Life as lived in the lab - tell me about physicists
April 7, 2011 11:51 AM Subscribe
What do physicists do all day? What is the lab environment like? Minutiae welcome.
posted by Frowner to science & nature (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
So I'm writing my novel, see, and because I am fascinated by the culture of academic research labs, there are some researchers in it. For the most part, my characters do the sort of research I understand and have experience with, they're the sort of people I know, etc etc. However, I'm messing around with a plot point that would require a little bit about physics labs.
I've looked at previous mefi questions for places to find information on the state of contemporary physics itself, but I just don't know anything about the daily life of the lab.
Examples of the info I'm looking for: In one Field With Which I Am Familiar, researchers are often sporty and fairly socially competent -- there's quite a lot of intra and inter-institution sports, beer-drinking, going down to the local frat-house bar, sport-sandal wearing and so on. Conferences are very hearty and beery. In another Field With Which I Am Also Familiar, the culture seems a bit different - people tend to be a bit weirder and more reserved, the life of the lab is less jolly, less rock music, etc. The conferences are less raucous, although as at every conference, there's plenty of drink. Field One skews apolitical, Field Two skews center-left. Both fields One and Two like those little plush microbe toys, but only Field One really likes the inflatable lab sharks.
I feel like I could plausibly describe an average Field One researcher and an oddball Field One researcher, the same for Field Two--what the typical undergrad work is in, what age the PhD candidates tend to be, what brought people into the field, etc etc. What's this like for physicists?
I'm also looking for descriptions of various average days in a physics lab--of course, this varies from lab to lab; all descriptions are helpful.