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Giving Our Girls Role Models Beyond the “Science Guys”

By Jeanne Garbarino

Presenting students with diverse STEM role models is a key factor when helping them develop their own STEM identities. So why do we always push the "science guys?"

Role models play an incredibly important role in developing a STEM identity for our students. Yet, there still seems to be an overwhelming tendency to default toward the “science guys” when trying to drum up classroom excitement for science. Yes, science guys have access to a big platform with highly produced bits featuring vibrant explosions and polished Hollywood-esque commentary. But, of course they do.

While I am thankful that science is getting the limelight through the science guys’ efforts, when we promote them as the default face of science, we are missing a massive opportunity to tell a more realistic story around science — one that features a diversity of both people and nature of scientific pursuits.

So when a group of middle school girls told me that the only scientist they knew about was Bill Nye, I was naturally frustrated. Of course, we took these frustrations to the only place I felt we could find an adequate and immediate sampling of scientists who are not the stereotypical “science guy.” Of course, that place is Twitter.

“Science Twitter” as it is called can be an incredibly valuable resource for connecting with scientists,  learning about different STEM fields, and getting your questions answered. But it can also be like drinking from a firehose. This was my very first viral tweet, and the incredibly generous response from women in STEM has allowed me to compile this list of role model examples for our students.

  • Former Chief Scientist at NASA, Ellen Stofan, doing fieldwork with planetary scientist, Nathalie Cabrol.
  • Trauma surgeon, Amy Stewart, with her surgical team.
  • Middle school science teachers attending a workshop of how to teach evolution, hosted by Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science (RDFRS).
  • Heather Berlin is a neuroscientist, professor and media host with a love for brains!
  • Olivia Kumana Is an Immunology Ph.D. candidate.
  • Brittani and Brandi Jackson are twin doctors! Brittani is a family medicine MD and Brandi is a Psychiatrist.
  • A group of scientists at The Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre at Imperial College London!
  • Transplantation scientists from Cardiff!
  • Raychelle Burks is a chemist and academic!
  • Allison Coffin is a neuroscientist studying hearing loss.
  • Marie-Elizabeth Barabas manages a portfolio of research journals.
  • Jess Phoenix is a Volcanologist.
  • Kris Sabbi studies wild chimpanzees to find out how differences in early life experience, attention to social interactions, and androgen hormone production help to shape social development!
  • Tamitha Skov is a Space Meteorologist!
  • Scientists working to integrate Sea Level Rise into decision making!
  • Rachael Bonoan got her PhD studying honeybees and now studies ants, caterpillars and butterflies!
  • Samantha Hopley is an educator who specializes in designing curricula to train the next generation of scientists.
  • Kendra Williams is a fourth-year medical student.
  • Jane Fenelon is a scientists working on wallaby and echidna reproduction in Australia.
  • Science researchers preparing for a poster presentation at the American Geophysical Union.
  • Jordan Covvey is a pharmacist, scientist and academic.
  • Ally Bowers is a science teacher.
  • Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a Professor of Particle Physics and Cosmology!
  • Clinical Neuroscientist studying the effects of aging on the brains of adults living with HIV.
  • Jen Golbeck is a Computer Scientist and Professor at The University of Maryland.
  • Shadi Naderi is an aerospace engineer and computational scientist extraordinaire.
  • Catherine Coleman is an American chemist, former United States Air Force officer and a retired NASA astronaut!
  • Jennifer Frazier is a cell biologist at UCSF and now does research and exhibit design at Exploratorium.
  • Sara Kenyon is a maternity researcher at the University of Birmingham.
  • Rachel Plachcinski and her fellow scientists from NCT!
  • A group of plant scientists!

For more resources to help connect students and classrooms to more diverse STEM role models, you can check out:

  • Here is my original Tweet thread containing a diverse array of scientist responses!
  • Skype A Scientist — This is a free service that matches a scientist to a classroom for a 30-60  minute Q&A session. Topics can cover research interests, how the scientists got into their field, burning science questions, and more!
  • Letters to a Pre-Scientist — The mission of Letters to a Pre-Scientist is to demystify science careers by creating personal connections between students from high-poverty schools and real scientists.
  • 500 Women Scientists: Request a Woman Scientist — This platform connects women in science with anyone who needs to consult a scientist.
  • Have a look at a few popular Twitter Hashtags (here is a visual compilation of inclusive science Twitter hashtags from Science Sam:

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