I became interested in science very young. In particular, I found the body fascinating. I thought the ways in which bodies can differ but still function the same was so interesting. I read medical dictionaries and physiology books in droves. I watched science fiction shows and movies like it was my job. I had a little microscope that came with a methylene blue staining kit for making slides. I liked knowing the answers to things, and I liked that science got them for you. My destiny was sealed. I wanted to science.
I am fortunate to have grown up in an environment where science opportunities are accessible to women. I am fortunate that much of the media I consumed depicted women in science roles as smart and capable. I think my life could have been very different were that not the case.
To my generation of women scientists, Star Trek is an iconic touchstone. For many of us, it was the first time we saw women depicted in science roles. This was certainly the case for me. Dr. Beverly Crusher was my hero. I never wanted to be on the away team. I wanted to put everyone together when they came back.
My sister graduated from Boston University a few years ago. Leonard Nimoy was one of the speakers at her graduation. He put his hand up in the Vulcan salute and said, “Live long and prosper.” The entire audience stood up and did it back. It was one of the most iconic moments of my life. A stadium filled with thousands of people from all walks of life understood the cultural significance of this moment. For people like me, Leonard Nimoy represented an ideal – a society that successfully harnesses the power of logic and science.
I feel like right now I am often forced to defend science. People cherry pick data or believe headlines or issue propaganda without any real understanding of the scientific process and how it works. It is heartbreaking for me. It frightens me to think that a mass disregard for regimented science could be coming. It frightens me to think that everything that has been accomplished will be undone.
Leonard Nimoy died yesterday and it feels like a real, actual loss. Not only to me, but to science.
Live long and prosper.