Monday, 26 November 2012

All hail Suzi, Queen of Science Blogging

Here at ScienceGrrl HQ, aka Crumble Towers, we would like to thank the Good Thinking Society and Soho Skeptics for awarding Suzi Gage on behalf of ScienceGrrl the joint-first place prize for people who can write good and do other good stuff too. ScienceGrrl is delighted that this award goes to our month of April. Like Simon Cowell to Olly Murs, Alexandra Burke and that cute one who Cheryl Cole clearly fancied but was basically too old for it to not be weird, we feel we have nurtured Suzi to the point at which she was able to connect meaningfully to her readership, make Ben Goldacre's favourite data analysis tool seem mildly interesting and use apostrophes correctly.

We we would like to thank our mums, dads, agents, the people who printed our awesome calendar, which you can buy here at the lowlow price of just £12, the staff at Caledonian Road Post Office and producer Louise's pet cat Loki, who has a few words to say here:


To celebrate Suzi's our success, we are removing the cost of postage and packaging from our calendars for 12 hours only*. Shop while it's hot!

April - the lone scientist

In all seriousness, huge congratulations to Suzi Gage, who is a PhD student at the University of Bristol and who has just been awarded joint first place in the first UK Science Blog Prize for her blog 'Sifting the Evidence'. Suzi is our Miss April and we are very proud of her. David Colquhoun was her co-winner. He is not in the ScienceGrrl calendar.

*From 1200 to 2359 on Monday 26 November.

Friday, 16 November 2012

"ScienceGrrl is just what I need"

Over the last few weeks ScienceGrrl has been fortunate to get a few e-mails from young women who have found out about us and are encouraged in their love of science by what we are doing and how we are doing it. This, in turn, encourages us a great deal - we are getting something very right!

One of the young women responsible for putting a massive smile on my face is Laura Oxley, who has kindly agreed that we can reproduce her e-mail here. I think it's inspirational in it's own right, not just because it makes me feel a tiny bit smug.

"I found an article about ScienceGrrl in The Observer and WOW! There's other people who reacted as strongly as I did to the European Commission’s "inclusion" programme...emphasis on the quotation marks around the word inclusion!

I am an A2 student studying Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Science is number one in my life as my younger sister frequently ridicules me for; It's been the core to  everything that fascinates me and motivates me since I was little and I'm keen to pursue a career in scientific research.

Although there are many girls in my biology class, I am one of only two in a highly testosterone-fuelled bunch of boys in physics, and one of 5 in chemistry. It can be a real struggle to make yourself heard and to make people see how dedicated you are to your passion when you're just a needle in a haystack.

I'm not from an academic background, my Dad is a joiner and my Mum is a secretary, my love for science is something I've developed by myself, along with my work ethics, strong opinions and self esteem. It doesn't take much more information about me to gauge my reaction to the EC film. Not only did I feel like it was the EC stamping all over me and dampening my view of what it is to be a young woman in science, I also found that although many people felt the same, there were still a considerable number of girls my age who could not care less! A Radio 1 Newsbeat report had a clip of a girl saying that she'd dropped Physics as a subject because it was male-dominated and there wasn't really anything in it to interest girls. I was left feeling personally insulted. I'm a girl, I like clothes and shoes and chocolate and all those ‘girl’ things...I just also happen to like ecology, evolution, biomechanics, neuroscience, getting my hands dirty and sitting down with a calculator to tackle some killer maths as well. I'm applying to do Neuroscience, Biology and Physiological Science degrees.

Thankyou for voicing my thoughts so well. ScienceGrrl is just what I need!"

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Moving forward together

Here at ScienceGrrl things have got off to a great start - in under 4 months, we've produced a beautiful 2013 calendar, which is now available here at our shop, the Science Museum in London and - very soon - at the MOSI shop in Manchester.

As we've undertaken this project, we've gathered together a lively network of people passionate about encouraging more girls and young women to engage with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and supporting women in STEM careers. Nearly every day I receive e-mails from people who like what ScienceGrrl are doing and what we stand for, and want to get involved.

We want to make sure that this great start is translated into long term and sustained impact, and as such are beginning to develop an strategy which outlines what we will get up to in 2013 and beyond.

We want to hear what you think. What is our role, what makes ScienceGrrl different, and how we can we make the most difference? Please join in our short consultation survey and take a moment to answer a few questions here.

Your input will help inform our decision-making and is really valuable. If you're involved in a similar project, we'd particularly like to hear how we can partner with you and strengthen the good work that is already being done.

We're also holding consultation events in Manchester on the 17th of November and in London on Saturday the 24th of November to discuss our future direction. If you'd like to attend either of those, please e-mail us via our website, here.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Opening the gate to the road less taken

I may be slightly biassed, being married to a teacher, but I think they get a pretty rough time of it. Most teachers work hard during term-time (and a fair bit of their 'holidays' too), often doing a demanding job under less than optimal conditions. And when anything goes wrong in society, you can bet there will be someone pointing the finger at the teachers who didn't correct 'it' whilst the individual responsible was at school.

