Bumper Sticker Wisdom for Optics & the Nobel Prize for Math

By Arti Agrawal

I also think it very neatly captures the essence of inspiration.

We all aspire to something in our careers and in our lives. Many of us enter certain professions because we were inspired by someone. The desire to emulate this someone or pursue activities similar to them can be an entry into a field. Once in we find more people to look up to and we also chart our own course, perhaps inspiring others to follow in our footsteps.

For me the show Cosmos by Carl Sagan was the inspiration: it made me fall in love with science. It is a love affair that continues to this day. I wish there was a way for me to express my gratitude to Carl for making that show. It’s been watched by over 500 million people worldwide – imagine that.

I became a physicist because of this show. As most scientists do, I have my scientific heroes. Sadly there aren’t as many women in there as I would like. In fact as a child I wasn’t aware of many famous female scientists. So there wasn’t a female Einstein I aspired to emulate.

That was, and to an extent remains, the sad state of awareness in the public and the minds of young people. Think great scientist and think of any number of stereotypes. Few of these include women.

If we don’t have female role models, then how are we to inspire enough young girls to do science?

Do we really not have enough great female scientists? Or is that we do not celebrate them as much as their male peers?

I guess it is probably a bit of both and other factors. But we are not at a dead end! We can change this situation even now. For a great start we now have the first female winner of the Field’s medal!

Maryam Mirzakhani, a professor of math at Stanford University, has been named the first female winner of the Fields Medal –which is often described as the Nobel prize for mathematics. To me this is thrilling!

Any number of young girls and women interested in math could say they want to be like her, they want to win the Field’s medal one day, to be featured in Time and BBC and every magazine/website you can think of all for doing science! That can happen of course only if we celebrate and share this news. If only enough girls know about Prof. Mirzakhani and the many more brilliant female scientists out there.

Let’s recognise these brilliant ambassadors for Science in our publications, media, conferences, talks… everywhere! We can contribute our bit in creating a legacy that changes the world.


Posted: 17 September 2014 by Arti Agrawal | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.


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