Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Don't Be Such a Romulan!

Another presentation I attended at the AGU meeting was entitled "Fostering Science Communication Via Direct Outreach by Scientists" and given by M. Vinas.  The focus was on getting scientists and their science into the public eye.  Part of the effort is to foster volunteer scientists who are interested in communicating to the public.  This presentation highlighted three programs by AGU to encourage science communication by scientists: 1. "a suite of blogs that were launched in Fall 2010, written by external Earth and space science bloggers for an audience of scientists and the lay public", 2. "The Plainspoken Scientist", a blog emphasizing science communication (more about this below), and 3. professional development workshops held at scientific meetings in 2009 to teach communications skills to scientists.

Vinas made the point that many scientists complain about the press and what they view as inaccurate science reporting by the media...yet are unwilling to do anything about it.  She noted that mostly graduate students have attended their workshops on science communication. Also, most attendees have had some experience in science communication.  Vinas also described one of the most effective teaching techniques: making videos of the workshop participants speaking and then having everyone critique the performance.  She reported that seeing themselves on camera was worth hours of lectures telling people how to communicate science.  When people could see the mistakes they were making or how they came across on camera, this insight convinced them of the necessity of making changes (or paying closer attention to the recommendations of the instructors).

The Plainspoken Scientist is a blog site that has posts by guest bloggers.  There is a series called "Why I Blog"--scattered posts written by different scientists.  One of the most popular posts is called "Dude, you are speaking Romulan" by Chris Reddy, whose writings I've mentioned here previously.

The most recent post is a Q&A with the host of "The Skeptical Scientist".  In it is mentioned the existence of an iPhone app called Skeptical Scientist, which contains all the major arguments by global warming skeptics and links to the real science that counters these unscientific and often politically-driven stances.  It's designed for those of us who often get into "discussions" with our skeptical relatives and friends.  When your outspoken uncle challenges you with some skeptical argument, you can whip out your iPhone and pull up technical information in a flash with this app.  I downloaded it to my phone and tried it out.  The information is conveniently categorized by topic:  It's not happening, It's not us, It's not bad, and a full search option.  Within each of these categories are more detailed questions, such as "CO2 effect is weak".  When you click on each question, you are led to a page that begins with the skeptic argument, followed by the science facts.  Very useful app.

Image Credit: still from Star Trek, the original series on NBC TV picturing the female Romulan commander, who captured the starship Enterprise.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Moving Beyond "An Inconvenient Truth"

Continuing my report on presentations at AGU, I will describe one that provided some tips for scientists who wish to communicate their research to non-technical audiences.  The presentation,  entitled "Communicating Science" was authored by G. J. Holland; M. S. McCaffrey; J. T. Kiehl; C. Schmidt.

The talk began with a quick review of how the communication media is rapidly changing--in some ways for the better and other ways for the worse.  The latter includes the disappearance of science journalists and presenters who are being replaced by internet reports and blogs, YouTube, and journalists with little or no scientific training. There are still some journalists and writers who do an excellent job of reporting science, however.  The presenter, McCaffrey, mentioned the book by Bill Bryson, "A Short History of Nearly Everything", which I've described here previously.  He pointed out how such science reports, written for the lay audience, can be successful at getting across complex ideas in simple language (without errors or "dumbing down" the information.

Anyway, the point of the presentation was that scientists were increasingly needed to fill the communication gap, but who were ill-prepared for doing so.  Scientists may be excellent communicators when it comes to talking to their peers, but are less effective when speaking to non-technical audiences.  McCaffrey listed the qualities of a scientist: attention to detail and logic, open acknowledgment of uncertainties, and dispassionate delivery.  These qualities become liabilities when talking to the non-scientific audience who expect to be entertained with attention-grabbing information or visuals in 15 seconds or less....and the presenter must convey complete confidence in themselves and what they are reporting.

The presentation reported on a program initiated by UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) and NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) to develop new approaches to science communication and to equip current and future scientists with the necessary skills to be successful science communicators.  Most of the talk and the examples were focused on climate change and how to convey science information about that topic.  However, the basic concepts are applicable to other science topics.

