Bums, biceps and Bunsen burners

American professors are getting their kits off in the name of science, says Glenda Cooper

Scientists in the United States are slipping out of their lab coats into something more comfortable.

Robert Valentini was once merely an assistant professor at Brown University, studying techniques for healing damaged tissue. From now on, however, he is "Dr September", a smouldering PhD in tank-top and shorts, with charms described succinctly as "Buns. Biceps. Bunsen Burners". He is one of 12 hunky researchers pictured in various stages of deshabille for the 1996 "Studmuffins of Science" calendar. The calendar, published, inevitably, in the United States, shows scientists skiing, swimming, cycling and lifting weights - anything but holding up a test-tube.

"Studmuffin" is an Americanism and, apparently, an affectionate term for a guy who combines sexiness with boyish charm. There are hopes that a calendar showing that scientists can be sexy will attract more students into the laboratories.

Dr September's new image is a result of the efforst of one woman, Karen Hopkin, a New York journalist who recruited the men, motivated, she admits, by self-interest. "I guess I had the idea for the calendar so that I myself could meet guys," she says. "Instead, I have this calendar."

Ms Hopkin, 32, the producer of a US radio programme, Science Friday, sought nominations for Drs January to December through a journal of science humour, The Annals of Improbable Research, and a computer service called ProfNet, an electronic bulletin board used by university news bureaux. She sought candidates on the Internet with the unbeatable chat-up line, "If you have a Y-chromosome and a PhD, you could be Dr December."

"I didn't really have a budget to go around the country and check out all the potential studs, much as I would have liked to, so I asked for photos," Ms Hopkin says.

Around 200 nominations were eventually received and some 75 photographs, which were sifted down to the 12 "delectable dozen" by Ms Hopkin and a panel of experts - scientists, friends and Karen's mother. "Some were aware they had been nominated and some were completely dumbfounded," Ms Hopkin says.

She cornered Dr Valentini after he was a guest on a Science Friday broadcast about tissue engineering and so-called designer body parts. "I was with my wife," Dr Valentini recalls, "and I said, 'What do you think?' She said: 'For the sake of science, you have to do it'."

In a completely unscientific but intensive piece of research, a panel of experts from the Independent has decided that the three most likely to encourage women into science A-level courses are Dr Valentini himself, closely followed by the delectable Dr March - Rob Kremer, lecturer at Colorado State University in Fort Collins - and the divine Dr May, also known as Robert Jones, senior professor of agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota.

Dr Kremer claims he was attracted to science because "you can do what you want, how you want and when you want", lists his favourite foods as Mexican and Thai and his favourite activity as hiking.

Dr Jones - 44 and single - says he'll never live down the day when he "set the tissue culture hood on fire", hero-worships Nelson Mandela and went into science because "every day you help to generate a base of knowledge that scientists will build on in the future".

As well as its visual enticements, the calendar offers science trivia; answers to questions such as, "What's your favourite subatomic particle?" and information about so-called "great dates", although these tend to be the anniversary of the discovery of radium and grant application deadlines rather than the traditional Saturday night.

"If people are going to buy this calendar to drool over all the half- clothed scientists," Ms Hopkin says severely, "they should learn something about science, too."

And Dr Valentini claims the calendar serves a higher purpose than ogling. "I think the ultimate idea is to make science and medicine more approachable for everyone in the public at large, to make scientists look like real people instead of nerds in the lab who have white coats and play with mice," he says.

The idea has yet to take off in Britain, though among possible candidates some might perhaps consider Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, as Dr April or the naturalist Sir David Attenborough as Dr November.

But those with a doctorate and two X chromosomes have been left out. On the Net site for the Studmuffins calendar, someone plaintively asked, "Why no Babebagels of Science?"

The reply reads: "The answer is simple. Karen Hopkin calendar creator/heterosexual woman goes for guys." Babebagels will just have to wait another year.

'Studmuffins of Science' costs $14.95 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum Shop (001 617 253 4462). It can be ordered via the Internet at http://www.studmuffins.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?