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Chemist

Typical Day

Tammy Testtube works for a large pharmaceutical company (despite the fact that they are fictional, they have asked that their name not be mentioned here), where she is in Research and Development (R&D) and spends most of her day investigating ways to improve the company’s existing line of products, as well as attempting to create new and better alternatives.

She’s up at 7:30, jumps in the shower, washes her body with 10 ML of body wash, a formula for which she can smell a 5% excess density of sodium chloride. She gets dressed and heads to work. She starts by going to her office, where she checks and responds to any pressing emails or phone messages. At 9:30 she makes her way to the lab and begins setting up and running a reaction as part of an ongoing experiment. She is currently trying to create a drug that will relieve stress in dogs. We never really thought of dogs as very high-stress, but who are we to judge? (If somebody will pay for the drugs, there’s likely a reason to explore making ‘em. Ever wonder why rich white men have historically had lots of cures to their ills?)

There are literally hundreds of steps in the reaction, and Tammy must take it one methyl group at a time. Everything needs to be added in the right spot, at the right orientation, and not a moment too soon or too late, or the reaction may prove lethal or inactive. Just like when you’re playing a video game and you have to make your character jump at a precise moment—not so soon that they are eaten by the rabid werewolf, but not so late that they plummet to their death into the sea of lava. So now you have an idea of how high-pressure this gig is.

Once her reaction has been catalyzed, Tammy records and analyzes her data to determine whether she has created the structure she intended to make, and in what ways the finished product may be able to be improved. She is hoping that this drug of hers will prove to be successful and wildly popular among the owners of stressed-out dogs; if so, she could potentially get millions in royalties on the patent, although she probably won’t know how much (if any) cashola it will mean for another 10 years or so. It frequently takes that long to have a drug developed, approved, mass-produced, and finally distributed to stores, clinics, and pharmacies for sale. However, she really believes in this one (she has an anxious terrier at home herself), so she’s willing to deal with the wait. Besides, even if she doesn’t successfully wind up with the drug she is intending to produce, she may very well discover an entirely new drug with a different purpose. Many drugs are actually discovered this way.

Tammy takes lunch at noon, then meets with the other members of the research team at 1:30 to go over everyone’s respective progress and plot out a plan of attack for the coming week. At 3:00 it’s back to the lab for another couple of hours of fun with chemistry (you just know she had one of these as a kid) and then she’s out the door at 5:00. Unfortunately, her car stalls on the way home because she forgot to put gas in her car. Ah, the irony.

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