One of the recommendations was to target audience attitudes and beliefs, which some studies indicate is key to effective science communication.  McCaffrey particularly mentioned the common image of a polar bear on an ice floe (which was photoshopped) as a "framing trap".  Reference to far away places and environments outside the average person's experience often backfires because they do not see how changes in the Arctic, for example, directly affect them.  Another "framing trap" is the "inconvenient truth"...dire predictions about hurricanes or air pollution, which leads to resignation by the public because they see these problems as so overwhelming that there is nothing they can do to change them.  

McCaffrey and colleagues recommend targeting specific communities and not waste time on audiences who are strongly resistant to the message.  Along with this is the idea that the message must be tailored to the specific audience.  Logical and dispassionate delivery of science facts works well for a scientific audience, but not necessarily for a non-technical audience.  Alternate targets would include factors that people are personally concerned with:  economics, cultural concerns, immediate impact to community (e.g., sea-level rise on coastal areas).  (My observation is that there are many people out there who are open-minded, but ill-informed....they've been fooled by the "merchants of doubt" whose misinformation campaigns about climate change have drowned out the voices of scientists.  Such an audience is open to being informed by the facts, especially if the message is tailored to their interests.)

The second recommendation is to shift the primary emphasis from the "science" to the "art" of communication.  This is a tricky point because the science communicator can't play loose with the facts in order to get attention or to support a particular position.  Included in this shift in perspective is the recommendation to resist advocating particular policy positions.  It's possible, for example, to present both sides of an issue and then show which is supported by scientific facts and which is not--and let the viewer make up their own minds.  I've found this approach to be very successful with fair-minded people, but even makes some headway with people resistant to a particular viewpoint.  Simply by acknowledging other viewpoints sends the message that you are open-minded--at least to the fact that others may hold different opinions and beliefs. 

I think it's also appropriate (and important) to distinguish between your opinion as a scientist and your personal feelings or beliefs.  It's also important to clearly distinguish between an opinion based on your expertise and one based on your understanding of a research conducted by other scientists. I'm often asked questions about climate change science with which I have no first-hand experience. My response is usually, "That's outside my area of expertise, but based on my reading of the scientific literature...this is what I understand to be the prevailing opinion of scientists working in that area...". 

Many of the points made in this presentation are common-sense.  However, I found it interesting and informative to have the common approaches to conveying climate science (drowning polar bears, apocalyptic warnings, etc.) dissected and shown to be ineffective in getting the appropriate science message across.  

Much of the information and the recommendations given in this talk were based on studies conducted by these programs (NCAR, UCAR) into science communication. Such studies can help science communicators move beyond the "inconvenient truth" approach to conveying science information. 

Image Credit: The above image from iStockphoto.com accompanied a letter in Science Magazine decrying recent political attacks on climate scientists.  The journal (not the letter authors) included the image of a polar bear isolated on a shrinking ice floe, which turned out to have been photoshopped.  Oops. If you look at the Science letter now, it has been replaced by a real image of two bears on a somewhat larger ice floe. The erratum accompanying the image reads: "Due to an editorial error, the original image associated with this Letter was not a photograph but a collage. The image was selected by the editors, and it was a mistake to have used it. The original image has been replaced in the online HTML and PDF versions of the article with an unaltered photograph from National Geographic."  The unfortunate outcome of this error is that climate deniers have used it to further their claims that climate scientists are faking their data (aka "Climategate").

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Who's Got Our Backs?

This past week, I've been attending the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.  Not being a geologist, I've never attended AGU before. However, I was invited to give a talk on carbon sequestration in one of the sessions, so here I am.  Don't worry, though. I'm not going to talk about that.

Instead, I wanted to report about the interesting sessions that were held on science communication and also blogging.  First of all, this was a huge meeting--around 19,000 attendees from all over the world. Easily the largest scientific conference I've ever attended.  I can only imagine the planning that went into this conference.

Anyway, there were several sessions devoted to science communication and associated topics. In one session, I heard Michael Mann (Penn State Univ.) talk about his experiences with harassment due to his climate science work ("hockey-stick" temperature pattern).  Mann has been the target of personal attacks and investigations by various special interest groups, certain media outlets and politicians who have sought to discredit him and his work.  His presentation, "Climate Scientists in the Public Arena: Who's Got Our Backs?", focused on the dilemma of scientists who are out-funded and "outmanned" in the battle, especially if their institutions do not back them up.  He described his experiences in the public arena, into which he was pushed. It was a chilling story he told.  He was ultimately exonerated by investigations into his involvement with "Climategate".  He is currently being pursued by the attorney general of Virginia (Ken Cuccinelli), who is also working to get the state seal changed.

