The Stereotypical Scientist


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Examining Stereotypes About Scientist

What comes to mind when you think, “Scientist”?

Do these stereotypes sound familiar?:

  • Men in white lab coats with pocket protectors and glasses, pouring potions, possibly wearing goggles
  • Working in a very clean / sterile labs
  • Introverted, work independently, loners with poor social skills
  • Serious and and not good with emotions
  • Geniuses who are narrowly focused on science – always the smartest person in the room

Our scientists identify with some of these, True… Dr. Beheshti’s family has a tendency to compare her to the line in Beauty and the Beast where Belle asks, “Father, am I odd?” and he comes out from under his contraption all bug eyed and asks… “Now, where’d you get an idea like that??”

Nerdism. But what’s a nerd?

Collectors? Perhaps things like rocks, specimens and bugs? That’s a yes from Dr. Kat Beheshti!

Likes to read a lot? Yep, especially Dr. Sammy Davis!

Tendency to observe random things others don’t notice? Even when out at the beach? 100% Dr. Anya Brown!

Dr. Jennan Kharbush may enjoy her own company and be a bit introverted, but she does enjoy socializing, sports, and has a lot of hobbies!

So, where does the Scientist stereotype come from?

As a kid in school, it’s typical to learn about the people who have made big contributions. Scientists like Gregor Mendel and Isaac Newton. It’s easy to think that if you aren’t comparable to them, you aren’t a “real scientist”. This can really challenge many developing scientists, as many don’t fit that mold.

Even if the scientist doesn’t look a certain way, they have to behave a certain way. A single minded individual. All work, all the time.

This visual was part of Amelia Munson‘s understanding of a scientist growing up. Science had to be everything in your life. If you were going to be a scientist, this was going to be EVERYTHING for you. Which… didn’t make her thing she couldn’t be a scientist, but that maybe she didn’t want to…

Happily – This idea, doesn’t fit our SciAll Scientists!

Many of them are outgoing, and have other interests such as art or history.

Dr. Kelly Speer reflects on how her ideas of what was innately true about being a scientist influenced her to the point that it took her longer to consider science as a career. If she could have identified herself as having traits of a scientist, she could have come to science earlier!

Dr. Beth Lenz has even been told that she does not look like a scientist by… random people! For reasons such as she’s a woman, or small, or silly, or outgoing, or personable…

Even Dr. Anya Brown has been told, “You can’t be a scientist, you’re too smiley!” But, clearly that’s not true. Because she is a scientist, who smiles A LOT.

So, what stereotype of a scientist can we agree on?

Being curious

Persistence and perseverance

Interesting, fun

Creative – You can be fun, learn everything in a book and get straight A’s. But, scientists are able to take that information and knowledge and turn it into something new. They use their creativity to explore the world in different ways and learn new things!

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