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Electricity, chemicals, and cookies

Our power came back on Monday evening at 10:00 sharp. We had gone out for dinner along with many other disgruntled looking people, managed to score a few of the last bags of ice from the grocery store, and went home to listen to rerun sitcoms on the TV band radio by the light of a camping lantern. We did lose some food, but mostly just small things. I know there were still people without power in the area for a day or two after that, so I am grateful.

Last night we got to attend the premiere event of a mobile science program put together as a joint venture between the Carnegie Science Center and my employer, who as always shall remain nameless. Lalala I can't hear you! And I wouldn't even mention this, except for the fact that I got to be IN the program. They picked fourp people to be examples of "real live scientists." It was so much fun! I was apprehensive about seeing the finished product. I hate hearing my own voice on the answering machine let alone seeing my mug on a big overhead screen. And they let me talk off script! For a program that children will see! Poor, brave, foolish people. And the whole thing was great, and my segments didn't make me want to crawl under the nearest lab bench. The people at the Science Center are creative geniuses and I salute them.

Driving home, I reflected that I feel no small amount of pride knowing that more than likely some middle school girl somewhere is going to see the program, and hopefully realize that not all scientists look like Albert Einstein, or Dr. Frankenstein. Seriously. Do a Google image search on "scientist." I'll wait. Are you back? I saw one woman on the first page, and she was down there a ways. There were none on page two. Wanna try something funny? Still got that Google image search window up? Search on "hot scientist." Oh! There's the females! (hot male scientists everywhere should feel affronted)

We live in an enlightened era where girls are taught that (theoretically) they can do anything they want and (theoretically) be anything they want to be and that (theoretically) they are just as good at math and science as any boy. But the reality is that the unspoken message that science (chemistry in particular) is really hard, or the domain of boys (or really ugly girls that wouldn't get a date anyway so she might as well be in a lab on prom night), or only for uber-smart geeks, or evil, or dangerous and likely to kill us all or at the very least wreck the environment and next thing you know *poof* no more polar bears is still out there.

So maybe that hypothetical 10yr old girl will see me or my colleague in this presentation and be able to relate. Maybe her mind will be a little more open to considering a career in science. She may study for eight years and get her PhD in chemistry, land a job with a successful manufacturing company (after an additional four years spent in a low-paying post doc), and get to see her job outsourced to some backwater in India where cheap labor and a lack of environmental regulations make it impossible for American firms to compete. Go science!
Sorry. Inadvertent bitter tangent.

Anyway, I'm off to bake kolachi. My husband's mother's cousin's daughter's daughter is getting married tomorrow and I volunteered my baking skills. If you're not from here, cookie tables are a sacred wedding tradition (if you're from here, you already know this). While some caterers will stock a table for you, and professional cookie specialists exist, more commonly all the women in the family bake a big ol' batch of cookies for the reception. The table(s) at our reception were unreal - we had TONS of cookies. I'd guestimate several hundred dozen, many courtesy of my grandmother. A good cookie table is a badge of wedding honor, so I pay it forward. Also I like to bake, and I like to show off my grandma's kolachi recipe.

The organization I work for spends a considerable amount of time and effort in recruiting women into science and engineering fields(materials research, to be more specific). They also do a ton of outreach targeted to 5th through 8th graders. Check out www.strangematterexhibit.com some time -- it's a major effort on our part that has been well received everywhere it's toured. Unfortunately, Carnegie Science Center isn't going to host it for reasons known only to them.

I could probably tell you the reason. $$$. "We" gave a big ol' chunk of it to the science center to fund the programs.

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  • I'm Sarah
  • From Pittsburgh, United States
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