Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Top ten worst jobs in science

Hi Doug,

Popular Science lists in it's November 2005 issue the top ten worst jobs in science. LANL comes in at #5, under the category 'Nuclear Weapons Scientist'.



#5 Nuclear-Weapons Scientist
-They've mastered fusion. Next up: filing
This job hasn't been any fun since the disastrous espionage trial against Wen Ho Lee in 1999. Now it's gotten worse. Lee was a naturalized citizen who had worked for 20 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory's highly prestigious X Division, where some of the world's biggest eggheads handle the applied physics of our nuke stockpile. The FBI suspected him of selling secrets to the Chinese.
After some seriously abusive jailhouse tactics, for which an appalled federal judge apologized, Lee pled guilty to one, almost trifling, count of mishandling classified data and was immediately released (the judge sentenced him to the 278 days of solitary confinement he had already served). Nevertheless, the X Division's sterling reputation had been badly tarnished.
Not long after, more classified data-storage tapes went missing and then showed up behind a copy machine, and the FBI returned for more interrogations... er, interviews.
Then, in 2004, came an eye-burning laser accident with an intern, and yet another case of missing data tapes. In a lab-wide lecture, the since-retired director called his scientists "buttheads" and "cowboys" (never good for morale) and ordered a lab shutdown so that the scientists could learn to file paper like pro bureaucrats, not absent-minded professors.
But wait, those last missing tapes? An FBI investigations concluded that they probably never existed in the first place; it was all a clerical error. But the damage had been done. For the first time since Oppneheimer, the federal government put Los Alamos's management up for industry bid, offering an annual $79-million contract - nearly 10 times as much as the University of California is now paid to run the lab - and fed-up scientists are retiring in droves.
As for the younger braniniacs, surely they can find a job in academia, right? Not exactly, lamented one X Division scientist, who declined to be quoted for fear of retribution. Since most of their work is classified, there's often no record of having ever published anything.
--Original article as printed in Popular Science, November 2005 pp76-77
John Galvin


We placed ahead of semen washers and Orangutan pee collectors, but behind manure inspectors and human lab rat.
Have a happy day!

Scott Valentine
Nuclear Materials Technology


My friend says, "I can hear the chant around the Lab even now: "We're Number Five! We're Number Five!"

(If Bechtel/UC wins, can we also chant: "Seven more years! Seven more years!"?)

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