :)

  32. kathy says:

    Whoa…”client service executive” sounds like a BIG job with BIG responsibilities. But I really like your attitude towards your work – I guess there are always good and bad sides to anything, and it is just a matter of perspective on which side we would rather focus our attention on.

    Hope you will continue to have fun in your work, Hazel! :)

  33. kathy says:

    What type of work do you do nowadays, Mitsuru san? :)

    Me, I had long shunned the possibility of taking up any medical-related field. I would much rather deal with inanimate things than human or animal parts. :)

    You’re right, of course. :) I think maliit na lang yung radiation dose na nakukuha sa mga diagnostic xrays nowadays.

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