Notes From A Queer Engineer: Pumpkin Spice Chemophobia And Men Calling Out Men

Notes From A Queer Engineer_Rory Midhani_640

Header by Rory Midhani
Feature image via shutterstock

Greetings! I hope you’ve all made it home safely from A-camp by now. I spent last week at a company-sponsored hackathon/leadership conference, and although my attendance was ultimately a Good Career Move, I couldn’t help but notice the dearth of women and midwestern gothic inspired outfits every time I surveyed the crowd. I can’t wait to see all your photos. But in the meantime: science! Lots of interesting stuff going on with women in STEM lately. Check it out.

Geekery Grab Bag

+ Lesbians Who Tech had their best ever summit, including a talk from first-rate human Alex Vega

+ Dr. Thomai D., the Science Mom, on how she uses Instagram for science

+ 7 science-based skincare tips from chemist/science educator Dr. Michelle Wong at Lab Muffin

+ Go ahead, drink your pumpkin spice latte. Chemist Dr. Raychelle Burks wants you to know that Class IV Caramel Color and a tiny bit of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) are not the problem  chemophobia is.

+ French researchers have recently made a 3D printed model of the clitoris that’s going to be used in schools to help educate children about sex

+ This collaboration between Grace Potter and NASA is awesome:

Lady Scientists

Meet Madeleine Gagné, founder of the New Age Girls Club: “Now that she’s 16, Madeleine founded of “The Collins-Miller Project” and is working to sell her environmentally friendly, one-of-a-kind, algae energy source – and it could be fueling your car as early as next year.”

+ Gastro microbiologist Dr. Melanie Thomson on Angry Beanie’s first episode of Women In STEMM

+ 169 years ago, pioneer woman scientist Maria Mitchell discovered her first comet

First DNA Sequencing in Space a Game Changer thanks to NASA astronaut Kate Rubins

+ Science should empower us as parentsDr. Jess Berentson-Shaw on what she’ll be writing in her column for Spinoff Parents

Physicist Dr. Athene Donald on role models:

To be much help, a role model has to be someone you can identify with, a person who you could imagine aspiring to be, not someone who you envisage as having been born into some advantage you lack, or having had the good – but improbable – fortune of being sponsored by a CEO from an early stage in their career. Aiming high is one thing, but for most of us there is no point trying to get from the bottom to the top in one fell swoop. Furthermore, if you are a minority ethnic, these women named are unlikely to look plausible characters to model yourself upon for the very obvious reason of the colour of their skin and all the concomitant complications that intersectionality may bring.

+ Entomologist Dr. Marla Spivak on how she became interested in science

Can’t Hold Us Down

+ Okay, so there was this whole big thing recently. Andrea Wulf won the Royal Society’s highest honor for her book, The Invention of Nature. John Dugdale, the associate media editor of The Guardian, said some sexist shit in response and a lot of people called him out, including Thomas Levenson at the Atlantic. Men calling out other men is good progress, I think! (Although obviously it would be better if sexist things didn’t happen in the first place.)

GrrlScientist on that disgraceful Guardian article:

If Mr. Dugdale had read all the books (there were 55 books on the longlist), he would know that this is one of the strongest shortlists that this Prize has selected in the more than six years since I’ve been devotedly reading and reviewing them. As a judge, I chose 10 books for my own personal shortlist. But I wasn’t the only one who had chosen more books than the shortlist allowed: every one of the judges had at least one special favorite that did not make it on to the shortlist. But at the same time, we all agreed that Andrea’s book was superb; readable, informative and compelling.

+ Another man calling out a different bullshit sexist article: Ross Fubini, “The Problem with Women in Tech isn’t the Women — it’s the Men

+ One last high profile male ally doing good things: How Neil DeGrasse Tyson Champions Women & Geeks In ‘StarTalk’ Season 3

Rita Schulz, lead scientist on the Rosetta comet-chasing mission from 2007 to 2013, is speaking out on the European Space Agency’s problem with promoting women

+ In one of the most detailed breakdowns yet of gender bias in scholarly publishing, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) found that women don’t submit papers as often as men, but when they do they have a higher acceptance rate

+ L.V. Anderson for Slate: “If it weren’t so infuriating, it would be funny that managers are terrified of giving women feedback—until those women start standing up for themselves.

Do Make Say Think

+ Geek Girl Con starts this Friday in Seattle

+ Cards Against Humanity has a science ambassador scholarship for women in STEM. Applications are due December 11.

+ The Brooke Owens fellowship program is also accepting applications now through January, open to any undergraduate-level woman interested in space:

Applicants can come from a wide range of academic or professional disciplines: engineering, science, aeronautics and pilot training, law and policy, business, non-profit management, history, art, or anything else. However, successful applicants must be able to draw a convincing connection between their chosen field(s) and aviation or space exploration.

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.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

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. So, I develop the curriculum run an after-school STEM program, and I’m tempted to send pretty much all of these links to my students…! Thanks for this amazing roundup!

  2. Love this column! Especially appreciative of the no-bullshit skincare tips, as there’s so much misinformation out there.

  3. Wow, the backstory to the Andrea Wulf thing is fascinating! Such care given to the choosing of the prize winner and so little brainspace used by the author of Guardian piece.

  4. FYI, you may want to think twice about calling Neil DeGrasse Tyson a male ally. He’s said some puzzling things recently about how underrepresentation of women in science is not at all connected to sexual harassment and has tweeted some sexist things. There’s also tweets from a talk he gave at an astronomy conference where he made fun of religious people heavily.

    I’m hesitant to post this because he’s one of the only black people in astronomy, but he’s a total “your fave is problematic” among physicists

Comments are closed.