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Typical Day

Rosetta Stone Turing wakes up to what she knows will be a wonderful day at work. Already, the fluorescent lights are humming and the air conditioning is blasting in the windowless warren of snoozing employees. She doesn’t mind a bit that she's spent the night in a cot her employer so kindly provides for its workers who thrive on all-nighters.

Rosetta gets a kick out of her job as a medical writer for one of the leading biotech outfits around, and she loves the perks: free food 24/7, a gym, on-call masseuses, cots. Heck, she never has to leave work at all. And many days, she doesn’t. She looks across the room, and she’s sees her editor, Wilma Shockley, twisted into a lotus position on her bright magenta yoga mat.

"Hari om to you, too," Rosetta whispers, her sunny mood briefly clouding over. Although her vast army of friends has nicknamed her Pollyanna for her relentless optimism, a couple of things can mar Rosetta's mood—to wit, editors and biostatisticians.

As she throws on some clothes, Rosetta makes a mental inventory of what's in store for the day. The project she's working on is on the fast track—actually, make that the warp-speed track. It's a biologics license application (BLA) to the FDA for a cool new anti-cancer drug. Rosetta knows the description by heart, and she softly recites: "the antibody drug conjugate trastuzumab emtansine, a combination of the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin) with the potent cytotoxic agent DM1, connected by a stable linker based on technology licensed from ImmunoGen Inc." She closes her eyes in pleasure as the polysyllables roll off her tongue.

"Rosetta, ROSETTA!!"

Rosetta shakes herself out of her reverie to see Shirley Polykoff gawking at her as if she had two heads.

"Are you okay? You're not makin' ANY sense."

"Still dreaming. And—wow—haven't had my caffeine fix yet. No wonder." Rosetta pulls her shirt over her head and backs away from Shirley. Politely, of course.

Shirley. Geez. What does she know? She's in marketing. Rosetta wouldn't be surprised if Shirley had barely made it past algebra.

But hey, where would Rosetta be if it weren't for the scientifically challenged? She'd still be a Ph.D teaching assistant in English, deconstructing with graduate students the poems of William Blake. And worse, her salary would have almost qualified her for food stamps.

So, she had gone over to the dark side of science, on the advice of a friend, and Rosetta entered into that alternate universe, where the left brains far outnumbered the righties. Research scientists and biostatisticians were masters of this biotech universe. But Rosetta knows she’s needed, to translate the spreadsheets with rows and rows of numerical data, the clinical research data, so that the world outside—the FDA, the marketers, the doctors, the public—will have well-written prose, and not opaque scientific jargon.

Jargon, Rosetta muses. Gotta work on that anti-cancer drug language. It's a little bit, um, dense. "Potent cytotoxic agent"? Maybe "powerful anti-cancer drug"? "Naw, too dumbed down," Rosetta thinks. Gosh, does she work hard for the money, coming up with 12 ways to say one dense scientific thing. She earns every bit of her very high five-figure annual income.

Rosetta finishes dressing and heads out for the first meeting of the day—at 9am.

"Rosetta, wait up!"

Rosetta slows her pace and waits for Wilma to catch up with her. Rosetta sees that Wilma oozes the calm of a Type A personality smoothed over by yoga, and her eyes still have that Zen glaze of emptiness.

The next few hours further dampen Rosetta's mode. She huddles in a windowless room with Wilma and Dr. Hiram Mencken, the project biostatistician. They pore over Rosetta's red-inked 10th draft of license application (Wilma loves her red pen) and Hiram's beloved (by him only) Excel spreadsheets dense with data that only Rosetta can decode.

It's 3pm when Wilma shoves a mass of papers toward Rosetta. "Honey, it's all yours," she says. "Take it from here." Hiram has bailed just minutes before. Rosetta pats them into some semblance of order and resigns herself to another night of camping out on a company cot. She has a final draft to crank out.

And the deadline is 9am tomorrow.