In a few short months I will be standing on a wooden box shouting about immunology to anyone lucky enough to walk past me. Don’t worry, I’m not carefully planning a mid-PhD breakdown, I’m taking part in Soapbox Science. Soapbox Science puts female scientists on a platform for an hour, speaker’s corner style, to talk about their work. It’s about getting successful female scientists out there to challenge stereotypes and inspire the next generation. It’s also a great opportunity to engage the unsuspecting public with research on a Saturday afternoon. From a single event in London 5 years ago, Soapbox has grown to events across the country. This year there will even be a Soapbox event in Australia. I’ll be taking part in the Manchester event on 23rd July.
Happy International Women’s Day! In honour of the day I’d like to tell you a bit about one of my favourite female scientists, an inspiring immunologist called Polly Matzinger.
I first learned about Polly Matzinger in a sleepy afternoon immunology lecture in my second year of university. Just as my attention was beginning to drift I was pulled back to the room by an unusual phrase to hear in an immunology lecture: ‘Playboy bunny’. The lecturer was talking about Polly Matzinger. She originally studied music at university and went on to a series of odd jobs including working as a cocktail waitress and a stint as a playboy bunny. It when she was working as a waitress near the University of California in Davis that she met a young professor who, sparked by an insightful question from Matzinger, embarked on a 9 month campaign bringing her scientific papers and encouraging her to study further. She eventually did, gaining a bachelor’s degree and a PhD. Dr. Matzinger has said that she owes that man her life (1).