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Dirtiest Jobs in Science 120

ExE122 writes "CNN and CareerBuilder have posted a listing of the top 10 dirtiest jobs in science. 'Whether they are sifting through reeking mud banks to find cures for contamination, or sorting stool samples to get to the bottom of our bathroom dilemmas, these are some of the science jobs that sacrifice their time, energy and comfort for the greater global good.' Sounds like a job opportunity for Mike Rowe!" From the article: "Hot-zone Superintendent - What they do: Perform maintenance work for bio-safety labs that study lethal airborne pathogens, for which there is no known cure. Their work enables scientists to study the nature of disease-causing organisms, such as anthrax."
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Dirtiest Jobs in Science

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  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @03:49PM (#16614250)
    Cleaning up Stephen Hawking after "Chili Tuesday" has had time to work its magic!
    • by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow,wrought&gmail,com> on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:08PM (#16614550) Homepage Journal
      "What about me?"

      -Schroedinger's Cat

    • by s20451 ( 410424 )
      I'm thinking the IT profession has a dirty job.

      I did grad school in a place where there was not an enormous amount of money to go around, so computers would generally get passed from graduating students to new students.

      One of the grossest experiences of my grad school career was to take posession of one of these "hand-me-down" computers. You cannot imagine the grunge that came out of the keyboard. Crumbs, hairs, dandruff, even fucking fingernail clippings! Not to mention that gross skin-oil film on all t
      • by theGil ( 1010409 )
        I worked as an IT guy for 3 years awhile back...I found some of the nastiest stuff in/on people's machines...spiders' nests, beehives, horrible grime (especially the tar from would not believe how hard that sh** is to get off your fingers)...we even had one computer a customer's child had pissed in (she couldn't figure out why it didn't work anymore) :-(
      • by hotdiggitydawg ( 881316 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @05:01PM (#16615338)
        Ewww poor baby </sarcasm>

        Quit whinging. My first work experience was six months of grinding uranium ore. By hand. With a mortar and pestle. And the "protective gear" they gave us? A t-shirt and shorts. And I'm not kidding.

        Everyone's gotta spend some time at the bottom of the heap.
        • by ozbird ( 127571 )
          Quit whinging. My first work experience was six months of grinding uranium ore. By hand. With a mortar and pestle.

          Luxury. We had to grind uranium ore in our teeth!
          • by Dabido ( 802599 )
            'Quit whinging. My first work experience was six months of grinding uranium ore. By hand. With a mortar and pestle.

            Luxury. We had to grind uranium ore in our teeth!'

            Luxury that is! Pure Luxury!
            When I wa' a lad, we'd 'ave to grind the uranium ore with our own teeth, then when we died from radiation poisoning we'd 'ave to dig our own hole and bury ourselves in it. You tell that to a kid now-a-days, and they won't believe it!
        • by iq in binary ( 305246 ) <[iq_in_binary] [at] []> on Saturday October 28, 2006 @02:34AM (#16620084) Homepage
          He's not kidding, dude.

          I know, here in Colorado with the Arsenal Reclamation Project, they're cleaning up shavings from machinists having worked depleted uranium..........with a lathe..........wearing regular 'ol shop clothes. I've worked depleted Uranium with machine tools myself, not too entirely dangerous as long as you take precautions to prevent skin contact and inhalation.
  • I don't think I need to know what or who is Semen Washer...
    • Actually that job is probably the cleanest of the list. There's no horrible smell and there's no touching of anything vile.
      1) Pipette drop of fluid onto slide.
      2) Look at slide.
      3) Count sperm.
      4) Put a tube into a centrifuge.
      5) Pipette out water.
      6) Put tube into the freezer.

      Where does the dirty part come into play?
      • by krell ( 896769 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:07PM (#16614536) Journal
        "Where does the dirty part come into play?"

