A couple of weeks I saw a call out to scientists on Twitter to share their story on how they became scientists using the hashtag #IamScience. It quickly became clear that the route of being excellent at high school science followed up with fantastical results at university and completing a PhD wasn’t the norm. It existed and I know people who have achieved this and I suffer moments of jealousy because my path wasn’t like that. To get a sense of the tweets that came out, watch the following video.
I have to admit that I didn’t join in despite being a scientist and my persistent call to scientists to let people know that the lab coat doesn’t define them. I stayed quiet feeling like a hypocrite. The path to where I am today as a scientist is unusual and there are some things I would like to obliterate from my memory. I don’t want to give a sanitised representation of science but some things are so incredibly painful to bring up but there are some things that I can share. I want to share these not because I want you to pity me or give me a pile of compliments. I made it. Just. I have made it, thousands don’t. I’m lucky. I am about to tell you and the world things that I wish I could tell students when they ask me whether science is hard but I chicken out for fear of scaring anyone away or deemed too negative to be placed in front of an audience ever again.
- A high school physics teacher told me, “I can’t explain this any simpler. Maybe you should take another class.”
- A high school math teacher said, “You don’t deserve an A in my class” and then consistently awarded me B grades no matter what I did. By the end of Year 10, I hated mathematics.
- In my final year of high school I failed Calculus but I earned a Distinction in first year university Calculus. That Distinction still feels good today. I have kept the letter inviting me to consider a degree in mathematics.
- At university, one chemistry lecturer I once respected told me that I would never be good enough for research. Four months ago, this same lecturer was suggesting PhD research projects for me to consider.
- I have been told, “You’re good at chemistry, for a woman.”
- I’ve been unemployed as a scientist for 25 continuous months and barely managed to pay the bills with short term university teaching contracts and government assistance.
- I am science (astronomycommunication.wordpress.com)