An Interview With Dr Rachie

by Deb on May 9, 2010

This is my first interview with an actual working scientist, to show some of the really different things scientists can do and how they got interested in science.

Obviously I’m a woman and as readers know, I have two little girls.  I was lucky to always be encouraged to do whatever I wanted and told I could be anything, I’m trying to encourage my girls the same way.  It hasn’t always been that way in science, for many years women could only be lab assistants.  The only woman scientist most people can name (if any!) is Marie Curie, yet we all know Newton, Einstein, Darwin and Hawkings.  It’s changing very slowly, and I am pleased that my first interview is with Dr Rachael Dunlop.  She is an Australian cell biologist who works on aging and is well-known in the Australian skeptical community.  She is on the Skeptic Zone podcast and blogs at The Sceptics’ Book of Pooh Pooh. She also won the Shorty Award in Health, a new international Twitter award, where she can be followed as DrRachie.

What do you actually do every day?

I’m a cell biologist, so most days I do experiments which means I stand at a bench in a lab coat, or I look at things under the microscope. I see new things everyday – so it’s a little bit like exploring. It can be very exciting at times, especially when you find something new, that no-one else has seen before.

Do you have memories of science as a child? Doing it or reading about/watching it?

I remember my science teacher in high school. He used to start a class by leaping up on the benches and pretending to tap dance. I learnt a lot from him because he was so enthusiastic and he really made us see science for the beauty of nature rather than numbers and equations.

I also remember watching a television science show for kids here in Australia called the Curiosity Show. It ran for 18 yrs every afternoon and always taught me something new about science.

Why did you choose to go into science as a career?

Because I find science so intriguing and fascinating- there is always something new to learn. Plus, our world runs on science, from electricity to the internet to planes. Being able to understand these processes really makes you appreciate the world you live in.

Who are/were your role models in science?

My inspiration for getting into science were the virus hunters who went into deepest darkest Africa and treated people with scary diseases. They risked their lives for the benefit of other people, and they discovered new diseases which advanced medicine.

How do you think your experience in science has been affected because you are a woman? Were there differences at school, uni, or in jobs?

Science, like all professions used to be dominated by men, but where I work, in biological sciences, there are more women than men. I am very proud to be a woman and a scientist and hey, what’s not cool about that?

What is one thing you would like to teach all children and especially girls?

I would teach all kids to ask questions – ask for proof if you’re not sure and ask for evidence if you think someone might be telling you a porky! I want to see more girls flying my planes! If I wasn’t a biologist, I would definitely be a pilot or an aviation engineer.

Thankyou Dr Rachie for giving a brief personal what and why about science.  I hope it gives the teachers, parents and kids reading this some different ideas about reasons to do science and make it fun.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

annette May 9, 2010 at 9:43 pm

What a great interview – I will have to get my son to read it – he want’s to be a scientist at the moment!
.-= annette´s last blog ..Something colourful for World Colouring Day =-.


Hear Mum Roar May 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm

This was a great read for me, as my nine year old daughter has always been passionate about science. I must get her to read this!
.-= Hear Mum Roar´s last blog ..Using language as a tool against tantrums =-.


Charndra from My Green Nappy May 16, 2010 at 10:42 am

This is great, Thanks Dr Rachie!

i like hearing what people actually do in their day.

I always watched The Curiosity Show – until you mentioned it I had forgotten the name of it though – and wanted to be a scientist at some points, but didn’t know what it would mean as a job! I did year 12 biology and LOVED it.


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