We have a jam packed episode this week, full of interviews with different women and organizations related to entrepreneurship! First up, we chat with KT Lee, engineer and author, about the first book in her thriller series, Calculated Deception. Next, we chat with sisters Ylva and Hilde Østby about their non-fiction book, Adventures in Memory. We interview STEMilyK founder and CEO, Emily Koehne, about starting a women in science business while in high school. Next, we discuss our thoughts about some Canadian politics and their effect on science policy and education. And lastly, we hear from some young entrepreneurs from Girls Invent about their recent invention!
Listen to the episode by clicking the ‘play’ button on the SoundCloud file below, or download directly from iTunes or SoundCloud. See below to find all of our links posted in the shownotes, and the full transcript of the recording!
KT Lee: Calculated Deception
Ylva & Hilde Østby: Adventures in Memory
Cordon & Nicole: This is Superwomen in Science!
C: I’m Cordon, and I’m a music therapist.
N: And I’m Nicole, I’m a neuroscientist.
C: We will be discussing the past, present and future of women and non-binary people in science,
N: highlighting a variety of scientific endeavours, as well as issues in science today.
Today, we’re talking about science entrepreneurs!
C: Welcome back to our 14th episode!
N: We’re really excited for this episode. So we have received a couple different inquiries from just a bunch of people who aren’t necessarily involved with one particular field of science, but just kinda science promotion, science education and outreach. So we wanted to compile a few of these things into an episode.
C: So we’ve got lots of awesome interviews to share with you today, including interviews with authors, interviews with an inspiring young woman who created her own company, and a group of young girls talking about their own invention. We’re really excited for you to hear this episode and we hope you enjoy!
C: So first we have two awesome interviews with some different authors of very different science books. And we’re super excited to share them with you. One of the reasons we wanted to feature these books is because Nicole and I both did and do a lot of reading. I did a lot of reading when I was younger and when I was in high school, and it was kind of to find a character to look up to or to aspire to be. All of the book nerds and girls who loved school had Hermione Granger to look up to, but I never really had a scientist in fiction to look up to. So we were really excited to talk with K.T. Lee, the author of the Calculated Series.
N: Mhm. So K.T. is a mom, engineer, and writer of books about women in STEM fighting international crime. When K.T. began to write the books she wanted to read, she mixed clever women and the sciences with elements from thrillers and a dash of romance to create the Calculated Series.
C: So instead of having us tell you about the books, we asked K.T. to give us a synopsis, so we hope you enjoy her interview.
C: Thank you so much for joining us KT, we are so excited to talk with you about Calculated Deception. We were just wondering if you could give our audience a brief synopsis of the book!
KT: Thank you so much, and it’s great to be here. The book is about an engineering professor, her name is Dr. Ree Ryland. And she is focused on her research, she’s not really thinking about crime in the lab, and of course she’s in a thriller so you know it’s going to sneak up on her. The FBI comes to campus to try and find this criminal, and all evidence points to her. Which is the point: someone is using her as a pawn. So after a few misunderstandings along the way she finds out what’s going on, and offers to help them. So she sort of gets her self in the middle of finding a criminal who is hiding in plain sight, and trying to figure out which one of her colleagues is doing something that they probably shouldn’t be doing. So as the book progresses they zoom in on the person responsible, and I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but they end up following them along the trail of the crime and find out what’s happening. Hopefully that tells you enough without giving away the ending, I know people don’t like to know what’s going on.
N: No I think that’s wonderful. Yeah, thank you so much for that synopsis. This book was so wonderful, it was a fun read, I really really enjoyed it. Before we get into the book a bit more I just want to talk about your background. So you’re both an engineer and an author, I wondered if you wanted to share about how you juggle those, how the transition from engineer to author occurred, and just kind of share what that process is like.
KT: Yeah I love this question because I almost had to talk myself into this was something I could do. Right out of school I was super focused on my career and super focused on how to be the best engineer I could be, and development. I work in industry so I develop new products, which turns out is pretty similar to writing, in some ways, which people don’t believe me at first, but we’ll get there. So it was actually right after one of our children were born, and I was not able to get very much sleep, as often happens with newborns. And I was up in the middle of the night and I would read anything I could get my hands on really, thank goodness for tablets and e-readers. I would download something in the middle of the night just to stay awake when rocking her to sleep. And I got this idea, and I blame the sleep deprivation, about writing my own book. And I started thinking about it, and I was so tired at night physically, but my mind would just be going, and I thought “ok, what’s the harm in that”, and 16 000 words later, I sort of realized I was creating something. So it sort of snuck up on me, but then every single person in my life was not surprised at all. They all sort of nodded and said “yeah, that makes sense”. I kept working at it and eventually turned it into a book and I really liked it. So, it was definitely a progression, from sitting down and saying, “I’m going to write something, because I sort of need the stress relief, and I want to do something creative even though I’m physically tired” to “I think I want to actually publish this thing!” So, it didn’t all happen all at once, but I’m so glad it did, because it’s been a blast.
And as far as balance goes, and I know this is a question that a lot of people ask me, even just day to day in “how do you do it”, I want to be super honest in that I don’t go as fast as some other writers, because I have a lot going on. And I still work during the day, although I’m fortunate and I have a flexible schedule, which is fantastic. I do go a bit slower, so I’m not putting out 4 books a year. So I knew that was going to happen, so I actually ended up saving them up a little bit so I could get a series going before I released them all at once. Which was 100% my engineering background, so I sort of treated it like a product development project where I knew I was developing a series, so I worked at them all at once, which actually helped me plant some things in the books along the way, which actually helped me edit them and fill in some plot points before they got out
C: Yeah, that’s awesome. So other than having a creative outlet, what inspired you to write books in the thriller genre that feature women scientists?
