Re: Application for Job in Sahrk Biology

Dear Dr. Schiffman,

I am a recent graduate in biology. After several attempts to work in a population genetics molecular biology lab, I realized that there was way too much maths and other difficult concepts and that I would be much better off studying orgasmal biology such as sharks or skates or rays. As you know in these difficult economic times none of the labs doing real science are hiring, but hopefully YOU are!

I am very interested in studying the eating behaviors and tropic connections between hammerheads, mullet, and phytoplankton and would be an asset to you in you research. Maybe I could accompany you to the Galapagos for sampling….

I have wanted to work with sharks ever since I saw West Side Story and can’t think of a better person than you to work with. I have never done any science with marine life, but I am a fast learner. We just measure and weight them right? I can’t swim and get seasick on floating docks, that’ not a problem right? If you’ll cover airfare, I can come out and visit your lab in person.

I couldn’t find your e-mail address so I hope this blog post is an acceptable way to send you an job application, that’s not a problem right?


Eager, poorly-informed applicant



  1. WhySharksMatter · October 6, 2010


    • WhySharksMatter · October 6, 2010

      Also, I’m not a Ph.D.

      Well played, Andrew. You found two common mistakes that I forgot about.

  2. Alan Dove · October 6, 2010

    Well, who wouldn’t want to study “orgasmal biology?”

  3. Jason Goldman · October 6, 2010

    Best blog post ever in the history of Southern Fried Science. Ever.

  4. Chuck · October 6, 2010

    So this is what I have to look forward to as I get farther into shark research?

  5. Simon Pierce · October 6, 2010

    Nice one!

    This is *suspiciously* similar to the emails I get every day. I particularly welcome the ‘applicants’ who make a point of noting that… “many researchers are offering volunteer positions or even want me to PAY to work with them. ME. I am far too clever and well-educated to consider such a lowly route to the top. So give me a high-paying job, plebe, and make it snappy. Signed, someone with no relevant experience whom you don’t know.”

    Yeah, thanks. Don’t call us, we’ll… no, wait. Just don’t call us.

  6. Jason R · October 6, 2010

    Seems like you are getting punked. You sure this is legit?

  7. Sam · October 6, 2010

    You should do a post about how TO apply for a job working in a lab, particularly a grad student’s lab.

    For example,

    Dear Mr. Shiffman,

    I’m a recent graduate of an undergrad biology program and I was curious if you were looking for some volunteer help in your lab. You know, free volunteering at no charge to you. Gratis.

    Eager, desperate applicant.

    • WhySharksMatter · October 7, 2010

      I did that over Twitter and got 25 or so volunteers this summer.

  8. Bob O'H · October 7, 2010

    Hang on, that was written by an American. Most of the emails I get like that are written by people for whom English isn’t their first language.

    It’s also not a generic email that’s been sent to 153 different people. At least this person know you’re a biologist.

    • WhySharksMatter · October 7, 2010

      Poor grammar and spelling is more excusable from a non-native English speaker, isn’t it?

    • Southern Fried Scientist · October 7, 2010

      In general I find that I can tell the difference between bad or lazy grammar and English as a second language. Usually, people who don’t put time into proofreading or thinking about what they’re writing use tons of idiomatic expressions that wouldn’t make any sense to a non-native speaker. But yes, with a student for whom English is not their first language, some poor grammar definitely…

      …see, I was about to type “gets a pass” but people in some regions would interpret that as ‘ignore the bad grammar’ while others would see ‘toss out the application’. Idioms, man, idioms.

      Poor grammar and spelling on important documents is only inexcusable in your native language.

  9. Genomic Repairman · October 7, 2010

    When filling out a resume or cover letter, never put fast learner down. We’d like to assume that you aren’t excessively slow to grasp elementary concepts. We hope.

Comments are closed.