March 30, 2016
The STEM Women of #365scienceselfies [Women’s History Month]
Posted by Laura Guertin
For the month of March, in honor of Women’s History Month, I am dedicating my weekly blog posts to the outstanding organizations, resources, and inspiring stories about women in STEM. You can view my posts from last year and this year by searching on the tag “Women’s History Month”.
Taking a photo a day is not a new concept – one just has to look at the 365project and Flickr’s Project 365 to see that photographers at all levels have been sharing daily photos from their lives online. Taking and posting selfies has triggered a wide range of reactions, from “selfies are a cry for help” to celebrating significant accomplishments, such as the first women to pass marine infantry training. I’ve even blogged previously on Promoting our Discipline with Geology Selfies. People tend to hate or embrace selfies, and are either very brave or too scared to post photos of themselves online. To respond to the negative criticism of women taking and posting selfies, a Flickr group was formed in 2014 called #365feministselfies to empower women to have a positive self-image.
Fast forward to a simple tweet from Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, Assistant Professor of Paleoecology and Plant Ecology at the University of Maine, posted in December 2015…
Inspired by #365feministselfies, #365scienceselfies will be a snapshot a day in a scientist's year. Feel free to join me!
— Jacquelyn Gill (@JacquelynGill) December 22, 2015
I don’t know if Dr. Gill was aware that so many scientists were paying attention to her tweet. Starting January 1st, scientists from Australia to the U.K. to the U.S.A. started posting their #365scienceselfies (including me!). Dr. Gill was kind enough to answer a few questions for me to gather more background about the project and what she hopes will be the outcomes.
Why did you start #365scienceselfies? What was your motivation for establishing this hashtag?
“I was inspired to start #365scienceselfies for a few reasons. First, I think science in general, and especially academic science, has a bit of a public relations problem. I was really interested in chronicling the everyday lives of a scientist, which involves the fun, the drudgery, and the parts of our lives that have nothing to do with science. This is partly because I’m interested in expanding public perceptions of who scientists are, to get past the idea of the Einstein stereotype. Scientists can be women, people of color, fat, young, disabled, fashion-forward, queer, etc. Secondly, by showing what I do on my days off, or for fun, or even the trials and tribulations of academic science, I am hoping to humanize scientists. We have kids, and pets, and hobbies, and lives outside of science! Thirdly, because selfies are something mostly women do, we’re getting a lot of women scientists out there. It’s great for visibility overall, though I’d love to see even more people join us.”
Why do you think other scientists have jumped on board with taking and tagging daily photos of their professional and personal lives?
“I think part of it is the appeal of chronicling our daily lives — just being visible is very validating. I’ve noticed a lot of participants in the hashtag are graduate students, so there’s a sense of solidarity there. It’s also fun, and a way to break up the day. Plus, it can be a way to make a statement that pushes back against perceptions that you have to be in the lab or the offices eighty hours a week to be successful. Ultimately, I think it comes down to community (which social media can be great for)… it’s been really nice to see other people join in.”
After one year of science selfies, what do you hope is the outcome? What do you think the impact might be on the scientists that participate?
“I’m hoping that more and more people have joined in, and that our representation grows to match the diversity of scientists on the planet. Because I’m a scientist, I’d love to see if there is something we can do with all that data — are we posting certain kinds of photos more often, for example? What are we choosing to document? What stories are we telling about ourselves? … ultimately, I’m just hoping that we’ve changed some perceptions about who does science, and what doing science is like. If that breaks down barriers just a little, I’m happy. The supportive community that’s developing around the hashtag is icing on the cake.”
There are several scientists posting #365scienceselifes on and off throughout the year. Check out these women in STEM to see a year in the life of… (note that you don’t need accounts on Twitter or Instagram to view their images):
Dr. Jacquelyn Gill (faculty, paleoecology/plant ecology, Twitter, Instagram); Dr. Laura Guertin (faculty, Earth science, Twitter, Instagram); Dr. Anna MacDonald (post-doc, genetics/ecology, Twitter, Instagram); Nicole Poweleit (graduate student, microbiology, Twitter, Instagram), Dr. Anne Jefferson (faculty, hydrologist, Twitter, Instagram), Dr. Emily Puckett (post-doc, genetic variation, Instagram); Jen Ro (graduate student, botanist, Twitter); Majoi N. Nascimento (graduate student, paleoecology, Twitter); Devon Smith (graduate student, epigenetics, Twitter); Dr. Stephanie Schuttler (post-doc, animal behavior/disease ecology, Twitter, Instagram); Dr. Lauren Kinsman (research scientist, freshwater ecosystem ecology, Twitter); Aimee Eckert (graduate student, cancer and cell cycles, Twitter); Nikki Roach (graduate student, conservation science, Twitter)
I’d like to close with some great advice – for now, throughout the rest of the year, and in the future. Share what you see, and inspire the next generation of scientists to see a unique view into the lives of women and men in STEM.
Check out #365scienceselfies, awesome snapshots.
— Cian Dawson (@cbdawson) February 8, 2016
Dr. Gill emphasizes that it’s not too late to join! Anyone can start any time. Go for a year, go through December 31, it’s up to you. I hope more men in STEM will also join the #365scienceselfies effort. Dr. Bort Edwards, Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, is a great one to watch for fun and inspiring posts!
*I’m collecting all of my #365scienceselfies posts (I’m using Instagram and reposting in Twitter, just because Instagram allows for more text to be used to describe my images) – check out my #365scienceselfies of 2016 in my blog: http://sites.psu.edu/365scienceselfies/ (if you are looking for me the photos, look no further than the Anteater… all is explained on the blog)
[…] 2016, I took on the #365scienceselfies challenge, which was one photo a day in my life as a scientist. There were days and times where I just […]