I was listening to This American Life (one of my favorite radio shows/podcasts) on the car ride into work this morning, and in it they briefly interviewed a forensics expert about some evidence related to the assassination of the Israeli prime minister, Rabin. It was a very interesting story about conspiracy theories, but one thing that struck me was the description of the forensic expert's home lab. He was a ballistics specialist and so had his own microscope, trace analysis tests, firing range, tissue simulant - the works, all in the comfort of his own home in Arizona. Sounds like he's quite in demand for his expertise, so with that comes some money that I'm sure helped him to build his own lab and work independently.
In the phenomenal book, A Wrinkle in Time, you may remember that Meg's mother, Mrs. Murry also had a lab in their home. It was located in an old stone dairy that was connected to their house, if I recall. I believe she was a molecular biologist? If I were at home I would be able to check my copy. Anyway, the joke was that Mrs. Murry would cook for her family (mostly stews) using a Bunsen burner in her lab, I guess so she could work at the same time. Of course, that's a huge safety no-no (food and labs do not mix), but that's ok. It's just science fiction.
Until I started working in science, I'd never thought twice about Mrs. Murry's home lab, but now, oh man, that would be the dream, particularly as a woman. To do science at home and be able to take care of your family? That would be nice.
I thought Mrs. Murry's lab was just fiction. You have no idea how expensive it is to do research. The equipment usually costs at least $50,000. Often exceeding $100,000, say for a particularly nice microscope. The supplies cost several thousand dollars a month, as well. But I guess it's not total fiction if that forensics expert had a home lab too.
Anyway, just a fantasy of mine. A lab in a farm house, out in the country with lots of space for my dogs or maybe kids to play. Lovely.