Unexpected scientific jobs

We are all aware of the stereotypical female scientist: White lab coat, glasses, holding a test-tube of some mysterious substance (think Amy Farrah Fowler from the Big Bang Theory). So, outside of the laboratory, what are female scientists up to these days? Well, here are a few examples of the interesting, and somewhat unexpected jobs they are doing!


It may sound futuristic or out of a sci-fi movie, but robotics is a growing field and fascinating things are happening in it.

Take Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, for example. She is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder and director of the Personal Robots Group. This group conducts research that “advances the state-of-the-art in socially intelligent robot partners that interact with humans to promote social and intellectual benefits, work alongside with humans as peers, learn from people as apprentices, and foster more engaging interaction between people.”

This field of research combines computer sciences, engineering and cognitive sciences and is particularly interesting because of its potentially limitless possibilities, and the strong impact it could have on education, health, and communication, among many others.

Food scientist

Yup, this is a job! Food scientists can hold various positions, finding natural substitutes to harmful food additives or preservatives, assuring the most effective packaging for a certain type of product, and insuring the quality of foods produced in processing plants.

Sophie Deterre, food scientist and co-founder of the coffee company Afineur, previously worked on the perfect bitter orange aroma for Grand Marnier. Now, she is working to mimic civet coffee, just without the civet. Never heard of this luxury beverage? It runs for about $80 a cup, and uses coffee beans that have travelled through the digestive system of a civet (a mammal native to Southeast Asia). However, this coffee has become controversial, due to the poor treatment of the animals used to produce the drink.

So, Deterre and her business partner Camille Delebecque have set out to develop a fermentation process inspired by civet coffee, but without the animal abuse. As their website states,

We developed a natural and controlled fermentations process to craft exceptional coffees and unlock new flavor landscapes. The resulting cup has a unique complexity and doesn’t come with the price tag or the ecological impact of force-fed farmed civets.

Documentary editor

Many scientists are turning to film in order to change perspectives and communicate on the topics that they are passionate about.

Lara Andre works as a video editor and producer for the Discovery Channel, putting together documentaries about topics like What is fear?: what triggers it, what the brain does when we are scared and how animals (and humans!) react to it. She looks at biological and chemical explanations (did you know sharks are afraid of dead sharks, for example?) and then puts together all these elements into a cohesive and interesting story, layering images with audio and sound effects.

Ecologist and photographer Clare Fieseler has put together a portrait series “Outnumbered” which challenges “monochrome preconceptions of women scientists.” She has chosen this medium to show the true face of women scientists, from a “touch-as-nails swamp biologist” to a “tattooed nanochemist who cycles competitively”.

Of course, this is only a small sample of the creative jobs that scientists these days are participating in. What other jobs come to mind? 

Let us know at @4womeninscience.

For Women in Science

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