Nerds are like everyone else. They have varying degrees of cred. One of my grad students has substantial field cred, as he once jumped on and wrestled deer to the ground as part of his research. I have some field cred, as for the Hanta Virus project, I had to be in a full respirator, in the badlands, in the early summer. Not as impressive as wrestiling full grown animals, though - this kid knows how to tangle.
Lab cred, you have people who had to make stuff using chlorine trifluoride somewhere near the top - them's crazy sons a guns. The closest I come to that is a project working with Mercuric Chloride in an avian study (not nice stuff), and an opiod so powerful it can kill you in very tiny doses, before you've realized you made a SNAFU.
In biology, we don't do anything quite that dangerous, so you have people comparing how ancient of protocols they've done. My PI, for example, regularly complains about his days having to do radioactive phosphate labled sequencing, or cesium gradients while I have smugly nod, knowing that I had to do PCR the crappy, old way, worked with ethidum bromide extensively (something he's not comfortable with), and have poured types of gels he's never even heard of. It's a tie, mostly.
Well, it was. Yesterday, I did something that I can use to enhance my 'cred. When he starts getting uppity, I'll tell him how easy he has it. Why once, I had to walk a mile, uphill both ways!, through the snow, in -24°C weather to fetch a bottle of very concetrated acid.