London Blog

Soapbox Science: Female scientists on the Southbank

If you were walking between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges last Friday afternoon, you might well have been crashed into by a small boy wearing a blindfold/bat detection device, dazzled by a sunflower or handed a leaflet about breast cancer.


Sunflower and Professor Ottoline Leyser, University of Cambridge

Bats were just one of the twelve subjects under discussion at Soapbox Science, a public event organised by ZSL and L’Oreal to bring some of the country’s top female scientists to the people. In hourly shifts, the scientists took to podiums by Gabriel’s Wharf and talked about their work to anyone who happened to be passing. While I was there, hundreds of people, spanning the whole age range must have stopped, mostly curious at what was going on, and learnt a little about volcanoes, astronomy and mathematics, to name just three.


While the event was organised by the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme, the political aspect wasn’t overt: the scientists just happened to be female. One child of about five was clearly uncomfortable with the representation of scientists and was overheard trying to convince her mother that the lady speaking couldn’t be a scientist. Her problem? Scientists can’t have pink hair.


A real scientist: Dr Sue Black, from the Computer Science Department at UCL

Over the next few weeks, Nature Network London will bring you interviews with some of the scientists involved in this event: a full list of the scientists who participated, and their topics, can be found on the ZSL website. The L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme provides bursaries and fellowships for female scientists worldwide. ZSL is the UK’s leading Zoological Society based in Regent’s Park.


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    Laura Wheeler said:

    Looking forward to the coming interviews Jo.

    It is nice to see that attempts are being made to break down the stereotypes – and yes scientists can have pink hair!!

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