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Scientists are many things – boring isn’t one of them

26 October 2012


If asked to describe a scientist, what would you say?  For many our perception of scientists is clouded by the stereotypical images portrayed on TV - predominantly older males in white lab coats, wearing dark-rimmed glasses held together by pieces of tape, sporting either too little or too much hair. It is true that the ‘rustic’ look is quite popular amongst some of our male students, and our lab coats are white, but that is where the similarities end. 

Malaghan Institute scientists draw from all walks of life and from all over the world.  We have musicians, artists, sportsmen and writers to name but a few.  The majority of our scientific staff is female, none wear pocket protectors and all are, well, normal.

If you have the chance to meet one of our scientists (yes they do venture out of the lab on occasion), simply ask them what they do.  There might be a momentary pause as they process the multitude of thoughts currently circulating in their mind, but the wait will be worth it. 

To hear a scientist speak about their research is to witness a display of unrivalled passion, frustration and joy.  Underneath the animated arm gestures, rapid speech and occasional departures into an apparently alien language, is the real story about what it is like to be a scientist.

Few professions can boast the thrill that comes with getting a positive result in the laboratory.  Or the feeling of satisfaction that comes with successfully crafting a new hypothesis - only to experience the pain of months of long nights and short weekends amounting to nothing.  Though for scientists, nothing always means something!

Here at the Malaghan Institute we take great pride in the creativity and dedication of our scientists, it is part of being a Kiwi and is what makes us so successful at what we do.  Sure you need to be intelligent and have a certain level of ‘thick skin’ to survive in the competitive world of research, but in many ways, there is a scientist in all of us.  Anytime you taste food to see if it needs more seasoning or plant seeds in the garden – you are posing and testing hypotheses. 

So if you are ever asked to describe a scientist, you can say, well - they are a lot like you and me.


“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

Leonardo da Vinci


Take a look at the Related News stories at the right of your screen, to learn more about some of our scientists and what they have been doing recently.