        That's how you have to talk to the guy during the step 0) obtaining of sample.
        • Randal Graves: Have you ever wondered how much the average jizz-mopper makes per hour?
          Dante Hicks: What's a jizz-mopper?
          Randal Graves: He's the guy that cleans up the nudie booth after each guy jerks off.
          Dante Hicks: Could we not talk about this right now?
          Randal Graves: The jizz-mopper's job is to clean off the glass after each guy shoots a load. I don't know if you noticed, but cum leaves streaks if you don't clean it right away.
        • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:55PM (#16615230)

          ...obtaining of sample

          Reminds me of a visit to a medical lab.

          I was mildly embarrassed to be dropping off a urine sample for a 24 hour calcium test, which is a *huge* jug of piss collected over 24 hours.

          Some other guy was trying to hand off a 'sample' to one of the lab techs.
          She said very loudly (for all to hear): "I can't take your semen.
          Semen samples can only be accepted between (some time range) on (some specific days)."

          I thought they had more discrete ways of handling samples like that. It sure made me feel less awkward.

          • I had to take one of those "collect your urine for 24 hours" tests once. I'd thought that it was testing for traces of something so they needed a big sample. It turns out I was wrong. They're actually testing for a number of waste products that are produced at different times of day.
            • Actually they only need a few mL of liquid, but they need to measure your total daily output so they can multiply the values from the amount tested by the total volume collected - i.e., if your urine calcium value is 3 mg/dL, they need to multiply that by your total daily void to determine exactly how much calcium you output.
              • That's if you're taking a calcium test. In my case they were testing for a number of things and needed a full day's output to find them all.
          • She said very loudly (for all to hear): "I can't take your semen."

            My romantic come-on lines have often been creatively and directly rebuffed but never quite like that.
          • After my vasectomy I had to drop off samples twice to make sure the pipes were clean. I figured there were two ways of handling this: 1) to be totally embarassed and full of dread, or 2) not give a flying burrito and non-chalantly stride in with my jar full of jelly and tell the nurse "Crikey, I'm here to drop off some semen." I chose the second one - it was lots of fun.

            No. I don't know why I went Austrailian there for a minute.
      • Actually that job is probably the cleanest of the list. There's no horrible smell and there's no touching of anything vile.
        1) Pipette drop of fluid onto slide.
        Mouth Pipette!?!
    • by Ajehals ( 947354 )

      Semen Washer

      What they do: Take semen samples under microscopic observation to study their sperm count, then spin, separate, add preservatives and freeze the samples for in vitro fertilization.

      Although how that is massively more dirty than any other job that involves looking at cells under a microscope beats me.
    • It's called a snowball
  • Corpse-Flower Grower (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @03:53PM (#16614308) Journal
    I don't know if being a Corpse-Flower Grower is exactly as bad as a Semen Washer or Orangutan-Pee Collector. So the thing stinks and smells like dead flesh, wear a mask. Working in a diaper service washing area would smell just as bad, but those people don't get an article.
    • The Semen washer doesn't sound like a bad job either- You aren't exposed to toxins during the course of your work, all you have is social stigma. The other job that isn't that bad (from personal experience) is corpse cleaner. We used Carrion Beetles (this was at a Zoo, the Beetles were an exhibit) to clean the corpses for us- basically we just placed the corpse in a beetle tank, the Beetles would clear the flesh off the corpse in days, and then we could take the skeleton if we wanted it. It's not for the
    • by vandon ( 233276 )
      I don't know if being a Corpse-Flower Grower is exactly as bad as a Semen Washer or Orangutan-Pee Collector.
      At least you're not an Orangutan Semen collector that works in a Corpse-Flower forest.
    • Agreed; they're mostly going for extreme sounding things, not after how "yucky" things can be. There are plenty of regular jobs that doesn't sound too fun to me, just take a doctor doing prostate exams on random middle-aged men for example.
    • by jc42 ( 318812 )
      Actually, the "corpse flower" (Amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum) usually just smells like a green plant. The dead-meat smell appears only during its bloom, which typically happens once a decade or so, and lasts less than a day.

      So other than the overpowering stench on the day it blooms, the rest of the time it's just another hothouse plant.

