My Name is Jennifer

Jennifer was groped by a safety officer who was supposed to be inspecting her work station. Her expertise was subsequently ignored by her male colleagues, to the detriment of their science. Jennifer provided the above photo.

My Worst Moment: How to choose a singular ‘worst’ moment? Hmm, I’ll focus on my experiences as a postdoc. I have a PhD in biophysics and Biochemistry, and my focus was on instrumentation (i.e. building new tools with which to examine biological systems), and I was hired to do a postdoc in single molecule spectroscopy. I was working on building a single molecule flow cytometer to facilitate early leukemia diagnoses. This required me to spend most of my time in the laser lab, at my laser table. A laser table is surrounded by thick rubber curtains to keep any stray beams from escaping. When you use the laser, you turn on a red light that tells others not to come in. At the time I worked there, the lab had just come back from a full shutdown due to safety reasons, and so safety was a big deal. Whenever we changed our laser setup, we had to get approval from the Laser Safety Officer to restart experiments. I went to get such approval one day, and the LSO and I went into my enclosure and turned the red light on. However, instead of inspecting my laser setup, the LSO decided to inspect MY setup with his hands on my breasts. Now, normally, I would have beaten a dude that tried it to a bloody pulp, but the lab had a strict ‘zero violence in the workplace’ rule, and I had small children at the time, so I didn’t rip his dick off and feed it to him. Instead, I reported the incident to my manager. The LSO claimed we were dating, so it was okay (we were not dating, we weren’t even friends), and my boss did nothing. Unsurprisingly, three months later, a paper was published, in which my boss and the LSO were co-authors, so my being groped in my workplace by a superior took a back seat to his publication. 

There was also the time my male colleagues on a project involving antibodies were complaining about their fluorescent label blinking during experiments. They decided that adding a fairly high concentration of an incredibly strong reducing agent would fix this. When I, the ONLY one in the group with ANY experience working with biological molecules, pointed out that antibodies were held together by disulfide bonds, and thus, the reducing agent would destroy their sample, they acted like I was an idiot. SIX MONTHS OF TAXPAYER-FUNDED SALARY FOR TWO RESEARCHERS LATER (approximately $48K of taxpayer money), they sat in lab meeting and announced that the reducing agent had destroyed their sample.

I Have Given Up On: Working in scientific research.

I’m Afraid: If we leave these idiot men in charge, we’ll never advance scientifically. 

This Has Cost Me: $770K in lost wages as a researcher.

Is There a Bright Side: No there is no bright side to going into student debt to the tune of $100K only to have your career ended because you picked biophysics instead of something more ‘girly’ like cancer research.