I was going to write a very informative article on the different women in science who have inspired us all. I was going to put up many links to different networks that support women in science. I was also going to finish marking first year practicals hours ago but that hasn’t happened either. And so instead I should like to talk about two women in particular, that have inspired me to lead the rather fabulous life that I now lead as a women in the Earth Sciences. Seeing that today is International Women’s Day (as opposed to???) I should like to take a moment to introduce Bärbel Hönisch and Dorrit Jacob. I met both of these women very early on in my scientific training and I owe them a great deal. Without their sage words of advice I may well have gone on to do an average PhD….heaven forbid!
Bärbel Hönisch is an assistant professor at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. She is my age (lets say that means young for an assistant professor, old for a PhD student) and already on track for a permanent position at one of the world’s best Earth Sciences schools. I first met Bärbel while doing field work on Catalina Island in 2008 and we have been firm friends ever since. She is an incredibly well-known figure in paleoceanography and could write the textbook on ocean acidification in past oceans. Actually she probably has written a textbook *. Although she is frighteningly accomplished and ridiculously efficient she remains incredibly supportive and encouraging to those around her. As many of us have said “when we grow up, we want to be scientists just like Bärbel”. One of the things I love most is that she doesn’t mince her words. I remember being so thrilled that I was acknowledged on one of her papers; ‘the’ Bärbel Hönisch acknowledged me! When I thanked her profusely she told me not to be ridiculous and that I should aim to collaborate and author papers with her instead. Good point.
Dorrit Jacob currently has a position at Mainz University and whilst known as a petrologist she has done some wonderful work looking at the structure of biogenic materials such as pearls….and I have some beautiful specimens to prove it. I first met Dorrit when I was brand new at the ANU. I felt quite lost and intimidated amongst all the academics and was perhaps even a little shy (hard to believe I know). Anyway Dorrit grabbed me by the arm and dragged me around the university showing me the best way to get things done in an academic institute. Let me tell you, being timid was not the lesson. She is the first person I felt really comfortable discussing my work with, as while she is incredibly accomplished she remains approachable and understanding of……my general lack of understanding. But most of all Dorrit is hilarious. Whoever said scientists don’t have a sense of humour has not spent anytime with Dorrit.
The two women have much in common. They are very bright, successful and stong. I find it most admirable that they continue to engage so enthusiastically with the students that surround them. Oh and they are both German. I have had an exceptional start to my career and I owe a lot of my success to the strength I have drawn from my two wonderful mentors. We should celebrate women such as this everyday, not just today, and we should try and make sure all young scientists have access to mentors such as these. Now if you will, raise your glasses to Bärbel and Dorrit.
(* since first posting this I need to make a correction. Bärbel has indeed just published what is equivalent a textbook on ocean acidification, in the journal Science no less. For more details click here! )