      If you want to cultivate a plant with an extensive stinky blooming period, there are some smaller arums that bloom repeatedly for months on end. But they usually ha
  • Volcanologist? (Score:3, Informative)

    by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @03:56PM (#16614354) Journal
    I'm not sure volcanologists really fit in this list. Most of their work these days is done through remote sensing (at least for volcanoes prone to explosive eruptions). Still dangerous to set up and service equipment, but I'm sure there are lots of more dangerous jobs around. And there really isn't that much dirt involved (ash, maybe - but it's good clean ash).
    • by Poltras ( 680608 )
      it's good clean ash

      You don't clean sulfuric ashtrays everyday, do you?

      • by krell ( 896769 )
        "You don't clean sulfuric ashtrays everyday, do you?"

        I see we have at least one guy here who has never held down a gig as the devil's butler! Sheesh!
    • by parkrrrr ( 30782 )
      You mean that bit about having to fight their way through fogs of rocks and debris was just bad grammar?
  • Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lurker2288 ( 995635 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @03:57PM (#16614366)
    I knew a girl in high school who wanted to work as a hot zone researcher; last I heard, she was applying to law schools. I'm not sure which profession involves more noxious material.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sorry I missed the word "zone" while reading.
    • by bcmm ( 768152 )
      You knew a girl? You must be new here...
  • Not science jobs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) * on Friday October 27, 2006 @03:57PM (#16614374)

    Many of these are not science jobs. And the ones that are, well, the dirty grunt work would be assigned to a technician. Or by grad students.

    Mut be a slow news day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 )
      It doesn't equate technicians with scientists. It just says that they are "jobs in science", i.e., a job whose effort is directed to a scientific end. The point is, these are things that need to be done to gain scientific knowledge.

      • One, technicians are usually trained scientists, they may not have done post graduate work, but being a scientist is about how the person thinks and approaches problems, not what the degree says. Two, yes, I have done one of those jobs on the list, both as a grad student and after completing my Ph.D. If you want a properly prepared skeleton, you often have to clean the corpse yourself. A couple of the nasty parts of my job related to that were salvaging road kill for potential specimens for teaching and
    • by i_should_be_working ( 720372 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:11PM (#16614580)
      the dirty grunt work would be assigned to a technician. Or by grad students.

      Which brings us to the real dirtiest job in science: being a grad student. It doesn't matter what crap jobs the scientists in the article have, it's still better than indentured servitude.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Weedhopper ( 168515 )
      Depends where you are. I'm an engineer and an epidemiologist. I work in and around IDP/refugee camps in developing countries and conflict areas. I do a lot of things, but I'm usually a water and sanitation guy, either building the system, investigating an outbreak or once I've figured it out, trying to stop it and stop it from happening again.

      Having a tech do it is great, but when you're the only guy around who remotely knows what he's doing, you're down in that pit latrine yourself.

      Whether I'm wearing
  • 1) Coprophagologist
  • And this is Dirty Jobs.....of science. Tonight on discovery channel
  • poo sifter (Score:3, Informative)

    by jgercken ( 314042 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:03PM (#16614490)
    In college I did some research at the USEPA in Cincinnati on Cryptosporidium Parvum, a waterborne pathogen that causes tremendous diarrhea. The only way to grow them is in the gut of a neonatal animal (or human). We opted for mice and calves and this poor guy did nothing but scoop up cow poo and separate out the oocysts. For mice they would "homogenize" then separate the entire intestinal tract. What was really weird for me was that I would occasionally go and pick up a small 5ml vial that represented about a month of poo duty.
  • Dead Body Farm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rjdegraaf ( 712353 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:04PM (#16614502)
    I ones saw a documentary on a forensic anthropology study how corpses evolve in environments like 'under 10cm leafes', 'in a trunk', etc. The study was for forensic investigations very important. Very sick job, but very important. []

    • by Ana10g ( 966013 )
      Actually, studying the decay rates and byproducts of human (and non-hunam, for that matter) decay is pretty important. Such that several universities have body farms (much to the chaugrin of the towns in which they are located).
  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:05PM (#16614512) Journal
    "I want you to study T'Pol in depth and at at length and have a report on my desk by next Tuesday. Hopefully, there will be some hot eruptions."
  • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:11PM (#16614592)
    ...Freshman Dorm Custodian?

