When thinking of a career in science, you may automatically picture serious people donned in pristine white lab coats and safety glasses, handling test tubes and mixing solutions all day. But what if we told you there are certain “unique” jobs in science that don’t confine you to a laboratory the whole day?
If you’re not keen on becoming a typical scientist, here’s a list of unusual (but totally legit) jobs in science.
#1. Firework designer
Who doesn’t love fireworks? From its intricate designs and vibrant colours to the minute details of each spark and crackle, there’s always a cause for celebration when fireworks are whipped out.
So who exactly designs fireworks? The answer — a scientist specialising in chemistry or chemical engineering! These specialists design fireworks by getting the right balance of colour and chemicals to react with each other when heated. For example, heating up sodium mixed with other chemicals will give you a bright yellow while heating copper will give you a blue hue.
The job entails experimenting and testing new patterns, colours and chemicals to create a beautiful display. But, be warned! It can be a hazardous career as you will be handling chemicals that are highly reactive and dangerous.
#2. Snake milker
If you have ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), you should probably give this job a pass.
A highly dangerous career, snake milkers are specialised zoologists tasked to extract venom from poisonous snakes. This venom can be used for medical research (snake venoms have been used to treat heart attacks, strokes and brain disorders) as well as emergency treatments (when someone is bitten, snake milkers may extract venom from the snake to create an anti-venom to treat the affected person).
Why would anyone want to do this? Well, some people find it interesting. And since we have yet to invent a machine to milk venom from snakes, the job has to be done by hand!
#3. Pet food taster
If you’re like every other pet owner, you’ve probably wondered how your pet’s food tastes like. The truth is, there are existing jobs held by humans who are responsible for taste-testing pet food. This includes dry and wet foods, chewy sticks, treats and even liver mixture!
Australian pet food taster Mark Gooley says, “If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t you dare expect your dog to eat it.” This rings true to an extent — if you wouldn’t eat rubbish, you can’t expect your beloved pet to eat it too!
As a branch in the food science field, pet food tasters have the gross but fascinating job of testing food for pets and evaluating its texture, flavour and nutritional levels.
#4. Storm chaser
You would think most people would be sane enough to run away from an impending storm, but not these people! Officially, storm chasers are known as atmospheric and space scientist — their job is to use weather forecasts to predict where a storm will be and collect data when observing it.
There are two types of storm chasers — official and unofficial. Official storm chasers are professionals with the right qualifications (often in meteorology) and experience to study the weather for scientific purposes. Unofficial storm chasers, on the other hand, can range from hobbyists to opportunistic photographers looking for the perfect shot.
#5. Deodorant tester
As a deodorant tester, your background in cosmetic science and your sense of smell will help you test the effectiveness of the deodorants you’ve helped create.
Sounds interesting? It is if you’re only involved in researching and making the products, but if you’re also responsible for testing them, you may need to sniff armpits to ensure the product is working correctly — this part of the job definitely stinks!
If you want to stick to inhaling appealing smells, you may want to become a fragrance chemist instead as they are usually tasked with producing and testing attractive scents for products such as perfumes and soaps.
No, we’re not talking about teeth and gums — gumologists are actually food scientists with a background in chemical engineering and are responsible for tasting chewing gum.
Even though a single stick of chewing gum weighs next to nothing in your pocket, a lot goes into its production. Gumologists have the responsibility of developing, experimenting and testing combinations of different gum flavours to determine which ones are most suitable to be sold.
According to gum tester Jesse Kiefer who works as a gumologist for Cadbury Schweppes, this popular candy has to deliver a burst of flavour, a lot of sweetness and a lot of tartness if it’s a fruit gum. So to be a gumologist, you need to have a distinguished palate and impeccable taste buds.
Does this sound like your dream job? Just be mindful of getting a sore jaw or cavities!
#7. Ice cream taster
Similar to chewing gum tasters, ice cream tasters are food scientists who are blessed with the responsibility of sampling these delectable frozen desserts as a job.
Obviously, you would need to have an immaculate palate to be a good ice cream tester — you’d be checking for flavours, texture, smell and consistency. If you’re lucky, you could also have a hand in creating new and exciting ice cream flavours for the market too!
Take it from professional ice cream tester, John Harrison, who has been estimated to have tested more than 200 million gallons of ice cream in his career at ice cream company Dreyer’s in USA. It is also said that “his taste buds are so fine-tuned he can immediately taste the difference between 12% and 11.5% butterfat in a product”. Not only that, his tongue is insured for USD1 million!
Talk about taking your job seriously. Phew.
Another branch in the food science field, flavourists are… you guessed it — scientists who create, experiment and test flavours, both natural and artificial. Think of the little vials of food flavourings that bakers use to enhance their baked goods. Without them, desserts would be bland!
To be a flavourist, you’ll need to have a background in chemistry, biochemistry or food science as you will be working on designing flavours for various products. Not only that, your sense of smell also has to be exceptional as you’ll sometimes be required to identify sugar levels in flavours just by using your nose!
#9. Veterinary acupuncturist
Who said acupuncture is only for humans? Our beloved four-legged friends can also benefit from this form of traditional Chinese treatment method used to “stimulate nerve activity, increase circulation and relieve pain“.
Similar to acupuncture for humans, this treatment can be used to treat muscle injuries, arthritis and even improve blood flow in the body, particularly for athletic animals in competition events such as race horses or show dogs. This means veterinary acupuncturists need to understand animal anatomy and biology in order to develop and implement treatment plans based on the animal’s needs.
As you can see, science is a very broad and versatile field that encompasses everything from animals to the weather — there is whole world of jobs out there that you can pursue with your science degree. The question is: would you want to pursue a career in any of these fields?