KT: So I actually say overthinking is my superpower, which is great, when you’re trying to figure out all of the ways that something you’re making could go sideways. It’s like, “oh, pull up a chair, let me tell you all of the things that we need to look at, as we’re working on this”. And I start thinking about all these things that can go wrong, which is great when you’re designing something. Because then you can fix them before they actually go wrong. Well turns out that’s actually really similar to a thriller, when you’re in an everyday situation and you say “what could go wrong? I have some ideas”. Partly the engineering professor came because I thought what’s something different I can do in thrillers – which is one of my personal favourites to read.
C: Mhmm, mhmmm [strong hum of approval of thriller genre]
KT: I thought what’s sort of my unique spin? And I know there aren’t a lot of engineer writers. There are definitely some, I’m not the only one. But there aren’t a lot. And I thought, maybe I can bring my engineering background into this and actually use it to help drive the plot. And I kind of think of the science in each book as it’s own characters, if that makes sense. So I think about what the specialty of the main character is, and then sort of build the plot around that. And for Calculated Deception, she’s a mechanical engineer. SO it had to be something at least a little bit mechanical, because I wanted her to be a part of solving the mystery. So that’s how those things came together, is I love reading thrillers, and I’m an engineer, so I thought that’d be a fun thing to incorporate. As the series progresses, I sort of move on from engineers to different backgrounds and specialties. That said, Ree does continue to make an appearance, I feel like it’s my way to sneak into every book. So she’s a consistent character throughout the series, who keeps popping back in, and finds to stay a part of it, through a series of circumstances unique to each book.
N: Wonderful. It was really great, I just wanted to comment on something you said a little bit ago, but I found it was really clear to me that your background came from science, like as I was reading the book. And it was really refreshing, to kind of have a book that’s plot made sense, because I feel like often, especially works of fiction, like medical dramas, are just kind of like “wait, what?”. And so it was really nice. And then on top of that to see this just wonderful woman in science character, it was fantastic.
It’s interesting that you chose to write fiction, because I feel like people in science communication sometimes tend to lean towards non-fiction work. Do you have anything you want to share about what made you want to do narrative based work, or storytelling elements, or something like that?
KT: Sure, well so thank you, I really appreciate that. I’ve also been doing a lot of non-fiction research, so thank you to all of the people who write non-fiction. I was really terrified of getting the details wrong, if I had science-y people reading the books. So, I was trying to get that stuff write. But, with non-fiction, the creative outlet for me was more fun if I didn’t have to cite my sources, if that makes sense. Because so much of what I do in my day job, it has to be that level of – I don’t want to say accuracy, but it’s all sort of based in fact. And so it was more fun for me to do something that’s a little bit outside of that, and tell a story, that isn’t just for people in the sciences to read, but kind of uses that science background to build something interesting and new into the story. And for me it was just sort of fun to write something totally off the wall, totally made up, and that sort of thing.
C: Yeah, you can tell you had a lot of fun writing this story too, it really comes through.
N: I was just so happy to see media like this, like we said it’s often just a lot of non-fiction, and so it’s just so nice to have a great read that has a character like this, like I want more characters like this in the media, and so this is wonderful, so thank you again.
KT: That was 100% my goal. And I wanted it to be fun. That’s something that’s a little different about these books is that they are thrillers but they’re light for thrillers. Because I love to have a book that I can just escape into, and that was 100% my goal, to create the kind of book that, yeah, you really want to know what happens at the end, but hopefully you laugh along the way.
C: Yeah, and there’s something great in the book that I love about reading for fun: it had short chapters. You can be like “oh I’m going to read 1 or 2 chapters” and its only about 10 pages. You don’t have to sit there for 20 minutes and feel like you’re not getting all your work done, and I really liked that about it too. Not that I didn’t read 50 pages of it in one go.
KT: Well thank you very much. I have two actually fabulous editors that, one in particular is really adamant about making sure that every word means something. And I’m really lucky to have that. And that’s one of the things that I think authors really realize. And the person who edits my books is really good about making sure that words are used accurately and sparingly so the book moves really really quickly. And I really appreciate having two people looking over my shoulder, it’s definitely not an independent enterprise, making sure that it goes well.
C: Great. So what are your hopes or plans for the series of books?
KT: Yeah, so Calculated Contagion is available now, it came out after Calculated Deception and I had an awful lot of fun with that one. And then obviously Ree and the FBI team make an appearance in that book. And I just finished and sent off to one of my fabulous editors, Book 3, which is Calculated Sabotage, with a character who is CIA but she does have a science background, which will help out, because there is some sabotage happening with a rocket. I actually had a lot of fun with this one, because I absolutely love everything space, and I actually go to Kennedy Space Center on vacation, that’s happened on occasion, once or twice. So it was a lot of fun for me to incorporate these things that I really enjoy into a nefarious plot, which will be coming out in October.
N: Amazing, I’m very excited. I can’t wait to read them.
C: So KT, where can people find you on social media?
KT: They can find me on twitter at @KTLeeWrites and then I’m on Instagram at @KTLeeAuthor, and on Facebook at @KTLeeWrites.
N: Thank you so much for joining us and sharing your story, I think it’s also going to be really cool for a lot of our listeners who tend to be women in science, just to hear your story about how you got into this, and, of course I think everyone is going to be very excited to read these. So thank you for writing these and for sharing your story with us.
KT: Thank you for having me! I really appreciate it, it’s been fun!
C: You’re welcome!
