How Do You Picture a Typical Scientist?

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Film screening and discussion

On June 14, 2021, GRK 2423 FRASCAL, in collaboration with IGK 2495, screened the documentary film „PICTURE A SCIENTIST“ followed by a (digital) panel discussion.

Please feel free to take a look at the program and watch the trailer.

The film tells of the spirit of optimism among women researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. A biologist, a chemist, and a geologist take the audience on a journey through the experiences of their academic careers – as women in science. In their careers, they have faced discrimination from the beginning. From cramped labs to spectacular field stations, however, they also encounter scientific luminaries who reveal new perspectives on how science itself can become more diverse, equitable, and open to all.

After watching the film together in virtual screening, there was a discussion led by Dr. Julia Will, Women’s Representative at FAU’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. For this purpose, we invited three outstanding female scientists associated with the two organizing research training groups and asked them about their experiences with the problems addressed in the film:

PROF. DR. JULIA MERGHEIM is a Professor at the Institute of Applied Mechanics at FAU and head of the research group „Numerical Mechanics“. Prof. Mergheim is a member of IGK 2495 „Energy Conversion Systems“ and GRK 2423 FRASCAL.

PROF. DR. ARETI PAPASTAVROU is a Professor of Mathematics and Technical Mathematics at the Nuremberg University of Technology, where she is also the current Vice Dean and Women’s Representative. One of Prof. Papastavrou’s doctoral students is an associated doctoral researcher in GRK 2423 FRASCAL.

PROF. DR. ANA-SUNČANA SMITH is a Professor of Theoretical Physics at FAU and works part-time as a Senior Researcher at the Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb, Croatia. Prof. Smith is a member of the GRK 2423 FRASCAL.

In addition, participants could anonymously leave their thoughts and comments on the film on a digital bulletin board, which was also very actively used. Even before the film, the audience had the opportunity to answer the question, „How do you picture a typical scientist?“. The same question was asked after the film to see if the image had changed. Examples of comments before the movie: „Kind of a nerdy person who is curious and analytical.“ or „Hair full of smoke from an explosion in the lab, wears either a lab coat or the same old-fashioned sweater every day.“

The same question was answered after the movie with, for example, „You may very well be a flawed and prejudiced person. You can be the oppressor or one who is silent about it. Not very ‚rational‘ or ‚logical‘ as they may see themselves“ or with „Problem solvers in science and society.“ …

In response to the question or request for comments „Something I saw in the film that I was totally surprised about:“ there was an extremely large number of responses, such as „that women were silent about what happened to them“ or „that I couldn’t pass the implicit bias test and my reaction time was longer than I would have thought“ or „Nowadays, women are more visible in science, but there is still a lot to do to reach the same state as men in science. There are many aspects that still need to change“ and many more.

This very lively and emotional participation shows how stirring and important this topic is for all scientists, how much need for action and discussion there still is, and how important it is therefore to offer such events. Hopefully, there will be many more such activities and the path will continue in a positive direction.