Scientista Presidents' Circle - Meet The President!
Johanna Teske, PhD Candidate; University of Arizona
Johanna Teske; Co-leader, Women’s Science Forum; University of Arizona
Tell us about yourself! How did you decide to get involved in your organization? I am myself a woman in science, and so when I joined the Astronomy Department at the University of Arizona, I was initially interested in the [Women's Science Forum] WSF. It was started by other female graduate students a few years before I came to UA. When I visited the graduate school before I actually accepted the position, I got to attend a WSF meeting and felt welcomed even as a visitor. So I already had an idea of what the group was like, and enjoyed the feeling of inclusion and shared experience (and difficulty) in science. I knew that they provided advice to younger female grads, an opportunity to practice research talks and discuss research informally, and an avenue for meeting with visiting female astronomers and doing STEM outreach in the community.
What is your favorite organization event? Oh, tough! I really like when we do liquid nitrogen ice cream socials with our undergraduate mentees. It’s fun to see everyone’s reaction when we pour the liquid N2 into their paper bowls; the ooo-s and aaaah-s never fail, even if they’ve had it before. I think my favorite, though, is the conference we participate in every year, called ‘Expanding Your Horizons,’ which hosts science workshops for middle school and high school girls who have expressed an interest in STEM fields. We try to show them what astronomy is about, and talk about our own education paths, too, to try to give them some inspiration and momentum to stick with it.
When you are not being a Scientista, you are most likely… Running or at the gym, reading current events/news, reading novels, volunteering, baking
Which woman in science inspires you the most? Well, Marie Curie is an obvious choice…I’ve actually done several reports and papers on her during my schooling. And while she is TOTALLY awesome, I am really inspired by the women who do science in the face of criticism or even opposition, the women who perform science in places where it isn’t accepted as legitimate or fruitful.
Why do you think organizations such as yours and the Scientista Foundation are important? I think they are important to help pass on the torch to younger women, kind of paving the way. I was lucky enough to have some strong, passionate science teachers (both male and female) who cared about their students and their science. That was really important for me to be able to feed my own initial interest in science, particularly astronomy; neither of my parents were in science, and most of my friends weren’t, either. But good teachers are rare, I know, so organizations like SF can help fill in the gaps in schools and communities where there are young, budding scientists need support and encouragement. Plus it gives me and other SF leaders a chance to share what WE love, and makes us better educators and public-interactors. Everyone wins!
What do you think is the most important scientific research or discovery of today? Sheesh Louise, that’s hard! Do you mean today as in, a discovery that was made during modern times? Or ever? Since I’m in astronomy, I’m biased, and would probably say something like the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the discovery of the first planet outside of our solar system, or the theory of Special Relativity. But I feel like it can, and does, change every day, you know? That’s one of the things I love about science, and astronomy in particular – there is always so much much more that we DON’T know, that is left to think about and explore and discover. It’s like a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week playground of knowledge that only grows the more you learn!