C: For our next interview, we interviewed the sisters Hilde and Ylva Østby. Hilde is a writer and editor, and Ylva is a clinical neuropsychologist, and they both live in Oslo in Norway. Together they wrote Adventures in Memory: The Science and Secrets of Remembering and Forgetting.
N: And so this is a really wonderful book and it’s really great because it’s a nonfiction book, but it’s really fun to read. In Adventures in Memory, the two sisters skillfully interweave history, research, and exceptional personal stories, taking readers on a captivating exploration of the evolving understanding of the science of memory, from the renaissance discovery of the hippocampus, named after the seahorse it resembles up to the present day. Mixing metaphor with meta analysis they embark on an incredible journey, diving for seahorses for a memory experiment in Oslo Fjord, racing taxis through London, and time travelling to the future to reveal thought provoking insights into remembering and forgetting. Along the way, they interview experts of all stripes, from the world’s top neuroscientists, to famous novelists, to help explain how memory works, why it sometimes fails, and what we can do to improve it. Filled with cutting-edge research and nimble story telling, the result is a charming and memorable adventure through human memory.
C: Nicole and I both really loved reading this book, and I think we even loved more talking to the sisters about it. So we hope that you enjoy this interview.
H: I am Hilde and my voice is very similar to Ylva.
Y: And I am Ylva. So we are Hilde Ostby and Ylva Ostby.
N: Thank you so much for joining us today, we’re so excited to talk with you and talk about your book! Before we begin, can you just start off with a brief synopsis of your book?
H: Of course! Our book is a take on showing and telling everything about memory. From forgetting and future thinking to the normal issues that everyone is thinking of when you mentioned memory, like how to remember better, and is it possible to remember everything you experience? And how to live without memories at all.
Y: It’s a popular science book about how memory works and how it sometimes doesn’t work. And we have interviewed some great scientists around the globe, and also we have replicated some of the most famous memory experiments in the history of memory science, we think. So it has been great fun.
C: Awesome. So what inspired you to write a book about memory and more of a popular science book about memory, instead of a textbook or something?
H: Well, everyone is interested in memory, right? And it started with me wanting to make an article about memory, and then I interviewed Ylva for that article because she’s a neuropsychologist. And she told me everything about memory. And we started re-editing our piece together, and suddenly we have written it all together, and then we thought maybe we might write a book, because it doesn’t exist a book like this, that is kind of walking you through the whole history of memory science. Which is kind of part of brain science where we know the most about the brain. That is where it starts, the whole brain science chapter in science history. And you know, people should know how their brains work, and there’s a lot of myths about how their brain works and what you should and shouldn’t do with your brain.
Y: Yeah. Because there are many books out there about how to improve your memory and how to remember better. And we thought that we need to tell people how memory works so that maybe people could respect memory more and not expect too much of memory, that memory is a fantastic property of the human mind. And we should be more humble about it. So that’s why we wanted to write the book and spread this knowledge. And also we wanted to make it entertaining and a good read.
C: Yeah. And I loved reading the book. I thought it was just that, it was like a really entertaining story. But I also liked it because it was really personal. So you talked to a lot of scientists, but also a lot of people who experienced what you were talking about in the chapter. And I kind of compared it to reading a true crime book, because it’s all of this science and it’s all of this truth, but it’s also put in a really cool narrative story. So I thought it was a really really good read.
Y: Thank you!
H: Thank you. We wanted to highlight the thing about memory, which is that we can make all these statistics and science about memory, but you know, all memories are different and linked to our personal experience. So every memory is a different galaxy of memories. Right? Every brain is a galaxy of individual memories. So it is a kind of personal, deeply person experience to remember something. And also we’ve got a lot of science that puts it into the charts.
Y: Yeah I work as a researcher, right? And I do experiments and I collect data and I do statistics, but I also want to understand how memory is connected to our lives and our own experience of remembering, and how it feels to not be able to remember. These kinds of things that we could explore together in this book.
N: Mhm. I think you guys did that really well. And I think it really was such a very cool way of bridging your two fields from being a neuropsychologist and being a writer and an editor. It was really cool to see how you were able to weave that story and make it more human. Because like you said, memory is such a personal thing that everyone experiences, but often times a book about neuroscience would be really kind of scary to people, or overwhelming. So did that impact how you were writing it? Were you writing this with scientists or with non-scientists in mind?
H & Y: Definitely non-scientists!
Y: We were actually writing it for young people in mind, for like high school level readers. Because if we can make it understandable at that level, then many people can understand it. And I think that’s the reception we’ve had here in Norway is that people of all ages read this book, from the age of 13 and up to the age of 90. So we really think that it is very important that many people are able to understand this. Yeah so non-scientists.
H: Also, I worked as a journalist and I’m not an expert in neuroscience at all. So when we were out meeting people, I could allow myself to ask all the stupid questions that normal people might have that, you know, a scientist like Ylva could not ask a fellow scientist (laughing). Like, oh it’s too embarrassing to ask because I should know this. But then with that we could include the basic stuff into the book. So if I can understand it, everyone can (laughing). I’m that stupid.
Y: No, she’s not! Yeah it’s been very helpful to be two people from different backgrounds so that we could also see very different perspectives. I’ve kind of grown up into neuroscience through my university degree and everything and that kind of shapes how i think about memory and how things work in my mind. So having her with me was the best thing ever, because otherwise the book would be so boring and kind of limited I think.
N: Yeah, I really agree. I’m currently in neuroscience right now and I definitely agree with what you’re saying. Sometimes you just get so used to speaking only in neuroscience and then when it comes to talking to friends or family you’re like “Ah!” And so that’s really nice you guys were able to work out your science communication through that.
