Fart collecting and testicle mashing: The grossest jobs in science

Illustration for article titled Fart collecting and testicle mashing: The grossest jobs in science

Considering a career in science? You know, all those clean labs and shiny white coats? Well consider this: A lot of science jobs are more disgusting than all the Saw movies put together. We round up seven of the grossest.


Beetle testicle crusher
Do the size of your balls help you find a mate? To answer this burning question, a group of researchers in Japan set out to study whether big-balled beetles scored more with the ladies than small-balled beetles. To do this, I'm afraid, they sacrificed a lot of beetle balls. And to measure their size and volume, they had to grind up their little sacs and measure the volume of each one. The good news is that you don't need big balls to enjoy reproductive success in the beetle world. The bad news is that there are some really sad beetles limping around the lab right now.

Corpse grinder
Sometimes forensic scientists have to analyze corpses after they've been buried. In cases where they are trying to identify the person buried, or do toxicology studies (to see if the person may have been poisoned, for example), they need to get samples of the dead person's DNA. So they exhume the body, take chunks of bone or tissue, grind it up, filter out the DNA, and sequence as much of it as they need to for their research. It's just like that famous cult movie Corpse Grinders, except without the cat food thing.

Whale snot collector
One of this year's IgNobel Prizes for weird science went to three biologists who spent so much time collecting whale snot (to study disease patterns) that they actually invented a special remote-controlled helicopter to scoop up the goo for them. Not only do these brave researchers spend their days sifting through giant whale boogers, but now they have a robot slave to help out. Extra points for evil minionage!


Many studies have been done on the microbes that live in animal guts, from mice to humans. Before scientists get to play around with their fancy DNA sequencers, somebody has to collect what once research team delicately referred to as "freshly voided fecal matter." And then they have to put that steaming poop into a special solution and shake it up. That's right - in labs all over the world, there are genomics and proteomics researchers who are shaking up giant bottles full of poop.

Bacteria chaser
Although bacteria may be the most awesomely adaptable creatures on the planet, they aren't exactly easy on the nose. In fact, scientists who study extremophiles - microbes that live in highly acidic areas, or in regions of intense heat or cold - often have to gather their samples in areas that smell hideous and are intensely hot. It's a stinky job, but somebody has to do it.


Fart statistician
How do you know when you fart too much? Because gastroenterologists have studied human fart production, figured out what the average number of daily farts should be, and determined that levels above that might indicate a medical problem. All hail the fart counters, who are keeping our gastrointestinal tracts healthy. And because I know you want to know: The mean number of farts in humans is "13.6 episodes per day," according to one expert.

Drunken hookup data analyst
Is it true that people look more attractive after you've tossed back a couple of drinks? To find out, a group of long-suffering researchers had to ask drunk people in bars who they would hit. These social scientists endured the real-life version of reading comment threads on YouTube, and discovered - not surprisingly - that people get more attractive the more obnoxiously wasted you get.



Dr Emilio Lizardo

When I was in college, I got research credit for synthesizing PCP. We linked it to a flourescent ligand so that when it was poured down a column of pureed rat brains the receptor site for PCP could be found.

I know - synthesizing schedule one narcotics is a cool job, not a gross one. By a coincidence, my buddy had a summer job guillotining the rats, then extracting and pureeing the brains to make the columns.