Monday, March 2, 2015

Unsung Women of Chemistry

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this really great video being passed around. Mary Sherman Morgan, Alice Ball, and Rachel Lloyd were all chemists whose work has fundamentally changed the way we live, and yet their stories were all but lost to us. I wanted to know more not just about these women scientist, but about the folks who took the time to make and share this video.

In this first of several posts I am delighted to share some of the discussion I had with Noel Waghorn of Reactions, the maker of this and other really great videos about chemistry and chemists! In the next few posts, I'll go into a bit more detail about each of these amazing scientists and their lives.

What inspired you all want to create this video in the first place?
We had done a couple of animated episodes over the course of our first year doing Reactions, but they were very time consuming. We have an extremely talented artist/animator on our team, but we are constantly bugging him to do other things. So we got a grant from our society to pursue an animated series “Legends of Chemistry.” Our first episode was about accidental discoveries in science, another was about a Hungarian scientist who tricked the Nazis with chemistry, and this was our episode on unsung women. There will be one or two more coming out this year.

Why did you pick these three women? Are they personal heroes or just interesting stories?
I learned about Mary Sherman Morgan through Amy Poehler's Smart Girls website. I was absolutely captivated and bought her son’s book about her life. I wanted to tell her story in as many ways as possible, because it’s so incredible. There’s SO much we didn't fit in about her, including the fact that her dad had to be forced to let her go to elementary school. Seriously, it’s crazy. So I knew I wanted Mary in the video. Our host and scientific consultant, Raychelle Burks (@drrubidium) contributed two others (Alice Ball and Rachel Lloyd). Lloyd is particularly close to her heart because she went to University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Does the ACS (American Chemical Society) have a program to encourage girls and young women to pursue careers in chemistry?
The ACS has the Women Chemists Committee, which is entirely dedicated to advancing women in the chemistry field. They give an award out each year to a person for encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in chemistry, and hold numerous events for women in the field. But we can always do more! At Reactions, we are trying to increase our female viewership through our topic selection, and I have made the promotion of girls in STEM a personal goal of mine at office.

Will there be other videos in the future featuring amazing women in chemistry?
We hope so! I have actually written a grant to do a Drunk History-style video about Mary Sherman Morgan, and we hope to do that this year. (If you haven’t seen Drunk History, it’s awesome!)

Here are some other Reactions videos featuring awesome women in science:
How much water can kill you feat. Deborah Blum:
What happens to your body when you die feat. mortician and author Caitlin Doughty
How do rockets work (also featuring Raychelle Burks)
4 Amazing facts about pregnancy (feat. Dr. Christine Colie, the head of Obstetrics at Georgetown University)
Game of Thrones and poison (Feat. Raychelle Burks)
Zombie survival cologne (feat. Raychelle Burks)
The Chemistry of Love (feat. Abby Marsh, Georgetown psychology professor)


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