My daughter the Scientist
A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of Rosalind Franklin on Instagram. She is an amazing scientist who has won, not one, but two Nobel Prizes for her work. One for Medicine and the other for Chemistry. Sadly, however, she never actually received the prize as the Nobel Committee do not award after the person has died. Many of those who follow me on Instagram were a little shocked by that revelation and so I decided to look into it a little more… In 2002 I met Dr James Watson in Trinity College, he won the Nobel Prize in 1962 for the discovery of the structure of DNA. I was a student of Medicinal Chemistry and he was doing a series of lectures in the University. I didn’t get to his lecture, but I did have an excuse for being late to class that day – I was delayed by the man himself signing my lab coat! However, other lecturers had started to voice their concerns about him, not as a scientist but as a person, and his views on women and people from different cultures to his own. It seems that these concerns were well-founded, as I discovered after reading his memoirs which included his own opinion of Rosalind Franklin, or “Rosy” as he called her (no one else did). Watson and Crick first tried to crack the structure of DNA in 1952 – their three-stranded, inside-out model was completely wrong and was dismissed at a glance by Franklin. Lawrence Bragg, the head of their lab in Cambridge, told them to cease all work on DNA. In 1953, Watson and Crick saw “Photograph 51” – an x-ray image taken by a PhD student working under the supervision and guidance of Franklin – which made clear a double helix. This photo was the basis of how they went on to identify the structure of DNA. Thankfully things have moved on since the 50’s and I have worked in many labs where women make up the majority of the work force. This week we took Jade to the University of Limerick for a look around and to do to some fun “experiments” with real scientists! (Basically we just added food dye to water and made bubbles, but it was great fun and absolutely wonderful to see that there were so many people in the lab willing to give up an hour to have fun with a 2-year-old!) We had such a great day and took some lovely photos which hopefully show that girls should DEFINITELY be interested in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths). Jade thoroughly enjoyed her time in the lab… there were WOW’s, OOooohhhs and giggles the whole time that we were there – I even thought that there was going to be “Good Will Hunting” moment when she got to the whiteboard!! Maybe next time… Thank you to Professor Walsh, Aisling and Rachael of the University of Limerick for being the super cool Scientists of the Day! You made a little girl very happy!