Modified Scientists

So I’m watching Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel and there’s a neat feature on these cool little microsatellites being developed at MIT’s Space Systems Lab under Dr. David Miller. Basically they’re like those little balls that float around space stations in Star Wars; very small and capable of highly precise motion. Anyway, they cut to the lead scientist, Alvar Saenz-Otero, and it caught my eye because he’s quite heavily pierced:

Among other things he’s got a bridge piercing, which is also known as the “Erl Piercing”, although that name is not that common these days. The name comes from the first person to popularize the piercing, Erl Van Aken, also known as one of the scientists that developed the lunar rover for NASA… Anyway, even if OfficeMax won’t hire visibly modified people, MIT and NASA (and in this case, DARPA) certainly don’t mind if you’re good at what you do. Personally I’d rather work for NASA than OfficeMax.

(My apologies for the terrible screenshots; I just took photos of my TV because I don’t have anything installed that can capture!)

This entry was posted in ModBlog and tagged , , , by Shannon Larratt. Bookmark the permalink.

About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

78 thoughts on “Modified Scientists

  1. Its all about making yourself so damn good at what you do that people are forced to look past whats on your body and instead focus on whats in your head. Its good to see that he actually made it onto the t.v. though

  2. I get so excited when I see modified people working in intellectual fields. It just cracks open so many normative standards. Instead of featuring a guy with a bunch of piercings who happens to be a scientist, it’s a scientist who just happens to have a bunch of piercings in his face.

    Hooray for capturing people’s multiple facets of identity!

  3. haha! i saw that last night too! =) and my mom yelled “OH MY GOD HE HAS PLUGS! there’s hope for you dear!”

    i was recently hired as a software engineer and I have 1″ lobes and visible tats. not to mention i had a few job offers to choose from =) so yes, there’s hope for all of us! (but then again I’ll be working behind a computer not visible to the public anyway)

  4. yup yup!

    It makes me smile to see modded people working in the world, by which I mean other than as a body artist.

    There is a postman around here with the latges stretched lobes I’ve ever seen in person, I’d guestimate at between 1&1/2 and 2 inches :)

  5. Yeah, thanks Corporate America for using long out-dated standards of “appropriate” appearance standards. I work at Office Depot, where it says in the employee handbook “the only piercings that shall be allowed are single lobes on females.” Apparently, this is the only thing that is socially acceptable. Luckily, my store manager says as long as customers don’t have an issue with it, she doesn’t either. Just those of us with heavily pierced ears (like me) or a lip/eyebrow piercing (like a coworker) have to hide when the district manager is in town.

    Apparently “fanatical customer service” means “looking as bland as possible.”


  6. this is fantastic! i think that if NASA and MIT can get over the way people look if they do a good job, then so can Office Max. appearance is a stupid reason to hire/fire someone cause if theyre good at what they do… *sigh.

  7. I hope to be an archaeologist when I’ve finished my degree. Thing is, mods are probably LESS acceptable now in that sphere, as most excavations are now paid for by businesses under ppg-16 or whatever it’s called (in Britain).
    The only answer is, become so unbelievably overqualified for everything that there’s no way people can’t hire you… but guess what, normal people like me can’t afford to finance that many years of study! /rant

  8. “Apparently “fanatical customer serviceâ€? means “looking as bland as possible.â€?”

    Ugh, how true. As unfortunate as it may be, my customer service skills are determined by my appearance. Which is why I was never able to get any mods while working. Money and living in a house came before anything else at that point in my life. I was basically told that I wouldn’t get a certain promotion if my piercings continued to get any larger/I kept my septum (ears were 6g at the time).

  9. Working, as i do, for a large video-game company, i am surrounded by some of the best and brightest programmers, artists, 3d modellers, sound engineers, AI developers, and so forth /in the world/.

    It’s difficult to find somebody that doesn’t have, at the /very least/, multicoloured hair and multiple ear-piercings. Tattoos, facial piercings, and other mods are quite common around here.

    I guess our “corporate culture” is a little different from that of Office Whatever. :P

  10. I agree with comment #5 in that it says the most when the person being featured just *happens* to have a bunch of piercings, and it isn’t the *point* of the whole segment…in fact, it’s just incidental.
    I’m curious if they mentioned his appearance at all in the segment (although in this context I’d doubt it). I’d also like to say that Mr. Alvar Saenz-Otero is looking mighty fine. Modded scientists=sexy.

  11. Look the dude up on google, he has an INCREDIBLEY awesome resume. He’s my hero, for sure. Him and Erl.

  12. fucking awesome! i love pics like these. give me a chance to show all the dumbasses around me that most of the people that have mods are very intellectual. thanx for the pic Shannon!

