Selling my body to science

As I write this, I am wearing a heart rate monitor and a backpack that is measuring the different types of pollution that I face during a day, including air and noise pollution. ¬†I will stay in a free hotel room tonight with the backpack by my head. ¬†Then tomorrow morning, I will undergo some health tests, ride my back on a set route through Fort Collins’s trail system, go to work, and do another set of health tests at the end of the day. ¬†I stand to make around $80 for this. ¬†If I complete four sets of these days and show up on time to everything, I will have nearly $500 more in my pocket. ¬†That is very nearly a washing machine, people!

We are lucky that we have a top-tier research university here because research means getting paid to participate in studies. ¬†I started participating in any study I could qualify for in my undergrad at the University of Wyoming. ¬†Over the last decade (uh, wut? ), I have taken a math test, taste tested potatoes, rated milk cartons for how healthful they’ve appeared, participated in a “candy bar auction,” and other strange activities in the name of science and extra cash.

The social scientist in me wants to help out my fellow scientists who know the pain of finding subjects. ¬†The cheapo in me wants extra money. ¬†Participating in studies is a win/win. ¬†Most studies are funded by grants that enable the researchers to pay subjects for their involvement so I am providing a service that is critical to the research, not costing the actual researcher anything, and sometimes helping them graduate or publish. ¬†Most pay a pretty nominal amount, like the $10 I made from taking a 15 minute math test on a computer. ¬†This was a psychology experiment and I honestly don’t even know or care what they were actually researching. ¬†I made $30 for the potato study, which was awesome for 2 hours on a Saturday morning. ¬†I have also done So. Many. Focus. Groups., and some of them were only for pizza (I was a student and entirely pizza-motivated), but others were for $50 Visa gift cards or cash. ¬†This current study requires more of a commitment, is more intrusive on my life, and requires blood draws, so that’s why it pays substantially more.

To find out about studies that are recruiting, mostly I just read. ¬†I read the student paper classifieds, the email bulletin the university sends out each morning, signs in hallways and on bulletin boards, and every email that comes my way. ¬†Then I respond QUICKLY. ¬†You never know when a study will fill up. ¬†I email or call as soon as I figure out if I qualify. ¬†Lots of studies don’t even have any qualifications other than you want to participate and you are an adult. ¬†I also answer truthfully. ¬†I have been turned down from participating in studies quite a bit. ¬†One time, I fit all the qualifications but part of the reward was new workout clothes that you had to wear during the study and they only had size L.

I do have an advantage because I am already located on campus and am exposed to more recruiting messages, but for those who aren’t in a university community, if you live in a town with a university, like CSU in Fort Collins, read the student newspaper and check out the university’s website. ¬†Ask friends who are involved with the university to keep an eye out for you. ¬†The opportunities are endless, you’ll probably get some cash or something free, and the experience is often a pretty good story to tell your friends. ¬†And you’ll probably get some cash to help build an emergency fund, pay off some debt, or help you buy a beer or pizza.