A Brilliant Legacy!
While I didn’t realize it at the time, I was conducting an experiment. It’s funny to think back to those moments now that I’m at the bench performing much more conventional experiments (the ones with pipettes and tubes and sterile gloves). But those early experiments were just as important as my experiments now.
I’d be willing to bet my PhD (when I earn it at least) that everyone has a similar story from their childhood—a moment of intense (or idle) curiosity when they found themselves tinkering and taking something apart to figure out how it worked. And in this way, everyone has a little scientist in their heads. I don’t mean this in a cliché, so-broad-to-be-meaningless-“Everyone’s a scientist!” way, but if you think about the definition of a scientist, it’s mostly about curiosity. Professional scientists are just those people trained in using the agreed upon tools that give us useful answers. Science is the tool that scientists wield to answer questions about life. But just like how holding a hammer doesn’t make you a carpenter; using science doesn’t necessarily make you a scientist. I would argue that thinking and wondering about how life works and then doing something to figure it out does. When you think of it like this, science becomes something shared between all of us. It’s also something everyone can participate in. Scientist, the profession, just becomes something that requires some training.
I haven’t always known I wanted to do scientific research in the lab. There are days even now when I’m not so sure, but something I have always known is that I like figuring out how things work. And from an early age science was there to help satisfy my curiosity even if I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing when I was taking apart my pen.
To me, nothing is more intriguing to take apart and figure how it works than life. So, I’m studying to become a biologist. Right now, my favorite thing to dissect is a plant cell. I study how plant cells divide and how it compares to cell division in an ancestral algae. It’s interesting to me because every plant has cells that divide. One cell becoming two is the foundation of creation! These are the types of large, profound-sounding statements that I recite to myself when my experiment has failed for the umpteenth time—but that doesn’t mean they’re not true.
A Brilliant Legacy!
This is something I wish someone had told me sooner about doing research. Most of the time, you’re going to fail. Some of us take this harder than others. I take it personally, even now, when an experiment fails repeatedly. I let thoughts of inadequacy creep in my head which sends me on a spiral of “You don’t belong here” and even worse “Everyone else also thinks you don’t belong here”. Anyone can feel like they’re an imposter, especially in a field of perceived geniuses working on such large, profound questions.
I think it’s important to realize, however, that women and girls feel this a little more potently because, historically, we haven’t seen other women and girls in positions of power within science. We might’ve even gotten messages to validate those feelings of imposter syndrome along the way. Which is why I think it’s incredibly important to be open about the struggles and frustrations of not just performing experiments that frequently fail but of how it feels being a woman in science.
In saying this however, I am encouraged by the changes I see. I’m being trained by a woman and a scientist. She was also trained by a woman and a scientist. It feels special to be a part of such a brilliant legacy of curious and driven women. I like to wonder about what they took apart as kids… /p>
When it’s my turn to train the next scientist, I aim to instill in them the idea that they’re already a scientist, I’m just giving them access to the tools to answer their questions. I might start by giving them a pen.
The West Sacramento Bayer Crop Science site has been a long supporter of the Center for Land-Based Learning, an organization that cultivates opportunity for youth, for agriculture, for business, for the environment with the focus on growing new farmers, workforce development, and exposing high school students to agriculture. We are proud to feature Ms. Lozano, her experience and success in these tremendous programs.
If you are considering a career in science, check our website https://www.career.bayer.com/en/career/.