“You can’t be what you can’t see”


Since last week, I’ve been running a pilot outreach project in which I Snapchat my day at work. The idea comes from something interesting that I noticed through my more traditional outreach activities, in particular with Girls Who Code. I tend to structure my outreach around the goal of igniting an interest in science, but it quickly becomes clear to me that a deep interest in all things STEM is already burning bright within a lot of the girls who I meet and interact with. In addition to the brilliant questions they ask about my research and the scientific concepts I’ll introduce, they’ll also ask me about what life as a scientist is like. In fact, most of the follow up emails that I receive from these girls are requests to come and visit me at work and to find out more about what it’s like to BE a scientist. Like what do I really do? What kinds of tasks do I carry out? What’s my day to day is like? What is my work environment like? I realized that these questions are about more than a general curiosity about my own life. They’re about whether these girls can see themselves doing what I do – whether they can relate to someone who identifies as both a scientist and a woman of color. So, I’m taking on a small project inspired by a quote from Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code – “You can’t be what you can’t see”.

I’m Snapchatting snippets of my work day to give the STEM-curious an inside view of what it’s like to do science. My goal isn’t to teach or explain my research in great detail. That would be impractical given the nature of Snapchat in which posts are really short clips or pictures and expire after 24 hours. My goal is to make my job relatable and less intimidating to anyone interested in science but unsure about whether they can see themselves doing it as a career.

This past week has been fun experimenting with this project, but it’s actually a lot more challenging than I expected. I’m a really private person and I’m not one to pull out my phone and take a random selfie, so I’ve been much more shy than I’d like to be about talking to my phone when my colleagues are around – but I’m trying to be bolder. The other challenge I’m having is with what to show. I do all kinds of things on any given day, but it can be tricky to say something snappy about what I’m working on without much context. That’s where I could use your help. Check out my Snapchat Stories and give me your suggestions for what to present. Also, please share my SnapCode with any young people you know who might be interested in seeing examples of women in science at work. Oh, and one more thing. If you’re doing a job where role models like you are lacking, try doing your own Snapchat thing. We can do it together!


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