The Intersection

i-c2c1c665ed0759eb35ee810458057de5-srkaaas.pngEvery week or so, someone asks yours truly to weigh in on women in science. I have. Including a couple of times here. But like Britney’s career, the subject keeps making a comeback…

How do we break through that glass ceiling, defy expectations, and succeed in a man’s world?

Now more than ever, it seems that science bloggers everywhere are exploring feminist philosophy and the gender divide. And so ladies and gents, what do you think it means to be a woman in science and when is femininity alright in the lab? Most recently, there’s been discussion of whether we (science blogettes) should take some responsibility for how we reflect women in science to the world at large.

Here’s the thing though. As much as I’m interested in promoting women, the best suggestion I can offer every young person–budding scientist or otherwise–is not to follow any particular model, but forge her or his own path. Be unique, don’t compromise to fit a prescribed cast. This isn’t novel advice, but Polonius and Jimmy Eat World were on to something… Speak in your own special voice and charge ahead full speed.

i-98e0b9e341bca6a1ddb9f368f59022e9-srkdrums.pngScience is after all, a very creative process so you’ll stand out from the pack by being your-one-in-seven-billion-self. And remember it’s okay to express the many dimensions of your personality from serious scientist to rock star drummer and back again. Because it’s boring to subscribe to anyone’s notion of what it means to be whatever it is you aspire to be in the same way it’s boring to be another cog in the wheel. Throw some sand in the gears and shake things up when appropriate. We rarely remember those who play by every rule, so take the road less traveled and see where it leads.

In other words, don’t try to be a “woman in science.” Be yourself. And shine.


  1. #1 LadyInALabcoat
    December 29, 2008

    Polonius and Jimmy Eat World were on to something…

    I’m going to be repeating that in my woman’s history course. Thanks!

  2. #2 Sciencefan
    December 29, 2008

    I think you set a good example!

  3. #3 Ashutosh
    December 29, 2008

    I agree. Don’t try to be a woman in science; just be a scientist.

  4. #4 drdrA
    December 29, 2008

    ‘In other words, don’t try to be a “woman in science.” Be yourself. And shine.’

    Awesome post Sheril! I’m with you 100%. One shouldn’t ‘try’ to be anything- much better to be yourself and just go for broke!

  5. #5 Isis the Scientist
    December 29, 2008

    Sheril, this is a lovely post. I think you are aboslutely right that first and foremost one needs to be true to themselves.

    I think that the reason you are seeing conversation about this topic on the blogosphere (and why I think it is suchc a darned positive thing) is that many academic scientists feel like they did not have female role models that they could turn to for instruction on how to survive in academia while raising a family. On any given day I think of myself as a kick ass scientist first, but that doesn’t meaan that I don’t face challenges that are unique to my womanhood. It has been tremendously valuable for me to be able to look at the examples set by people like Zuska, ScienceWoman, and Alice Pawley to see how they deal with challenges. In turn, I have felt like sharing the things I deal with as the mother of a preschool aged brood might offer some support to other women in the same situation.

  6. #6 Adrienne
    December 29, 2008

    It’s true.

    Being a woman in science ruins your credibility. Just be a woman. And do science.

  7. #7 Candid Engineer
    December 30, 2008

    Really terrific post. And the end of the day, who you are is all that really matters.

  8. #8 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 30, 2008

    ROCK AND ROLL!!! w00t!!!

  9. #9 ScienceWoman
    December 30, 2008

    Awesome post, Sheril. Right on.

  10. #10 scicurious
    December 30, 2008

    My thoughts exactly, only far better said. Go Sheril!

  11. #11 Christopher
    January 28, 2009

    My novel Convergence documents the surprisingly cut-throat world of science and reflects the real-world experiences of tens of thousands of young researchers everywhere. There are four main storylines, each involving a woman seemingly unrelated to the other three. Convergence begins by slowly taking the reader into the world of science and discovery, an apparently benign culture full of supportive people. However, despite the moral purity of the four main protagonists, sinister undercurrents undermine each storyline as the novel progresses. Thus, although starting out purely as a science mystery, Convergence develops into a slow-burning political drama.

    I developed the novel into an eBook and I have arranged for a small number of activation keys to be distributed for the eBook. Obviously I just dont want to give them out to anyone so that’s why I was looking back at the people I’ve been in contact with over the last 6 months to see who might be best to offer the book for free.

    All you’d have to do is install DNL Reader, which is free (much like Adobe Reader). The eBook itself will also be free. If you like the book you’re free to keep it under no obligation. Also, I’d be happy to give a small number of your colleagues an activation key each so that they can install their own free copy, that way you could discuss the book either as you read or after you’re all done.

    Email me at if you’re interested. The website for the book is


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