• Question: Is it fun working with lasers ?

    Asked by G to Natalie on 10 Nov 2015.
    • Photo: Natalie Garrett

      Natalie Garrett answered on 10 Nov 2015:

      That is an interesting question, really. I read an article this morning that said that scientists don’t tend to describe their work as “fun” as they get more experienced, and the article said that science communicators shouldn’t say science is fun because it will give people the wrong idea about working in science. Here’s the article if you want to read it yourself: https://uwescicomm.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/science-communicators-need-to-get-it-science-isnt-fun/

      But you know what? I think that article is just not true. It IS fun to work with lasers. How could it not be?

      To begin with, the laser laboratory I work in cost over a million pounds to set up. This is super expensive, cutting-edge technology. Anyone who works with high-tech stuff and doesn’t feel a sense of childlike glee when they get to use it is probably in the wrong job, in my opinion.

      Secondly, not many people in the world actually do what I do. Every day I go in the lab and do something that NOBODY HAS EVER DONE BEFORE! It’s like being a pioneer, exploring new frontiers (and yes, I do watch Star Trek…) Of course that’s fun to do!

      Thirdly, the work I do is going to help people in the real world. Not only is the work interesting, but one day my efforts will have helped develop new drugs to treat brain diseases. This makes my days at work very rewarding.

      I do think it’s fair to also add that it can be immensely frustrating to work with lasers. Sometimes they just don’t work, no matter what you try, and you are left feeling annoyed, like you wasted your day and you can’t get the important work done. There have been times when I’ve had to work all through the night, only to have the computer crash and lose all my data. These are things that science sometimes throws at you, and you just have to sigh, shrug your shoulders, and move on to the next thing. The reason I keep coming to work even after terrible days when nothing’s worked is this: it is still fun!