Women in STEM: Pauline

Pauline and nature

My 44th guest is Pauline, a non-binary, neurodiverse science and social studies teacher, artist, computer scientist, amateur astrophotographer and so much more.

Hi Pauline! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

I’m a female-presenting NB Science/Social Studies teacher who works with 4th grade students at a project-based learning STEM school in West Texas, USA. I’m also an artist, and sometimes use my art for Science purposes.

When did you start your Twitter account? How did you get the idea?

I started my Twitter a few years ago to document my journey with my students, and also to hook into all the other incredible science communicators and resources out there in the twitterverse.

Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life? 

I try hard to not take work home in the evenings, and do my best to reserve at least one day of the weekend that is work-free. It gets hard sometimes – it’s difficult to get all the grading/lesson planning/communicating done during work hours, but family and self-care are essential, especially during this crazy Covid season.

During your academic studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

I’ve done studies in a variety of fields (my major is religion, and my graduate work was done for a Masters of Divinity). For a while in college I was a Computer Science major, and I’ve taken quite a few courses in science. Many of my most important science professors were women, and during internships I also had bosses/supervisors who were women (I had a paid internship in college where I worked on code for the ISS/Space Shuttle through a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin). I did my computer science work at the University of Texas in El Paso, and I think that’s probably one reason why we had such a high number of diverse students, especially in the research groups I participated in (for AI).

Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?

As a nonbinary person, I don’t think that I register the discrimination the same way women do. But I know that I’ve faced some before, and normally it feels foolish. I grew up in Los Alamos for my early years, where Science and critical thinking is a huge part of the culture, and I’ve loved science ever since I was very young. I think I’ve felt more discrimination because I think/process information differently than Neuro-typical people (I’m ADHD, and have trouble accessing academic information through text, or memorizing things). I started university as pre-med as a chemistry major, but had trouble learning the way they wanted me to. Now, I access most bedrock information about subjects through audiobooks/videos, and then dive into the academic texts when necessary – it makes a world of difference. I’ll also use a lot of graphic organizers to help lay out information, and this is a technique I use all the time with my students.

Pauline loves science!

How did you become passionate about science? 

I think from a very young age I felt closer to the natural world than to people. I also have a family that’s very involved in the hands-on aspects of science – my parents are gardeners, and my dad is an amateur astronomer (we do astrophotography together sometimes). Also, we took a lot of family trips where my dad would explain things like geology to me. Growing up in Los Alamos, I had almost unfettered access to the libraries at home and at school, and so I could indulge my curiosity in both the natural world around me and in books and conversation. Now, I love science because I love patterns. And the way the world works, and discovering more about the world. I love sharing information with my students and opening the world up to their curiosity, getting them to see beyond the surface to the forces and processes that lie beneath.

Pauline’s dad

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I’ve taught Science for several years, through several different grade levels. I’ve also taught math and reading, but I love Science the most (and how it pairs so nicely with Social Studies). I believe that every student is capable of amazing things, and part of my job as a teacher is to help empower them to develop their own individual talents. Science is all around us, and there are many ways to do science “right,” so it’s something accessible to everyone! One of the things I do every morning with my homeroom is the “Quote of the Day” – a quote, drawn from diverse sources, illustrated by a picture with our own character, Anonymouse (from anonymous). The kids love the Quote, and I feel like it helps to strengthen them as students and as people of character, helping broaden their horizons.

Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in STEM?

Remember that as a scientist and an engineer you are an innovator. You don’t need to become a carbon copy of anyone else. Though it’s important to master the basics of your field, do so because you have something unique to bring to that field – and perhaps even connect fields together. Everything is connected – don’t be afraid to draw on all of your experiences when facing a problem. You’ll be surprised at where the serendipity of inspiration will come from!

Follow Pauline on Twitter.

Quote of the day

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