For some reason, most of my female acquaintances at school are working with nitrogen. Nitrogen in marine sediments, nitrogen in streams, nitrogen in teeth. I am working with nitrogen too. Some of the work we do is somewhat pedestrian, water-quality type fare, but some is rather cutting-edge work having to do with global climate change and evolution.
I'm amused by the glamorization of science these days, or at least of scientists and naturalists. Criminal forensics shows are hot, and so is Jeff Corwin. And a certain bent of adventurous maverick scientist has always been popular in certain types of literature. Arrogant crackpots who go out on limbs and end up saving the world. Or something.
For these reasons, I have decided that we shall discover some great Science Thing to do with nitrogen, and then there will be a book about us. It will tell the roller-coaster story of five women who fight the odds and the establishment to push the boundaries of science. It will be called "Nitrogen Cowgirls."
The really funny thing is, I am being totally honest. We are really right on the edge of what is possible, and some day it could make a good story. Well, that is not the funny thing. The funny thing is how absolutely bland the actual work involved would look to anyone who didn't know what was so important about it. The contrast gets me every day. I find the work fairly interesting but that's because I know what it means. Without that piece, I would have to say that, no, watching de-ionized water drain through a powdered fossil for half an hour before you can move on to the next step is not terribly stirring.
The other funny thing is that none of us is a rugged, arrogant maverick of science. Well, none of my friends is, at least. I am eccentric and a bit obnoxious sometimes, which might count. But everyone else is just a smart, nice woman. There is nothing controversial about them. I find this hilarious. I am determined to think of them as cowgirls. Because every smart, nice geek chick doing great things in a laboratory somewhere deserves to be memorialized with a little bit of glamor.