Figure (A) A graduate student looking at what seems to be a slide meant to be used under a microscope by naked eye. (B) Lab members pointing at random colonies presumably from bacteria even though it’s probably easier to do this on a bench with a marker to mark which colonies you want. (C) Scientists laughing at their results and forgetting to hold it higher. (D) Pipetting in an uncomfortable position while your PI looks on. This will probably result in very sore shoulders, but hey, if it makes you look smarter and funding rolls in, why not?
Images Courtesy of UCSF

The art of holding up objects — not all objects are equal

Contributor
Graduate Division

Countless studies have shown that holding up your experiments toward the light makes you seem ten times smarter than you actually are. What these studies don’t encompass however, is that these objects tend to revolve around lighter objects mostly weighing less than 200g and have dimensions of less than 150 by 420 mm in SI units.

Our recent study shows that these findings cannot be replicated with objects of larger dimension and weight, excluding people who do not do bench work involving small volumes of liquid, or microbiology.

Methodology

To conduct our study, we emailed scientists of various to take pictures of themselves holding up objects they would use on a daily basis in their research toward the light. Researchers were also asked to identify themselves as either a dry lab personnel (people who can drink water while working), a wet lab personnel (people who cannot drink water while working), or a mix of both (people who can drink water sometimes while working). As people who do both dry and wet lab work are confusing, we excluded them from our study.

Results

Our study recruitment yielded a total of 77 participants, 32 of which identified as dry lab, and another 18 as wet lab. The 27 participants who identified as both were excluded from the study but got their chance at winning a $5 amazon gift card either way.

Then, using a combination of visual analysis, the power of our amygdalas and imageJ, we rated the pictures on a scale of 1 to 10 for their degree of perceived smartness.

Figure 2. Perceived smartness scores between wet lab and dry lab (Wilcoxon test, p-val < 0.05) shows that people who work in wet labs tend to model smartness better

This was a shocking discovery to us, as most people in the Bay Area who can code are perceived to be smart. We discovered that the dry lab community was unable to model similar results due to size exclusion problems.

The smallest MacBook pro available, 13 by 8.94 inches (33.02 by 22.7cm), goes beyond the dimensions required to successfully hold up objects with ease. Holding a 1.37kg object at an arm’s length just doesn’t seem like a wise idea. In one case, we even ended up with a negative score as the participant broke their laptop after trying to hold it up high for the picture.

Further analysis of these pictures reveal that these objects must have some degree of transparency in order boost your smartness successfully. Unfortunately, the 90s fad of having transparent electronic cases is no longer in fashion, and thus, computer scientists do not qualify for such advertisements.

To further expand on our findings, we decided to look at the latest trends of holding things up during shelter-in-place too.

Between the period of April 5, 2020 to October 31, 2020, we reported an increasing trend of people holding up pets to in built computer cameras during Zoom meetings. Pets too, do not fall within the weight and dimensions for objects required to make your image smarter. They however, make up for this loss of perceived intelligence with great amounts of cuteness.

In conclusion, our study of a wider range of objects used in research you can hold reveal that this rule applies only to a specific group of people who do research in wet labs.

Further research on how to make advertisements to increase perceived smartness for researchers doing primarily computational studies, such as projecting fake holograms and changing your coding themes to black and green while large chunks of code run in the background need to be done.

This study was funded by the union of procrastinators.