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girls,science, etc.

Erika L Jonietz ejonietz at athena.mit.edu
Sat Jan 23 14:08:18 EST 1993

Well, I, too am a bit younger than the average poster, I think; I am a freshman
in biology.  The recurring themes in this discussion seem to be very active
encouragement form parents at an early age, and a teacher (not necessarily in the
sciences) who encouraged or otherwise helped his student (sorry, I am not into
this PC his/her crap).  

My experiences were very similar;  my parents encouraged me to read all the time-
science and nature magazines designed for kids were subscribed to regularly, and
we went to the library about once a week.  We also watched a lot of PBS shows
like National Geographic and 3-2-1 Contact.  In addition to my parents, who
have always had very high expectations for me and my sister academically (my
Chinese friends insist my parents must be Chinese ;>), I also had an uncle who
doted on me when I was younger and bought me a microscope one Christmas, when my
parents thought I was too young for it.  

My interest in science was very general until I was in the sixth grade and had my
first specialized science class, in the life sciences.  Then I fell in love.  My
teacher (female, if it matters) was wonderful.  My eighth grade teacher in
physical science constantly encouraged me to compete with and beat the boys in my
class academically.  My ninth grade biology teacher was excellent, and  I loved
her class so much I signed up for her AP class in 11th grade.  My 10th grade
chemistry teacher was a woman who had been involved in research before beginning
to teach, and she always encouraged the female students who showed any interest
in science.  All my life I have had wonderful teachers, none of whom ever
discouraged me from doing anything I wanted, and to the best of my recollection,
none of them ever showed a bias toward males either.  Perhaps my experience in
the education system has been so good beacuse, although I went to public schools,
I have always been involved in programs for the academically gifted.

I have also rarely had problems being heard, and I think this is because of my
father.  He is a lawyer, and taught me how to think critically and analytically,
and our family has always had discussions about any and every issue imaginable,
and even when we were very little, my sister and I were always taken seriously. 
This was a problem for me later, especially during high school, when I could not
find other adults to take me seriously.  Unfortunately, even in high school, I
did encounter the syndrome where the same thoughts were not as valid coming from
me as from any random male.

I have had the good fortune to already have been able to work in research labs;
the one thing everyone there seems to find curious, which I never even thought
about, is my strong interest in science despite the fact neither of my parents
works in a science related field.  I think this demaonstrates an important point
in interesting *anyone*, not just girls, in science, from the side of the family,
which emerges as very important in all discussions.  I think what parents need to
do is expose their children to as broad a spectrum of information as possible and
then encourage them to pursue the fields where their interests and talents lie
without pushinf them.  Which is exactly what my parents have always done, and are
still doing.

Sorry I've rambled on for so long.

Erika Jonietz
ejonietz at athena.mit.edu

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