  13. #11 thats exactly how my old job was. only girls could have their lobes pierced and thats it. and anything you wore in them had to be smaller than a quarter. I told my manager once that I was going to stretch my ears to just under the diameter of a quarter and he didn’t appreciate it. but they really didn’t care as long as no one complained and the DM wasn’t around. if he showed up though it was a mad dash to the kitchen to take out ear/nose/lip rings and tuck in shirts.

    hopefully when I’m done with school and get my enviro engineering job (wherever that may be) they’ll be accepting. I’ve heard that engineering is one of the more accepting professions.

  14. this makes me happy – i’m training in biomedical sciences and am always hyper worried that my stretched ears and tattoos will get me overlooked for a job – i want to be myself, but i need a career!

  15. The more modded people that get these types of positions, the more people who will get hired for lesser positions.

    I haven’t gone to facial piercings because, frankly… I have sensitive skin and am always itching it. But I have a lot of interest in an anti-brow – if it wouldn’t migrate. Anyway, I’m a teacher and got my job with my long ass hair, industrial and 6 ear lobe junk (5x10g 1x12g) without even a blink. I actually think that if I had a facial, it wouldn’t have made too much difference… but as stated above, if you look good on paper and they see that first, it would take a real *fuckwad* to say no based on looks.

  16. Oh, and interestingly enough, an old raver/DJ friend of mine was the first person I knew large gauge stretching and some facial stuff. He came back to the uni last year… to run part of a research lab.

    I guess when it comes right down to it, smart people aren’t afraid of modified people/looks.

  17. Yay, as I just quit my job of going on three years because my boss doesn’t appreciate my newly added labret. Too bad for him I guess, he even proclaimed me to be the best server there :-/

  18. Yeah, I’m just finishing up my undergrad degree in chemistry, and although my research adviser likes to playfully give me shit about my labret because this is an engineering school (And one with a pretty good rep at that), I haven’t had any problems having visible piercings in a professional capacity because anyone I deal with knows I know my shit regardless of how much metal is in my body.

  19. Some people are so smart and good at what they do that an employer would be dumb to deny them. the employee knows this, so they can get away with whatever they want.

    My pops says that when they have these big important business meetings, everyone is dressed in suits and clean cut, except for the super intelligent people who have long hair and beards w/ t-shirts and jeans.

  20. That’s the approach that I am using!

    Currently I have over 5/8″ lobes, visible tattoos, collar bone surface piercings, vert labret, bridge, septum etc. and am finishing up a PhD in Neuroscience. There was a fair bit of discrimination when I started the degree but through working my butt off I have successfully proved that appearances have no relation to ability, and the naysayers have no choice but to look at me as a fellow scientist. I regularly teach undergraduate lectures and refuse to ‘hide’ any visible mods for any reason: whether speaking at conferences, teaching or otherwise presenting my research.

    From what I have seen in graduate school, visible mods in physics and computer sciences type fields (vs more traditional laboratory fields) are comparatively commonplace. I think it has something to do with mavericks in those fields have a long-standing reputation of good work, whereas in most other fields mods are a new thing. I’m trying to do my part to change that though! So far it’s twice the work for half the recognition, but that will change if fewer bright modified students stand tall, refuse to make compromises, and let their research do the talking.

  21. and by “fewer bright modified students”, I of course meant MORE bright modified students.

    Give me a break, I’m a neuroscientist, not a linguist!

  22. It feels really good to see things like this. I also now refuse to buy anything from office max ever again.

  23. it seems everytime i go for a job interview i have to ‘defend’ my appearance in order to even be considered for a position. it’s so nice to see this cos it shows that slowly (very… VERY slowly) the stereotypes about us people with mods are starting to go away. hopefully soon no one will give a fuck about who has what done to them. i just hope i’m still around to see that day.

  24. I used to work at OfficeMax…

    And I was then and am now visibly modified.

    Hurray for store managers that don’t give a fuck!

  25. Friggin’ awesome! Hooray for modified professionals! Now I’ll just have to see if I can be the first visibly modified Social Worker. Although since I work with people so much it might be more difficult. Well, hopefully I’ll kick ass enough to break down those barriers. Modified people can help you too!

  26. That is great to see. I currently have 9/16″ lobes and a chest piece and plans for more visible tattoos in the future. I am currently a research scientist for a major ag processing company. It really has not had much effect on my job at all. I get lots of questions but not a lot of people looking down on me. I have not seen a lot of moddified people in my work but I don’t think it would have much impact on getting hired if you can prove that you are worth hiring in the frst place. We pretty much just slave away in labs no one ever sees us ;) I am definetly encouraged by this though any help breaking a stereotype is awesome.

