Jennifer Smalls, PhD, was awarded the 2017 Cutest Lab Coat trophy early last week at the annual MENS, Meeting of Engineers and Scientists, after a fierce competition.
“We selected Mrs. Smalls as this year’s recipient because she truly exemplifies the purpose of the lab coat: style and grace in even the least becoming of settings,” stated Phillip Demarco, Director of MENS. “She is the shortest winner – only 4’11” – and shows us all that even the lowest person can be cute and also a scientist.”
Mrs. Smalls was nominated for the prestigious award by her laboratory’s
principal investigator, Dr. Richard Brown. He proudly told us, “As soon as she walked through the door for the interview for a lab position, I knew I had to have her. Seeing her in her little lab coat always makes my day, and I wanted to share that joy with the world.”
The selection process for the Cutest Lab Coat award is reported to be extremely rigorous. Any scientist or engineer can nominate a colleague by submitting a picture to MENS, who then carefully reviews each
submission according to a strict, thorough standard. A panel of top researchers from across the nation grade hem and sleeve length, number of buttons, collar height, and other metrics on an analytic rubric to determine whose coat best displays MENS’s criteria of ideal proportions. Finalists are called in for an interview on their research, laboratory style, and fashion inspiration.
Mrs. Smalls described the interview process with a noticeable furrow in her brow. “The whole thing was quite strange. MENS requested that I wear my lab coat I use when dealing with toxins outside of the lab which is a clear violation of basic PPE procedures. Mr. Demarco showed me the picture that Dr. Brown submitted, and I wasn’t sure when he took it. I was expecting inquiries into my data, but instead they asked me what brand my coat was and why didn’t I just undo the top button for them real quick.”
Paul Cho, an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Brown’s laboratory, enthusiastically agreed with MENS’s decision. “I always ask Smalls if she got her lab coat from Babies ‘R’ Us, cause she’s so tiny. She says I’m being ‘unprofessional,’ but I guess it’s hard to take a joke when you’re so short.” When asked about Mrs. Smalls’ research, Paul had much less to say: “I’m not really sure what she works on. Every time she talks to me, she does this weird thing where she flips her hair and occasionally moves her hands in this adorable way, and it gets so distracting.”
Since receiving the award, Smalls has been inundated with attention from the scientific community. “I’m very grateful for the attention this award has brought to my research. I’ve been receiving frequent calls from senior researchers across the country asking me about my work. Oddly enough, they always request a video chat.”
After a request to show off the now-famous lab coat, Mrs. Smalls was
anxious to share her findings. “I have developed a progestin alternative to levonorgestrel that would be suitable for use as an emergency contraceptive for women of all weights. I tried explaining that to MENS, but they said that birth control doesn’t seem like a relevant problem to them.”