Seeing life from the bottom of a microscope: 'Guinea Pig Zero' offers career tips for lab rats


When he was in college, my father found some very creative ways to make ends meet. In addition to the traditional student methods of self-starvation and going to religious meetings for the free pizza, he set up a laundering business, constructed industrial models, and engaged in medical experiments. His college was closely alligned with both Colgate and Vicks, so he would often tell me tales of catching a yearly cold to help test different versions of Vap-o-Rub or having sugar solutions applied to his teeth so researchers could explore the mechanisms underlying tooth decay. Luckily, his next job was with the Navy, which meant that he was able to get his rotten teeth fixed!

Human guinea pigs have a long and rich history; from antiquity to the present, medical experimentation has provided untolled cures, saving millions of lives. Furthermore, in recent years, it has given desperate students an opportunity to make money with minimal skills. In addition to underwriting my father's education, it also provided the funding for El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez's debut film!