- 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.
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? 😛 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?
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. 😛
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.