My Personal History with Science

I was one of those lucky little girls of the late 70s and early 80s who was handed the world on a platter. Barbie didn’t start making girls think that “Math class was tough!” until 1992.  Lynda Carter graced the small screen as Wonder Woman when I got home in the afternoon.

Female role models were easy to find.  Tough fictional ladies were all over the place: Charlie’s Angels, Miss Piggy, Princess Leia. And pioneering real-life heroines were heading for outer space: Sally Ride, Christa McAuliffe, Judy Resnik.

I had books about Margaret Mead, Marie Curie, Luis Pasteur and Charles Darwin growing up. Didn’t every little girl?

“You can do anything you set your mind to,” we were told. Little girls of my age group and era were going to be Presidents, rock stars, and astronauts – possibly all at once.

When I was seven, I got to see the behind the scenes look at Sea World, and meet a few of the people who worked there because my dad designed and built sets.  I was determined to become a Marine Biologist (which I held onto until I got my first “C” grade EVER in Freshman bio, and got discouraged – some calling, eh?)  I even researched colleges, and wrote to the Woods Hole institute about what I’d need to do to be accepted to study there. They wrote me back. I think my mom still has their letter of encouragement.

I was home sick from the 5th grade on the day the Challenger exploded at Cape Canaveral. I was devastated. But it didn’t stop me from pretending that every jungle gym was a rocket ship.

It didn’t stop me from exploring every inch of my yard with a magnifying lens and my small toy microscope.  It didn’t stop me from gamely entering the science fair every year, or from getting so adept at worm dissection that I was asked to demonstrate it to a bunch of fifth graders when I was in the eighth grade.

In 2001, I had the great pleasure of attending my college’s Centennial celebration. The Keynote speaker was none other than of of my childhood heroes: Sally Ride. I sat in the bleachers next to a real-life Marine Biologist, among other women who never bothered to pay attention to the social myth that science is a man’s field.

I actually studied the so-called “soft sciences” – sociology, anthropology, political science and economics – rather than the hard science of experimentation and data collection. But I hazard to say that we all use “real” science every day. That it’s a part of learning, and a learned way to think and reason. Without logic and the scientific method, how would we know what recipes to cook?

My day job has quite a bit of science to it. I hypothesize, test, and then repeat or tweak the test. I publish my results, and following peer review, we roll out a new way of doing things.

My night job, writing sci fi, has a different kind of science involved. This is the joy of a little girl with a magnifying glass and a big imagination who just might  be a rockstar-princess-xylophone-player on Mars.

 

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