  27. well actually I think that the problem about visible modificated people is not to be accepted in places where a high “intellectual” level is requested and where people are “supposed” to come from a special very intellectual community, that “is supposed to” be openminded since its all about being clever enough to discover “big things” and its not to be “beautiful/good looking” enough to have relations with other people…

    I think the main problem is to be accepted in roles where for example you, as a worker, represent a model for someone else, for example in the educational system: in this cas,e I think that still, a pierced elementar school teacher will not be accepted that easy…isnt it?

    or maybe, in jobs where you have to get in touch with people and you have represent other people you work with (public relation jobs for example..)..

    uhmmm I hope you got what I said, my english is crap. I just wanted to point out that these are great results, but things are still hard and bad for “normal” jobs, and society has a lot to do to be really ready to accept people with a different aesthetical taste from the mainstream ones.

    well, lets work on it! :D

  28. meltbanana: I’m in education. I actually pondered aloud about how they might feel about me having more than the typical visible mods (again, I’m not really extreme) and they were quick to point out that they don’t care. It’s high school though.

    My wife is elementary ed and says that there are some teachers and para-educators that are slightly more than the norm modified, but I do still live in Vermont, a slightly more rural than most states, and rural tends to not be all that progressive with stuff like this.

    I do notice a woman (maybe in her 40s) who works at the Hannaford in the town I work (overly conservative “W” type town) who has a neck tattoo. It makes me happy everytime I see her.

  29. I agree meltbanana. I definitely think that jobs revolivng more around service (teaching, social work) have a harder time accepting people who look so unlike the average person. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that my skills will outweight my mods in their importance.

  30. I’ve said this for years – more modded people who are in power positions need to break the trends. I’ve met modded people who are manager types who hide their mods, so I wouldn’t expect them to have respect for someone who won’t hide their mods.

    I had this jackass dissing on the corset piercings talk about never hiring someone who has visible mods (he runs a LAWN WORK operation), and justifying it by him having been pierced at one time and having customers not like it. Yeah, he’s a real gem.

  31. a friend of mine works in a bakery. one day this woman came in to order a sandwich and pitched a fit because my friend has a visible tattoo on her forearm. the woman went into a long rant about how she shouldn’t be preparing food because she was tattooed. my friend remained courteous but the woman only got angrier and demanded to speak to the manager. my friend who actually is the manager told her that she was allready speaking to her. so the woman demanded to speak to the owner which my friend promply brought out. after listening to the woman’s rant the own rolled his sleaves up and show her his “sleaves”

    stuff like this makes me LOL^^

  32. i remember when i had my interview for the current job i have, when the interviewer asked me if i had any questions for her, i asked ‘do my visible facial piercings hinder my chances of getting this position? and if i do get the position, would i have to remove them to work?” and she simply said to me “absolutely not. that would be such a huge form of discrimination in my eyes. my staff needs to feel free to be comfortable here and be themselves”

    i have never felt so accepted by someone who i would never have really thought would undersatnd…and remarkably enough, i work at shoppers drug mart! (to those that don’t know what shoppers is, its a huge huge chain of drug stores in canada)

    i am now a front end supervisor after only 4 months of working there!

    fuck office max

    this guy is a hero

  33. Im emailing this article to my mother right now, as everyone else has said, its great to see people being imbraced for what they’re good at, rather than discriminated against for what they look like.

    im lucky enough to work in a restraunt where the majority of the employees have visible mods. i serve customers, cook, work till, and do deliveries.
    i worked there for a year, have had probably 5 different un-natural hair colours, including 3 different sets of colourful synthetic dreads. I’ve had a bridge piercing, cheek piercings, nostril piercings, high gauge tongue piercing, labret piercing, and half inch ears. all my tattoos are (as of right now) hidden by the uniforms we wear, but i know they wouldnt be a problem if they were visible.

    i was accually given permission by my managers to kick out anyone who gave me slack about my mods ( i havent had to yet, accually i’ve ONLY had positive responces, and curious questions.)

    im now in the process of opening up a fine dining restraunt with my manager, and all my mods (as well as future high guage facial work) get to follow me there.

    its all about finding the oppertunity, not putting up with a lack there of.

  34. To #37 … go for it. I work as a House Manager in a domestic violence shelter (social work). No one there has ever questioned my modifications (at one point in time, I had 15 visible ear piercings). Like many others have said already, your work will speak for you.

  35. This is wonderful. I assume there was no attention drawn to his piercings on the show? It would be great if someday that was the norm–extensively pierced/otherwise modified individuals getting noticed and appreciated for that which is *inside* of them rather than that which is *outside*.

