During various outreach and public engagement events I have been involved with we have asked children to draw what they think an ocean scientist looks like with the aim being to show them that anyone can be a scientist.
I found out only recently that this Draw-a-Scientist activity was not something just developed for outreach activities but actually stems from a test developed in 1983 by David Wade Chambers to understand when children started to develop a set image of a stereotypical scientist. Spoiler alert: the results are completely disheartening. Of the thousands of drawings, only 28 featured female scientists.
In relation to this, a question I frequently get asked by parents and guardians is who inspired me to become a scientist. No matter how many times I get asked this I never feel like I have a good enough answer. Yes, I can stand there and list off names such as Sir David Attenborough and Mary Anning but the truth is that they, amongst many others, including those I am lucky enough to work with and learn from today, have inspired me only as I got older and learnt about them and their work.
So, who really inspired me as a kid? Well, the truth is that I never grew out of the incessant asking ‘why?’ stage as a child (and I still haven’t!) and as clichéd as it may sound my inspiration was the environment around me which to me was so full of beauty and unanswered (but answerable!) questions.
I consider myself very lucky that every day I get to wake up, go to work and have the freedom to ask questions and work tirelessly to answer them in the never-ending pursuit of broadening our horizons. I get to meet, work with and learn from incredible people from all around the world and share what we learn with generations both young and old. Advancing our knowledge is one great marathon relay race with each scientist helping take a step or two. And you can help take a step too. It is never too late to be a scientist. It all starts with a single question. How? Why? What? Where? When? Who? All you need to do is ask a question and have the desire to find the answer.
Science is for everyone and science is everywhere.