Today I am both proud and indignant about science. I woke up after a near all-nighter of manuscript writing to find two incredible emails. The first was from a scientist clinician friend of mine who was writing to update me on a patient that she had consulted me about. The patient had a very complicated cardiac abnormality that needed repair and I was able to offer her some help. I really like collaborating with this woman. She is a fantastic clinician and has a stellar mind for science. She is also a tremendous mentor and I enjoy watching her interact with students and residents. She really focuses on their ability to communicate professionally, especially encouraging her female trainees to use what she calls their “big girl words.” Teaching young women scientists and clinicians to communicate with authority is an incredibly important task. It makes me happy when our joint efforts are successful.
The other email was from a student that I had mentored previously. Each semester I mentor 5-7 undergraduates from one of our programs (we can tallk later about how I do that logistically). Through no bias in selection in my part, many of these students end up being women. Some of these women spend a single semester in the lab, learn about research and then go on their way. Others have stayed for 1-2 years, doing independent projects. I am very proud that some of them have gone to national meetings to present their work and many have ended up in graduate and medical school. Today I got this note from one who graduated this past semester. When I first met her, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduation. She writes:
Hey! How have you been doing? How is the lab doing? What kind of experiments are you working on currently? I thoroughly miss working with you and learning more physiology every day! I mentioned something to [one of my colleagues] already but I would love to come back and get my phd with in the lab in the next year, either starting next summer or fall (2013)! After I left lab it wasn’t a week later and I missed it so much. I love physiology and learning everyday and working in the hospital setting and doing research, it’s definitely what I want to be doing because it makes me feel accomplished and intrigues me! Hope all is well!
[Badass Female Student]
I am probably a hard woman to work for. I am not overly affectionate or chatty. I am not a hugger and I know that I am harder on the female students in the lab because I know what they are up against in their careers. I invest a lot of time in them, helping them with their professional development and presentation skills. But, I love physiology and science and it is rewarding beyond comparison to see that spark of excitement in their eyes when they see physiology happen in real time. I love watching them try to explain complicating physiological concepts to each other, gaining confidence in what they know. Helping these women grow and mature is very important to me and there is no bigger reward than to see a woman who began unconfident about her ability to interact in the world of science and medicine become self-assured and equally passionate about science.
That is why shit like this infuriates me beyond reason:
This is a video for an EU campaign promoting “girls” in science. But, the thing is, although I have two X chromosomes, I am no girl. I am a scientist and a wife and a mother, but I am no girl. The women that I mentor are not girls either. Here’s the information on the video from Facebook:
What the hell kind of frivolous asshattery is this? I don’t strive around these parts to hide the fact that I like a nice pair of shoes or the latest Urban Decay palette, but what kind of ignorant fuckweasel would think it anything but patronizing and condescending to try to recruit “girls” into science by telling them that comestics, fashion, and rhythm are what it takes to succeed in science? And what excessive patriarchal bullshit to show a man in a white coat sitting at his microscope while the women prance, giggle, and pose?
At this past year’s Experimental Biology meeting I had the real pleasure of spending a few evenings with a group of incredible science women. I guarantee that not a single on of them struts into their lab like its the runway. None of them are “girls”. There’s a couple of bad bitchez in the bunch, but no girls. It is certainly not comestics, fashion, and rhythm that binds these women together. In terms of their interest in these things, they are as diverse as they come.
What unifies them is their brilliance, their enthusiam and passion for science, and their general support for each other. If you want to get young women excited about science, show them how awesome science is and show them the real women who do that science. Show them the women who have dedicated themselves to helping others succeed and learn. Not a bunch of nearly naked women posing like they are auditioning for the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
Because science is not a “girl thing”. It’s a really awesome thing.