This picture of Garry Cooper was taken at as he spoke to a crowd of almost 60,000 scientists and supporters, during the March for Science on April 22 2017. It was submitted to Naturejobs as part of the #ScientistAtWork 2018 photo competition. Cooper tells Rebecca Wild about the story behind the picture.
As he walked to this stage in Grant Park, Chicago, Cooper says he couldn’t help but think back to President Obama’s victory speech in the same spot almost 10 years ago.
Cooper had volunteered to help organise the Chicago march, but was overwhelmed when he was asked to give a speech. He says his first urge was to spend 10 minutes talking about his start-up (Rheaply), but he changed his mind a day before he was due on stage. “I ended up speaking about the importance of science for the next generation, for kids, and the importance of science in our daily lives,” he says.
Cooper hopes that this picture reflects the themes of his speech – you don’t need to fit the preconceived image of a scientist in order to be one. “You look down at this sea of people, and see so much diversity in the crowd,” he says. “What I want to convey is that you can be black, and from a small town in Ohio, and if you have a passion for science then you can have a career in science.”
He hopes that this message will reach across generational boundaries. “I really wanted to reach out to kids in the audience, and any kids who might have been watching. Science is not a thing for certain people — it’s something that affects us all.”
Cooper believes it is important for children who don’t know any scientists to be shown positive role models somewhere — and that the march is one way to do that. “A lot of kids want to be doctors, basketball players or lawyers. My goal is to say ‘no, you should be a scientist: you should be the next Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein.’ I really believe there’s nothing like science to flatten intellectual, hierarchical and socioeconomic circles.”
It doesn’t stop there. Cooper will be participating in the March for Science Chicago 2018, and is taking part in an ongoing effort to run events and talks encouraging better communication within and beyond the scientific community. “I’m really passionate about scientists being better at communicating the great work they’re doing to people who aren’t scientists,” he says.
“We really want scientists who are doing some really cool, impactful things in their labs and in their daily lives to come and talk to the youth, their parents, and their grandparents who just want to learn a little bit more.”
The March for Science was part of a series of rallies held in Washington DC and more than 600 cities worldwide, a global call for evidence based policymaking alongside a public celebration of the role science plays in everyday life. The 2018 march takes place on 18 April.
Rebecca Wild is an editorial assistant at Nature.
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