C: Yeah. You mentioned doing interviews, and through the book you interviewed a lot of really big names in memory research. So was there anybody you met that you were really excited to meet, or you were kind of starstruck meeting? Was there anything like that that happened?
H: Yeah I think Eleanor McGuire, that was the biggest thing for Ylva, when she met her. And I was like, yeah hey, who are you? Not really.
Y: No I talked her up a lot.
H: Yeah I knew who she was, but I wasn’t really starstruck. But Ylva was totally starstruck.
Y: I get easily starstruck.
H: But I felt it was a huge thing to talk to Elizabeth Loftus because I knew much better who she was. And also Allen Badly because he was such a nice old gentlemanly researcher, his whole life dedicated to neuroscience. You could feel that air of history from him, that it was a lifetime of research that he was pouring out from. So that was extremely nice to talk to him, actually. Over 80 years old. That was nice.
Y: Yeah, and we did talk to quite a lot of superwomen in science. As you mentioned Eleanor McGuire, and Elizabeth Loftus. And also one of my great inspirations, who was my supervisor in my PhD, Christina Malhov, here in Norway, who is showing how to accomplish fantastic research while at the same time having three kids and talking to them to soccer practice.
H: And it was really funny, when you mention women, because at one point we were just like, okay, we have to get some men into this book. (Everyone laughs). Can we find an interesting man here? Because we’re only talking to really really accomplished women, the top scientists in their field. Dr. Bershan in Denmark. We were talking to Lynn Ullman the writer, and it was like, is there any men we can get into this? And then suddenly we found some men. But it was really fun to discover that. That without trying even, it was so many accomplished women in this field of research and other fields as well.
Y: Yeah. Even when we wanted to interview a cab driver in London, the first taxi that stopped was driven by this fantastic woman named Judy.
H: And she was a real feminist too. She was like, yeah there’s no one driving a cab who’s a woman, and it had been a real struggle for her getting the knowledge that we were writing about in the book. You know, where you have to learn 20,000 streets of London. So she was a kind of superwoman as well.
Y: Superwoman of taxi!
N: Oh I love it (a good pun). What would you say I guess is your overall goal with the book? If people take one thing away, what is kind of your hope for what they will learn from reading your book?
Y: My hope as a neuropsychologist is that people can be more accepting of memory difficulties, both among themselves and their friends. And also to be more accepting of people who have real memory difficulties. Because when we are striving to achieve this memory abilities and all these mnemonic techniques, which can be a lot of fun of course, we kind of forget that memory is much more than that. And it is really serious and existential, and we should cherish it more the way that it works.
H: It’s really funny because the moment that we were about to launch this book in Norway I crashed my bike and went head first into a bridge head (do you say this in English?) and I got a big injury, I got a concussion. And my short-term memory started to fail, first and foremost, the long-term memory was in tact, I think. Mostly, but that affected how to sort out all impressions around you. So I could walk out in the street and it was just too many impressions, so it felt like my head collapsed. And that is how a person with HDHD would describe how they perceive the world. And I have a very good friend that has that diagnosis and so we could really understand each other and how it affects you and the fatigue and everything, so it was really reminder of how important the short-term memory is. So I appreciate that much more than before.
And with the book I think they should come out and yeah, like Ylva said, appreciate their memories more, because it’s your life, it’s not some kind of power tool you’re going to sharpen.
Y: Yeah exactly like that –
H: I think that is kind of disrespectful, all the kind of cherishable moments that you have. So in a way I’m a very dedicated yogi. And in yoga it’s all about kind of not trying as hard. And I think kind of letting go, right? You try, but then you let go, and that is also in memory. And in this book that is what we wanted to say to people. You can try and remember, its nice to try and remember, and then you can let go and the most important things will stick.
Y: Yeah, so people both seem to take their memory for granted, and trust memory too much in some situations, and on the other hand they also want to achieve much more memory by having super memory. Like we see in newspapers every week “how to improve your memory and get super memory abilities in just 3 weeks”.
N: Yeah, it’s just been so lovely to talk with you today! Is there anything else that you’d like to add about the book!
H: Yeah, mm well we can talk for hours. As a writer I discovered how much writing is linked to memory: how we structure our life stories is how we structure a novel. And how important stories are for us, how existential they are for us. Because they can be like mirrors that tell us different parts into the future. So by telling each other stories, we kind of share opportunities for life – this is how life can be, and this is how life can be, and that plurality of stories and how that affects us. Also after writing the book I’ve been thinking a lot about false memories, because we might be approaching it in the wrong may. Like we approach it that one memory is supposed to hold the truth about the event, or something that has happened. And that is something we test in the court of law, but that is an extreme situation, the court of law, where things are decided in a very kind of black or white way. But I think that, and we talk about this in the book, but all memories should be double checked with people or you have to be your own detective and find your flight tickets and receipts to know what you did. And maybe it’s supposed to be a joint effort. Maybe it’s supposed to be a collective effort to remember things. And that’s where, I’m a historian, educated as a historian, and the collective stories that we tell each other, that is where we should be, we shouldn’t focus on the single memory, we should tell each other stories.
Y: Yeah. We disagree on that. (laughs). We both agree and disagree about that of course. But of course memories are reconstructions, and we have to hold on to some kind of truth in our memories, at the core of our memories is our life stories. But at the same time we do have an advantage as humans to share memories together, to help us, and in that way it is, that is the advantage of having language, and being able to write and sound, and have libraries. As humans we don’t have to remember everything alone, we are supposed to share.
C: Well thank you so much for joining us, we’re really excited to have you on the podcast, and we really hope everyone can get their hands on your book.