Even the recent IoP report on the number of girls doing Physics (It's Different for Girls) was reported in a way that blamed teachers for imposing their gender stereotypes on young women and holding them back. Whilst a certain interview on the Radio4 Today programme leant some weight to this hypothesis, I think it only tells half the story.

I would hazard a guess that most of us who use science in our work were, at some point, inspired by a teacher who showed us that science was interesting, exciting, useful, and perhaps most importantly, for us. We should remember these individuals and celebrate them - be grateful for them and make sure they know it. Heaven knows, they don't get thanked enough.

A few weeks ago I came across the story of a particularly inspirational science teacher, courtesy of Dr. Carol I. H. Ashby, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in AlbuquerqueNM. I asked her to write a guest blog to introduce us to him - Mr Pentzer.

"Why do we choose a particular path in life? What causes us to take on the challenge of a road less taken? Sometimes one person can have a defining impact on the future course of our lives.  Frank Arthur Pentzer was one of those people for me. With a single answer to a question, Mr. Pentzer launched me toward a career in chemistry at a time when women seldom went into careers that were not “traditional” women’s work.

In 1971, when I was a senior in high school in LewistonIdaho, Mr. Pentzer was the head of the science department. It was a big school with several hundred students in each grade and a separate science building that opened my senior year.  Mr. Pentzer taught me physics and second-year chemistry, but he also taught the required “slow biology” class for the kids who didn’t do very well in school. He designed a hands-on course with lots of microscope work and lab projects that taught the concepts without using textbooks that were too difficult for some of the kids. That was typical of Mr. Pentzer, a man who loved teaching all the kids, both top and bottom of the class academically.

He didn’t need to teach; he used to tell us that he really made his living raising barley on the family homestead near Winchester (about 20 miles south of Lewiston). Winchester was small, probably fewer than 200 people when he was growing up, but Mr. Pentzer had been able to study physics there in high school in the 1940’s. His teacher was a woman who was also a pilot working as a crop duster. She was asked to teach physics because the school board thought a pilot must know enough physics to be able to teach high-school kids. Maybe that had something to do with his attitude toward women and science.  Maybe it was because he was descended from homesteaders who carved a farm out of the American wilderness. American pioneer women were strong, determined, and resourceful or they did not survive. Women and men labored side by side clearing and farming the land, tending livestock, and working as true partners to grow their families and prosper. His grandmother would have been one of them. Whatever the cause, he was a man who encouraged everybody to strive for their best.

I loved physics and especially chemistry, but a woman going into science (other than as a teacher) was a rare occurrence.  I didn’t know any female scientists. I wasn’t sure that a career in science was something that I ought to consider, so one day I asked Mr. Pentzer if he thought it was ok for a woman like me to go into science.  His simple reply was “of course.” With permission from one of the people I respected most, I decided to become a chemist. If he had discouraged me, I would have selected another direction for my life.

A few years after I got my Ph.D. in chemistry and had been thoroughly enjoying my career in research, I wrote him to tell him what a defining effect his encouragement had worked in my life and to thank him.  He replied very quickly, thanking me for remembering him and telling me how much he had enjoyed teaching me and how happy he was that I had found a scientific career to be the source of such satisfaction. 

I am so glad that I took time to say thank you to the man who opened the door to my future. I hope that someday someone will look back and remember me as one of the people who encouraged them to reach for their dreams.  I hope that I will be Mr. Pentzer to someone else, passing on his gift of encouragement to embrace the possibilities."

Monday, 5 November 2012

Where in the world is ScienceGrrl?

hey, producer Louise here. i've been going through our orders to date and looking at where we'll be sending the calendar - so far we're in four continents! could we get into all seven? you decide...

i made a map to show you, because i'm a spreadsheet nerd - it's made using a Google Fusion table. i think it's pretty neat. hope you do too.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

What's Mo Name?

ScienceGrrl is supporting Team Mos For Science! in their bid to turn their upper lips into luxurious forests of manly growth, the likes of which seen only on Ron Burgundy and our lovely photographer, Greg Funnell. The team includes our Mr March, Adam Rutherford, whose day two stubble is impressive, most impressive.

Please donate to the team and help raise money for prostate cancer research, awareness, education and "survivorship".

To get you in the mood, have a go at the quiz below, created by our producer Louise for the Science Question Time Christmas quiz last year. Can you guess the scientist from his moustache? Email your answers to The person (or people) with the highest number of correct answers will win a ScienceGrrl bag. And if we're particularly tickled by your answers, we might award you a special ScienceGrrl badge.