By Aran McCay
When we talk about science careers, people always remember the more typical ones: computer scientists, engineers, medical doctors, environmental scientists. What these individuals do is respected and pretty well known, but there are also a lot of obscure science jobs that we rarely hear about.
Here are just a few:
Venom is found in the saliva of snakes, and it is injected into their prey during a bite or spit out by some snakes. This helps the snake immobilize their prey; venoms contain zootoxins, which are toxins produced by poisonous or venomous animals. The toxins in snake venom can destroy an animal’s cells, and when all or most of the cells in a tissue or organ die it is called necrosis. Other types of venom target an animal’s brain or nervous system, possibly leading to paralysis. The last main category of venom affects blood cells and can prevent the clotting of blood cells, leading to excessive bleeding or inappropriate clotting, which then stop the flow of blood.
Because of how interesting venoms and their effects are, scientists are really interested in studying them. One main reason people want snake venom is to create anti-venom, which can be used to treat snake bite victims in a hospital. Secondly, scientists also want to examine the harmful effects of venom to see if they can actually be manipulated to be therapeutic. For example, someone with a blood clotting disorder could potentially benefit from a chemical that stops blood from clotting.
Venom milking is a very niche career, and people with this job would fall under the category of herpetologists—people who study snakes. In order to get into the field, people would probably study biology and chemistry in college and would want a degree in zoology. The next step would be a Master of Science in Herpetology. After getting a job, venom milkers could work at a serpentarium, a type of lab that researches snakes. Their duties would be taking care of the snakes and extracting the venom to be studied or sent to other researchers.
Fireworks originated in China in the 12th century and have been used throughout the world for different celebrations since then. The tradition of Fourth of July fireworks in the United States actually began in Philadelphia in 1777.
In designing fireworks, the engineers must know how to artificially create colors using chemical reactions and the explosions that will make certain shapes. Some elements are made into salts, so when the firework is lit and they are shot into the air, you are seeing colors produced by these elements. Sodium produces an intense yellow, strontium a bright red, and aluminum power becomes white. Coarse-grained black powder is used to launch the fireworks into the sky, and it is a mixture of sulfur, potassium nitrate, and charcoal. It burns slowly so that the reaction can be directed and does not happen all at once.
Pyrotechnic engineers are people who figure out what explosive to add to fireworks and how they will appear. In college, they would have studied chemistry and physics and can be considered a type of chemical engineer, which is an increasingly lucrative career. Chemists are also always looking for more combustible compounds and ways to make fireworks more intense and unique.
Pet food taster
Of these jobs, pet food tasting might sound the most ridiculous. But pet food tasters often have doctorate degrees and do a lot of testing before any tasting occurs. Testing pet food has to be done to find out what the nutritional value of the food is and how it could possibly be enhanced.
The first step in tasting is actually evaluating the smell, because researchers estimate that 80% of taste is smell. Also, humans who have pets do not want horribly smelling food in their houses. Finally, the pet food tasters take a bite to evaluate flavor, texture, and consistency. Unfortunately though, the pet food tasters ultimately spit the food out, detracting a little bit from the novelty and the grossness of the job. Pet food tasters can sometimes make $100,000 a year! So if you have really discerning taste buds, you might want to consider exploring this.
Editor: Judy Zhang