Learning about labs and academia…..Mineral Seperator

Presently I am working for the new mexico bureau of mines and mineral rescources as a mineral separator. I got this job off of work study, and overall this job is ok.

What I do is that I look for certain minerals in a rock that are datable using absolute dating techniques. In my case they use argon/argon dating. My supervisor gives me a rock, I go to the crushing room, seive, then do various methods of extraction. Sometimes this requires nasty chemicals like hydroflouric acid–which actually eats through your flesh until you hit the bone and you can’t even feel it!

In addition, the work can be quite tedious. For example, everything must be perfectly clean in order to avoid contamination. Another real bummer is sitting at the microscope for hours on end doing nothing but picking sanidine or honblende. However, there’s a CD player in the lab so that you can listen to your own music, particularly on the weekends.

To many this job sounds great. It was when I first started, but got old after a few months. The pay sucks–6.25/hr– especially when you can get killed from the chemicals you work with or from the jaw crusher. For a month this spring, my supervisor even made me go up to the trailors a mile away in the heat and clean out shit and rat poison–very disgusting.

Overall, I’d say that I’ve had worse jobs in the world. I get to meet lots of people that do research in antarctica, and graduate students that tell me their experience in geology, in addition to improving my skill to identifying minerals. I’ve also discovered that working in a lab isn’t as great as I thought it would be, and how corrupt and silly achademia can really be concerning qualifications and degrees–get a bachelors or even a masters in the geosciences in achademica, and they’ll make ya do work you don’t even a formal education for.

So, it was a good experience, and something I’d rather be doing than mopping floors, but definitely not something I want to do in the distant future.