One point Mann made, however, stood out.  He wondered how the attacks on climate scientists would affect recruitment of students to the field, if they saw how their future research might lead to similar harassment.

I'm on the road, so will describe some of the other talks/sessions in the coming days.

Image credit: IPCC 2001 Report

Friday, December 10, 2010

Does Science Need Cheerleaders?

Apparently some think so.  Literally.

The science blogosphere was abuzz a short while ago with postings about science cheerleaders: neurodojo, scicurious.  For those unaware of the topic, this is a group of scientists/cheerleaders whose goal is to motivate people to learn about science and perhaps become scientists themselves (citizen scientists).  The movement was initiated by Darlene Cavalier, a scientist and former professional cheerleader, who "founded the Science Cheerleader to unite the citizen’s desire to be heard and valued, the scientist’s growing interest in the public’s involvement, and government’s need to garner public support. The Science Cheerleader serves to get the conversation going, rally the troops, solicit views from all sides and change the tone of science and science policy in this country."

When I first saw a link to a post about the phenomenon, I thought that it was about science communication--a favorite topic of mine.  Instead, it seems that this group is actually cheering, with pom-poms and sexy outfits:  

As you can see, the science cheerleaders are composed of several attractive women who have some training in a science field and who also happen to have been cheerleaders at some point in their lives.  Randy Olsen, scientist-turned-film-maker, helped the group create the video above. 

There are several aspects of this issue that I've discussed previously on this blog: Dress Code, The Librarian Version of Angelina Jolie?, Are All Female Scientists White, Skinny and "Hot"?, A Shot in the Arm: Challenging Hollywood's Portrayal of Women in Science, The CSI Effect--Good for Female Scientists?

The cheerleading idea is one that warrants a bit of discussion.  So here's my take on the idea of "science cheerleaders"--as implemented by the group in the video.

What image does the cheerleader model convey?

First, it's important to point out that traditional cheerleaders are not actually participating in the central event being cheered, i.e., they are supporting a sport and the (typically) male participants in that sport.  One can argue about whether their activity is athletic, important to the team, conducted by both sexes... or not.  The point is that cheerleaders are on the sidelines and are peripheral to the main event. Why select such a model to promote science and especially women in science?

The cheerleader model conveys the subliminal message that the role of women is to lead cheers for the real scientists: men who are on the playing field smashing atoms or doing other amazing things.  That's obviously not the intent of these science cheerleaders, but I'm afraid that that is the message their approach sends.  One wonders what the young children in the video think about these science cheerleaders.  All they see is a group of attractive women dressed up like real cheerleaders, shaking pom-poms, and prancing around.  The women are not shown in labs or out in the field doing science.

Having the cheerleaders talk about their careers in science doesn't counteract the negative image their skimpy outfits convey.

What is the cheerleader message?

I understand that the women who have formed this science cheerleading group are trying to show that women can be scientists and also be attractive and sexy.  It's true that scientists have an image problem and are often viewed by the average person as nerdy, awkward, non-athletic, and fashion-challenged.  I'm not saying that scientists are like this--just that the general public has this inaccurate image of us. Most people have never met a scientist, and so their perceptions about what a scientist looks like and how they behave are molded by what they see on TV and in the movies.

But do we need to go to the other extreme to counter the unattractive, nerdy image of scientists?  The opposite end of the spectrum is beautiful, sexy, and cool.  Is that a superior image to strive for?  The cheerleaders for science seem to be taking a similar approach as the creators of the "Rock Stars of Science".  That idea is to show that scientists can be just as cool as, say, rock stars.  The select group of scientists, including some Nobel Laureates, are depicted alongside real rock stars.

Huh?  Why would someone who has done something scientifically awe-inspiring need to be shown alongside a rock star, whose societal accomplishments pale in comparison?  I would be insulted that my image would need to be enhanced by association with some celebrity.

I get the basic idea behind this effort, but I think it is an ineffectual one.  Does anyone really believe that the average fan (in awe of celebrities, athletes, or rock stars) will be fooled by such a campaign to promote scientists?  Will the rock star approach really change how the public views scientists and science?

