Saturday, April 18, 2015

I'm a Scientist Too

So this is something I've managed to avoid or at least delay for the last three or so years. Now that I'm a month into my honours and have technically finishing my undergrad degree it's time to face facts: I'm a scientist. It's something that I've only ever mentioned in passing, or heavily down played under some kind of false modesty because saying it out loud on the Internet is an incredibly scary thing. I felt taking pride in my achievements would make me some kind of bad person, but I should be proud that I have a BSc with a double major in geology and a double minor in biology. I suppose I was reluctant to address this at the end of last year while I waited to receive the news on whether I had been accepted into honours. I've always kept quiet about this because I felt concerned that this would somehow make my opinions about fashion less valid. The other scenario is that researchers would find my fashion blog and that my academic work would be taken less seriously. The worst scenario is that I would be forced out of science on the basis that I like clothing. It's taken me a very long time but I've finally realised that one shouldn't detract from the other and anyone who thinks so is not worth my time. Unfortunately the fact remains that some very influential people within science may object to how I dress.


My project is on palaeontology and focuses on the analysis and identification of organic inclusions in amber from south-eastern Australia. Basically I'm looking for plant material as well as any insects and other invertebrates. I'd like to think that I'm doing work related to Jurassic Park, but without the cloning and addition of frog DNA (plus genetic material has a half-life on the scale of thousands of years rather than millions of years but whatever). So far it's been a lot of work but I've been very lucky to work on a project which I love and am already considering a PhD next year- if I get the grades.

Thank you to Annika Victoria from the Pineneedle Collective for largely inspiring this discussion and giving me the courage to give form to these thoughts. By keeping silent for so long about my involvement in science I was actually contributing to the perpetuation of a stereotype that scientists are always white straight cis men and usually upper or middle class. Dismantling this pre-conceived idea not only helps the next generation of budding scientists, but also helps women already in science (of which, there are few). The women who are in science are typically stereotyped as some kind of hero for balancing their home and work life. This is something I've discussed with a good friend from university and we're both sick and tired of hearing this repeated over and over again. 

*Photos via Rookie Mag: Dinosaur Jr

10 comments:

  1. OH MY GOD, WELL DONE! Seriously, as someone who was terrible at chemistry, biology, etc. that is so cool! And exactly, your fashion choices should never detract from your scientific ambitions-anyone who says otherwise isn't worth it! Hope you're enjoying your project! Congratulations! xoxo

    www.thelittleenigma.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you Lydia I couldn't be any luckier to do my project! (you sound more proud than my own parents ohmygosh).

      Part of my successes was having knowledgeable and passionate teachers and I wouldn't be where I am today without them :)

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  2. This is so fabulous to read! Although I have (against all logic, admittedly) decided to pursue English rather than Physics at University, mixing science and femininity has something I've always been conscious of, and I've only got not only comfortable, but proud of doing so recently. Thanks so much for this post you wonderful human being!

    http://theirfancies.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Femininity is such an important aspect of English, particularly Literature too though (not sure if you're doing English or Lit specifically),
      but students always note when a syllabus has all female authors whereas if a syllabus has all male authors it may not be raised by once from a thousand or so students

      I think in many aspects of academia though femininity is monitored and more often is seen as detracting from, rather than adding value. I want to change that though in whatever capacity I can! :)

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  3. It's excellent that you decided to share this with us. I think the fact that you are a scientist, in a way, strengthens what you say about fashion. Everyone's opinion is valid, of course, but knowing more about you as a person lets us consider your thoughts in a more complex way. Being a scientist gives you a unique perspective, and through your writing it may make your readers think about things differently too.

    In terms of the science community, it makes sense that you might have to play their game to a certain extent (in regards to conservative fashion), but at the same time, science and stagnation do not go together. Scientific theories/discoveries/etc don't happen when everyone plays by the same old rules. Things need to be challenged. And not to put extra pressure on you, but I think you are probably the kind of person who would challenge things, not for personal gain or something like that, but because that's just who you are. You don't seem like someone who would just sit around and let things happen.

    Sorry if I'm being heavy or weird or something; I promise I'm trying to be encouraging. All of this is really just to say, whatever you want to do, you can do it! There's no need to sacrifice a part of who you are to make other people happy.

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    1. No no not at all you're not being heavy or weird everything you said was so valid!
      Often the big innovations in science have come from an outsider, but it takes a long time for their theories to be accepted (case in point, Alfred Wegener, a meteorologist proposing the theory of plate tectonics) sometimes decades after their death- which kind of reminds me of Vincent Van Gogh's situation,

      I'm kind of surprised on how well it seems you know me on like a personal level, rather than seeing me as selfish but someone who attacks research and blogging with the fervor of a religious fanatic. Thank you so much for your kindness and encouragement, it means a lot to me <3 <3

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  4. I kind of get what you mean. Although I'm hons in anthro (so less science and more arts) I do worry about what I wear impacting on others impressions in an academic situation. But my advice is own it! Rock up and wear what you want! Break down those stereotypes. Be the most stylish paleontologist out there :) Because that's you and people are interesting and complex.
    Also good luck on trying to do the PhD thing next year :) Will you do masters if you cant get in?

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    1. I'm so overwhelmed by all the responses I've had so far- thank you thank you thank you!!
      anthropology would be so interesting since it does exist in spheres between science and arts/ given the implications on humans as a species

      Most of the time I have to wear gross jeans because I am sorting through coal at the moment and scrub my face in the bathroom a lot but it's still pretty fun.

      Because we can do honours instead of masters I can do a PhD next year and save a year :) Good luck to you on your studies Emily and thanks for your questions <3 <3

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  5. Ughh i think i know what you mean...I've been stuck in this rut about how my major kinda clashes with my passion for clothes and style and it makes me feel some type of way sometimes.. but as of recent i'm starting to accept the juxtaposition and enjoy each for their own reasons/embrace them (am i saying this right???...). I salute you for breaking the stereotypes and being such a stylish scientist. :) This post came at the right time for me.. and not just because I want to watch the new Jurassic World movie... :p

    xx A.M.
    http://www.styleriottt.blogspot.com

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    1. I think I get what you mean and I'm glad you found this post at the right time

      but I think whatever your major women in academia often dress conservatively and that's fine if those are the kinds of clothes that they feel most comfortable in but for me not being able to wear color is a major bummer

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