"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

RIP Sally Ride

I don't know about you, but I admired Sally Ride a lot when I was growing up. I was deep into middle school hell when she went up for her shuttle missions in 1983 and '84, and I thought it  was just the coolest thing beyond this world that a woman was going into space, even though I didn't really think science per se was all that cool at the time. It was inspiring.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with her discussing the science education organization she founded later, after her time as an astronaut, which essentially took concrete action on all the things she herself represented:
ID: So you put a female face on science?

SR: That’s a good way to say it. We put a female face on math and science. We target both boys and girls, but we emphasize girls. We try to introduce them to female role models. Make the girls appreciate you can be a scientist and be a normal person.

ID: Discuss the intersection of science education and its intersection with innovation – does one beget the other?

SR: They absolutely go together. Basic science research, basic engineering are what lead to some of the innovations that propel the country. Look around, there’s a computer on every desk, everyone has a cell phone. iPods have taken over. That’s just in the consumer-electronics market. These things are part of our lives. We can’t imagine a world without them anymore. Some of our largest, most productive companies wouldn’t exist without a science engineering base – HP, Apple, Microsoft, Dell, the list is endless. This stuff is all around them. It’s in their pink Nanos. It’s in IM (instant messaging). It’s in their cell phones that can take pictures.

ID: What’s at stake should the nation lose its scientific standing?
SR: We’ve always thought of ourselves as an innovative country that keeps at the forefront, a world leader for the last many many decades. We’ve always prided ourselves on innovation. In World War II, the Cold War, the race to the moon – our self-image is being a technologically superior country. Without the new generation having some background or ability to enter engineering or science, we risk losing that. It’s part of our identity. We’re pioneers. We’re innovators. And we’re not producing engineers and scientists in the numbers we need.
Is it too ironic that the organization I now work for -- in fact, both my immediate supervisor, as well as the organization's president -- had been in contact with her just a few months ago? They talked with her about supporting our new program, about being involved in some way. Apparently, she was enthusiastic but not in good enough health to take an active role.

Anyway, RIP Sally! You are an icon that people -- smart girls especially -- will look up to for many, many years to come!!

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