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Tattoos and Science

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I'm in-progress of getting a degree in Biological Science: Ecology and Evolution and I've caught that itchy need to get a tattoo. I've got a couple in mind, but the one I've been really aching for is an outline of a jellyfish. I am thinking to place it on the inside of my left forearm starting at the elbow pit to no more than halfway down. This has a lot of meaning to me... not like, o wow, jellyfish are pretty, stamp one on me forever kind of thing. Also a good 3/4  to full length shirt could decently cover it if need be.

So my question is how are tattoos perceived in the SCIENCE industry??

I don't want to rush into getting any tattoos only to find out that science jobs are prudishly conservative. I know I see a lot of fellow science nerds have their favorite equations, symbols, signs, and figures, but I don't really know if/how it effects the individual career wise. Also, don't most science jobs require the full length white lab coat anyways?

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Science jobs don't require full length lab coat as often as you think.

The guys/ladies I've dealt with are actually more liberal than others. I don't know how you get the "prudishly conservative" impression.

I'm a veterinary student (1/2 DVM, thank you very much!) and I've got a couple tattoos. One of my mentors has several pretty tacky and visible tattoos and she's a well-repsected vetrinarian. I know several techs and radiologists and a vax-research and analytical scientist who have tattoos. One of my professors has a forearm tat from when he was in the navy and it didn't seem to hinder him career-wise.

The lab coat is recommended, but rarely required. If you work in a lab, it's kind of a must. It's usually what makes you feel more comfortable (except in certain situations, where you have to wear it). I wear scrubs with a long-sleeve shirt more often than a lab coat.

My job title is biologist, but i work in an office - it's kinda funny to imagine anyone wearing a lab coat. Even in the field offices, the standard is jeans/cargo pants and tshirts/collared hawaiian shirts (yeah, marine mammologists!). It's always funny to see them "dress up" for conferences. Anyhoo....

I know one woman in my office who has full sleeve tattoos and she wears long-sleeve shirts to keep them covered, but I don't really know that it's a requirement - just might be what she's more comfortable with. I'm sure lots of people have tattoos that I never notice because they are in more discreet locations (shoulder, ankle, etc).  My husband is also a scientist (also works in an office) - as long as he doesn't go shirtless, his tattoos are covered, although sometimes he wears shorts, and so the one on his calf can be visible.

As long as you feel comfortable that you could keep it covered when you felt it would be inappropriate (job interview, etc), it's hard to imagine it being a real hindrance to your career.

But it might depend on what type of scientist you plan to be - your assumption that we all wear lab coats suggests that you are thinking of a different kind of scientist than my husband and I are.

I suspect that the "harder" the science, the less relevant tattoos would be.

Political Science - very relevant
High Energy Physics - not very relevant at all


Haha well the lab coat thing came from seeing basically two kinds of outfits on campus: the polo shirt with or without creek shoes (the professor or grad student) and the white lab coat. But I guess now that I think about it I see more chemists in labs and MDs wearing said coat than biologist.

And just because someone asked, what I'm looking to do is in the long term is field research, so I guess as long as the species I'm studying doesn't look down on me for it, I shouldn't worry so much. jk

I dunno, if I were a physicist, I'd have a Higgs on my forearm.  To be honest, I've thought about it anyway - may not be a physicist, but I'm a big dabbler, and that was the biggest silent discovery of our lifetime.

Anyway, I'm in health care, and I have three tattoos.  I'd have more, if I didn't find food and mortgage a better expense.  Wish I was young again.

I got mine in places that are easy to conceal, but also easy to show (if I choose, and without being trashy).  One on my back, one on my shoulder blade, and one on my hip.

The place you'll most likely be hiding it would be job interviews...there are still some differences between the generations, and you'll almost always be interviewing with someone older ;)  If you can hide it with a reasonable shirt (rather than having to wrap yourself from head to toe) I think you'll be just fine.

I've always preferred a good tattoo over some ear plug anyway.

But I might be just a tad biased.

Original Post by hatamoto:
I suspect that the "harder" the science, the less relevant tattoos would be.

Political Science - very relevant
High Energy Physics - not very relevant at all

Hahaha, excellent perspective!

Before becoming a SAHM, I worked in the field of science.  Loverboy currently works in a lab, and he has a Ph.D.


For career reasons, I would urge you to WAIT until you have a stable job. You don't know where you are going to land after graduation or what the job market will be like.

Loverboy's degree in in Plant Science, and he did two post-docs, but had trouble landing a job.  He wanted to do lab work...but would he shift to teaching at a small conservative college?  to sales?  Currently he is in a USDA lab for TB.  He is not paid according to being a Ph.D., but he is happy.  Ya never know where you might land.

I have another acquaintance who has a Master's in Engineering as prep to work in the oil industry.  He also speaks fluent English and Arabic.  But...uh...guess what: the Iraqi War started just before he graduated, and no oil company wants to hire him because he is an Iraqi.  Last I heard, he is doing tech work on a temp basis in a biology lab.  Ya never know where you might land.

Another friend's bil got a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering in 1986.  Ya know what also happened in 1986?   Chernobyl occurred less than 1 month before he graduated.  Of the 8 students graduating with Ph.D.s in Nuclear Engineering that year, not one got a job in that field.  He now manages a Big Bear (hardware store).  Ya never know where you might land.