    • Covered under "Hot-zone Superintendent", I'd think... between piles of unwashed socks, three slices of formerly cheese pizza under the bed and various... erm, deposits of alcohol laden half digested nachos in the bathroom and you've got oodles of biohazards.

      In addition, you have to deal with freshmen.
    • by eric76 ( 679787 )

      Ever heard of the Hotard Janitor []?

    • I had that job, 2 years. It's fucking college, you'd think they'd know how to use a trash can. I once removed a used condom from the floor (which I did with a dustpan, which later got bleached.) I probably should have bitched to the RD, but oh well.

      Still though, not as bad as bailing hay, laying insulation, or sanding drywall on the ceiling...
  • by nycsubway ( 79012 )
    It's usually the research assistants that actually do these jobs, not the scientists.
  • by El_Smack ( 267329 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:33PM (#16614906)
    According to ...err... documentaries I've seen, some portion of the female population doesn't seem to mind semen in/on/around them.
    • That may be, but being a box of Kleenex tissues sitting in your home would be infinitely dirtier. Sorry d00d, but you opened your self up for that one.
    • by mrbooze ( 49713 )
      The Semen Washer listing doesn't make sense at all. Oh no, the job involves handling test tubes with semen in them and processing it through machinery! What the hell is dirty about that? And how is it any "dirtier" than doing the same thing with blood or urine?

      The volunteer that cleans the dog kennels at the animal shelter has a dirtier job than that!
  • having to do what my boss asks me to even though it might be unethical... that, indeed, is the dirtiest job in science...
  • Having a seriously impaired sense of smell I would like to know. At least dealing with botanical specimens they wouldn't talk back and give you a load of crap in any other way.
  • Which explains why Semen Washer is on the list. I'd hate to be her husband.
    Me: Yes Yes Yes!!
    Candace: Auughh!! Get it off, GET IT OFF!!
  • #1 moderating slashdot
  • .. it picked up on the word "dirty" in the headline and told me:
    Under the current [company name deleted] Information Technology Risk standards, a request for jobs/index.html [] is indicative of malicious activity. For more information regarding coporate [sic] policy, please refer to the following:

    Or maybe it was the word "careers" that tipped it off.

  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:58PM (#16615280) Journal
    ...gynaecologist. You have to spend all day looking at the parts of women that they pee out from. What could be more disgusting? I can't imagine what they must pay those people.
    • by KokorHekkus ( 986906 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @05:09PM (#16615454)
      ...gynaecologist. You have to spend all day looking at the parts of women that they pee out from. What could be more disgusting? I can't imagine what they must pay those people.
      How about being a proctologist?
    • Again, missing the "scientist" thing. Studying science in college does not make one a scientist.

      Practicing doctors like the ones you suggest aren't real scientists. They don't discover new medicines and procedures. They merely use science others develop (which includes some, but not all the practicing MDs). You wouldn't call people who install networking equipment for a living "engineers", would you?
    • First of all, think about why the women bother. Many of them are diseased. Eeeeew. There's yeast, herpes, warts, and so on. Smelly discharges come in so many different colors!

      Most of the women will be kind of ugly. (fat, old, etc.)

      Suppose you do get a pretty one that isn't already dripping with semen. You can't let on that you notice, because you might get sued.