H & Y: thank you! Thank you so much for having us!
C: So if you liked the interview and you’re interested in hearing more from Ylva and Hilde they are actually coming to Canada! We talked with them about it, and they said that they think Canada will be quite a bit like Norway, so go prove to them that Canada is very friendly and show up to their events and support them!
So if you’re in Burlington Ontario on October 10th, they will be doing an event with A Different Drummer Book.
N: There’s also an event at the Toronto Public Library on October 11th.
C: They’re doing a presentation at Wordfest in Calgary on October 13th.
N: And lastly they are coming to Edmonton to do a presentation at the Alberta Lit Fest on October 14th.
C: If you want any more info about any of these events or more info about the book, follow Greystone Books, you can find them on Twitter and Instragram, and on Facebook @Greystonebooks as well.
N: We really love these books a lot and we really loved reading them, and we want you guys to read them as well! So we’re going to host a giveaway! So we have 5 books to give away in total. We’re doing 3 e-book copies of Calculated Deception, and 2 hardcover copies of Adventures in Memory.
C: So follow us on our social media to hear about the giveaway. We’re on Twitter @SuperwomenSci, on instagram @superwomenscience and Facebook at Superwomen in Science Podcast.
N: So our giveaway will be announced on Friday September 14th and we’ll announce the winners on our next podcast episode.
C: Which will come out three weeks from now.
N: Up next we have a really great interview for you with Emily Koehne. So while in high school, Emily founded and is now the CEO of STEMilyK.org, a website dedicated to increasing the amount of girls interested in STEM. Just for a clarification in case you forgot or in case you don’t know, STEM does mean science, technology, engineering, and math.
C: So Emily accomplishes this by meeting with some of the top women in science, technology, engineering, and math, and interviewing them about their unique careers. She posts the videos on her website so all girls, no matter socioeconomic background, can have access to these interviews.
N: Emily’s interviewees include seven CEOs, three Ivy League professors, and numerous other executives of Fortune 500 companies.
C: She’s already been highlighted by many news outlets, including Huffington Post, Girls Life Magazine, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.
N: Emily is passionate about gender equality, youth entrepreneurship, and inspiring young people around the world. So we hope you enjoy our interview with Emily.
C: Well thank you so much Emily, we are super excited to have you with us today. Before we start we have one question for you: Do you wear a lab coat?
E: So I actually don’t (laughs)
N: So can you briefly explain your field of science?
E: So, obviously I’m younger than the usual person that comes on here, but I’m still a student in a STEM program at my high school. But basically, I got into this because I was starting to see what was going on in terms of my peers and how I knew there were a lot of women in stem organizations that try to encourage girls to go into stem, but I just wasn’t really seeing the results that I wanted. And I still see the same negative connotations and the same just misunderstandings I felt about women in stem. And so what I decided to do was I go around – and I’m really interested in what draws girls away from stem and how do we fix these negative stereotypes and connotations associated with stem in general in terms of, you know how boys see stem as well, and girls and how we can kind of inspire the next generation and get the message out there and change the way it’s viewed so more people take a second look really at stem before they decide what career paths they’re going to take.
C: That’s awesome. So maybe can you tell us a little bit more about that? Like what does a typical day of doing that look like for you?
E: Yeah, so basically I started doing these interviews because I felt that because in terms of the ways social media has kind of taken over my generation,because a lot of people don’t realize that when we go home, everyone my age is on Snapchat, Instagram, like we grew up with it, and we’re kind of the first age group that really did grow up with this stuff. So, if we’re only seeing advertisements for Skinny Tea, and this and that, pictures of models, and the only people with millions of followers that we’re looking at and saying “oh they’re so cool” is models and actresses and singers and athletes, what is the average girl going to think, that that’s where, that’s what what they’re going to think is cool, that STEM isn’t cool because society and social media, stuff that they’re not surrounded with literally 24/7 telling them that.
I want to search for these women that I know are out there, even though I didn’t even know who they were at the time, and I said I’m going to change this perception that social media and society has created., so I started knowing absolutely no one, so starting May 2017 I just googled people, a lot of people, and I just sent emails to them. And that’s really how I started everything. And that’s why I never thought it would get any level besides the local level, because who’s going to listen to a 17 year old girl they don’t know, I don’t have parents with connections or anything. So it was really on my own, trying to make things work.
And so a typical day for me now, is I’ll go to school all day, and then usually in school, you know, if I’m being honest, whenever I can I’m on my laptop in school, answering emails, contacting new people, whatever I can do in school. But a lot of times ether the person I want to talk to either doesn’t live close so if I can’t go in person I’ll usually have something on skype, and I’ll record the screen on my laptop. I’m not like someone who’s – I know some Youtubers are like amazing editors and things like that and that’s not me, I try to make, I feel like that makes me more real and relatable, because the average person really doesn’t have the time or can’t do that either. So yeah, I record my screen because I feel like if the information is there, it’s there, and I want girls to have a visual of who they’re talking to, which is why I record the full screen so they can actually see who the woman is and put a face to the name, and for other things, for in person things I use a go pro.
N: That’s awesome. And you can really tell how passionate you are about this and you’re so enthusiastic and that’s so, so great. And it’s so great that you’re making science relatable and exciting, just like how you see it as exciting, to your peers and people your age, that’s so wonderful. So what is it that got you excited about science, and how did you get to this place where you’re so enthusiastic about it and you’re passionately spreading your joy for it for others? What first got you kind of hooked into science?
