One of the talks here was about European women in chemistry. The speaker mentioned several famous female chemists including Rosalind Franklin (for whom there is talk of petitioning the Nobel Foundation for posthumous recognition of her work) as well as Marie Curie, her daughter Irène Curie-Joliot, and Ada Yonath, the most recent female winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. A clip was shown of a talk given by Ada Yonath, wherein she spoke of her five-year-old granddaughter’s invitation to tell her class about the ribosome. This goes to show that it is never too early to get children interested in science.
I have seen several children at this conference: A pre-teen girl leaving the conference center carrying a poster tube (not hers, obviously), a boy chatting with one of the vendors (Sigma-Aldrich, I believe), and a one-year-old going to his father’s talk. My favorite was tonight, when I saw a few graduate students holding their one-year-olds while presenting their posters. This reminded me of the first time I brought my two oldest daughters to the “Molecules and Radiation” class in graduate school. My professor (whose lab I later joined) held my two-year-old on his hip while he went over the previous week’s homework. While this may be a bit young to go to graduate-level chemistry class, I have noticed that the ACS has several initiatives underway to expose kids to chemistry and get them interested; among them, project SEED for high school kids and the Chemistry Ambassadors program for younger children. After a discussion at dinner tonight with some of the other ACS awardees about how math and science classes in high school may overwhelm students and cause them to steer away from these areas, I now have a greater appreciation for these projects. Showing children how fun chemistry can be may spark a life-long interest in science and stimulate greater scientific advancement in America.
P.S. If you have any stories about children and science, leave a comment. I would love to hear them!