Tuesday nights are Ladies’ Night, at least in my department. For the past give years, the women graduate students have been organizing weekly get-togethers so we can bond over a few beers. For me, these nights have been invaluable because I’ve made new friends, gotten great advice about courses, research, and careers, and had a lot of interesting discussion about women in physics (and astronomy, too!). We’ve talked about professors, weddings, drag queens, gynecologists, which (if any) professors in the department we consider handsome, post-docs, having kids, board games and lately we’ve let some of the guys from the department in on our fun.
Good thing I don’t have any nieces/nephews/offspring because they would have been pushed aside for my new favorite kid. Meet Sylvia Todd, hostess of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show, who was recently profiled in the New York Times. She’s an 11 year old who loves electronics, crafts, and science. Her parents help her put together a really fun web series where she demonstrates how to make different projects.
Here’s her most popular show: how to etch copper to make both jewelry and circuit boards. This puts my childhood Perler bead and paint by numbers projects to shame.
Sylvia also does a really great job of explaining some of the engineering and scientific principles behind her projects. Check out this video where she makes a strobe light and a finger flute for an Arduino. I just watched it with my lab mates and we all learned something new about circuitry. Also, she uses puppets to explain different parts of the circuit. PUPPETS! And they are super cute and hand drawn and also very funny.
At 11 years old, this girl is already a fantastic role model. If I have kids they better turn out like her!
During my senior year of college I needed an interview suit. So I went shopping for one and looked at store that, to 21 year old me, said “business woman”. I ended up getting a brown suit (I wanted something different than black because everyone wore black, but now I look at it in the back of my closet and wonder what I was thinking) from Anne Taylor. At the time I thought it was a great ensemble that proclaimed “I am a serious adult”. But looking back, I realized that it looked like I was a young-looking 21 year old trying to dress like a middle ages lady.
Over the years my fashion sense has changed. Thankfully it’s not what it was in high school (plaid bondage pants, anyone?) or in undergrad. As I’ve tumbled through grad school I’ve gotten a better sense not only of my personal style, but also what my personal style is in a variety of settings and a much better idea of how to dress myself well and in a flattering manner. I know now that when I feel like I’m dressed well I am more confident and this is something that I plan to use to my advantage in talks, interview, and later throughout my career.
Because I do reflect on my personal style and how I present myself as a physicist, I often get frustrated when the discussion turns to advice on how to dress or when I’m around a lot of other physicists and observe what they are wearing. My biggest problem is that for women in academia, I feel like there is an attitude that dressing professionally means you either look like a frump or look very generic.
The other day I was lamenting the lack of physics related crafts/jewlry/art up on Etsy. There’s a lot of chemistry and biological sciences themed shops, but not so much for physics. Then today I discovered Stark060 Jewelry, an Etsy shop that just opened making jewelry for women in the STEM fields. Stark060’s founder has a background in chemical engineering and is beginning graduate studies in material sciences, so he definitely knows what he’s doing!
Take a look at some of my favorite designs:
Force diagram earrings
Carbon nanotube necklace
And Schrodinger’s Equations earrings
Recently, Rookie Magazine ran an interview with America’s scientific sweetheart, the imcomprable Neil deGrasse Tyson. Although the scientist’s name is most likely a familiar one, the magazine’s may not be. That’s because it’s not the name of a science blog or publication, but of an online magazine aimed at teenage girls. Usually the magazine covers pop-culture, fashion, or crafts. That may seem like a strange place for an interview with Dr. Tyson, but the novelty of it is both exciting and inspiring to me.
Ok…first of all, how awesome is it that teenage girls are writing about their own interests in science (mostly outer space for now) and encouraging others. I’ve thought a lot about how teachers and scientists can encourage young students to develop an interest in science, but in reality, teenagers take a lot of clues from their peers and from other teenagers that they inspire to be like. So seeing teenage writers for a popular website show their excitement about outer space provides a great “jumping off” point for girls to investigate aspects of astronomy or astrophysics on their own. And this could lead them to not only develop and interest in (or even a passion about if we’re lucky) not only this branch of science, but they might make connections with other types of science and continue to learn and investigate.