When I was a tween, a cutsey feel-good book was a bestseller: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. If we learn to solve problems as kids, that should help us solve similar problems as adults.
Let’s do a kindergarten-level exercise in math and pattern recognition. Can you figure out what shape comes next?
If you said star, you’re right! Congrats!
Let’s do another one. What shape do you expect to find next?
If you said star again, then that means you’re two for two. Good job!
Let’s look for another pattern:
What do you think comes next? If you guessed , then you’re right! Your pattern recognition skills are fantastic!
What kind of pattern is this? These are the recipients of the US National Science Foundation’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, known as the Alan T. waterMan award. This award exists “to recognize outstanding young scientists whose accomplishments showed exceptional promise of significant future achievement. Candidates may not be more than 35 years old, or seven years beyond receiving a doctorate degree.” This man must “demonstrate exceptional individual achievement in scientific or engineering research of sufficient quality, originality, innovation, and significant impact on the field.”
You wouldn’t recognize it from the pattern, but at least on paper, this award is open to women and men. I just wish the committee that selected the most recent thirteen awardees realized this too.
I have no doubt that all of these fine gentlemen pictured above are top-notch scientists worthy of this award. I also have no doubt there have been many women who are also top-notch scientists worthy of this award.
I’d like to share with you, and with NSF, some wisdom from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten:
It doesn’t matter what you say you believe — it only matters what you do.
We don’t need NSF to tell us what they believe about women in science, because their actions are speaking loud and clear. NSF, please do better. Please make your awards representative of science in America.