  36. Shannon, I’m going to print this out and take it to the manager of the OfficeMax near me.

    For everyone else curious, they refused me a job (I applied for assistant manager) based solely on my visable tattoos and stretched ears even thought they loved my resume. On top of that, they use tattooed models to advertise their printer ink on in-store banners.

  37. I love seeing this. And being a part of the elite academic world (Columbia University), I get enough looks for being visibly modified, so it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one. Maybe the sciences are a little different, but I’m studying history, and stretched ears and facial piercings don’t go over so well with my professors. They like to remind me to cover my tattoos and take out my piercings before I go to job interviews. I never do. Take me as I am, for my skills and not my appearance.

  38. I work as a research biologist and college prefessor, and heavily tattoed in visible areas including most of my neck. I’ve never had a negative reaction from peers or employers. While I’m sure I draws looks, my performance and resume speak for themselves.

  39. Brilliant, and definitely uplifting. That resume of his that Jordan posted is impressive, too. I’m no scientist, just a holder of a Batchelor’s of English. I’m also visibly modified and jobless at the present, and it can be a pain to get hired sometimes when you have some artwork showing. Fortunately, I know not to apply to Office Max now.

    I’ll also furnish everyone with this article. It’s old, so maybe some of you have seen this man before. Respect to the modified intellectuals.

  40. right on :)
    I work at a call center and it jeans, t-shirts, and body modifications are a non issue which is most excellent. they didn’t even seem to mind my neon orange hair I had for a while.

  41. 55. I find it interesting that you are studying history and they have such problems with mods. Wwhat with the historical prevalence of body modification in so many cultures all over the world I would think it would kind of be a been there seen that kind of attitude. Interesting to hear that is not the case. I would like to state that for nearly five years, a year of it as my second job away from research, I worked at a Lenscrafters. It was company policy that tattoos were to be covered and only basic ear piercings were allowed. We however had myself with stretched ears, a girl with a neck tattoo, and at another store a woman with a tattoo on her wrist. None of us had any problems whatsoever with our managers or customers. I often had older women compliment me on my “earrings.” I worked in both the lab and in the retail part of the store. I do believe it can be difficult in some senarios for people with visible mods to find jobs but I really truly think that if you re accomplished and have a resume/skills/personality/other job worthy talents, that you can get a job somewhere and be accepted. Maybe I am just lucky and optimistic. I also think things are getting better all the time as more and more people have mods.

  42. none of the jobs i have had thankfully ever cared about visible tattoos/piercings…(social services, security agencies, retail, desk jobs, food services, libraries) i got some concerns about working in food service, but only as all jewlery can fall into food – mine was screwed into my face – so it was seen as less of a problem.

    also, at McMaster University there are a few profs with visible tattoos and one with a sleve. if a prestegious Uni like that would hire people with ink in their skin, than i think there is a lot of hope for other places as well….

    the world is changing :)

  43. Back in 1991 I was desperate for a summer job and went to Burger King… after offering me the job they said I’d have to take out my earring (only ONE at the time, and just a normal stud). They also said I’ve have to cut my hair (it was barely shoulder length at the time). Needless to say, I told them to shove the job up theirs asses.

  44. haha – i glanced at this guy’s resume, and he works at MIT, which is about 5 minutes from where i live. i should go visit him and tell him he’s been an inspiration to nerdy pierced kids everywhere, shouldn’t i?

  45. This makes me happy. Not only because he’s a modified scientist, but because he also has his bridge pierced. Yay for showing love to bridge piercings! :D

  46. “Personally I’d rather work for NASA than OfficeMax.”

    Is there ANYone who wouldn’t rather?

    I have a bat tattoo from a summer spent doing fieldwork in the Philippines…another girl I know went and got a tattoo of a deer skull when she found out she was going to be working in a Chronic Wasting Disease lab.

  47. About that Massey University alumnus guy, his name sounds like he’s Maori or something, so for him having a facefull of tattoos is “traditional”, not “fringe subculture” =) In public schools in Malaysia you’re not allowed to have a nostril piercing unless you’re an Indian girl, in which case it’s perfectly normal.

  48. I am a teacher with 9 tattoos, 6 lobe piercings, 2 cartilage piercings, and an orbital. I taught Pre-K thru 8th grade and never hid any of my art. In fact, there were more teachers with tattoos than without. Now I work in a high school, and I keep my shoulder and back tats covered, but my neck ones show routinely, and my ankles too. Nobody minds, just the normal compliments and curiosity.

    My mom hates them all, though. I should send her this article.

  49. Pingback: A Useful Post? Never! « Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>