At least one person has told me her view of scientists was that they were all crazy white-haired men with accents. It got me thinking—I think that picture is close to a majority opinion. Indeed, if you do a Google image search for “scientist,” one of the first results is pretty much exactly that. As others have said to me, science has an image problem, rendering it inaccessible to the people who both fund (often through tax dollars) and benefit from research. When scientists do attempt to put ourselves out there, it more often than not comes off like this, rather than this.
While I’m no Steve Jobs, I want to do my part to break through that barrier, at least with my own work. As a step in that direction, I ambushed my primary investigator (PI), mentor, and boss, Dr. Salvador Soriano-Castell, when he unsuspectingly came over to talk to me. I told him I needed a picture to demonstrate to the internet that scientists were cool, but I had to assure him that I wouldn’t use it to set up a secret dating site profile (darn!).
I visited a number of labs before I decided where I wanted to stay, and he was by far the best fit for a mentor in terms of leadership style and personality, my highest priorities. I made a good choice; he’s been especially fantastic in the ten months I’ve been working with him.
I haven’t yet managed to convince him to do something crazy for a picture. Perhaps someday.