By Jennifer Rohn, The Biochemical Society, April Issue

All single scientists have probably experienced that crucial turning point at a cocktail party: the moment your attractive and intrigued conversational partner asks, “So, what do you do?”

There are a number of ways to respond to this simple question.

-You could go for the matter-of-fact approach (“I’m a biochemist“)

-Or risk the pedagogical version (“I’m a biochemist- I’m trying to work out how cells pass along chemical messages in response to environmental cues“)

-You could ply the saintly angle (“I’m curing cancer“)

-Or obfuscate (“I’m working in the healthcare sector“)

-You could be evasive (“I’m in scientific research, but enough about me- your law firm sounds fascinating!“)

-Or LET’S FACE IT, you could just lie, and come clean after the second date once you are firmly ensconed in their affections.

Because stading in the shadow of all 21st century scientists, poised to step between you and that beautiful new acquaintance, is a persistent and perfidious avatar: THE MAD SCIENTIST. You all know what he looks like: messy hair, thick glasses, wild eyes and a white coat. And you all know what he does: maniacal laghter, Van de Graaff generation, meddling with things ‘man was not meant to know”.

In addition to, or overlapping with, the mad-scientist images are other persistent and equally unflattering stereotypes that might superimpose themselves between you and that cocktail party date: pocket protectors, beards and sandals, bad teeth, poor personal hygiene, semi-autistic, no sex: in more recent years, SCIENTISTS HAVE MORPHED INTO HOPELESS NERDS.

Can we admit, quietly to ourselves that some scientists actually are nerds, or maybe a little mad?

“I think of physicists as almost autistic non-verbal weirdos, PREDESTINED to become scientists. Not all scientists necessarily, MAYBE NOT BIOLOGISTS I mean, BIOLOGY HAS GIRLS IN IT, which tells you something! But these guys are strange”.