C&EN has an article about Prof. Stephen J. Lippard, recipient of the 2014 Priestley Medal. I feel privileged to say that there is only 1 degree of separation between us; one of my good friends is now doing a postdoc with Prof. Lippard at MIT. His Priestley Medal address is enlightening, and both articles contain some choice quotes:
“Science doesn’t work a 40-hour week. It can’t stop on Friday afternoon at 5 o’clock if that experiment is percolating. Sometimes you just can’t stop yourself from going in on Saturday morning or at midnight or on Sunday to see what’s happening […]“
“Chemistry experiments set up on Friday afternoon may often not wait until Monday morning to be worked up and extended. Some experiments require attention late into the evening or even a return to the laboratory long after normal business hours. […] Unlike many professions, experimental chemistry cannot be done from the comfort of one’s home via the Internet.”
This is all too true. Unfortunately, scientists these days (chemists especially so), are underpaid and underappreciated by society (relative to doctors, lawyers, bankers, and MBA’s) when one considers the time-intensive and inherently risky nature of our work.