Notes From A Queer Engineer: Dumpster Honey and Tricky Nature Documentaries

Notes From A Queer Engineer_Rory Midhani_640

Header by Rory Midhani

Feature image via BLDGBLOG/Reuters/National Geographic.

Hey guess what! This past Saturday, I took final exams for the business classes I’ve been taking at Harvard extension since February. This means two things: a) I know more about business now, and b) I’m getting 10-12 hours of my life back every week. It may not sound like that many hours, but I am PSYCHED to have this extra time back for writing. And sleeping. And pondering bees.

I’m very tired but full of excitement and I have so many links for you today!

Lady Scientists

British Museum scientist Joanne Dyer is revealing polychrome secrets of art from the past

+ Astrophysicist Katie Mack discusses Star Trek

Izabella Laba, a mathematician and former young math prodigy, reviews Gifted:

Mckenna Grace and Chris Evans have great chemistry. It’s also a film about three generations of female mathematicians, written and directed by men, with the participation of four mathematical consultants, all of them male. And it’s a missed opportunity. It’s not that men should not make films about women: I believe they absolutely should. It’s not that I would have preferred a social treatise about gender and math: I get my fill of that elsewhere. But I think that it was possible to go much deeper, dig through the clichés and explore a much more interesting territory. That road was left not taken.

How ethical concerns yanked biochemist Jennifer Doudna out of the ivory tower

How actress Hedy Lamarr became “the mother of Wi-Fi,” a title I find on par with “mother of dragons.”

Chemist Dr. Raychelle Burks on Theblerdgurl to discuss King Joffrey’s death, a better way to handle zombies in The Walking Dead, and what HULK’s pants might be made out of

+ Meet “rocket woman” (astrophysicist) Sophia Nasr

+ These Scientists Are Running for Office to Fight Trump’s “Anti-Truth” Agenda. Cosmopolitan, y’all!


Scientists in limbo as US Supreme Court allows modified travel ban

+ Pruitt Is Paving the Way for an Industry-Led EPA

Attention Scott Pruitt: Red teams and blue teams are no way to conduct climate science

+ “Your Love Of Fashion Is Interfering With Your Role As A Lady Intellectual” lol

+ Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take us seriously

Geekery Grab Bag

+ Some clouds are full of little lollipop-shaped ice crystals

You Could Probably Make Wine In Space

Artists tinker with grass & photosynthesis to create huge living canvases


Why No One Under 20 Has Experienced a Day Without NASA at Mars

Ladybugs fold their wings like origami masters

+ Also nature documentaries are tricking you, it’s fine

+ How Legendary [Gay] Computer Scientist Alan Turing Described Nature’s Beauty With Numbers

+ I enjoyed this:

Can’t Hold Us Down

+ Real talk — every time I’ve significantly advanced up the corporate ladder has been due to my people skills rather than my technical skills. I mean, yeah I have those, but it’s pretty much a given that engineers have technical skills, whereas people skills are way less common? Anyway, I really dug this web of skills, check it out!

Anita Sarkeesian on VidCon, harassment & garbage humans 

Being anti-choice is anti-science

+ Science That Unsettles by Shay-Akil McLean:

Systems of domination are generated by processes, continued by the collective everyday actions of human beings and can be interrupted, challenged, and categorically converted. Decolonization is then a historical process, which scientists can contribute to generating through the production of knowledge that does not reproduce damned subjects as well as through innovations in service of a vision of social justice rather than for profit. Scientists must ask ourselves who our work in impacting, benefiting, and whether or not we are actively working to upsetting settler colonial relations.

+ A study published by JAMA Pediatrics found that states with same-sex marriage policies had a 7% reduction in adolescent suicide attempts

We need to stop calling professional development a “pipeline”

Pipelines are filled early on and travel under pressure. (There are many routes into STEM, and quality scientists can be trained from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Art majors can become scientists. Community college students can become scientists. New immigrants can become scientists. Your mom can become a scientist, if she isn’t already. The idea that you just need to grab and focus on traditional first-year undergraduate students — or any other demographic stage — and then prepare a single pathway for them — is doomed to failure. When “pipeline” initiatives are planned, they focus on identifying specific places that are thought to be rich in “product” – and these approaches tend focus on identifying “talent” rather than developing the potential of the population at large. A single pipeline can’t work for nontraditional students, students living on reservations, students living in inner cities, students in the exurbs, and so on. To diversify, we need to develop a system that isn’t focused on training a small number of individuals with similar backgrounds. As long as we continue with this approach, there will never be enough “product” to increase representation in a meaningful manner.)

Do Make Say Think

+ Mark your calendars for a total solar eclipse on August 21

+ Science is holding its 10th annual “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest

Kat Middleton has written a how-to reference for science communicators on how to get your gif on

Notes From A Queer Engineer is a recurring column with an expected periodicity of 14 days. The subject matter may not be explicitly queer, but the industrial engineer writing it sure is. This is a peek at the notes she’s been doodling in the margins.

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Laura Mandanas

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 210 articles for us.


  1. I am beyond excited about the solar eclipse! We’re driving to the St Louis area from Chicago. We’re staying at my partner’s aunt’s family farmhouse outside of St Louis because it’s a) in the path of the total eclipse and b) it’s a free place to stay.

    I’m a bit nervous because a) no air conditioning in Missouri in August and b) Trump country but I’m mostly really, really excited to see my first total eclipse (and I’ve have Total Eclipse of the Heart as an ear worm for like a month now)

    • @cepperly Ooooh, that’s awesome! I was invited to visit a friend who lives in the path of the total eclipse, but couldn’t make the travel plans work. I will have to live vicariously through you.

      Wishing you cool breezes, openminded neighbors, and that you fall in love, take it to the end of the line, and only occasionally fall apart.

  2. Congratulations on taking your final exam, Laura! That’s quite an accomplishment
    Now let me go read the bunch of tabs I have open

  3. More time to think about bees is an excellent benefit of being done with your classes.

    Also so many interesting things to read on my road trip now, so thanks.

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