Sunday, October 02, 2005

Getting it right....

People I meet for the first time (or relatives or friends I meet after a long time) naturally ask me what I do with my life. I mumble something incoherently about a PhD. They ask me "in what". I say "Molecular Pharmacology". I'm usually greeted with blank stares, or a "what's that?".

I go on to explain that Pharmacology is the study of the interaction of living cells and organisms with the molecules they encounter in their environment. Modern molecular pharmacology looks at these aspects at a molecular level, by which we can understand specific pathways in systems that are affected. I talk about how we use basic biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, genetics and so on to investigate pathways that could serve as potential drug targets, and also study the effects of drugs on these target pathways.

After this long winded explanation, the person listening to me nods understandingly, and sympathetically, and usually replies:

"Ah! So, you're a Pharmacist!!"

&*$%!!^

One of my collegues puts it across nicely. He says that calling a Pharmacologist a Pharmacist is just like walking up to a doctor, and asking her if she's the nurse.

Same difference.

15 comments:

Iyer the Great said...

I hear ya!

Though not exactly the same, I was immediately reminded of Chupke Chupke where the watchman calls Dharmendra "Ghas pus ka doctor".

Rahul

Soultan of Swing said...

Good one Sunil! Yes, I have had a tough time convincing people that there's a distinct difference between Chemistry majors and Chemical Engineers. Doing a PhD in Bioengineering is worse!

Ash said...

Those darned non-scientists, what do they know !
:)

Yeah, I can sympathise with your irritation. I don't even know how and where to begin to explain Public Health - a profession that doesn't even exist per se back home...

Sujatha said...

Or even trying to explain to family back home that students work while studying. The question would be, "so, are you working now or studying?" Maybe things have gotten better now...

Sunil said...

Rahul...very apt! "Ghas pus ka nahin, kam se kam phool patton ka doctor to kahon!" :-)

Bala....yes indeed...a lot of us face that problem. But at least most people have heard some about Chemical Engineering...very mainstream. Bioengg...a little worse. You have it good.

Ash...you on the other hand....i can totally feel your pain. Have you ever been asked if you're training to be a health worker in a hospital?? :-)

Sujatha....i think it's getting better at home......distant relatives seem to figure out that i'm able to comfortably afford flying back home, and giving people presents. Clearly, i must be earning something......:-)

Srikanth said...

Oh, then, can you give me some pills for cold? And please also hike up the amount on the receipt; shall pass on a percentage to you after reimbursement.

charu said...

yes, I understand - I am a market researcher (or used to be) - but I do NOT go from home to home asking people about their soap usage habits (ding dong - chamko saabun :)) but how do I explain it to people - esp what a qualitative researcher does
- oh, so you do these surveys? no? then what do you do? blank stare from both sides.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

oh my god! my sister is doing her ph.d in molecular pharmacology too! and there i was thinking that it was some mumbo jumbo front she had put on!

but i understand ur pain... alot of people dont get what i do as a copywriter...after explaining it to them they say 'ohhh so u write the punch lines' sigh

Sunil said...

Srikanth #&*$&%
Charu...you don't do surveys?? Gasp!

Shoefiend......i feel your sister's pain. Copy writing? Doesn't that mean you copy out something some one else has written, and type it out to get it ready for publication? :-)))))

Patrix said...

LOL! I have had my share of troubles too when I was studying Public Policy for my Masters. Ever notice how people will go Ah-ha! whenever they hear Mechanical Engineering although they have freaking no clue what Mech.Engineers do. Thankfully, now I have no such problems.

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
This is what you can say.
If someone asks if you are a pharmacist, you just say, "There is a big difference between a pharmacist and a molecular pharmacologist."

He will ask, "Oh really, what is the difference?"

"A factor of three in salary."

That will shut them up.

R.Nandakumar said...

well, i am reminded of the seqence from 'roja' where a village elder asks the young hero what work he does!

Sunil said...

Patrix.....good for you..no more Public Policy. If you told friend or relatives in India that you studied Public Policy..they would have cracked up. Public Policy in India is such an oxymoron.

Michael.....i wish, really wish that that was true. Unfortunately scientists are amongst the lowest paid people in society. After years of a PhD, they wander on doing a "mandatory" post-doc (getting paid some $35000 a year). Then, they struggle to get a job (in industry or academia), and finally earn some little money.

Pharmacists on the other hand.....breeze through 4 years of school, and get nice jobs, that start at around $60000 p.a (if they're from good schools). The jobs are so very straightforward, and the work hours relatively light.

It's an unfair world.....

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