Is there another way to change the public's perception of scientists, particularly of female scientists?  I think so.

What image should (women) scientists convey?

Let's first consider what would be an appropriate image for a scientist.  Not a rock star.  Not an athlete.  Not a sex symbol.  Not a cheerleader.  How about just a regular person who happens to have a talent for science?  Someone the average guy could have a beer with?

Part of the image problem for scientists, maybe the central problem, is that most people find it difficult to visualize scientists as normal people with normal lives, families, and hobbies--in other words, just like them.  They also cannot see themselves in the role of a scientist, partly because no rational person would choose to be a nerd (or whatever image they have in their heads).  Therefore, they cannot empathize with someone who is a scientist.

So I can't see how promoting an image of scientists as rock stars or sexy cheerleaders is going to improve the perception of scientists by the general public.  If anything, it will make us look like silly wannabes.  Most adolescents would laugh at the idea that a scientist is just as cool as a rock star or famous athlete.

For women in science, attempts to convey a sexy or physically attractive image can backfire and sometimes send the wrong message (see Dress Code).   My approach (after years of trying various "looks") is to dress and behave so as not to call attention to the fact that I'm a woman (or anything other than a professional and a scientist).  Dress in the same general style as the male scientists (business casual, jeans, or whatever style your (successful) colleagues' tend to select) and appropriate to the occasion.  Note that this doesn't mean you should dress like a man or be unfeminine.  You can even work out a fashionable style that is your own "look".  The idea is not to go to any extreme--too sexy, too high-fashion, too sloppy, etc.    

Be careful what you wish for.

If the rock star/cheerleader idea is to attract more young people to science, is the portrayal of scientists as "cool people" going to work?  Will it attract the type of person who is going to be able to succeed in science?  Or will it attract people who are only interested in the "image".  Those of us who deal with students every day know that a percentage are just not cut out for it.  They have unrealistic expectations, are unaware how difficult and often tedious the work is, and/or don't have a real passion for science.  I think we need to convey a realistic image of science--one that is exciting, rewarding, and interesting--but also that it takes a person who's ready to work hard at it and who can deal with setbacks.

We don't need more students who will ultimately become disillusioned and drop out.

Toward a better model for the (female) scientist image.

To attract more people to science, especially women, I think it takes more of us showing that we are normal people who happen to be very curious about the world we live in---curious enough to make a career of it.  I made a list of ideas/images that counter some of the stereotypes surrounding scientists:

--We like to figure things out and use the information to make the world a better place.  This image counters the stereotype of the scientist as only focused on an esoteric science question and uncaring about the world around them.

--Interviews with scientists who are excited and passionate about their work sends a positive message and counters the stereotype of scientists as cold, logical Spock clones.

--Images of scientists who are average-looking, but normal, happy, and confident people. Counters a major stereotype of scientists as odd, peculiar characters who are unpopular.

--Images of scientists doing their work along with colleagues, students, and other people sends the message that we don't work alone in our ivory towers (another stereotype).

--Scientists have hobbies, just like other people.  Some of us draw or paint; others are wine connoisseurs; still others are good athletes.  Counters the notion that scientists have no life or skills outside the laboratory.

--Some of us get to travel to fascinating places and see and do things that most people don't. Such images counter the stereotype of the scientist confined to a cold, clinical laboratory.

--Images of scientists doing research, teaching, or outreach in different environments shows the variety of places and jobs that a science career can take them.

--We also have families--who are supportive of our careers and proud of our accomplishments.  I've worked alongside colleagues who did their field research while pregnant--such images belie the notion that a science job means a choice between career and family for women.

--Many scientists are religious, and their work in science affirms their beliefs.  The stereotype of the scientist as non-religious is apparently a big turnoff for many people.  Even scientists who are not religious can have high moral standards that are consistent with the beliefs of many religions.

--Women often prefer careers in which they can help other people or society and think that science does not offer such opportunities.  Examples of how scientists directly and indirectly help society (biomedical research, restoration of ecosystems) will help counter this false perception. 

Programs that expose adolescent students to the scientific process are excellent ways to break down stereotypes, but can be expensive, time-consuming, and reach a limited population.  Promoting positive images of scientists in the media and on the internet can potentially reach a larger audience.