E: I went to a school, where our computer class was Microsoft Word. So I didn’t know what Computer Science was, or what engineering was. So it was really the math and science that I could focus on, because I didn’t know what the other things were. So once I focused on the math and science I saw in terms of critical thinking – it was a place where I could take my ideas and turn them into something. And I could learn these new tools. And if I one day wanted to invent something, or have my own company, I began to see that I needed math and science to do that. So, once I started to do that, especially because a lot of peers of mine weren’t necessarily interested in math and science, it was something that empowered me, because I said “wow, I’m kind of – I’m doing this on my own.” I didn’t have anyone with me or on the same page so into it. And in addition to all of this, my dad is actually an actuary. And when I was younger and people would ask me “oh what do your parents do”, I would always say “oh my dad’s an actuary” and people would give me blank stares because they have no idea what that is. And it was just that kind of exposure that I had, and I saw how STEM could be applied as a career in the real world because I had a parent who did it. And a lot of people, if they like math or science, they don’t see the diversity of career options that you can have – they think you can just be a scientist and that’s it. But that’s so not true, and I always knew that from such a young age. And I think that’s what gave me an advantage, in a way, because people don’t know that, and that’s exactly what led me to do what I do now. Because if people think the only STEM career is a doctor, or a scientist, then we’re never going to get anywhere in terms of progress and representation and things like that.
C: Yeah, that’s really really cool. And you’re just so passionate about it, and you know what you want which is really awesome. So in science or STEM, is there an influential person that you really aspire to be one day?
E: One person who definitely inspires me a lot is Debbie Sterling. And she’s actually the CEO of a company called Goldieblocks. So if you haven’t heard of them, they’re a company that makes engineering toys for girls. And it’s just, she’s doing, in terms of a company, exactly what I want to do: bring toys to girls that I never had. And she kind of really inspired me that I could actually take what I’m passionate about, and take what I love, and turn it into a career. And when I was just starting STEMilyK and things I didn’t necessarily know if it was going to be an organization, if it was just going to be something I do on the side, if it could one day be a company when you’re 17 years old and you have no idea how to start a company – there’s so much that I’ve really had to learn, because no one tells you any of this stuff, its not like you follow these steps and that’s how you get there, it’s very complex, I would definitely like to be someone also who really takes it to the next level, in terms of someone really I guess political action as well. So I guess someone who inspires me in that vicinity is people who maybe – Melinda Gates is someone that really, you know she also has a very powerful position and she speaks about how STEM and she speaks about making changes in policy for women and in our current political climate in government. So I feel like kind of combining those two women, are two women that I really look up to a lot to kind of have a career that kind of combines both of their skills I guess.
C: That’s awesome. I wish I was as confident and passionate about things when I was 17. I think it’s so great that you know where you want to go and you have people to look up to as well. So while you were creating the STEMilyK brand, did you have any people that directly mentored you in that sense?
E: So I would really say my dad is someone that helped me a lot. Like even when I was younger if I had a homework question I knew I could always go to him. And starting this, I really just, I felt that any idea that I had, he’s the person that I go to and be like “is this good? or is this something I should totally just forget about?”. So he’s been someone that I can rely on a lot and in terms of guidance and advice. But as I’ve been interviewing and meeting all these women, there’s been one – Lisa DeLuca- she is IBM’s most prolific female inventor. And she’s someone who really means a lot to me, because she was I’d say she was my first high profile interview, someone who really took a chance on me, when I hadn’t interviewed anyone before her. She gave me a lot of credibility in terms of moving forward in the field, and after we had our interview, she actually has 4 kids, two sets of twins all under the age of 5, so crazy, and she has this position at IBM and she works at home. So she didn’t even know me, complete stranger, and last summer, she invited me to her house to do the interview. And I was just, you know, right then and there, I knew that she was such a good person, because that speaks to someones character, letting a stranger come into your house, when you have all these other concerns, just to do an interview. So, after the interview, she’s then, a month after the interview, she was speaking in New York, at a Girls Who Code club, and she invited me to go with her, and I said of course I would love to go, and she even let me speak with the girls, when it was supposed to be her time speaking. And she did speak, but the fact that she gave me any time to speak to the girls was just so nice of her. Ever since then we’ve stayed in touch, and I know that if I have a question on anything she’s an email away, and that’s so nice to have someone in the field to go to for stuff like that.
N: Wow, that’s great. Wonderful. It sounds like she’s been a really positive influence on you. Do you have any advice that you’d give to another young women in science, or even just young people in general, who are interested in starting something similar to what you have done, and maybe just have no idea where to start?
E: So something I would definitely say is don’t be discouraged by your age. if there was one thing I would change is I would start STEMily K earlier than I did. Because I think one of the things that definitely held me back was I thought -and I think a lot of people think this – oh you can’t start pursuing your dreams until after you get a college degree. And I think that was something that I thought for a long time. And theres always going to be a thing you know for young people theres going to be some people that if you don’t prove yourself right away to them, they’re going to prejudge you because of your age. But you just have to forget about those people. Because I would be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t get rejected from so many people that I’ve sent emails to. Like no everyone is going to say yes. Or reply to your email. So you just have to be confident that what you’re doing is worth it. The next thing I would say is don’t be discouraged by society or what other people might think. I remember being so nervous and trying to give myself any reason not to start the stemilyK.org. I said “oh there’s already multiple women in stem organizations, I said people are going to be mean to me, I said, oh I don’t have the money to fund this” – I was trying to give myself every reason not to do this. And once I got past all those initial fears I ended up, I found myself, I found myself loving what I was doing so much that I was staying up so late. It wasn’t a work or extra thing I was doing for my resume or felt like I had to do, I was doing this and am doing this because I love it. And the last thing, and I mentioned this earlier but don’t care about what others think. Teens can be mean, like really judgemental. But if you are succeeding at what youre doing people are going to be jealous, its only natural. And I remember with social media now people try to create this image of themselves that other people envy online. It’s really interesting, but you know especially with all this, even for myself I didn’t put anything about what I was working on with stemily K, I didn’t put it on social media, my own personal social media, for the first maybe 1 or 2 months that I was doing it. And then I said to myself “you can’t be hypocritical”. So once I finally got comfortable with everything I said “I need to be proud of what I’m doing so I can show other girls it’s ok”. So then I said you know I need to start sharing this. And if my own classmates and other people my own age say negative things about it, it’s just one aspect. And yes I’ve seen, I’ve seen negative aspects of it but you learn that you can inspire your peers. And that most people will support what you’re doing. And the few who aren’t, in a few of years they’ll ultimately regret it. And they’re not the people that you want surrounding you anyways. So there will be those who help and support you, so surround yourself with those.
