Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Student Life=Crazy Stunts for Pocket Change
I had work study when I attended school. I had summer jobs that brought extra cash in. I had a number of advantages that insured I wouldn't starve my way through school.

But if I wanted any extra spending money, I needed to stretch. Fortunately, there were several ways that I could earn money without spending too much time away from my studies.

In undergrad, [Small Liberal Arts University] was conveniently located a few miles away from a blood and plasma research center. To entice new volunteers (I use the word loosely), they offered a two week plan: $20 for the first donation, $15 each for the second and third and $30 for the fourth. After that, you were considered a "regular donor" and got $10 for the first donation in a week and $15 for the second. I donated blood at regular drives as well, because plasma gets replaced regularly enough that I could do both. It was my prime source of extra income during junior year, but was brought to an abrupt halt when one of the other donors hit on my friend. (During senior year, I worked for a professor above and beyond my work study so I didn't make the effort to go on my own.)

In graduate school, however, I hit the motherlode. [Big 10 University] has both large business and medical schools (not to mention a decent psychology program), so research volunteers were requested year-round.

In the business school, I participated in a market-clearing experiment and got $10. I could have earned a lot more, but it was an early morning experiment and my sleep-deprived brain didn't comprehend some of the instructions until the second round. After that, I just decided to sleep in.

I periodically checked with the psychology department, but most of their studies seemed to ask for really specific traits. Not being albino, or a twin, or equipped with perfect pitch, I never managed to find one for which I qualified.

The engineering school performed an interesting study on driver distraction. I had to "drive" a half-car while looking out the windshield to the CGI road. I actually did slightly better with one distraction, but with two or three my reaction time was notably lengthened. That earned me about $20.

The medical school had the best options. I still have a copy of my brain scan. They were examining activity in the different layers and hemispheres of the brain, and I pretty much just had to lie still for awhile. That was over $100. However, the single best project was in the elder care research unit. The team was investigating the impact of weight training on muscle and bone mass (in the hopes that this would help reduce injuries from falling). So I gave a small sample of my leg tissue to begin with, and then did some cardio and weight training for twelve weeks, at which time my tissue was examined again. Yes, I was PAID to have a personal trainer. I got into pretty decent shape, although it didn't last much beyond the program. But getting up to 240 pounds on each leg from under 40 was a great feeling.

What is the craziest thing any of you have done to earn money in school?


Blogger Kira said...

I went to a school with MAJOR medical research so I did all sorts of weird things. Dermatology took samples of my butt skin and gave me circular sunburns, Pathology tried to suction cells out of my lungs, Psychology did LOTS of strange things to me, but the weirdest one was the speech and language people who strapped bands around my chest to measure my breathing and had me read out loud. (I only got $15 for that though.)

Blogger HC said...

Circular sunburns? Not fun.

And I'm pretty sure that psychology experiment belongs in a David Lynch movie.

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