I imagine you can think of many more images that would show what it is really like to work in a science job.  In fact, if you have any images you particularly like and don't mind showing, send them to me (drdoyenne@gmail.com) and I'll post them here (can be anonymous, but be sure to get permission from anyone depicted in a photograph).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Being Good at Art Is Important to Me as a Scientist

I previously described a study that found female students who participated in a writing exercise (to reflect about their most cherished values) performed better in a physics class.  I thought it might be worthwhile to show the full set of choices presented to the students.  Glancing at the list, I made my selection of the top three with little hesitation.  I then went on to write down why these values were important to me.  It definitely makes you think about what is really important and why.  The exercise also gives you an idea of what you might want to focus upon in the event you suffer some setback or are feeling down about yourself.
Here are the twelve values presented to the students in the writing exercise:
1.     being good at art
2.     creativity
3.     relationships with family & friends
4.     government or politics
5.     independence
6.     learning and gaining knowledge
7.     athletic ability
8.     belonging to a social group (community, racial, school club)
9.     music
10. career
11. spiritual or religious values
12. sense of humor
The investigators avoided values that dealt with science and math. The students were instructed to circle the two or three values that were most important to them.  Students in the control group were asked to circle the two or three least important values.  Then they were asked to describe in a few sentences either why the selected values were important to them or why they might be important to someone else (controls).  They were later asked to look at the values they selected and list the top two reasons why they were important. The final part of the exercise reinforced the choices by asking the student to rate their agreement with statements about the selected values (e.g., “in general, I try to live up to these values”).
This is a sufficiently broad list that most people would have no trouble finding three items that they think are important to them (or to others in the control group) as well as choices that would likely not be important.  Which three would you select and why?

One of my choices was being good at art (hence the title of this post).  Answering the question of why my choices are important was a bit more difficult, but very interesting. The reasons for my selections are personal and not really of interest to anyone else--so I will say no more about my choices.  What is important are your selections and why they are important to you.  This writing exercise is a way to bolster one’s resilience—the ability to bounce back from adversity.  It’s not so much the specific writing exercise, but the fact that it forces you to recognize what you value most about yourself and reinforces your overall sense of self-worth.

I think that leaving science or math-related attributes off the list is critical to the success of this exercise.  We might make the mistake of dwelling on the science or math skill (that we feel is a weakness) and magnifying it out of proportion to reality.  This reaction is human nature, and especially likely for women, e.g., what’s wrong with me that I can’t finish this project, get this paper accepted, get along with my adviser, etc.?  Having non-science capabilities or sources of support (family, religion) are powerful antidotes to career setbacks.  However, one first must be aware of what those values are and why they are important to us.  Identification is the first step.  It’s also important to actually write down our thoughts.  As I’ve talked about previously, the act of writing stimulates parts of our brains that are not otherwise tapped by just “thinking” about a topic.  Writing down our values and reasons also serves to solidify our confidence in those values.

As I noted in the previous post, this writing exercise is like cognitive therapy, where the patient is taught to examine dysfunctional thoughts and replace them with more positive ones.  People who are subjected to frequent scrutiny and harsh criticism can develop a distorted view of themselves.  Everything we do as scientists is scrutinized and assessed—by our peers, by advisors, by supervisors, by funding agencies. We are told to develop a thick skin, which may work well for men who generally tend to externalize such criticism (“What’s wrong with that reviewer—my work is superb!”).  That approach may not work so well for women who tend to internalize criticism and failure (“What’s wrong with me?”).

We can begin to see why this simple writing exercise might have such a powerful effect on women, but not men.  Instead of trying to emulate men (by externalizing), we might do better by re-balancing our self-image.  By placing the momentary criticism or problem within the overall context of our entire lives and skill-set, we can see how those professional setbacks are not as momentous as we think.

This insight is also helpful because it shows how important it is to develop values, talents, and resources outside of our science career.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Plugging the Leaky Pipeline

A recent study suggests that a simple writing exercise can bolster the confidence of female students taking a difficult science course.  Social scientists, led by Akira Miyaki, found that female students who wrote an essay about their positive attributes performed better in an introductory physics class.  The broader implication of the work is that plugging the leaky pipeline may only require an intervention that enhances self-worth of women in STEM fields.  A detailed description of the study and its findings can be read here.

