Many (used to) ask me what I do for a living. I used to be a toxicologist by education and training before I decided to experiment a little and join grad school. Now being a toxicologist is not an easy job. First, you need to deal with a deep and profound understanding of the nature of cells and toxins and the way either interact to cause cellular injury. Then you have to deal with the knowledge that most people around you are not going to understand beans about what you do for a living.
Not that I am offended or am hurt, but it is interesting to observe consistent behavioral patterns amongst people who are told I am a toxicologist.
A tox what?
Understandable, given that we mostly hear of doctors who operate, computer engineers who code (yes that’s as much I understand of comp engineers as they understand of my field), architects who design and build, and so on. Managers. Singers. Interior designers. Journalists. Those are the words we have grown up hearing.
But definitely not a toxicologist.
The situation is different when I am hanging out with my colleagues and professors and professional peers. I am the one then, groping to understand the stuff they do, the big words they throw at me.
I’ve of course had hilarious responses from people.
So do you examine snake venom?
So is global warming going to destroy the world?
So do you design toxins?
I enjoy the responses and the blank looks I get most of the time. No matter how mundane a job I do for a living, I can always make the word look fancy and give a bunch of ideas that makes people think I do something cool.
Forensic science? Criminal investigation? An Erin Brockovich in the making?
Anyway, I am glad that I do something that isn’t understood by many. That way, the toxicologist can finally talk.