I wish you all of the success in the world to complete your degree in the sciences and to find your dream job.  Just be wise about where your tattoo is until that day comes.


never mind

I have no tattoos and I personally think they are gross - especially people with a lot - but maybe that's just a generational thing.  My 2 daughters have tats - one daughter I have no idea what or where its at she just said she had one!  The other I know has 2 that can be seen one on her foot to shin the other is on her lower ab right about bikini like I guess if she has others I don't know .

Ex had a Chinese symbol on his inner arm about 4 inches from the elbow.  It wasn't really noticeable.  He got it on his 50th birthday.

I worked for a psychiatric facility and they had very strict rules on tattoos.  Basically if they could be perceived as drug, alcohol, or offensive in any way by any group they could not be displayed.  Some people had to wear a band-aid on their fingers others had to wear long sleeves which in AZ is a big inconvenience.

I agree with some others as far as waiting until after the jobs are secured or get a tat where no one except very "close" friends know about.

If I were to ever get one I'd get a lion and my daughter told me I should get it on my shoulder.  I doubt I'd ever get one just because I feel closer to the Jewish faith than anything and if you have a tattoo you can not be buried in a Jewish cemetery not that I would ever be a full converted Jew its just a thing I will do to show my respect for the religion.

Make sure it can be covered with clothing you can see yourself wearing everyday in a professional environment. I have a chest piece and I got it admittedly too high. It peaks at my collar bone (right in the middle) My last job didn't know I had tattoos till the last day I worked there but that was because I dressed very conservatively. My boss was a little shocked to see all the tattoos when I wore a sleeveless lower cut shirt on my last day. I now have to be very specific in my attire and even color choices. Light thin clothes you can see the tattoos even under the clothing so I have to wear thicker fabrics and darker colors. These are things you have to consider if you want to ever get a job that has a no tattoo policy. I am of the mind set that professionalism means no tattoos visible, so that's where I stand (and I have 7 tattoos even my wedding band is ink).

I'm in the ecology/wildlife biology field. No conservative dressers here. Especially field researchers. Even in the office/at conferences, the dress is much less formal than other fields. I wear tennis shoes and jeans to work. So does my boss.

Especially when just starting out (are you getting a BS and looking for a field technician type job?), it won't matter at all. It kind of depends where you work in terms of local acceptance, I suppose -- I should add that I am in California. As you advance, you will be judged far more by your productivity/publication record than on what you look like. I think going far out (crazy colored hair, tons of piercings, etc.) is never a great idea early in your career because you will run across some people who these things do matter to. But a single tatoo, in this field, won't hurt you.

Personally, I play it safe.  I work in the oil and gas industry and appearance matters to a lot of people.  I keep things professional by always covering my tattoos.  I have one around my ankle(it's the nerdiest and most relevant to my work too) so I can't ever wear skirts or dresses unless I wear dark hose.  

I'm really young in my career but I hope that after I have 10-15 years of experience and get the sort of job I actually want(more specialized and less need to impress potential buisness partners) that things will be more chill and I can get away with showing them off.  

I am actually planning on getting a tattoo in the same place you are considering so I will ahve to buy a lot of new tops to make sure it's always covered.  It will be a little annoying and I'll have to wear a long sleeved shirt under polos for things like recruiting events which might suck in the summer, but oh well, it's the choice I'm making.  What I want is the hillis plot a bio you might actually know what that is :)

If you are cool with the possibility of maybe having a job where you can never wear short sleeves or risk looking unprofessional according to some people, I think your placement is fine.  

And I think that sounds like a great tattoo too. Are you going to do it in black or colored ink?  A purple or blue jellyfish with white ink to give it a glow-y feel would be kick ass.

I'm a chemist and in my role I work both in a lab and at a desk. You probably won't be wearing a white lab coat all the time while at work. I wear my lab coat in the lab but not anywhere else. There are a few people I have seen with small tattoos -  on their ankles. Other than that I haven't seen a whole lot of tattoos in my industry. I think science careers are still more conservative than other industries. It's probably best to get something you can cover but I don't think it will ruin your chance of getting a job if you have a tattoo.

Better safe than sorry. I have 7 tattoos and all can be hidden. Like another poster, I have a tattoos on my chest, my foot, etc. I have one on my forearm in the spot you mentioned (right below my elbow). It's no problem to cover. I'm an ESL teacher abroad right now in a country that thoroughly shuns tattoos and piercings. Even in the summer when it's boiling hot I've worn at least a 3/4 sleeve thin cardi to keep it covered. I've let it show a bit now (forearm tattoo). My kids got over the show and no one mentions it now. I finish grad school in December and will move to the NGO field (doing field work). I don't imagine they'll be too picky but I do have to be culturally sensitive depending on the country I'm working in. 

 Get a tatoo of the periodic table or the formula for the speed of light. How about an image of a platypus saying, "Darwin said 'WTF?' when he saw me".

I could get the equation for gravity on my boobs!



But I would never do such a thing, because I would never trust that the formula was completely correct.  Gravity is still just a theory you know.

I checked with science and it says tattoos are a dumb idea.

Original Post by bb713:

I'm in-progress of getting a degree in Biological Science: Ecology and Evolution

Also, don't most science jobs require the full length white lab coat anyways?

"Ecologists don't wear labcoats" - Stuart Pimm

We both said a lot of things that you are going to regret. I think we can put our differences behind us.

For science.

You monster.

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