C: So what are your hopes for the future of women in science?
E: Some of my hopes is to see this movement, this women’s movement, continue to effect the science community. So I would love to see, you know we’re seeing increased participation in some fields of STEM, which is awesome, but I hope to continue to see interest in fields that are 18% women, you know 16% women. And one of the main things that I really hope to see, even in science fields where there’s pretty good representation of women, when you get to executive boards, high levels in the company, they’re still basically all men. So I hope to see more companies and more fields giving women the opportunity to have those very high level positions. Because I feel if more women have the opportunity to occupy those high level positions, then we’ll start to see the changes in the other positions as well. And just having that new insight and opinion at the table that wasn’t there, that new perspective that a female provides, we’ll start to see that change to science experiments and company policies and start to see this increased welcoming environment for women evolve really. So that’s the main thing that I hope to see change for women yeah.
N: That is so wonderful. Thank you so much for that. Where can people find you on social media and all the links for STEMily K and all that?
E: So on Instagram you can find me at @StemilyKforgirls and you can find my personal @emilykoehne you can find STEMilyK on twitter literally @stemillyK an then my personal twitter @emilykoehne2, again k-o-e-h-n-e is my last name weird spelling hahah, and then the website is stemilyk.org and stemily K I like to think of as the con academy of careers. I encourage everyone to go on the videos are all public access, public information, so then everyone can have access to them. I love to have new visitors to the website, this week I am doing 30th interview.
N: Oh awesome.
C: Thank you so much for sharing. Everything will be down below in the shownotes. Before we go Emily I just want to say thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to talk to us and I’m very excited for what you’re going to add to the podcast.
E: Thank you! Thank you for having me!
N: To end today’s episode, we want to briefly touch on a relevant topic that’s close to home for both of us, as we both grew up in the Canadian province of Ontario, which recently elected Doug Ford as its premier. So we’ve both been extremely discouraged to watch some of the policy changes which seem to be a step backwards, particularly related to science and education.
C: So there are lots and lots of things that have happened since the election that show the Ontario conservative government’s attack on science. First they fired Chief Scientist Molly Shoichet.
N: Mhm. And so what a chief scientist is, they are expected to brief decision makers, promote Ontario’s scientific research, and craft a research agenda for the government. So that’s a pretty unfortunate thing that’s happened.
C: Mhm. Yeah. And it’s a huge loss to the provincial government, and it’s all under the guise of saving money. Right?
C: So everything he does he says he’s doing it to save money.
N: The non-profit Evidence for Democracy, which we’ve talked about on this podcast before. They do have an open letter right now that is really easy to quickly, you can just sign or attach your name on it, and then it sends an email saying that you’d like to see a new Chief Scientist hired. And so we really recommend adding your name to that.
C: Mhm. So along with this open letter, Evidence for Democracy, and their leaders Walsh and Gibbs have been speaking out against it. And in the Ottawa Citizen they provided this amazing quote. “Making crucial decisions about Ontarians’ health and safety without up to date information is hardly a good strategy for saving money. Ford might have been able to get advice on how these cuts would affect government science if he hadn’t fired Ontario’s first chief scientist a week into his new job.”
C: So one of the harder things for me, which was kind of an election issue. This was something talked about before the election, something they really ran their election campaign on, and that’s revoking the sex education curriculum back to the 1998 curriculum that was set out. So that is before, if you need context, I was 5 years old, that was before same-sex marriage was legal in Canada.
N: Mhm. Yeah, and just recently actually, the ETFO teachers union has actually decided to take legal action against this. And a really great quote from the ETFO president has said “Teaching issues like consent, LGBTQ relationships, gender identities, and many other human development issues related to today’s realities are not only necessary, but vital for student safety, wellbeing, and inclusivity.” And yeah, we could not agree more with that.
C: To kind of put off the anger of the public of the fact that they’re returning to a 1998 sex education curriculum, the Ontario government says that they’re consulting with experts, they’re consulting with parents, because parents made a big uproar when the new 2015 one came out, especially conservative parents who were upset about some of the things that were gonna be added to the curriculum. So in the meantime, the government has come out with an interim curriculum for kindergarten up until grade 8. And fun fact Nicole, it’s 250 pages long. So I did not have time to read it but I did do a couple word searches. Would you like to learn the results of my word searches in the interim curriculum.
C: So I searched a bunch of things. I searched gender identity, and it’s only in there as a definition which states that gender identity does differ from sex, but it still refers to binary, so it refers to male versus female. There’s no mention of transgender, in all 250 pages. No gay, no lesbian, and same-sex was only used when referring to classes. So boys only versus girls only classes, so no same-sex marriage, so same-sex relationships, nothing like that. This is getting great isn’t it. No mention of sexting, no mention of cyberbullying, no mention of masturbation, and finally, no mention of consent.
