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

Next week it will be my birthday

I am ready to celebrate

On November the 4th, I will be 34 years old.

As many of you maybe know, Facebook usually suggests you to organize a donation campaign for your birthday. This year I decided to go for it and the organization of my choice is AIL.

AIL is the non-profit Italian organization against leukemia-lymphomas and myeloma. Their mission is to promote and support research, improve patients and their families’ quality of life and provide direct assistance to patients in their struggle against blood diseases and to raise awareness of blood disease issues.

In 2018 my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, she got a transplant and 11 months after the diagnosis she died. I talked about this experience and my pain here.

If you are interested in giving me a birthday present, or just in making a good action, please consider to donate here:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/679787822920492/

Thank you so much to anyone who will give something. Anything.

Let’s fight leukemia to fuck leukemia!!!

Women in STEM: Dr Zoë

Dr Zoë in the lab

My 43rd guest is Dr Zoë, an analytical chemist, who develops new technology to help keep water supplies safe and a mental health advocate.

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

Hi, I’m Zoë. I am an analytical research scientist in industry working on designing new technology to help keep our water supplies safe. I am also a mental health advocate, working to improve academic mental health and ensure that higher education is accessible to all. I love a whole host of things outside of work, including gardening, baking and archery.

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

I started my Twitter account about 10 years ago, but it lay largely inactive for a long time. At some point I started talking about academic mental health and realised that mental health is something that resonates with a lot of people. From there I started to design posters covering mental health issues people face in STEM and wider academia, and my followership has snowballed from there. I find social media an amazing resource to connect with people in my field.

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

I set really strict boundaries. I don not work on weekends unless there is an absolute crisis, and protect that time heavily. I also strongly believe in not hiding who I am as a person entirely from view either during my work – I have my own biases and acknowledging that means I can be a better scientist.

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

During my undergraduate the gender ratio was very balanced. As I progressed through academia I saw less women in senior positions. This isn’t something I can neatly summarise as to why this is the case – it is multifaceted. What I can say is that there is still a long way to go.

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

Me personally, no. But I have to acknowledge that it exists. There’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure safe working environments and ensuring that people that come forward are treated with respect and listened to.

How did you become passionate about science? 

I’d love to say there was this one major moment that really put me on the trajectory of science, but there really wasn’t. I am quite analytically minded and science suits me well. I enjoy learning new things about the world around me.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I am an analytical chemist by background, and did my PhD in electrochemical sensor development. I now work in the “Advanced Technology Group” in my company looking for and creating new technologies for the water industry.

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

If someone tells you don’t belong – prove them wrong!

Follow Dr Zoë on Twitter!

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