Briefly, the students (286 men and 116 women) were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those who were asked to write about (1) personal values such as relationships with friends and family or the importance of learning (they selected 3 values from a list of 10) and (2) values that were least important to them, but that might help others (control group).  The results indicated that the women who wrote about values important to them did significantly better in the class than the control group; there was no difference for the males.

I was interested in why such a simple exercise could have such an effect.  Although the researchers did not experimentally determine the "why", they speculated that it had something to do with ameliorating what they termed, "stereotype threat", i.e., the negative effect of the belief that women are less capable than men at science, particularly fields like physics, math, and engineering.  They hypothesized that the values-affirming exercise took the women's minds off the stereotype.  Can that be true?

I doubt that "taking their minds off the fact that women are inferior in science" is the explanation.  However, it clearly affected something.  An alternative explanation is that the writing exercise, which took place at the beginning of the class, initiated a self-affirming chain of thinking (or short-circuited a negative chain).  Other studies have shown that women are particularly sensitive to set-backs, and a single negative event (criticism, poor grade on an exam) can trigger a cascade of failures as each one lowers the woman's confidence in her abilities.  Women internalize (it must have been my fault), whereas men externalize (it's the other guy who's wrong).  When this self-blaming is combined with other negative thinking (e.g., magnifying problems out of proportion to reality), women ultimately come to believe they are unsuited to science.  If minor setbacks tend to undermine your confidence, then being forced to ponder your positive attributes and capabilities might act as an inoculation against negative thoughts (or self-blame).  Challenging negative or dysfunctional thinking is a well-known psychological practice--cognitive therapy

Regardless of the validity or purported novelty of this study's findings, I think it holds an important lesson for women in science.

Negative thinking potentially can have a really destructive effect on us--perhaps more so than for men.  I see this negative behavior in a lot of blogs written by young women in science.  I'm not saying it's bad to talk about the stuff that happens to us---just that it's important to put things into perspective and perhaps go an extra step to affirm our ability to deal with negative events and people.  If a short-term writing exercise can have such a dramatic effect on women in a physics course, imagine what daily or weekly blogging might be doing?  Are you dwelling on the negative, especially ranting about being powerless to change your fate?  Or are you mostly affirming your strengths and overall resistance to negative events?

By focusing on our capabilities and accomplishments (at least the majority of the time), we might change our overall outlook and self-confidence.  We might also have a positive influence on readers who are trying to decide whether to go into science or to stay in science.  Wouldn't you rather read about someone who figured out how to overcome an obstacle, rather than how they were so crushed that they decided to leave science altogether?

Image Credit: modified image based on "The Scream" by Edvard Munch (1893)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sensitive Scientists Need Not Apply

If you are described in letters of recommendation as being “supportive”, “nurturing”, “kind”, or “sensitive”, do such words help or hurt your chances at a job in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field?
A new study suggests that these qualities are most often associated with women, and job candidates who are described in such terms are ranked lower than those described with terms such as “confident”, “aggressive”, “independent”, or “daring”.  The researchers found differences in the types of words used to describe men and women in an analysis of 624 letters of recommendation for 194 job candidates (junior faculty positions at a research university). 
Both male and female letter writers were more likely to ascribe “emotive” traits to female candidates than to men, and such praise was more likely to lower their chances of being hired.  Presumably, university hiring committees, upon reading that a candidate was a caring, kind person, might envision someone unable to develop an ambitious research program.
What was striking to me about the study was that letter writers could unknowingly create a feminine stereotype that might negatively influence a hiring committee.  Some letter writers might praise a woman’s gentle nature, not realizing what message this might send to a potential employer.   
I wondered if I had used such words when writing letters for females in the past.  When I looked back at some former letters, I found that I occasionally described someone as “caring about students” or being a “congenial team member”.  However, I found that I had rarely used “feminine” terms and had instead used words such as “assertive”, “confident”, “tenacious”, etc.   
I don’t know if I subconsciously avoided feminine descriptions.  I always try to emphasize those qualities that I know will be important in succeeding in a science career.  Apparently, my instincts were right.  It's aggravating that praising someone for being sensitive and kind hurts their chances at a science job (or maybe it's just academic faculty positions?), but I’ll definitely be careful in the future about what words I choose to describe someone. 
 Photo Credit: modified still image from Legally Blonde