Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Support for women in the sciences

On Friday I gave a talk at my college's spring symposium on women in sciences. I was extremely excited leading up to it - expecting all of those who have articulated their support for my project, especially those in the sciences, to be in the audience when I reached to podium. And more than anything, I couldn't wait to share with them all these women's wonderful success stories!

Nervously, when it was my time to shine, I approached my podium and looked out into the audience: my professors/faculty from gender, sexuality, and feminist studies were there in support, my peers from both GSFS and the sciences who heard about the talk were there in support, but something wasn't quite right. I looked around the large lecture hall  - only one of my professors from the sciences (who coincidentally, I had not previously talked to about my work) was there in support of women in the sciences. 

I didn't understand. Many of the professors in the sciences had heard about my work directly from me. And when I talked to them about my work, they thought it was great - some even had little snipits to tell me about their experiences as well. I had even just spoken to my science research advisor about my presentation (just an hour before my talk) and he still did not show. My neuroscience academic advisor, who told me that she hoped the very stories I was presenting on fueled my desire to enter the sciences, did not show either. Was my wanting to get more recognition for women in the sciences only something they were willing to support in private? And if so why?  I didn't think my presentation was charged or made people uncomfortable in any way - I was merely sharing these women's stories.

To me, this whole matter was confusing and left me feeling like my hard work suddenly had no value. Curling up into a ball, planning to just forget it all, and thinking that maybe people just weren't interested in learning about women in science, the one science professor who showed up to my talk sent me a response email. 

This is what he said: Just wanted to show my support. Women scientists have strongly inspired me and have shaped my career. In addition to the women you mentioned, here's my list:
Christiane Nusslein-Volhard (developmental biologist, Nobel prize, Physiology and Medicine, 1995)
Carla Shatz (developmental neurobiologist, visual cortex, member National Academy of Science)
Kalpana White (developmental neurobiologist, my undergrad advisor at Brandeis)
Cori Bargmann (neurobiologist and head of the BRAIN initiative)
Gina Turrigiano ( neurobiologist, MacArthur fellow, taught me neuroscience at Brandeis)
Miriam Goodman (friend and colleague, and co-author, now at Stanford)
Lucinda Carnell (friend and colleague now at Central Washington University)
Amazing people.

I was re-inspired. Here was a professor who got it, and took a little time to validate all the work I had been doing. Furthermore, he gave me a list of women who he has looked to for inspiration too! He hadn't even spoke to me about my project before, and here he was - showing his public support for women in science. To that professor - thank you for showing me that people care and thank you for strongly inspiring me and shaping my future career in the sciences! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

3.31 update

I have officially cued zine 2 pages on my tumblr (which considering how many cued posts I have means it should be up by the end of the week)!!!! Creating the list of scigrrrls to include has been really hard, and unfortunately the list is a lot smaller than I want it to be. For those I have left out, I have tried to create tumblr posts exclusively dedicated to them. At least this way I am still getting their names out there!

I also am making my zine in powerpoint opposed to pdf (weird, right?). This format seems to work best though and makes it a lot easier to format / keep together. As a double bonus, I guess I could also use the slides for my talk (I can't believe that it's next week!!!!).

Planning to post the full zine in a couple of days!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


I am the process of putting together Zine 2 (scigrrrls everyone should know)! Making the pages, especially the backgrounds for my texts seems to take FOREVER (a large reason why I haven't posted to my blog for so long :-/). But slowly but surely... right?

So far I have made a bunch of background pages. I am planning on posting each page as I finish it to my tumblr site ( and the full zine (once it is completed in its entirety) to my blogspot :).  So stay tuned to both sites for updates! 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Creating scigrrrl

I struggled with the creation of my zine and who exactly I wanted scigrrrl to be: I wanted her to appeal to everyone and be relatable to all kinds of women (and interested men) out there despite differences in background. In order to do so, I thought of changing her image/look in each of the zines I create to represent that anyone can take on the identity of scigrrrl. I also thought of attributing the title of scigrrrl, not only to the image and myself, but also to my readers and women who I look up to in the field. In the process of making my second zine, I decided the latter may be the best way for me to go about making scigrrrl inclusive. 

In creating the image of scigrrrl particularly for my first zine, I had a lot in mind: I wanted her to look sciencey but also feminine to go against the most prominent image of women in science - reserved, masculine, dorky. With this being said, I also did not want her to look over feminine, or be wearing something you would NEVER see a women wear in a science/lab setting (so no intense make-up, open-toed heels, or over-the-top dress). 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The field of feminist science studies (general/ continued)

The field of Feminist Science Studies was born within the past 15-20 years with works by Sandra Harding, Ruth Hubbard, and many other great names (AAC&U, 1999). The field has sparked a lot of growth within the sciences and caused many to reconsider alternative interpretations, or create discussions behind research agendas. Feminist science scholars also study science, not only as a “locus of gender inequalities,” but as a platform in which to establish gender equality (Roy). One way of doing so is by drawing people of diverse backgrounds in terms of “race, class, nation, sexuality, disability, etc. and who can bring to science and science studies a multifaceted awareness of difference, power relations, domination, language and of the need for innovative methodologies” (Stanford). And now, because there are “more women in science, more women teaching science, more feminist scholarship about science, and more and more of it produced by scientists, feminism and the sciences have recently embarked on an exciting period of cross-fertilization” (AAC&U, 1999:2). Today, there are feminists who are not only talking about science, but who are practicing science.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is science objective?

Short answer: no. And this is one of the reasons that feminist science studies is particularly important.

Invisible biases from popular culture are woven into hypotheses and research without notice every day. Lets unpack this taking the scientific method into account. When we practice science we draw from observation to formulate our research agendas and hypotheses. We then conduct a repeatable experiment and interpret our data. As noted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (1999) there are several points in which our own social, political and/or personal interests can affect the data we produce;
 Social, political or personal interests can affect:
   —how scientists set priorities for scientific investigation;

   —what questions are posed about a topic;

   —what explanatory framework or theory frames a scientific study;
   —what methods are used;

   —what data are considered valid and invalid;

   —how data are interpreted;

   —how data in one study are compared to data in other studies;
   —what conclusions are drawn from the analysis of scientific data;   and
   —what recommendations are made for future studies.
                                                            (AAC&U, 1999:5)
By pointing out ways in which science can be influenced by societal agendas and ideals, feminist science scholars aim to address and deconstruct the belief that science is wholly objective.

Furthermore, the way we are taught to write science works to covers up any ideas that subjectivity exists within the field. Our laboratory reports and manuscripts often include phrases like The findings suggest… and Increased ____ indicates _____. These phrases strip the context and ourselves out of our findings effectively diminishing the idea that personal interests may be inadvertently sewn into the science we produce; they make it appear as if our findings are concrete and not just a possible explanation or interpretation that we made in our head (Hubbard p 157).“Feminists must insist that subjectivity and context cannot be stripped away, that they must be acknowledged if we want to use science as a way to understand nature and society and to use the knowledge we gain constructively” (Hubbard 158).