Finally I searched.- there was also no LGBTQ, I searched LGBT, nothing. I searched sexual orientation and all of the mentions of sexual orientation were in harassment policies. So about teaching, about the principal’s job, the teacher’s job, talking about harassment that people might get for their sexual orientation. And they all mention the importance of inclusion. So make sure you include everybody in your class, no matter their sexual orientation etc. But I’m just curious of how you’re supposed to include your queer students and how they’re supposed to feel included when you literally ignore them in the lesson plan and you don’t teach them anything that they’re supposed to know about their sexual health.
N: Yeah. This is very very upsetting, I don’t know what to say.
C: Yeah. Well, like, we both grew up with the 1998 sex education curriculum, and I only remember learning about LGBTQ and that community when we learned about HIV and AIDS.
N: Mhm. And this is, yeah, it’s an upsetting issue and it is a science policy issue, an issue that’s affecting the next generation and the science education that they are receiving on this very important topic. So I would urge all Ontarians not to take this lightly and to voice their concerns.
C: Like Nicole said, voice your concerns. If you’re feeling upset, if you feel like you don’t have anything to do, you can sign the open letter, you can go to protests, I’m sure the March for Science is gonna be very important this year.
N: Yeah and follow up with E4D, because they’re the largest organization.
C: Yes, exactly. Also call your representatives. So I made my first call to my local representative and I called the Minister of Education in Ontario. It doesn’t matter that I was really gross and sweaty, and I called on the weekend when I knew that I could leave a message and not talk to anybody, but I still did it.
N: I’m proud of you friend!
C: Thank you. There’s lots of ways to get your voice out there and to try to help. Another great resource that we will link to down below is a YouTube channel called What is My Body Doing? So What is My Body Doing is a web series hosted by Eva about all things sexuality. Relationships, sexual health, and more. So on her channel you’ll find short videos are anti-oppressive, sex positive, and evidence based. Everything is based on her social psychology background. It’s all very open, it’s very inclusive, it has tips. So if you didn’t learn about stuff in high school, or you’re a parent and you’re not sure how to supplement your child’s education, if it’s missing something, if they’re missing something from school, she gives a lot of tips about how to talk about it openly or ways to positively talk about things like this even in a public space, or with your children. So instead of talking about something in a negative way and passing on these negative feelings, she gives you a lot of tips about how to change your language and change your mindset. So another really great resource that we’ll link down below along with Evidence for Democracy and a lot of other things that we hope will help.
C: So to end this episode on a hopeful note, we got an interview from an organization that works with girls in Australia, so we’re super excited to have them talk about what they do. So Girls Invent is the company, and it has one simple purpose: to inspire girls to become innovators and create inventions or products. This acts as a powerful motivator to help stimulate a passion for STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
N: And so Girls Invent does this by providing specifically designed workshops that help guide girls from idea generation through to commercialization and market entry. So we’re going to hear from the girls in our little segment here, and they’re gonna tell us all about the invention that they made.
C: So take it away, Anya, Sarah, and Isabelle.
A: Hi, my name’s Anya.
S: My name’s Sarah.
I: And my name’s Isabelle. And we’re from U9 Genazzano FCJ college in Melbourne.
A: We’re here to talk to you about our invention For Fair Footy. Have you ever disagreed with an umpire’s decision? Our invention For Fair Footy eliminates this problem.
S: Our product is a compression top worn underneath a player’s jersey that can sense when a high tackle has occurred.
I: This product was originally created for Australian Rules Football, but it can be adapted so it can be incorporated into many other sports.
A: What I enjoyed most about the Girls Invent program was to see how our idea of For Fair Footy has progressed and improved over the two terms that we worked on it.
I: The thing I enjoyed most about the Girls Invent program was learning different skills about how to take a product to market. Things like intellectual property, or patents, were really new and interesting for me to learn about. What did you enjoy Sarah?
S: I really enjoyed working in a group and incorporating other people’s ideas into our product, and that different people’s opinions can really affect the outcome of a product.
A: By interviewing footballers to engineers really helped develop our idea.
I: We were really amazed at how many people actually liked our product, and getting the positive and constructive feedback really helped improve it along the journey.
S: Throughout the Girls Invent program it really helped us to expand our skills of organization, and if you really work hard you can achieve your goals.
I: Yeah, I really agree with that. It’s interesting to know that six months ago, this product didn’t even exist, and now it could become a reality.
A: I love inventing because it helps me feel like an empowered, independent woman.
S: I love inventing because it has helped me utilize skills that I didn’t know I had used and how difficult it is to create a product in the market.
I: I love inventing because it allows me to be creative and do different things and it’s really enjoyable. So if you love sport like us, help us to make our product a reality for a more fair game.
N: Thank you so much for listening to the Superwomen in Science Podcast.
C: A big thank you to our amazing guests: K.T. Lee, Hilde and and Ylva Ostby, Emily Koehne, and the inventors of For Fair Footy.
N: Make sure to follow us on Soundcloud or iTunes to hear our podcast every three weeks. Make sure to search us in the podcast section, download, rate, and subscribe. And leave a review if you feel like doing that.
C: You can find us on Facebook at Superwomen in Science Podcast, on Twitter @SuperwomenSci, and on instagram @superwomenscience.
N: A transcript of this episode and every episode can be found on our website superwomeninscience.wordpress.com
C: Tweet us if you love to read about science, write about science, watch videos about science, and if you love to invent! Or tweet us if you want to talk about your field of science.
N: Thanks again!
(fade out with bloopers)