What do whale-feces researchers, hazmat divers, and employees of Microsoft's Security Response Center have in common? They all made Popular Science magazine's 2007 list of the absolute worst jobs in science.
Popular Science has been compiling the list since 2003, as "a way to celebrate the crazy variety of jobs that there are in science," said Michael Moyer, the magazine's executive editor. Past entrants have included barnyard masturbator, Kansas biology teacher, and U.S. Metric system advocate.
Moyer said Microsoft's Security Response Center (MSRC) made the grade this year because the job is just so hard and thankless. "It's one of those classic jobs, which isn't gross or dangerous in any way, but the overwhelmingness of the task at hand makes it so daunting that only the most intrepid would venture there."
The MSRC ranked near the middle as the sixth-worst job in this year's list, published in the July issue of the magazine. "We did rate the Microsoft security researcher as less-bad than the people who prepare the carcasses for dissection in biology laboratories," Moyer said.
The absolute worst job? Hazmat diver. "These are highly trained individuals who strap on scuba dear and dive into toxic sludge," Moyer explained.
Microsoft's Mark Griesi considers ranking among the worst as a badge of honor, in part because his grandfather read the story and thought it was "pretty cool to see my team on the list," he said.
Working at the response center "is one of the toughest jobs to have," said Griesi, a program manager with the MSRC. "But with tough challenges come great reward. The article does call out the dedication that the people in all of these jobs have, and I have never worked with a more dedicated group then the MSRC."
Still, the MSRC is not for everyone. Moyer didn't have to think long when asked whether he'd rather have the number 10-ranked whale research job. "Whale feces or working at Microsoft? I would probably be the whale feces researcher," he said. "Salt air and whale flatulence; what could go wrong?"