Thursday 8th March was International Women’s Day, and we got to chat to another inspirational woman, Sara MacSorley. After figuring out that research just wasn’t really her cup of tea, Sara branched out to explore other science-infused career options.
Sara created her own unique path, merging science and art to inspire young scientists from all walks of life with her book Super Cool Scientists.
Could you tell us a bit about what you do?
In my day job as a Director, I’ve overseen programming for kids and teachers in the arts, sciences, and math, including organising a Girls in Science Summer Camp.
I also promote my original book Super Cool Scientists, do speaking engagements about how we can make STEM more inclusive, take care of all the bookkeeping, and am currently working on a second volume with illustrator Yvonne Page.
I love sharing the stories of amazing women doing super cool work. It gives me the opportunity to meet people around the world doing important work to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM and young people who are excited about the idea of studying science themselves.
My favorite part is when people send me their final coloring pages! I love seeing our readers’ interpretations, especially when they color the scientists to look like them!
Are there any common misconceptions about your field?
I was trained as a marine biologist, thinking I would become a research scientist, but I soon realized I didn’t want to take the research route.
I think that when you look at specific STEM fields, like biology, that have improved gender diversity, it can be easy to think our work is done. That is a misconception and where the true inclusion piece comes into play. We need to not just get more women into STEM but also create environments where women and other underrepresented groups feel welcomed and valued for their contributions. We need recruitment AND retention.
Have you encountered any discrimination, or hurdles along your career path?
One of my biggest hurdles was figuring out what to do when I learned I didn’t actually like research, even though I had been preparing for that career for years!
No one had ever told me what else you could do with a science degree. There are so many things you can do with a science degree!
That’s part of why it was important to me to highlight such a wide range of jobs in the Super Cool Scientists book.
I was lucky enough to have some amazing female scientist mentors who exposed me to the outreach side of science.
As a queer woman, I’m certainly familiar with the challenges that come along with being part of an “other” group, though they aren’t specifically connected to my experience in science. I had a #metoo moment during a study abroad experience in college where I was assaulted by another student in my cohort, that took a while to process, especially learning how common it was even amongst my own friend groups at the time.
What is something you would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that there are lots of things you can do with science, that it doesn’t have to be so limited like you may think.
I’d also tell myself that I’m super capable, brave, and resilient. Sometimes we all need that reminder. I had a stage of my life pretty recently where I lost track of myself a bit and getting back to me feels so good.
Who is your hero in science (or life)?
My mom has always been my hero, with her unconditional love and support. She cared so much about my education and taught me the life skills I needed to chase my career goals. She instilled a healthy dose of self-confidence that has helped me believe in myself through professional and personal experiences. (Hi Mom!)
Science-wise, I am so grateful to those two mentors in college who helped me find my way. I look up to them very much.
How do you think that we, as a community, can do a better job of promoting women in science, and engaging young women/girls?
As a community, we can continue to share the stories of women and other underrepresented individuals who are doing super cool work in STEM.
Telling those stories helps shape the narrative of what a scientist looks like in a more realistic way.
Telling those stories in a way that makes the scientists relatable also helps young people connect to their stories and hopefully help them see that they too can go into science.
Check out the Super Cool Scientists website to get your very own copy of Sara’a book, or some other super cool science-y swag!