What’s science without a good challenge? Lots of scientists thrive on solving challenges in the real world: finding possible solutions to world hunger, discovering cures for rare diseases, exploring the mysteries of the universe. Scientists grapple with new and exciting challenges every day. It’s what makes STEM so diverse and exciting, offering endless career opportunities that no list can quantify. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try! Following on from our post on 10 Unusual STEM Careers, we thought we’d make a list of another ten. Here we go:
Fragrance chemists are scientists who specialise in the study of odour molecules and how these molecules can be used to make scents and perfumes. Their jobs include testing and developing a fragrance for perfumes, soaps, lotions and other toiletries. You do need more than just a nose for the job through – most fragrance chemists need a qualification in chemistry and/or biochemistry, and often have high-level degrees, such as a Master’s or PhD.
Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster might be the stuff of legend, but cryptozoologists are very real. These people study to try to detect the presence of cryptids – animals that are considered to be long extinct or maybe even mythical. Before you scoff, we’ll have you know that cryptozoology has contributed to discovering some very valuable species – animals such as giant squids, Komodo dragons and okapi were all once considered creatures of legend but have since been proven to exist. To be a cryptozoologist, you need a degree in zoology or biology and the willingness to travel long distances to remote locations in pursuit of clues. The good news is that if you do discover a previously unknown species, you can name it whatever you like!
If the latest WannaCrypt ransomware attack has taught us anything, it’s the importance of cybersecurity analysts – information security professionals who are in charge of monitoring and safeguarding computer networks, sensitive information and proprietary data from hackers and malware. To be a cybersecurity analyst requires a degree in computer science, information technology or another computer technology-related field.
Aquarists are professionals who care and maintain marine life in aquariums and marine conservation centres. They can specialise in a number of different areas, including safely breeding creatures in captivity, creating and maintaining aquatic exhibits and shows, training sea life, and educating the public about sea life. To work as an aquarist, you need a degree in either marine biology or zoology and a compulsory scuba diving qualification, as much of the job involves underwater activities. That alone makes the job fun!
If studying a volcano doesn’t sound exciting enough, just think of all the travel to exotic places or the importance of saving lives by predicting volcanic eruptions. Volcanologists are specialised geologists who study the patterns of volcanoes. But how can you study something that’s spewing lava, ash and poisonous gas? Well, you certainly don’t climb inside it. Volcanologists study a variety of ash and rock samples, simulate controlled explosions that mimic volcanic activity, and even listen to the gurgles of a volcano. Most volcanologists are geologists with an extensive knowledge of geophysics and geochemistry, alongside a qualification in either oceanography (most volcanoes are formed in the ocean) or meteorology.
Environmental specialists collect and study samples of soil and water to determine the level and quantity of pollutants present in the samples. Most environmental specialists need degrees in environmental science, biology or chemistry. It’s an environmental specialist’s job to determine the effects of pollutants on animal, plant and human life. What’s more is that Forbes magazine rated environmental specialists as being in one of the best-paid green jobs.
First things first – yes, it is a real job. But no – snakes do not produce milk. This line of work does require a STEM qualification, no small amount of skill and an awful lot of courage, though, as what these people are doing is extracting the snake’s venom. Snake milkers extract venom from the fangs of live, highly poisonous snakes such as rattlesnakes, asps, copperheads and pythons. Snake venom is highly medicinal and can be used to create antidotes for snake bite poisoning, but also for treating Alzheimer’s disease, clotting disorders and even cancer. Naturally, a job this dangerous requires a lot of skill and in-depth knowledge on how to keep snakes, handle them safely, and extract their venom. Most snake milkers get extensive training and almost all have degrees in herpetology or biology. It’s a dangerous career, but it’s also incredibly important.
As the name suggests, nuclear engineers design, operate and maintain nuclear reactors and plants. They also implement procedures that allow the safe disposal of nuclear waste and ensure that every nuclear plant has safety measures in place in case of a leak. All in all, it’s a highly dangerous and important job and one that requires degrees in advanced mathematics and engineering.
With the going-green movement gathering momentum, more and more green jobs are becoming available. Green jobs focus on finding sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives, like growing local produce within cities – urban growers, for example, grow organic fruits and vegetables on rooftop gardens that can be supplied to local communities and restaurants. Not only does this encourage more people to eat healthily, but it also reduces burning fossil fuels for the transportation of goods. In addition to this, urban rooftop gardens also lend some much-needed green to cities, insulate buildings and improve air quality. While it’s not necessary to have a qualification in ecological studies, biology or botany is essential to have a working knowledge of both. Planning and maintaining a rooftop garden needs a good understanding of gardening, conservation methods and ecology. The perks, of course, are many: you’re growing your own food, conserving nature and the environment, giving back to the community, and actually making a difference.
Ever wondered who’s behind all those shampoos, creams and makeup products that hit the beauty shelves? Cosmetic scientists are the people who make sure that the products we use not only smell and feel good, but are also safe for us to use. Some might work on the formulation of new cosmetics, while others might focus on improving the performance of the current product. If you work with a smaller company, you would often see a product right through from its formulation to its launch. So, what do you need to be a cosmetic scientist? A creative flair over a strong background in chemistry and some serious laboratory skills. After all, all beauty products are products of good chemistry.