      Then at the end of the day, you go home. Your wife wants to have some fun in bed with you. Your reaction: not another! I mean, it's like taking work
    • by vishbar ( 862440 )
      Well, you pretty much summarized the Saturday of your average Slashdot reader :-P.
  • orangutang pee collector and corpse flower grower involve organisms that both originate on sumatra
  • From the description you can infer they basically play Doom 3 for a living, sans the zombies.
  • But only the Epsilon get those jobs. I'm happy to be a Beta. I'm glad I'm not an Alpha.
  • For those of you not acquainted with the Mike Rowe in the article, try watching his "Dirty Jobs" show for a while. You'll see the worst of these and more ... it may be a bad sign that my eight-year-old daughter is addicted to this show. It really only bothers me when he's "stimulating" a horse or such, but hey, my parents, grandparents grew up on farms. I mostly view it as the "go to college or else" show on TV.

    Manure Inspector
    I challenge anyone to find an episode without manure in it. Manure, or "
  • Here we go (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Arwing ( 951573 )
    George Bush science advisor? Science consultant for Fox News? Science teacher for Kansas?
  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @05:21PM (#16615652) Journal
    In our chemistry department, we had a lot of controls on exposure to chemicals: hoods, materials handling procedures, that kind of stuff. The prof who did tin chemistry, and almost all his grad students, had gray hair: a sign of tin poisoning.

    I worked in the microbiology department, in a pathogen lab, doing research on mycobacteria, specifically tuberculosis. Every semester we had to get tested for antibodies to TB (indicating that we'd been exposed) and every semester at least one researcher had.

    My best friend works as a clinical technician in a lab doing human tissue sample analysis. Pathology lab, basically. About a week ago they had a patient that was *really* sick with a bunch of nasty things, and they were working through samples, and one of my friend's coworkers started screaming because one of the stool samples *moved*. The patient had serious tapeworms, among other problems.

    We're thinking about going back to school and becoming art critics.
  • The dirtiest jobs have got to be the politicians that fund (or don't fund) it.
  • by quixote9 ( 999874 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:53PM (#16618136) Homepage
    The examples they mention are nothing. You have to gown up to work in the pathogen lab, which is inconvenient and annoying, but otherwise there's nothing to it. Dealing with stool samples, likewise. By the time the pathogist gets it, the sample is in buffer and doesn't even smell. (Well, not much.) No, the dirtiest job I've seen in science is extracting fossils from the tar goo at the La Brea tar pits. The fossil work is in digs below ground level. The tar pits are exactly that. It's not just some cute marketing name. Tar fumes are heavier than air. So the idealistic scientists are down there in what amounts to a huge bucket of tar, getting covered in black goo, and breathing chokingly horrible carcinogenic fumes. That's what I call a dirty job.
  • by Frankenbuffer ( 883657 ) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:04PM (#16618232)
    When I worked for a hydrographic company as a young physics student many years ago, one of my assignments was to run a series of sonar scans of the sewage outfall lagoon of a large city on Lake Ontario. I did the runs in a small inflatable Zodiac with an outboard motor. Fortunately I was given a survival suit, although if I'd fallen into that water, I would've preferred to die right away. Besides the usual turds and toilet paper floating around, there were the occasional rotting animal corpses and some of the maintenance workers said they often cleaned aborted fetuses out of the filtration screens. On the shores of the lagoon were washed up tens of thousands of plastic tampon inserters, all in pastel pinks and blues. the maintenance workers called them "beach whistles". Absolutely nothing grew near the lagoon, and one day we noticed that thousands of sea gulls--those hardy beasts!--had died after they poked around the dirt turned over by a bulldozer. Scary stuff.

    Anyway, after a few survey runs the outboard motor stalled right when I was in the middle of a large section of open water. I hoisted the prop out of the water and saw that it was completely wound up in dozens of used condoms that had got past the filtration screens. I had to free the prop using my Swiss Army knife. (I later threw away the knife.)

    The scariest thing was what I noticed the next morning. The day before, I'd dripped some of the lagoon water on the jeans that I was wearing under my survival suit. Overnight, the liquid had actually burned holes right through the fabric of my jeans, as if mice had gnawed them. I was totally freaked by that and since then I've always wondered what effect the noxious chemicals I probably absorbed that day will have on my long-term health.
  • My girlfriend is a colorectal surgeon. Hi honey ! What are you cooking us for dinner tonight ?!

Put no trust in cryptic comments.