I returned home one evening to find a lovely photo posted on Facebook by my dear friend, Nina Lanza. Nina is a exoplanetary geologist (amongst other things a beautiful, thoughtful, and caring friend, a lover of cats, erudite, and a brilliant vocalist) who works on the ChemCam team. The ChemCam is a lovely laser system mounted upon the latest Mars Curiosity rover that landed on the red planet last year. Read more about the MSL and such: http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_rover#Rover_instruments Here is the photo. Nina had this to say about it:
I’ve never felt like more of a rock star than that moment–and also the awesome responsibility that I have sometimes when talking to kids. They are listening!! So, my boss asked me and his other postdoc Agnes to speak at the Expanding Your Horizons conference in Santa Fe on Saturday: http://nmnwse.org/lawis/eyh/index.shtml For the first part of the day, we sat at at a table for a few hours giving out candy and CCAM bumper stickers while talking to girls who came up to us about the rover, Mars, or anything else they wanted to ask. We didn’t have a great plan for it other than pulling out my laptop and showing them new pictures from the mission, but we ended up talking to a bunch of people. One girl came back to introduce me to her mom :) The main reason we were there was to give a ~40 minute talk on MSL to the entire group (several hundred gals in all). Agnes and I had made some nice slides and included some parts for audience participation. Agnes started out with the slides, and then we asked the girls what they knew or thought about Mars. WELL. That ended up being 15 minutes of non-stop hands going up everywhere! We needed a runner with a mic to get all the questions. Eventually I tried to go back to the slides but the girls were like, no we have questions we want to ask you!! And so I finished up the “talk” by answering all kinds of awesome questions. Agnes (who is French) was like, I have no idea what they’re saying so I’m going to let you handle it, ha! After our presentation, we stuck around to help with the raffle of cool science posters and kits. One girl won a shirt and then asked me to sign it (!). Then as I was coming down from the podium at last, the little tyke with the drawing ran up to me. She had on a really cool plaid cap and sweet Chucks. I eventually tracked her down again and gave her my email address, and she gave me hers (and drew a HEART on the paper! A HEART!). I also met her twin sister, who had on a hilarious shirt making fun of Facebook. With ladies like these coming up in the world, we have nothing to fear for the future :)
The last line sells this for me. “With ladies like these coming up in the world, we have nothing to fear for the future” We may have many hurdles left for equality (racial and sex alike), but it is clear that progress has been made.